Recently, in my other life as a volunteer, I have been exposed to the inner workings of boards of directors and societies and such things.

At first, I was overwhelmed with the complexity of it – every society has its own constitution and its own way of doing things – and I just stumbled along.

But it wasn’t until I prepared for an annual general meeting when it all came toge

ther in an “aha moment”.

Societies are like computers. They don’t know what to do until you tell them via constitutions and bylaws.

Just like the computer I am working on, a programmer had to tell it that when I push the “Y” key, a Y-shaped character must appear on the screen and be remembered as such.

Likewise, the constitution is the disk with the program on it. The box tells you what it is called and what it is for.

The bylaws are the computer program, itself. It says how many people are needed to govern the society, how many employees can be hired, how money can be raised, how disputes are handled, etc, etc.

That’s the technical stuff … the technical stuff that allows for the “heart”. And it is the heart of a society that appealed to my sense of community and the awe that I feel when I see a high-functioning, living, breathing society in action.

And it’s at the annual general meeting where it all comes together.

First of all, the directors are all members of our community who have agreed to be responsible for that society and will further its publicly stated mandate. The members of the society are admitted by the flimsiest of requirements so that, really, they are members of the general public.

So, we have the directors face to face with the public. The public can ask how the money has been spent over the past year and what was accomplished.

If enough of the public shows up, and a majority of them feel strongly that things should be run better, they can vote the directors right out of their seats.

It’s democracy at its most base; its most beautiful.

Alas, this is a democracy that is too easy and too cheap. We take it for granted. So, we have societies that have to shut down, even though they have the best and most noble of purposes, because nobody attends the meetings.

We have other societies that operate outside of their own original intent, and even outside of the mandate of their national bodies, and are badly in debt.

These things happen because decisions really are made by those who show up.

Please have a look for meetings in our What’s Happening Listings in this paper. They are all for you; good people are conducting meetings to make this a better community to live in.

Go. They will be thrilled to see you. They will answer your questions. They will be careful in your presence.

And that, is the whole idea.