Hier gehts zur deutschen Version dieses Artikels.
Due to COVID-19, this year's Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Wikimedia Germany was held a 100% digitally for the first time instead of coming together at an offsite event location. The decision to hold the AGM digitally was made in early April. Thus, there was relatively little time to change the concept and to find a suitable service provider for the digital implementation. The event took place on Sunday, June 21, 2020 from 11 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
The decision was made in favour of Voting Partner GmbH, the German partner of globally active Lumi. We needed an experienced partner at our side to support us in the development of the concept and in the implementation who would meet our extensive requirements. Two further service providers for streaming (BLT) and for image and sound direction (edelmat) completed the field of contracted service providers.
Several criteria were decisive in the selection of the software. We were looking for a tool that combines a video conferencing system or a live stream with a web app that carries out pre voting and live voting and includes a messenger service. In addition, the live votes were to be evaluated at short notice, within 5, maximum of 10 minutes. In addition, real-time voting with immediate evaluation had to be held and access to the editorial backend of the chat had to be given to the organising team.
In total, three different user groups were identified: Aktive Mitglieder (full members) who need secure and authenticated access to the web app, Fördermitglieder (affiliated members) who need authenticated access (to be able to insert questions) and guests who can only follow the live stream.
From a technical point of view, it was particularly important that the AGM is legally compliant and meets all GDPR requirements, which was a completely new challenge in digital space. We tried to transfer the agenda items 1:1 into the digital format. Questions and motions should be submitted in advance via the web app, which went live two weeks before the event. In general, the right to speak was offered in written form, which had previously been legally verified. Thus, a certain time frame for the live event had to be adhered to.
At the office of Wikimedia Germany, a kind of "television studio" situation was set up in the largest room with 170 square metres, accommodating the executive director, the chairman of the presidency and the chairpersons of the meeting. The live stream was broadcast in the web app.
What went well?
With 245 participants staying throughout most of the AGM and 351 participants in total having logged in and out at some point (out of about 1,000 registrations), this year's AGM had the highest number of registrations and participants ever achieved. Many of the participants were attending a general meeting for the first time. There was a lot of positive feedback on the digital format afterwards. All this speaks for the fact that a digital format appeals to a larger target group and includes people who would normally not travel to an analogue AGM or who are physically unable to attend. We also managed to not only hold the remote elections in advance, but to combine them with live voting during the event. This was a challenge not only from a technical point of view, but also in terms of procedure and data protection, which is why many other associations that currently hold their general meetings digitally have decided not to do so. Together with our technical service provider, we successfully mastered the challenge.
This year, the 7th executive committee of Wikimedia Germany and two cash auditors were elected. In addition, two motions requiring remote voting and two motions not requiring remote voting were voted on. The results of the elections can be found here.
Of course, the technical implementation of a digital AGM came along with greater challenges. We created a stable technical environment that enabled us to carry out the AGM without major hickups. The key was a very close coordination with all parties involved in the run-up and the professionalism and experience of the service providers.
This achievement was only possible because of the great teamwork. The digital AGM was a completely new challenge for everyone. But the whole team worked together great and in the end it was a great success for all involved.
What did we learn?
One of the most important issues we have learned when organizing a virtual event is that analog formats cannot be transferred 1:1 to the digital world. This refers to several aspects.
Firstly, staging a digital event requires a new understanding of the roles of everyone involved, as tasks and responsibilities change. Therefore, it is important to carefully examine in advance what changes will occur as a result of the transfer to the digital world, and what this means for the respective roles. For example, it is important for the chairpersons of the meeting that there are no pauses in the discussion, because otherwise some participants will get the impression that the stream no longer works.
In addition, it was a great challenge to integrate all program items, to hold the digital event in a legally secure, GDPR compliant and statutory manner, and to design the (time) frame in a participant-friendly manner. An example of this is the duration of the event. It is generally very difficult to follow a live stream for several hours while watching it attentively on the screen and remaining receptive. We are aware that the length of the digital AGM this year has been a challenge for some participants. This is an aspect we will work on in the future.
True to the motto "after the game is before the game", we are already working on the concept for the 26th AGM in 2021, which will be held as usual at the beginning of summer. Of course, we are taking into account the consistently positive feedback on the digital approach. Our first purely virtual AGM strengthens our goal to make the General Meetings accessible online to our members in the future. We don't want to limit ourselves to one platform, one technology or one device alone, but to use all interfaces and communication channels of the virtual system simultaneously. Our best-case scenario would be to combine a venue with a hybrid event format.