The Calista Regional Native Corporation is holding its first ever virtual shareholders meeting.
In a move to strike a balance between protecting staff and shareholders from the coronavirus and taking care of business, Calista’s Board of Directors voted last week to go ahead with the 46th Annual Shareholders meeting on July 3. But it’s not going to happen in Tuluksak, as originally planned. Instead it will be on the web, possibly on phone, maybe even on the radio.
No one knows exactly how the meeting is going to work. Thom Leonard, the Director of Communications and Shareholder Services, is the man in charge of organizing the event. He has a lot of challenges, starting with the poor connectivity in much of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta's smaller communities. That means that he and his staff will have to be creative.
The good news is that there can be many more shareholders attending. Leonard said that usually around 200 come to the meeting. The bad news is that many more shareholders may attempt to attend. That means there could be more than 1,000 people listening and watching on computers, phones, or other devices. And more people accessing and using email to send in questions and participate means the need for more connectivity, which is not something you find in the bush.
For voting, the corporation already has a system in place for shareholders to do it electronically. Also, Calista is considering using KYUK to help broadcast portions of the meeting. Many shareholders already use the corporation’s website to get information and communicate with shareholder services. Additionally, to help with connectivity, Leonard said that Calista may use phones if necessary.
The physical meeting will be very small, with only a few staff and board members. Virtually, it will be managed out of Anchorage and live-streamed at www.CalistaVote.com. Shareholders can use their individual voting PIN numbers to access it. That’s the easy part. The question is how will shareholders submit their questions? That, Leonard said, is still being worked out.
The plan has to be in place soon because instructions to shareholders are going out in the mail physically on May 22. Those opting to access their information electronically will get their pins by email. One thing for sure, this is a shareholder meeting that Leonard will not soon forget. But it may also be a model for future meetings until the world strikes a better balance with COVID-19.