After FIDI’s first virtual General Assembly, Secretary General Jesse van Sas on the benefits and pitfalls of online meetings and why FIDI and its Associations, now more than ever, need to work together for the future of their Affiliates
And it’s a wrap,’ the technician shouted at me. With that, we closed FIDI’s first virtual General Assembly. We broadcast live from a video studio in Brussels – a small, very green room with a desk full of equipment, me as presenter, the FIDI Board on video links, and all of our FIDI Association leaders connected, with their fingers on their voting buttons.
Thankfully, the programme of the General Assembly was purposely light. Our Statutes do not foresee the possibility of holding these meetings virtually, so the online nature of this meeting was already an exception and a compromise to our normal ways of doing things.
Moreover, because of the postponement of our Conference, we were not able to hold our Delegates Meeting, which is the forum for discussions, reviews and debate, with the purpose of preparing a smooth General Assembly.
The General Assembly often comes across as a voting machine, but it’s important to realise that a lot of real, animated debate takes place beforehand during the Delegates Meeting, with representatives of all FIDI Associations.
FIDI’s governance is a well-thought-out system of checks and balances. It may be slow at times, but this ensures consistent decision-making, carried by all stakeholders. This is how we embraced things such as FAIM and FASI, which are now cornerstones of FIDI. It requires both Board and Delegates to play by the rules, and only bring items to the General Assembly after ample discussion in a Delegates Meeting.
But without a Delegates Meeting in Osaka, we kept the agenda for the General Assembly limited to technical items and time-pressing matters. The Delegates Meeting and informal conversations that define our conference usually allow us to discuss items in a more relaxed way before the actual vote. Unfortunately, this was impossible this year; but the governance and decision processes remain the same. The virtual meeting, with all of its technical limitations, was not the right forum for careful discussion and review, as FIDI is used to have. The ad hoc agenda items that were brought forward just a couple of days before the meeting did not give the other Association Heads the time to ponder and debate the request in an unbiased way, with respect for their own members’ opinions. It is unfortunate that the email flurry among FIDI Associations in those few days prior to the GA caused a contamination of the legitimate agenda item on the FASI contribution increase. The Board had no other choice, much to its own disappointment, than to withdraw the item altogether, thus denying the membership the possibility to replenish our FASI fund now, which would have ensured better protection of the fund in the following years.
We are now setting up a virtual Delegates Meeting, on 3 September, to re-discuss the FASI contribution increase, as well as any other matters brought forward by our Delegates. The Board and FIDI office are transparent in the way they lead FIDI, within the confines of our rules and regulations. Based on feedback and conversations we regularly have with our Affiliates, I believe we have proven over the years that we know how to run a professional association, which is very different from running a commercial moving company.
FIDI did not have a slow time because of the COVID-19 crisis; it increased its workload significantly. We have made every effort to continue services to our Affiliates during the various lockdowns. Obviously, FIDI was hit financially as well, with little to no revenue from the Conference, seminars or audits, while costs have continued. In that respect, we immediately started a programme to reduce overheads and governance, which has already resulted in savings of eight per cent.
These are tough times for all movers and associations worldwide. We understand that, under duress, emotions flare. This is not a bad thing – we all need to vent from time to time. But let’s keep our focus on the future, and work jointly and diligently on reinforcing FIDI for the benefit of its ‘shareholders’, our Affiliates.