AGM 2021 Minutes

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Minutes of the seventh Annual General Meeting held on Freegle Central between 00.00hrs 18 October 2020 and 11.59hrs 24 October 2021

Edward Hibbert (Board Chair) chaired the meeting.

1. Quorum Declaration and Apologies for Absence

A quorum was achieved of 39 Members attending the meeting. No apologies were received.

Edward welcomed everyone to the meeting.

2. Minutes of the last meeting<brr>

These were approved unanimously by 24 votes as a correct record.

3. Matters Arising from 2020 Minutes

3.1 Recruitment of Volunteers

3.1.1 Microvolunteers:

At the 2020 AGM we discussed the possibility of microvolunteering - asking members to do very small moderation tasks, both because those tasks need doing, and as a way of identifying more active members who might become formal volunteers.

In the last year Edward has implemented some of this function - e.g. reviewing photos and messages, helping improve our search algorithm. There have been more than 700,000 such actions taken by freeglers so far. This level of participation is very encouraging and there is more we could do in this area to make use of their enthusiasm.

Microvolunteering is a way of making use of a large, untapped source of helpful people and of better identifying potential moderators who will maintain interest in Freegle as well as identifying bad decisions. Microvolunteers who prove themselves to be good at these tasks can be encouraged to be full moderators.

We should consider thanking microvolunteers for what they are doing and use it as a means of starting communication with them.

Edward explained that he is working on ways to give information to the full time volunteers regarding the microvolunteers on their group. There was a discussion on the practicalities of providing information to moderators on their microvolunteers.

3.1.2 Training

We discussed providing better materials for training moderators. Vee and Mentors had kindly provided their training notes, which are available on the wiki. Some communities have trained their own recruits with the help of these training notes. It was noted that the autumn term has started at Freegle Freshers.

Discussion followed:

  • There are still many caretaker groups who need permanent moderators.
  • After training, new moderators need to be mentored for six months and there are not enough mentors available to keep up with a constant flow of trainees.
  • ModTools is constantly evolving so the training materials become out of date.
  • Some caretaker groups are very small so the effort of recruiting, training and mentoring moderators is significant in proportion to the work being undertaken by someone else. It is easier for a caretaker to moderate a group.
  • The mentor figures do not show the groups that are never added to the list as they are dealt with very quickly.
  • Many moderators have been involved for fifteen years or more now and naturally give up modding at some point, so the number of groups dealt with by the mentors does not appear to go down.

Suggestions were made to:

  • Add a request for volunteer moderators on the Freegle website.
  • Create training videos.
  • Have fewer groups by combining small groups where membership and posting levels are low.
  • Where a group is ‘abandoned’, automatically contact neighbouring groups to see if they can take it on.
  • Make recruitment of new mods more of a priority for caretaker groups.
  • Make sure lone mods have a mentor on board who will actively support them and encourage recruitment if possible so as to avoid having to take on a caretaker role if there is a 'death in service’.
  • Encourage or even insist on mentoring by existing mods where recruitment and/or training has been done centrally.
  • Split Mentors and Trainers into two groups.
  • Support for on the job training rather than trainers
  • Requesting more mentors and caretakers from existing volunteers is hampered by the relatively few moderators who contribute to Discourse.
  • Freegle will pay the telephone costs for anyone training on behalf of Freegle.

The point was made that a lot of suggestions put forward are things that we have tried before and what we are doing is not working; we need to consider alternative solutions, such as microvolunteering.

3.2 Discourse

Chris Cant reported on the use of Discourse as the Freegle Mods discussion forum.

  • Discourse continues to be used regularly by email and through the web interface on desktop and phones, with browser notifications available.
  • Discourse was moved to a different server in February 2021 as it was running slowly. We’ve reduced running costs by sending out emails ourselves rather than using Mailgun. Discourse has its updates installed manually as and when required. The system is backed up every night and a standby copy is set up on another server.
  • There are 392 users on Discourse, including 3 Discourse moderators and 3 admins.
  • An overnight script checks to see if any Discourse users are no longer mods - and alerts the Volunteer Support team.
  • According to another script, there are 462 published Freegle groups with 323 moderators active in the last 6 months.
  • 55 of these volunteers are not on Discourse, but all groups have at least one mod on here.

There are usually between 100 and 180 topics each month with 800 to 1500 posts when replies are included. Daily engaged users are around 15 people.

  • Central and Tech&ModTools continue to be the most active groups, with some policy discussions happening on Development. There have been more fun posts to the cafe group. Discourse polls are used occasionally.
  • In response to queries, Chris updated the code for his scripts to produce more meaningful information on group moderators using Discourse.

3.3 Board Zoom Meetings

It was decided last year to allow volunteers to attend, but not speak, at the Board’s monthly Zoom meetings. Not many volunteers, so far, have attended but the Board feel that it is good for Freegle to be open so have decided to continue with this.

4. Board Annual Report 2021

Edward presented the Board Report which was unanimously accepted.

Wanda was thanked for her tireless work for Freegle. She is sorely missed and we all send her our very best wishes.

5. Finance and Auditors Report 2021

The Report can be found at:

It was unanimously accepted by the meeting.

Appreciation was expressed for our generous anonymous sponsor.

6. Annual Director Resignations and Election 2021

The Directors voluntarily standing down are Edward Hibbert, Michael Hoeben and Jo Fisher. This means three elected Directors are leaving, creating a total of three vacancies, as the current Board has 9 elected Directors for 9 places.

The election for new Directors commenced 18th September 2021 with a nomination deadline of 28th September 2021. Three nominations were confirmed as candidates so, because there were not more candidates than vacancies, they were elected unopposed at this 2021 AGM. The candidates and new Directors are Edward Hibbert, Maggie Sands and Jen Williams.

7. Other notified business

7.1 Paypal windfall, how to spend it?

The Board presented their proposals for spending the money.

    • Develop a better mobile app.

Do more work with councils and similar organisations.

  • Increase volunteer numbers.

There was discussion on the merits of investment and caution for the future against action plans which the Board feel are more likely to result in long term sustainability.

Action: Board

  • Make final decision on choice of proposal
  • Report on work and resources required to implement proposal

7.2 Ways to make Mod’s lives better

Suggestions were made for:

  • Better communication between
    • Moderators within groups.
    • Local groups to ensure a prompt response to problems such as lack of internet.
    • Local groups and national teams.

A more collective approach is needed towards running Freegle with moderators accepting that we are all responsible for this. Autonomy of groups is a barrier as the knowledge that groups can make their own decisions can lead to a feeling that there is no responsibility of individuals to take part in the joint work of running Freegle. Such things as answering emails from national volunteers, joining in or voting on discussions in Development all help towards the running and reduce the strain on volunteers who are part of specific teams.

Specific suggestions were made on using mapping to help with the workload of group moderators.

Appreciation was expressed for the huge amount of work put in by Edward in developing Modtools.

7.3 Volunteer Agreement 7 Edward explained that there is a Volunteer Agreement which the New Groups Team sends out to new group volunteers, but we do not have anything in place for existing volunteers, or volunteers recruited directly by existing volunteers (e.g. sending it out regularly or popping it up on ModTools).

Concern was expressed that the agreement, which centres around using Best Practice, cannot be enforced. The point was made that it could be renamed to stress commitment towards shared values. The document makes clear that agreeing to be a volunteer is a two-way process.

Development to discuss

  • Should we have an agreement or commitment
  • If the present one need adapting
  • How it should be presented to volunteers

7.4 Zoom AGM

The Board suggested that some or all of the business for future AGMs be conducted via Zoom.

There was little support for this. Members felt that the current week long online AGM provided plenty of time for Members and Volunteers to contribute. A fixed time and date could reduce this as well as there being practical issues on the way the meetings are run.

8. End of Meeting

It was suggested that for future AGM meetings each new agenda item is posted as an Announcement Edward thanked Members for attending.

Action: Board and ROs : Discuss how future AGMs can be streamlined