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Processes surrounding meeting preparation were arduous. Oxford colleges have governance systems which rely greatly on various committees. We had issues with collating agenda packs using a PDF writer. Even simple items like adding page numbers proved to be a complex task. The entire process was error prone: I had to write down the page numbers (sometimes on the back of an envelope) and then go back and edit them in. If papers were submitted late, the entire numbering process had to be redone from scratch.
As Bursar, I chair several committees, convene others, and attend yet more, so I felt that it was vital to have a consistent approach in all cases. In our continual drive to project a professional look and feel, you need to have the tools in place to support this. If I faced these challenges, undoubtedly colleagues convening other meetings would be facing the same issues. They may have found workaround solutions or were simply suffering in silence!
Too many Friday evenings were taken up with meeting prep, which in turn encroached upon much coveted personal time! This was not sustainable from both professional and individual standpoints, and I was keen to introduce a tool that would resolve these issues and encourage efficiency at the same time.
We had an external chair of one of our meetings who commented that our agendas (which I was writing in Word at the time) were below par because they failed to convey the information that was expected by committee members. The complaint was that the Chair was not sure what was expected of her, for example was it a case of reporting required information, was approval needed, was a decision expected etc. Having the drop-down boxes in Convene encouraged us to be more rigorous when it came to managing valuable information, including information that was necessary for decision making.
It has made committees more democratic. Having the system in place when I convene my meetings has engendered a more structured approach in terms of how I engage with those who report to me who either have to prepare the papers for me to present or have to present information themselves when they attend the committee. Convene affords them a greater sense of the context surrounding the decision-making processes.
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