Annual Report 2021/Fail fest: An extra AGM adds complexity

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In this Fail fest we are focusing on the extra Annual General Meeting (AGM) we held in May 2021, and what led us to the extraordinary decision to have two, and not one, AGM during the same spring.

Slides for the extra AGM 2021.

Wikimedia Sverige is currently experimenting with how to increase the involvement of volunteers and members in the work of the chapter. A strategy was developed, by and for the members, and several working groups were organized to further develop different aspects of how the organization works, e.g. to identify new areas for development, or to discuss possible solutions to identified problems. An important motivation behind this is to gain support for any major changes from the members, and to listen to their views and opinions.

In the first quarter of the year there were still some uncertainties about the outcome of some very large grant applications, which would affect the work done by the chapter for years to come. This would affect not only the activities and budget for the year, but also a number of key documents needed for the AGM. This was a challenge, as all members were to be informed about both the activities plan and the budget during the AGM, which, according to the statutes, is to be organized before the end of April each year.

It would have been possible for the board and staff to write a schematic budget and activities plan for the first AGM, but chances would have been high that we would have needed to revise these documents almost entirely, just shortly after the AGM.

Our solution to this problem was to split the AGM into two parts: the first AGM was held in late April, and the second in late May, when the required documents for the AGM had been prepared. This setup was not ideal, but still, it made it possible for us to focus more on the reporting and closing of the previous year in the first AGM, and more on the future in the second. In a sense, the ordinary and the extra AGM thus got relatively clearly defined aims and themes.

This two-part AGM needed to be accepted by the members. There was initially some skepticism towards the approach from some members, but in the end, the reasons behind it were generally well understood, and approved at the first AGM. The board was open with the difficulties and problems beforehand, and informed about the wish for this setup already in the summoning to the first AGM. The members expressed support for the fact that this allowed them to actively influence the final documents, and not just some paperwork that would have been prepared merely for formal reasons. The wish from the chapter’s board and staff was to give real influence to members.

Hopefully, this kind of split is something that we do not need to do many times. Still, we learned a lot about organizing AGMs, about formal procedures, about democracy and decision-making within the organization, and how to deal with organizational problems. We identified several things we can improve for the future when it comes to organizing AGMs and involving members in the decision-making, and it strengthened our understanding of how important it is to involve members not only in the formal decision-making process but also in the direction and development of the organization.