Voting on General Meeting resolutions: responses to CIfA survey and the next steps.

At its meeting on 15 February, Advisory Council was presented with the results of the short survey of members about their preferred option for voting at General Meetings. We asked members to choose between

  • Yes/no ballot in advance of a General Meeting - members are able to cast a vote in advance of a meeting which is counted along with any additional votes cast at the meeting
  • System of appointing proxies - members pass on their vote to another CIfA member who attends the General Meeting. Debate takes place at the meeting and those present vote on the resolutions as they deem appropriate
  • Only members present at a General Meeting can vote on resolutions after hearing the debate - this is the system the Institute currently has

There were 360 responses, 324 from accredited members and 36 from non-accredited.

Members showed a clear preference (89%) for yes/no balloting before the meeting.

Respondents were asked for comments about their choice. A strong theme was about ensuring engagement from members unable to attend the AGM – due to location, work, childcare etc – and ensuring enough communication about the resolutions being put to the meeting to allow debate.

Having read the comments, we thought it would be useful to provide a short Q&A at the end of this report about other issues raised. If there are questions or issues that aren’t covered, please get in touch (alex.llewellyn [at] archaeologists.net).

Having discussed the strong preference for a new voting system, Advisory Council recommended a timetable for developing such a system, including

  • providing a Q&A sheet addressing issues and comments from the survey (see below)
  • consulting other professional bodies through the Professional Associations Research Network about available mechanisms and potential costs
  • drafting new regulations for voting based on the preferred option, setting out when votes would be collected and how they would be cast at General Meetings
  • consulting further with the membership on the detail of the voting system
  • seeking final views from Advisory Council at its meeting in June
  • seeking adoption of new regulations by the Board at its meeting in July
  • implementing the new system for the 2018 AGM

What the AGM is and how is it set out in the constitution?
The requirement for the Institute to hold an Annual General Meeting is set out in the Charter and by-law. The by-law includes a timetable for notifying members about the meeting and the resolutions.

Where are AGMs usually held?
AGMs have predominately been held in London but more recently in York, Cardiff and Reading.

Can the AGM be held during the CIfA conference?
This is suggested from time to time. CIfA’s financial year runs from 1 April to 31 March with the AGM being held around October. The AGM receives the audited accounts prepared between May and July. The current timing of the conference – held in April – would not allow this. The options would be to move the financial year, to move the timing of the conference (being aware of other conferences the year), or to make more of the AGM day itself - as we have done recently by providing a CPD event.

Could the AGM be live streamed to allow for greater engagement?
As part of this review we are looking at the options for livestreaming.

Could the votes be submitted electronically?
We have asked other professional institutes how they collect votes and what online systems they use. We will consult with companies providing secure online voting systems. At present we are looking at gathering votes before the meeting.

Could the voting take place in the days after AGM if it was live streamed?
At the moment the Charter and by-laws prohibit this.

Could there be a mix of voting in advance and appointing a proxy?
This could be considered and is similar to the Institute of Field Archaeologists’ approach, which allowed those appointing a proxy to give a non-binding preference for voting. The advantage would be that a proxy attending the AGM is informed by the debate before casting votes. The problem is that those making decisions in advance are not informed by the debate.

Did the IFA approach work?
The small number of members appointing proxies generally meant that the votes at the meeting carried the day. On rare occasions proxies were numerous, and the debate at the AGM had little influence over voting.

Can information about resolutions be circulated in advance?
There is a constitutional requirement for information to be circulated in advance, and the current AGM Notice contains information about the resolutions being put to general meeting. The timetable is on the website at www.archaeologists.net/cifa/agm.

If yes/no votes are submitted before the meeting, there would need to be more discussion about resolutions in advance. It would rely on two-way engagement between CIfA and its voting members to be a success.

The minutes of the last AGM in October 2017 are online at www.archaeologists.net/members/councilminutes

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