Why Physical Board Meetings At BPP Should Be Resumed

Noshir Dadrawala – BPP Trustee

On Tuesday, 15th December, 2020, from 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm, BPP Trustees – Kersi Randeria and Noshir Dadrawala, once again made themselves available to BPP beneficiaries.

Requests by this duo, since August 2020, to consider at least one if not two Board Meetings a month in the Board Room, seem to have fallen on deaf years by the trio currently in majority (Trustees Armaity Tirandaz, Viraf Mehta, Xerxes Dastur) on the Board. There are many major issues which cannot be discussed with optimal effectiveness on Zoom.

Finding Middle Ground: Both – face-to-face and virtual meetings, have their benefits and disadvantages. Virtual meetings did serve their purpose during the total lockdown. But, to insist on only virtual meetings after the unlocking instead of adopting the middle path and alternating with both forms, is akin to keeping the stable doors locked when the horses are all out. The best thing to do is to combine both forms on an alternate basis. That would be reasonable and sensible. For Trustees, communication is connection and inspiration – not just transmission of information with beneficiaries and stakeholders. Communication is critical for building alignment and executing strategy.

Virtual Challenges: Virtual meeting are at best a convenient substitute. There is a world of difference looking at the person in the eye than looking at a small computer screen, or worse, a smartphone with poor connectivity. When one attends a physical meeting, it is the primary reason why one is at the particular place at the given time – there would be more discipline and lesser distractions.

Effectiveness Of Real Board Meetings: The serious and focused environment of a Board Room cannot be compared with attending an on-screen Board meeting from home with sounds of clutter from the kitchen or the television playing in an adjoining room or the more common – ‘poor network’.

When one walks into a Board Room one is in attendance for the meeting and comes prepared with easy access to data, files and papers. When meeting in person, people are more communicative and able to express themselves with body language, gestures and words – all of which work together to convey a holistic message. Also, misunderstandings are less likely.

During face-to-face meetings people get instant feedback. This is very important, especially in the development of something that requires teamwork. It is the best kind of meeting for brainstorming. Face-to-Face meetings create stronger bonds and people understand each other better. This is as important as team building is to any business or charitable institution.

Compliance Constraints: Unlike validity of zoom meetings which are officially recognized under the Indian Companies Act 2013 by the Registrar of Companies, the validity of zoom meetings and decisions taken therein continue to remain questionable. Neither the Maharashtra State Law and Judiciary Department nor the Charity Commissioner has so far issued any circular or notification validating or recognizing virtual meetings. Also, the manner in which BPP Zoom meetings are convened is not in sync with the High Court framed BPP Scheme.

Moving On: As trustees we can ill afford to lose our connect with each other. The world, including India, is learning to live with the potential threat of infection and moving on with care and caution. Did health and sanitization frontline workers function virtually even during total lock-down? It’s time every trustee starts to see himself as a frontline worker in the service of the community. If the BPP staff can come to the BPP office every single day, why can’t BPP trustees consider coming to the BPP office at least once or twice a month to start with!

Keeping exactly this in mind two trustees of the BPP have taken the initiative and made it a point to be at the BPP office every Tuesday. Leading by example is generally the best way forward. One hopes that cussedness will be dropped and good sense will prevail to ensure good governance on the BPP Board.

By Noshir H. Dadrawala, Trustee – BPP

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