Medecins Sans Frontieres
MSF provides medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare. MSF teams are made of of health professionals, logistics, and administrative staff.
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Inclusive digital motion development and debate for AGAs
Hold a more digitally-friendly, inclusive, and efficient motion debate leading up to and during an Annual General Assembly.
Problem: MSF’s system for passing new motions was laborious and exclusive
Médicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) traditionally had an exclusive and laborious system for passing motions at their Annual General Assemblies, one likely familiar to many readers. Open debate on a motion occurred during the three hour period set aside for passing new motions and in order to participate in the conversation and vote on motions, members had to be in the room. Because the meetings are always held in Toronto or Montreal, many members were traditionally excluded from participating and “the people who are working for us [in the field] right now have no say in the organization that they’re a part of,” said board member, Anne Connelly. This system also excluded those who could not travel to the AGA because of finances, distance, commitments at work, children, etc., over-representing a specific geographical and privileged group in the motion process. The system was laborious because it required that a small committee of four worked with each motion author to improve and clarify the motions prior to the official proposal, debate, and voting session at the AGA. “It requires a lot of additional effort from me to do because I’m personally editing all of these motions and recommendations,” said one committee member. Even if members could attend the AGA, there was consistently not enough time for proper discussion on motions.
“The people who are working for us [in the field] right now have no say in the organization that they’re a part of”
Board Member, MSF
Process of collaboration
Swae offered an inclusive environment through which members could collaborate on the proposals from anywhere with an internet connection and distributed the labor of revising submissions.
With Swae, motions were submitted by members a few weeks in advance of the AGA just like the original process, but instead of being first revised by the small committee, they were immediately accessible to all members via Swae’s online environment. The small committee was no longer solely responsible for helping the authors strengthen their motions – the global community was contributing and their contribution “did result in improved motions, especially notable around … one that was utterly changed,” said one board member.
|Before Swae||With Swae|
|Proposal revision done by small 4-person committee||Proposals revised and strengthened collaboratively by all members of the organization|
|Debate on all proposed motions took place in a three hour time slot during AGA, with 5-10 proposals to address, this meant very little time per proposal||Members debated and collaborated on proposals for up to 3 weeks prior to the AGA, depending on when each proposal was posted|
|Debate on motions happened only among those present at the AGA in Toronto or Montreal||Debate on motions was possible for anyone with an internet connection globally – leading up to the AGA, 62% of the activity in the Swae environment was from outside Ontario, and on the day of the motion session, 32% of activity was from outside Ontario|
The system proved to be more efficient and inclusive and according to association members, the use of Swae genuinely impacted their experience and members were able to contribute to the motion debate from around the world.
- % survey respondents who believe the Swae will help make recommendations more accessible to the whole organization 87% 87%
- % survey respondents who believed Swae increased the transparency of the motion process 80% 80%
- % survey respondents who felt that Swae made it easier to have their voice heard as an association member 73% 73%
“Great idea implementing something like this. This makes the AGA more efficient and leads to better motions and recommendations because people actually have the time to consider them and work on them”
“It has improved the motion process tremendously”
We’re constantly learning
While the Swae environment encouraged collaboration, voting remained exclusive; the next step to using the software for a fully inclusive motion process is to allow members to submit digital votes. This particular challenge is one of policy in that while technically feasible to vote on a proposal using the platform, MSF’s regulations specifying that members must be in the room to vote will need to change to allow digital voting.
Some MSF members had recommendations for the UI that would have made their experience more intuitive and enjoyable. We’ve listened and we’re happy to report that MSF helped us create a better platform, in particular, the next UI will have more intuitive formatting for proposal text.
Q. Why did you use Swae?
A – With an associative membership that is spread across the country, people were getting left out of the conversation. We used Swae to ensure everyone’s voice was heard.
Q. Why do you want to continue using Swae?
A – Swae helped us ensure our motions process was accessible to every person in our association, regardless of their location or their ability to attend our Annual General Meeting.
Q. How did Swae help MSF?
A – By using Swae, the quality of our motions improved dramatically before they were presented to be voted on. This lead to a larger number getting passed, creating more impact for the organization
Q. What outcomes have you had using Swae?
A – Swae meant more of our association members were included in the process of sharing ideas, turning them into motions, and creating impact for our organization.
Q. How do you find using the Swae platform or working with the Swae team?
A – We have a diverse association with members who have very different comfort levels with technology. The Swae team provided helpful instructional webinars and built-in support to ensure everyone was comfortable using the platform.
Anne Connelly, MSF
Transform the process of passing new motions at your AGA into an inclusive, efficient, and transparent process. With Swae, members from anywhere with an internet connection can collaborate on proposed motions, all motions are kept in a centralized location, and the process of updating and accepting motions is transparent to members.