Soledad Griffin

Q&A (October 20, 2014- October 27 2014): Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Biography

Soledad Griffin is a Literature undergrad student who is currently working for a governmental educational plan for Argentinian youth called Jóvenes y Memoria. She designs and leads workshops about Argentinian social issues, organizes events that range from office parties and small regional meetings to gatherings of more than 10000 people, and trains, supports and manages volunteers to help with these tasks.

She has been in fandom for more than half her life, starting out in the Spanish-speaking anime fandom at the tender age of ten and later participating in a wide variety of fandoms. She has written fanfic, run fanclubs, organized conventions, created fanvids, and written meta, but these days her main fannish engagement is journal-based roleplaying.

Sole joined the OTW as a wrangler in 2010 and became part of the Tag Wrangling staff in 2011. She joined Internationalization & Outreach in 2012 and has since became chair of I&O. She has also served in the AO3 Support committee and the Survey workgroup, and was the lead of the Category Change workgroup.

Manifesto

1) Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?

The OTW has changed, expanding our scope and our userbase, but its internal structures still have many issues, and we continue to outgrow them at a fast pace. The internal atmosphere can be harsh and unkind, making the org an incredibly difficult place for many of us (volunteers, staffers and Board members included). I want to support my fellow OTW volunteers, and I want the org to be sustainable in the long term.

I have opinions, ideas, and skills to help with the transition towards a more sustainable organization and with internal structures that can handle the expansion that has already happened. I believe that the Board is the ideal place for me to do so.

2) What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?

In terms of OTW experience, I’ve served in the org for four years now. I’ve been in several committees, and my work in the Category Change workgroup taught me how to navigate complex issues that became even more complex after years of unfruitful discussion.

I have participated in all sorts of fandoms – in more than one language, both locally and online, etc.

I also have over eight years of volunteer experience that gave me a background in managing volunteers, facilitating debate and consensus, planning events, and working well under pressure. I know how to support other volunteers, how to inspire confidence, how to handle workloads fairly, and how to discuss disruptive behaviour in a productive manner. I know how to debate painful, complex issues with people from wildly differing backgrounds in such a way that everybody feels heard and secure.

Once you have successfully survived a three-day event with 2000 teenagers and no hot water, you can survive anything.

3) What goals would you like to achieve during your term?

In Spanish, ‘confidence’ and ‘trust’ are the same word – confianza. That’s my first and most important goal: to engender ‘confianza’ in ourselves and in each other so that working in the OTW is easier and more rewarding for all involved.

One of my goals is to define a clearer path towards the future, taking into consideration what we have learnt since the org began and allowing ourselves to rethink and rebuild our internal structures, how we make decisions, and how we work.

I am currently Internationalization & Outreach’s chair, so further expanding and widening our volunteer and user-bases is central to me. Our volunteers and staffers have very diverse backgrounds that we should be able to harness in order to reach out to currently underrepresented fannish communities and traditions. This way, we might be able to learn from them and they might be able to benefit from what we have to offer and that .

4) What is your experience of the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Please include AO3, TWC, Fanlore, our Legal Advocacy work and Open Doors, though feel free to emphasize particular areas you’re interested in.

The primary project I’ve worked with is the AO3, starting as a tag wrangler and then both as Support staff and the Category Change workgroup lead, so I’m very familiar with both the behind-the-scenes process and our users’ needs and opinions.

As an I&O staff member, I’ve been in contact with many of the other projects and areas of the org, given that our mission involves the whole org, but my knowledge of those other projects is less hands-on and more second-hand.

My first step to collaborate and support those committees would be to ask them what are their needs are, what are their goals and where they are regarding those goals. In general, I think that it’s important to make sure every stakeholder is and feels involved in the decision making process regarding their own purview. The Board should also ensure that the attention and resources that the OTW gives to each of its projects is equal and appropriate.

5) Choose two topics/issues that you think should be high priority for the OTW, both internally and externally. What do these topics mean to you and why do you value them? How will you make them a part of your service?

The first topic I would like to address as a Board member is outreach. It’s probably clear by now, but my org work in the past years has been about what strategies we can devise to make the OTW more diverse and to use that diversity in a way that benefits us and our members and users. However, in order to reach out to different fannish traditions that have historically felt left out or distinctly not catered to by the OTW’s projects, we first have to ensure the org is welcoming and can address their needs. This interest stems from a very personal stand-point – most of what I have done fannishly is outside of the areas where the OTW is a familiar presence. I want to change that.

From a more internal point of view, ‘confianza’, as I have already mentioned, is my main interest and goal. While many committees are great places to work, in general, we do not trust each other in the organization. We should be able to trust not only other individual staffers, but also that this organization has our best interests at heart, and we should be able to do this even when we disagree with others in the org. This trust on a general level would mean that we can feel secure and confident, knowing that we have each other’s backs and being more able to deal with criticism of our work. We need to make sure that we all are involved in decision-making, that communication lines are open and frank across the org, and that everybody feels valued.

6) What do you think the key responsibilities of a/the Board are? Are you familiar with the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors?

I am familiar with those requirements, and many of them are guiding principles that I already strive to fulfill in my org work as a chair and as a staffer in general.

Personally, I believe the Board’s main work is to articulate our goals as an organization and the best path to achieve them. From experience, I believe that to attain this, the Board must facilitate discussion internally when needed, create consensus, and be understanding of different perspectives (while being aware that not everybody will agree and that decisions must be made). The Board also has a responsibility to identify problems and diagnose solutions for internal conflicts and to oversee and advise committees.

7) How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the OTW, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?

Currently, my only role is as Internationalization & Outreach chair, a committee that is in the midst of a very long and occasionally confusing process of re-organization and re-defining its goals and work methods. I cannot realistically leave that post short term, but I am exploring options for succession plans. I plan to leave my staffer role as well once this process is finalized and the committee is back on track, knowing that in my position as Board member I would be able to advise I&O.

Jessica Steiner

Q&A (October 20, 2014- October 27 2014): Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Biography

Jessica Steiner began her fanfiction career by writing her first Star Trek novel in middle school. By the late 90s, she discovered that she wasn’t the only one doing this kind of thing and entered fandom, initially writing in Gundam Wing and Weiβ Kreuz and moving on from there. She’s always been a fandom wanderer, exemplified by her having written in over 30 fandoms just since finding a home at the AO3. Currently her primary fandoms are Homestuck and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As a day job, Jessica runs a legal aid family law practice, primarily working with victims of domestic violence and people with serious mental health and drug addiction issues. When not doing that, she’s working on building a platform as a professional writer and writing coach. She joined the OTW in 2012 and served on the Strategic Planning Committee.

Manifesto

1) Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?

After spending the past two years on the Strategic Planning Committee, I feel I have a good basis of knowledge and understanding of where the Org has been, where it is now, and where stakeholders would like to see it go in the future. Now that the current Strategic Planning process is beginning to wind down, I would really like to help move the OTW to the next level in a measurable way. Joining the Board seemed like the best way to do that.

2) What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?

In my day job as a family lawyer, I work with people who are going through crisis, such as victims of domestic violence and people with serious addiction and mental health issues, every day. I’ve developed both patience and empathy while managing to maintain a level of emotional distance that allows me to help guide them through some of the worst times in their lives while remaining level-headed myself. This, along with my training in mediation and conflict resolution, will be invaluable, given some of the ongoing issues that we see throughout the Org. (I elaborate on these in questions 5 and 6.)

In addition, I have years of professional experience with documentation management and training (in my previous life working in quality assurance at pharmaceutical companies), as well as people management, in my position as the head of a small legal firm.

3) What goals would you like to achieve during your term?

I would like to personally assist in turning the Board into a cohesive team that knows what they are supposed to do and has the tools to do it – a Board that can lead the OTW into becoming an organization that we can be proud to recruit our friends to work with. I would like to see the Strategic Plan finalized and executed, and for at least the majority of the goals to be completed during my tenure on the Board. Specifically, I would like to take part in developing a system to ensure that all committees and workgroups have the resources and support to achieve their goals.

4) What is your experience of the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Please include AO3, TWC, Fanlore, our Legal Advocacy work and Open Doors, though feel free to emphasize particular areas you’re interested in.

During my time on Strategic Planning, we have surveyed and reviewed all of the different OTW projects, so I feel I have a pretty good grasp on each of them. As I mentioned earlier, I really want to work with each of them in a systematic way to ensure that they all have the resources to accomplish their goals. For example, I’m excited about recent dialogue we had with Legal about expanding their advocacy to allow non-lawyers to help out in some ways, while I know Fanlore is in need of more staffing resources.

Every committee has their own unique needs, and the Board can’t be everything to everyone. We should be a resource and support to the extent that we can be, while trusting each committee or set of committees to do their work both autonomously and collaboratively as needed, without top-down micromanagement.

5) Choose two topics/issues that you think should be high priority for the OTW, both internally and externally. What do these topics mean to you and why do you value them? How will you make them a part of your service?

The absolute most important priority is sustainability. This goes into training, staffing, and documentation – we need to create the foundational infrastructure to make sure that no single person is unable to take time for themselves if they need it, and no committee will ever fall apart when they hit a speedbump.

The second is communication. Not only is it important to improve the basic lines of communication between the committees and reduce silo’ing, which happens when different committees work too much in isolation from one another. I particularly want to see the Org leave behind some of the bad feelings and history that unfortunately have built up. I believe that, moving forward, we should build a culture of trust, forgiveness and empathy for one another. We’re all fans. We’re all doing this out of love, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that sense of joy and passion we have for fandom. We might not all agree all the time, but we should be free to express our opinions without fearing retaliation. On the flip side, we should all remember that when you hear or see something that you don’t like, it doesn’t necessarily come from a place of malice.

6) What do you think the key responsibilities of a/the Board are? Are you familiar with the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors?

Right now I believe that we have to face the reality that our Board is currently an executive Board and is in a position of leadership of the Org. The Board’s main responsibility is to be the engine, driving the OTW forward in the direction that we want to go. The Board should be in tune with our vision as an organization, as well as with all of the committees’ needs and where they all fit within that vision.

The Board is not in a position to do the day-to-day work, and I get the sense that our Board has been placed in that position a bit too often recently.

Yes, though I am not American and haven’t worked in a non-profit, I am familiar with the legal requirements and the duty of care that Board directors hold towards the organization.

7) How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the OTW, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?

I plan to step down from Strategic Planning (in any case, a requirement to be on the Board), so I will have the time to devote myself fully to my Board duties. Prior to stepping down, I will be assisting Strategic Planning with a recruitment round and training to ensure that the transition is smooth.

Margaret MacRae

Q&A (October 20, 2014- October 27 2014): Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Biography:

MJ graduated from Smith College with a degree in history. While at Smith she was the Chair of the Academic Honor Board and a member of the Student Government Association Cabinet. After college MJ spent three years as the general manager of small nonprofit community theater. As general manager she oversaw the theater’s $200K operating budget, supervised staff, negotiated contracts with producers and vendors, and assisted in fundraising. When it was time to move on, MJ decided to become a lawyer because nobody was hiring knights errant. She intended to return to nonprofit management, but the courtroom seduced her away and now she spends her days in a suit (not made out of armor sadly).

MJ joined the OTW’s Strategic Planning Committee in October 2013 and continues to serve on it. In addition to her work for the OTW, MJ spends her time reading, cooking, teaching yoga, and hiking. Since she learned to read she has consumed books at a staggering pace, and found fandom as a teenager when she was too impatient to wait for the next Tamora Pierce novel. Her fandoms vary greatly, but generally involve knights or their more modern cousins in spandex–superheroes. Firefly, MCU, Game of Thrones, and Star Trek are a few of her favorites and she is always looking for new ones!

Manifesto

1) Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?

Running for board has been a long term goal of mine since I joined the org. I assumed that it wouldn’t happen for another year or two, and I hoped to serve on at least one more committee before I joined Board. Alas, life is what happens when you are making plans or the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. (Its really hard to chose between John Lennon and Robert Burns. They are both so quotable!) I decided to run now because I believe that the best use of my skills are as a board member, and that the best way for me to serve the org at this moment is to run for Board. I also believe that my experience on Strategic Planning has given me a thorough understanding of the org’s current projects, and the challenges the org is working to overcome.

2) What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?

I am intimately familiar with the day-to-day management of a non-profit. Prior to attending law school, I was the general manager of non-profit community theater. My job included overseeing all day-to-day operations, dealing with any immediate catastrophes, assisting the executive director and board with fundraising and long-term planning, and, when I was really lucky, I also got to clean the bathroom. During my tenure, the theater reversed an annual operating deficit and increased its programming while lowering its operating costs. The realities of my job meant that I saw a little bit of pretty much every part of running a small non-profit. While my legal background does not involve a lot of work with those legal aspects that relate to business, I understand the basic tenets and know when I need to ask a more expert lawyer for advice.

3) What goals would you like to achieve during your term?

Ultimately, I would like to leave the Board knowing that the OTW is recognized as an inclusive, well managed, innovative, defender of fan culture. Specifically, internally, the org has both an executive and advisory board that are fully staffed; the org develops staff and volunteer skills and in turn elevates successful managers and leaders; the org’s fundraising and development has diversified and includes grants, major donors, and drives; and the org is committed to supporting all fandoms: both established and emerging. Externally, the number of articles on Fanlore has doubled; the archive has 3 million fanworks; the OTW continues its legal advocacy in the United States and as well as in other countries that legally curtail fannish creations; and the org also works with other organizations to promote fan culture and preserve fanworks.

My goals for the OTW are ambitious and I firmly believe that we can achieve them by working together. The OTW’s history proves that each of us brings incredible energy, skills, and commitment to the org, and we can continue to realize our audacious goals by harnessing the best qualities of fans.

4) What is your experience of the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Please include AO3, TWC, Fanlore, our Legal Advocacy work and Open Doors, though feel free to emphasize particular areas you’re interested in.

My work on SP means that I am familiar with each of the above projects’ respective committees, purviews, and goals. I think that the way that I would collaborate with each of them is the same as the way that I would work with any project within the OTW. To wit: I would consult with the committee(s) that work on each project about their needs, request additional information when necessary, solicit feedback from the rest of the org and the end users, determine what resources the org has available, and prioritize the various needs of the organization in conjunction with the rest of the Board and the org’s strategic plan. Realistically, I think that each of the projects above have wildly different needs from the Board in general, and from me as a director specifically, and I would strive to approach each in the most effective way possible. This might mean in the case of the TWC taking a hands off approach and trusting their editors to continue to do an awesome job, or assisting Open Doors in writing a grant for funding to preserve an at risk collection of fanworks, or working with Systems and AD&T to identify the most productive use of expert consultants so that the archive can sustain its level of growth.

5) Choose two topics/issues that you think should be high priority for the OTW, both internally and externally. What do these topics mean to you and why do you value them? How will you make them a part of your service?

In my opinion the most the important issue facing the org is fostering a culture of inclusivity, support, trust, respect, and forgiveness. I realize thats a broad answer, but, based on my experience on the strategic planning committee I am very familiar with the the worst and best parts of the OTW. At worst we can be exclusive, belittling, defeatist, harsh, and judgmental. At our best we are inclusive, audacious, inspiring, encouraging, and innovative. I understand the org’s past leadership has been varied, and at times has set a dissonant tone within the org. I strongly believe that this is one of the biggest reasons that historically we have seen high rates of burnout throughout every part of this org. Specifically, I am committed to improving the staff retention rate, developing chair successions plans for every committee, and overall decreasing the level of staff burnout. I also think that those concrete goals require that we work together to promote a culture that develops our staff, supports our chairs, and respects our Board of Directors. In no way am I suggesting that our current culture is anathema and should be abandoned, nor do I want to discourage constructive discourse, but, I believe we can each think of moments where the org has not lived up to its full potential and, as a result, has hurt people who are active within the org, distressed our community, and alienated fans. I am committed to changing that and working with the incredible people who make up the OTW to creating a more perfect culture that embraces all fans and supports our community.

Similarly, I believe the org’s structure needs to be updated to reflect the incredible growth that the OTW has experienced since its founding. Right now there are committees that do not have the tools or support they need to realize their goals, things fall through cracks because its not clear whose purview controls, there are unnecessary roadblocks to cross-committee communication and projects, and its not always clear what is the best use of org resources. All of these issues can be addressed by the org clarifying the purview and function of the Board, each committee’s mandate and goals, the expectations and duties of chairs, and the best ways to train and support staff and volunteers. When discussing this issue with other people I often say that the org needs to build better scaffolding to support its continued growth. What I mean by that is creating support structures that allow volunteers, staff, and committees to continue to develop efficiently and successfully. This idea was inspired by when I taught preschool and we used teaching technique called scaffolding, which meant building support structures that the children could use to accomplish tasks on their own. As an example, I created an infographic to show the right order to put winter clothing on so that children could consult it and dress themselves. The OTW has grown far beyond its original scaffolding (which is great and awesome!) and we as an organization need to improve our structure so that we can continue to grow.

6) What do you think the key responsibilities of a/the Board are? Are you familiar with the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors?

This varies depending on the org. In the case of the OTW, I believe that the key responsibilities for our Board of Directors is to serve as an executive board. Given the size of the org, both in terms of projects and staff, our Board is needed to oversee and execute a cohesive management plan. However, the org’s need for an executive board comes at the cost of long-term planning, goal setting, and outreach, which are functions of an advisory Board. Ideally, I hope that over the next few years as the org completes the forthcoming strategic plan we are able to move to a structure that has both and advisory and executive board.

I am familiar with the legal duties a director owes a non-profit in the United States.

7) How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the OTW, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?

Currently, I am a staffer on Strategic Planning. I plan to step down from the role when I join Board so that I can devote my time and energy to Board duties. To that end, SP and I are working together to make sure that my committee responsibilities are wrapped up, or properly documented so that another staffer can pick them up. I hope to continue to assist with the NP 101 sessions as a board member.