General Assembly Meetings and Their Problems

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In this issue, we will discuss the General Assembly (GA) meetings of co-operatives. By this time, all co-operatives have scheduled or have already conducted their respective assembly meetings. It is a very important co-op activity but it is often taken for granted. For those who are not familiar with co-op rules, this meeting is a requirement under RA 9520 or the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008. It is usually held annually on a date fixed in the by-laws or on any date within 90 days after the close of each fiscal year if there is no fixed date stated in the said by-laws.

Most co-ops allot one day for an assembly meeting. It starts at around 8 or 9 in the morning and ends at around 4 to 5 in the afternoon. It is one long exhausting day. In all the co-op assemblies I have attended, I noticed that some members come to have their attendance taken, receive their tokens if there are any and go home or elsewhere. These people have their reasons for not staying and participating in the assembly but there is a question that persistently surfaces in my mind. Are they only concerned that their share capital is earning and no management anomaly is circulating through the grapevine, and that they do not want to have anything else to do with these meetings? I hope the answer to that question is no.

Giving them the benefit of doubt, one explanation why some members do not attend or don’t stay long is because of the length of time they have to spend. And of course, the meeting does not usually start on time. The meeting always starts late because it has been and is currently our custom. We have to wait for the latecomers before we start the program. This is what is normal to us. It is like as if it is our fault that we came early. And it becomes a cycle year in and year out. As a consequence, we end up doing an activity for the whole day even when we could have done it in half a day or even less.

I read somewhere that the GA meetings of co-ops in Canada last only for about 2 to 3 hours. What they do is that, before the scheduled GA meeting, the financial statements and the reports of the officers are already emailed to all members in advance for information purposes. So that during the assembly meeting proper, they would only clarify and decide on some matters, approve plans and budgets, and probably elect their new set of officers.

If we can only manage our assembly meetings efficiently such as starting on time, we can possibly shorten it without even compromising the substance of the meeting. We can probably maintain and hold the members to be present during the entire duration. In today’s society, the attention span of people is not like those in the earlier times where you can talk for one day and they will listen to you. But now, you can only hold the attention of a person for only 20 minutes. Yes, 20 short minutes! After that, his mind wanders off and he would think of his other concerns in life or talk to the other person nearby.

Now back to our one day GA meetings, the management and the officers resort to all kinds of gimmicks just to attract attendance or keep the members from leaving early. They offer incentives. They provide cash allowances for meals and transportation, they draw lots and give expensive prizes. The problem with this is it diverts the attention of the members to these giveaways far from the more meaningful discussion of issues that benefits the whole organization. They are present physically but absent mentally and spiritually.

Maybe it will be more productive to shorten the meeting. Maybe we can achieve the purpose of the assembly and with better results. We may likewise improve our efficiency in our time management instead of stretching the program to one whole day and with only a few members contributing their knowledge and wisdom. Expenses could have even been lessened.

We have discussed some problems encountered during general assembly meetings. I hope the solutions I offered be considered by those who are still planning for their meetings. I anticipate that the reader’s next logical question is like this, what if it is the other way around and the co-op never schedules the GA meeting? Well, let us see about that in the next issue.

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