During COVID-19 voluntary bodies such as Parish Councils, school Governing Bodies and charities have had to shift to virtual meetings. In the case of Parish Councils this has been enabled by temporary legislation currently until May 2021. In the case of Governing Bodies there was initially a choice as to whether school governance could continue at all. In the case of charities, I believe that the Charity Commission has adapted to enable AGM meetings to take place virtually.
While we deal with this pandemic, these bodies have mostly adapted to a virtual model of governance, and although the technical logistics were tricky to begin with, and there are some who find this model problematic due to lack of equipment or lack of broadband, I have seen that this shift has enabled groups who may have found attending in-person meetings difficult.
For example those with physical impairments or mobility issues who find travel to meetings or access into buildings tricky, those with caring responsibilities who find leaving home for a meeting difficult, those who can‚’t afford the outlay for travel or caring cover while they attend a meeting, those who must shield due to medical conditions: all of these groups are more easily able to engage in their communities due to the opportunity for virtual meetings of these voluntary bodies.
Additionally members of the public who might like to attend such meetings, but may not be able to find the time due to work or family commitments, can more easily find out what is going on in their communities and contribute to discussions on issues that impact them, by joining a Zoom from their mobile phone.
If we return to legislated in-person only meetings after this pandemic then our voluntary groups miss out on vital input from underrepresented groups.