The future of decision making in Residential Communities: Is this the beginning of the end of AGM’s as we know it?

Hands UpResidential Communities (Estates and Sectional Title Complexes) are managed according to basic democratic principles, where rules, regulations and decisions are based on the preference of the majority. Therefore, once a year (or currently at least), these communities have an AGM (Annual General Meeting) where motions (decisions) are tabled and then voted on by the members (owners) of the community. In extreme cases where urgent decisions need to be made, a SGM (Special General Meeting) is called to debate and decide on the special matter on hand.

Many of us have attended one of these AGM’s or SGM’s at residential communities, and we will probably agree, the voting process is far from efficient, especially taking today’s available technology into consideration. In many instances, the supporting documents (which are usually a large number of pages) are printed and hand delivered or posted to owners. In large communities, this results in thousands of printed pages at a huge cost to the community (not to even mention the trees). Then the process of proxy’s start where owners need to nominate (ask) other owners to vote on their behalf on the day of the meeting as they cannot physically attend. Apart from the administration in managing these proxies, many owners just don’t bother and therefore do not participate in the voting process. At the meeting, each owner needs to register to confirm their attendance (and to ensure that the necessary number of eligible owners are present in order to legally continue with the meeting – called a quorum), usually resulting in the meeting starting hours later than planned. Then the actual voting starts, mostly by either show of hands (with voting number cards in some instances) or closed ballots. In the case of a show of hands, the meeting officials have the almost impossible task of accurately counting the hands, while taking the number of voting cards into consideration. In the case of a closed ballot, usually the auditors are asked to count the votes while members take a break and wait for the outcome. This is usually a long (and expensive) process.

The good news is that the way AGM’s and SGM’s (and any decision making in communities for that matter) are run can now change forever. Imagine a world where motions and supporting documents are shared electronically to members in sufficient time to allow adequate interrogation and consultation in the comfort of their own space. Imagine a fully inclusive decision-making process where all members have the opportunity to cast their vote, regardless of whether they can physically attend the meeting (therefore making the need for proxy’s absolute?). Imagine arriving at the meeting without the need to register and when it is time to vote, simply casting your vote on your mobile phone. And imagine the results of the votes not only being available in real time, but being 100% accurate, reliable, auditable and un-corruptible. Imagine not actually having to physically attend meetings during the year to make decisions in the community, where decisions can be made throughout the year by owners from the comfort of wherever they are at that point in time. And imagine the community owning an incorruptible and auditable time-stamped record of every such motion, voting process and result?

Electronic Voting enabled by the GLOPortal CMS (Community Management System)

201707_Voting-AppGLOVent is excited to announce the launch of their exclusive and unique electronic voting module now available in the GLOPortal CMS (Community Management System). The GLOPortal Voting Module provides an electronic interface for community-appointed administrators to create and share the details of a motion (vote) with members, while members then have the opportunity to cast their vote either through their smartphone (using the GLOPortal member application) or a web interface (using the GLOPortal member portal). Supporting document uploads and a discussion forum unique to each vote allow members to voice their option and discuss the matter just as they would in a traditional member meeting, but without the peer pressures normally involved.

The Companies Act of 2008 recognizes that corporate entities operate in a digital age and has, to a limited extent, made provision for technological changes, including for information to be stored digitally, notices for shareholder meetings to be sent electronically and meetings to take place on an electronic platform.

The GLOPortal Voting Module accommodates and makes provision for all of the necessary governance controls to ensure that any vote taken on any issue at any forum will be fully compliant, and fully representative of the participating community. This is made possible by, amongst others, the following features; Selecting of participants or eligible voters for each motion; Providing a detailed description of the motion with optional attachments as supporting documents; Setting the vote open date and time (which will typically allow for the required notice period); Setting of the vote closing date and time (members will only be able to vote between the open and closing times); and Setting of the required minimum participation (votes casted) before the vote is deemed valid (the quorum).

A unique feature of the GLOPortal Voting Module is the technology used to store the voting data. A major concern with electronic voting is the authenticity of the vote and its outcome. The GLOPortal Voting Module uses blockchain technology to store all voting data, which by design makes it un-editable, incorruptible and fully auditable.

Blockchain Technology: A Distributed, Incorruptible Database

201707_Blockchain-handshakeThe blockchain is a database technology or a software platform designed for the management of digital assets by effectively creating a distributed ledger. This ledger is decentralized in that an identical version exists on every device forming part of the blockchain network. The ledger records every transaction known as blocks and each block is linked to the previous block. The records are immutable and, once recorded, data cannot be amended retrospectively. It therefore allows for the permanent and immutable transparent recording of data, essentially, and transactions specifically. Blockchain is referred to by some as the “Internet of value”.

Blockchain can be used to store and exchange any number of things that have value. It is more well-known for storing and managing digital (or crypto) currency transactions and ownership, like Bitcoin, but can also be used to store the outcome of information transactions, such as the proposing by management of a motion and the recording of an individual’s vote as applied by the GLOPortal Voting Module.

Voting with blockchain technology means each member (shareholder) is issued with a digital asset, a digitally created mechanism that enables the members’ voting rights to be signified digitally. Members are then issued with weighted tokens to cast votes on resolutions on which they have voting rights.

Although new, voting using blockchain technology is gaining significant traction internationally. Nasdaq, an exchange operator in New York, conducted a blockchain e-voting trial in Estonia and declared it a success. The trial results showed that blockchain voting reduced the complexity and cost of voting, increased the speed of the voting process and boosted overall shareholder participation. The European Parliamentary Research Service also recently published a report highlighting the potential revolutionary effect of blockchain on voting not only at shareholder meetings, but in national elections.

GLOVent Solutions has already created this blockchain database for the South African Residential Community Industry and has provided it to the industry at no charge. This means that the industry, not GLOVent or any other commercial entity, will own all of the data stored on the industry blockchain.

The GLOPortal Voting Module is an application developed by GLOVent Solutions to allow individual communities, or industry groupings, to conduct a vote and store the data on the industry blockchain. The module is separate from the blockchain and the resulting blockchain data belongs to the industry, not to GLOVent. Each approved blockchain administrator appointed by the individual community or industry body will control who can read or write to the industry blockchain, and each information transaction, the record and results of every vote in this case, is stored as a unique transaction between the participants, and is accessible only to individuals or entities authorized by the industry administrators.

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