Daniel Lamson’s Bio and Manifesto

ETA September 29: Per Dan’s announcement, Dan Lamson has withdrawn from the ballot.

Bio

Dan Lamson is the executive director of a small nonprofit in Florida, USA focused on local environmental and quality of life issues. He graduated from Ursinus College in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Politics and international relations and a minor in creative writing. He went to work fundraising for a homeless shelter for five years, helping to raise much of the organization’s $300,000 budget. Dan has put his experience in nonprofits to use for the OTW by chairing and co-chairing the Development and Membership Committee for the past year. He has previous experience working with boards of directors, as well as staff and volunteers. Dan fully understands the responsibility he is looking to undertake. Dan loves to travel and enjoys meeting new people and learning new things. He enjoys playing video games and participates in several media fandoms including Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel, and Warcraft.

Manifesto

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

I love the Organization for Transformative Works. I have ever since I found out about it. I started my career with the OTW in the Abuse Committee when I saw a post come across my Tumblr that they were recruiting. Later I joined Development and Membership because I’ve always loved fundraising; I am currently one of the co-chairs of that committee. Through these positions, as well as my interactions with other committees, I’ve come to see and understand more of the OTW.

As my role within the OTW has expanded, I appreciate the work, people, and projects more and more and want to give back as much as I can. I’ve always been motivated towards service, and I feel that with my relevant real life and OTW experience I will be a good addition to the OTW’s Board of Directors. I know that my experiences and enthusiasm will make me an effective Board member and team player.

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

My entire professional life has been dedicated to nonprofits. I’ve worked with boards for the last several years in ‘real life’, and I understand the importance and responsibilities therein. I will bring experience in this regard to the Board. Further, I am a very optimistic person. I always look at the bright side of things, and I feel that with a good attitude, a lot can get done. I’ve not been involved with the OTW as long as some people, which I do not believe is a detriment to my candidacy. I feel that I will bring a new outlook on things and a different approach to problem solving that will help the OTW not only to grow, but also provide new vision on past and current issues.

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

I believe in openness in communication, and I believe in moving things forward at a reasonable speed. I would like to see the Board become more approachable and communicative if elected. When I first started volunteering for the OTW, the concept of “the Board” intimidated me. Board members were involved, but aloof. This has gotten better recently, but I want to help cultivate a culture where this is not so, and the Board is easily approachable for anyone interested in doing so to facilitate constructive dialogue. I feel the demystification of the Board will help make the organization stronger.

Further, I like to get things done. There’s nothing quite like scratching something off your to do list. I feel that the OTW sometimes moves very slowly. That is the way things have to be sometimes, but I feel that there are times when the organization could meet its objectives more quickly. My overall goal is to encourage efficiency without impacting the quality work of the Board and the organization as a whole.

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.

I have been a volunteer with the Abuse Committee and currently serve as a co-chair of the Development and Membership Committee. Before that I was an avid user of AO3, as well as Fanlore, as the need arose.

I will be the first to say that I don’t know everything. Not even close. As a Board member, I would respect various projects and their associated committees because I feel that they know what they need more than I (as a potential outsider) would. If a project said they needed something for their continued operation and told the Board why they did, I would more than likely support such a measure. I would not force my will on a committee or project without talking to them first. I may make suggestions, but at the end of the day, it is up to the committees/projects to determine the day-to-day operations of issues under their purview.

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?

I feel that board members should be involved in the fundraising more than the OTW’s Board has been traditionally. This includes more than Board members making an annual contribution to the organization. All Board members should have an intrinsic understanding of the way we fundraise and why we do what we do. Board members should also be involved in communicating directly with donors more and in cultivating our membership. This is a key component of many nonprofit boards. The OTW is a different kind of organization than many, so some of the traditional methods may not work, but there are plenty of ways to accomplish Board participation in Fundraising. If elected to Board, I plan to continue on as a member of the Development and Membership Committee to better facilitate board/fundraising communications.

Right now, the OTW stands mostly apart from other organizations dealing with similar issues of free speech, copyright, and fannish culture. I feel that we could reach out to other organizations and work together to achieve more. We are fundamentally stronger together than apart. As examples, I would like to explore closer relationships with organizations such as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Wikimedia Foundation, the First Amendment Coalition, and so many more. Fannish issues and free speech fall under the purview of many organizations, and donor support is spread among many of these. Working with these other organizations that I also support makes sense to me, and I would encourage relationships with them.

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 the legal requirements of a board of directors of a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and I believe in the three primary legal duties of the board: ‘duty of care,’ ‘duty of loyalty,’ and ‘duty of obedience.’

Board members have a fiduciary responsibility to the organization they serve. The ‘duty of care’ says that Board members should care for all the people the OTW touches, all of its activities, as well as being stewards of its mission. The ‘duty of loyalty’ says that Board members put the OTW above their own interests should the two come into conflict. Finally, the ‘duty of obedience’ says that the nonprofit does what it has to legally and ethically and that it sticks to and works for its mission. I also firmly believe that a Board member should be an advocate for 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?

Currently, I serve as a co-chair of the Development and Membership committee with a very talented and competent person. I have planned for several months to step down as co-chair after the October Drive to allow for more voices to be heard in the committee. This is the precursor to a leadership track in the committee, so that institutional knowledge and procedures are not lost. I plan to stay on the committee as a staffer to help fundraise and cultivate our membership going forward.

Atiya Hakeem’s Bio and Manifesto

Bio

Atiya Hakeem (Lady Oscar) received her undergraduate degree in biology from the California Institute of Technology, then went to the University of Hawaii for a PhD in biomedical sciences. After working at Caltech as a neurobiologist studying autism and social cognition for many years, she has recently returned to Hawaii, and currently hangs out with aardvarks as a volunteer at the Honolulu Zoo. She has always turned to fandom as an escape and a creative outlet, with interests including Star Trek, baseball, the age of sail, Hawaii Five-O, and anime, which last led to serving as con staff at Anime Expo and AX New York. She joined the OTW as a volunteer in 2012 with AO3 Support and has since answered some 5,000 user inquiries. Motivated by a desire to be directly involved in keeping the Archive running, she joined AD&T (the Archive’s coding and design committee) as a tester, and is now the Quality Assurance & Testing subcommittee lead. She also has served on the Category Change and Survey workgroups.

Manifesto

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

After spending the last three and a half years working for the OTW, I have reached the point where I would like to use the experience and knowledge I have gained to help lead it. We are not a generic non-profit organization – our position as an international, virtual, and fandom-oriented group makes us unusual, as does the extremely diverse but inter-related nature of our projects. I believe it is vitally important for the future of the OTW to have a Board that understands the particular characteristics of this Org and its volunteers, and I am in a position to help provide some of that understanding.

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

First and foremost, I bring my experience in the OTW itself. As a veteran AO3 Support staffer, I have a good feeling for the concerns of our member base, as well as a great deal of experience in dealing with those concerns in a helpful and professional fashion. I have interacted with the fannish public extensively through Support ticket answers, News Post comments, and the AO3 Status twitter. As a member of AD&T, I have experienced the challenges of running a large multi-committee project. While my work has primarily been with AO3, I have also had the opportunity to meet and interact with volunteers from all parts of the Org in the Category Change and Survey workgroups, topical chats, and Org social spaces.

In terms of real life, I have two relevant sources of experience. First, I have spent many years working in an academic lab setting. From this I have gained experience with budgeting, project planning, personnel management, and mentoring and training. Second, I have experience with a number of non-profit organizations both as a member and a donor, and have seen first-hand how many “real world” non-profit practices work or don’t work for them.

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

  • Streamline processes such that any inquiry to Board receives a timely response, and that decisions are made promptly
  • Bring Board debate and decision-making to open spaces for everything except confidential personnel matters
  • Improve fiscal management, including adding predictive budgeting and transparency
  • Be part of a Board in which all members work together productively and professionally

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 primary experience is with AO3, as both Support and AD&T. As a member of AD&T, I have collaborated with all the Archive’s committees as we work together to maintain and improve the Archive. This includes the Open Doors project, as AD&T assists OD in its work in importing endangered archives to AO3. My experience means that I know intimately and in an ongoing way what the AO3 committees need and do not need in terms of Board assistance and oversight, and I hope to be able to contribute that understanding to the Board as a whole. Because AO3 is both the greatest consumer of the OTW’s financial resources and the highest profile project for attracting donations, I feel it is vitally important that the Board fully understand and support it.

Fanlore is a project that has some of the same technical challenges as the Archive, but with even greater staffing and resource issues. I would like to help them establish stronger underpinnings, allowing staff more freedom to focus on the project’s goals.

TWC and Legal are currently very effective and functional. I have been impressed with the professionalism and competence of their staff as an outside observer, and in my dealings with Legal when referring Support issues. I feel that the best thing I could do for them as Board would be to simply support them as they request.

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?

I think the biggest priority for the OTW right now should be getting our own house in better order. Our financial management needs to be more sustainable: not just one person overseeing all our accounts unaudited, and no more fundraising without concrete spending goals and planned budgets. This is something that the successful “real life” non-profits I have been involved with do well, and I intend to use their work as a model.

Our volunteer environment needs to be healthier: less overwork, better tools, better communication, better information flow from Board and through committees.

Working on AO3, I frequently encountered situations in which our work was made more difficult and the ongoing stability of the Archive was put at risk by a lack of support from Board. Delayed decisions prevented vital equipment purchases from happening when needed, despite the money being available. Policy decisions made without transparency and with insufficient understanding of the issues resulted in loss of volunteer morale and derailment of projects. As a director, those past experiences will guide me in working to improve support for all our projects and volunteers.

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 have investigated the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors online. Beyond them, however, what we need from a Board is a group that our volunteers can count on to:

  • Keep themselves informed about the Org’s projects
  • Make transparent, informed and timely decisions
  • Provide responsible fiscal oversight
  • Publicly represent the OTW

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?

It’s important for Board to remain in touch with the day-to-day functioning of the Org’s committees. Thus, I do not intend to entirely step down from my roles. Support has recently recruited a promising set of new staffers, and I intend to focus my involvement there on mentoring and providing a reservoir of knowledge, reducing my time commitment. As QA & Testing lead I intend to recruit a staffer to help with volunteer management tasks; we are also improving our suite of automated tests, reducing the involvement required from me in supervising manual testing.

In the past, I have performed my committee work alongside a full-time job in real life. Currently I am taking some time off to focus on my volunteer work and career development, which should leave me able to devote all the necessary time to my Board commitments.

Andrea Horbinski’s Bio and Manifesto

Bio

Andrea Horbinski is the Secretary of the OTW Board of Directors and a Ph.D. candidate in modern Japanese history with a designated emphasis in New Media at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2015 she was elected to the position of Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Ada Initiative, which was dedicated to increasing the participation of women in open technology and culture. She was previously a Fulbright Fellow to Japan and served as the chair of the OTW’s Internationalization & Outreach committee before being elected to the OTW Board in 2012. She joined online fandom in 1999 after writing her graduation speech on her love of Star Wars, and soon became involved in anime and manga fandom as an AMV editor and later a fan translator. She has discussed fandom, anime, manga, and Japanese history and folklore at conventions and conferences on five continents, and her articles and reviews have appeared in The WisCon Chronicles vol. 6, Mechademia, and Transformative Works and Cultures.

Manifesto

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

I have acquired a wealth of practical experience through my service on the OTW Board of Directors and on the Board of Directors of the Ada Initiative, and I’m eager to continue to use my skills and expertise to strengthen the OTW and help to support its mission. Moreover, the Board has become a place where my skills and experience are not just valuable, but valued, which makes the choice to run for another term easy.

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

The skills and experience I bring to the Board of Directors are a combined three and a half years’ service on Boards of Directors (a year and a half of which is as a Secretary), a total of seven years’ experience with the OTW in various roles, and a broad familiarity with other organizations working in the fields of open source and open culture. For instance, this year I served on the reviewers committee of the Inspire campaign, a Wikimedia Foundation effort to increase gender diversity on Wikipedia and its related projects through funding community-proposed efforts, and I’m also currently the Video Archivist for WisCon, working to digitize and make available the con’s rich history as a feminist science fiction convention. All these experiences have made me broadly familiar with several different organizational models as well as what sorts of policies, structures, and philosophies make for a well-run organization in general.

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

I’m concerned that this question’s phrasing gives people an inaccurate idea of how the OTW Board (or any board) works! As directors, we’re responsible for the overall management and governance of the OTW, so the fundamental goal for any director’s service is to have executed their responsibilities to the best of their ability in order to best serve the organization and its mission. That said, the Board’s overall goal for the next three years is clear: to work to implement the OTW’s strategic plan by supporting Strategic Planning and VolCom in their work, by working with various committees to execute the goals identified in the plan that relate to them and their projects, and by doing the work to carry out the goals related to its own roles. So on one level, that’s the goal I want to work with the rest of the Board to achieve; but more broadly, in three years I want the OTW to be a non-profit organization with a growing budget that is well-positioned for long-term sustainability. To be clear, this is a challenge, but it’s one that we–the OTW as a whole–are completely capable of meeting.

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.

As a member of the Board of Directors I’ve interacted with all of the committees responsible for these projects over the past three years, and in my personal and professional life outside the OTW I interact with all of them in various capacities: AO3 is the primary place where I consume fanfic at this point (though never as much as I’d like!); I’ve published a scholarly article with TWC and have cited the essays it publishes in my own academic work; Fanlore has explained to me many things about fandom(s) that I didn’t know; and the OTW’s legal advocacy work has been very important in working to defend and extend protections for my experience of the internet in various ways, not least among them its efforts to secure DMCA exemptions for vidding practices, since I am a vidder. Open Doors and its work have inspired me to think carefully and critically about archives, archiving, and the value of doing the same for non-digital fandom history, which helped me formulate my goals for my work as the Video Archivist for WisCon.

It’s an unfortunate reality of the OTW Board of Directors as it currently stands that executing our dual responsibilities of governance and management mean that we don’t really have much time to actively collaborate with the committees we’re overseeing. It’s far more often the pattern that committees come to us with proposals for various projects, which we then review: most of our collaboration consists of working with committees in this phase to address concerns they may have missed in their initial proposal(s), sometimes because those concerns involve aspects of organizational operations that they’re not familiar with because they fall under the Board’s purview. I look forward to continuing to work with these committees to grow the OTW’s projects!

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?

One question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is sustainability. The topic first came up for me as part of the discussions about shutting down the Ada Initiative, and though that was the right choice for Ada, it’s obviously not for the OTW: so, what do we need to do to make sure that the OTW is sustainable over the long term, not just three but five or ten or twenty years down the line? There are still a lot of choke points in the OTW where we ask too much of individual volunteers or don’t have adequate provisions for the loss of key people (in a “hit by a bus” scenario, or for whatever reason), and dealing with those failure points is definitely a big part of making the OTW sustainable. Executing the strategic plan will help towards that sustainability as well, obviously, but it’s something I think we on the Board have only started to surface explicitly in our thinking, and we can and should do that more going forward.

Another question I’ve been thinking about is visibility. One thing that I sometimes find frustrating in my conversations with people around the world is that they haven’t heard of the OTW, or if they have, they only know about the AO3–and plenty of AO3 users have no idea that AO3 is a project of and supported by OTW! There’s clearly plenty of scope for the OTW to be more visible in the spaces of open culture and open source activism and to advocate in more visible ways for fandom and fanworks as legitimate activities outside the legal sphere, and doing so would be in service to our mission. That’s easier said than done, of course, but it’s another task that will ultimately strengthen the organization.

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?

The key responsibilities of the Board of Directors are stated in the bylaws: the Board is responsible for the overall governance of the OTW in service to its mission, and since the Board has not delegated any of its responsibilities to a paid employee like an executive director or director of operations, that means the Board is also currently responsible for the OTW’s day-to-date management. As Secretary, one of my key responsibilities is to maintain the OTW’s bylaws; thanks to that, my service on the Board of Directors of the OTW and of the Ada Initiative, and my work with other organizations, I am very familiar with the legal requirements for a U.S. based non-profit.

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 am not currently serving in any other OTW roles.

Elections Committee Note: on Sept. 14, a typo was fixed in the response to question 4 (first paragraph, last sentence) with the permission of the candidate.

Aline Carrão’s Bio and Manifesto

Bio

Aline has a Law degree from the Universidade de Juiz de Fora (Brazil). She has worked in consumer protection and civil law and is currently continuing her education to work as a civil servant. Aline discovered fandom back when Harry Potter was taking over the world and never left. You can find her under the fannish identity of LilyC at AO3 and on Tumblr. She joined the OTW in 2013 as a tag wrangler and slowly got involved in other parts of the organization; she’s now staff in Support and Translation. In Support, she’s addressed concerns, questions and feedback from users; in Translation, she manages over 150 volunteers and has completed projects with strict timelines in an atmosphere of constant and productive team-wide communication.

Manifesto

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

I believe I have valuable experience to bring to the Board as a member of several OTW committees and liaison to yet another. It’s useful to have people from a variety of committees on the Board; different teams have different experiences and needs, and bringing in people who have had contact with how work is getting done successfully in various projects will help Board have a broader perspective on the OTW and its committees.

Also, managing Translation volunteers has given me insight into working with a hugely international and diverse group of people, an experience I hope will help getting the Board and the committees working toward the same goals.

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

I have worked for the past year managing volunteers for the OTW’s Translation committee, overseeing independent teams with different needs, goals, and capacities. Some of the diverse tasks required include arranging and leading meetings with people from all over the world; recruiting and training volunteers and staffers; handling 50-100 emails a day on average; writing internal documentation; leading and participating in projects big and small; and collaborating with a large number of committees. Because Translation works with several parts of the OTW, I have learned to work closely with other teams while taking into consideration their needs and specific restrictions. I believe these experiences will be very helpful when stepping up to Board work.

I have carried out a great deal of personnel management and project coordination in the org, and have learned what works and what doesn’t work. I believe right now the OTW needs, more than anything else, the ability to organize itself in a practical and goal-oriented way so our volunteers’ and projects’ objectives can be reached in a reasonable timeframe with a minimal amount of hassle for all involved. I think my experience so far can be very helpful with that.

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

I want to achieve a Board that is more open to feedback and receptive: one that fully acknowledges that committees are in the best position to determine what their day-to-day needs and goals are, and that works towards supporting and enabling these goals without creating unnecessary obstacles or delays. A Board committed to answering questions, proposals and requests in a timely and comprehensive fashion, taking into consideration that everyone’s time and skills are valuable and need to be respected.

I would like to see a Board that is comfortable being open about their plans and explaining the background and content of their decisions to the rest of the organization and the membership. That is able to communicate openly and inform the OTW’s volunteers about ongoing discussions in an accessible and understandable format, and whose members can put grudges and fraught personal histories behind them and work with committees and staff in a productive way.

The OTW would benefit from a Board that accepts that plans and “best practices,” while useful, need to be adapted to the reality at hand and our very particular circumstances; and that habits, procedures and tools should always be subject to change as the OTW grows.

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.

I’m a longtime AO3 user, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I access the site at least once a day—even aside from being a wrangler and part of the AO3 Support team, working closely with all other committees that maintain the Archive. I have also had contact with all other OTW projects to different degrees, be it through looking up an article on Fanlore, translating a news post about Legal’s work, or contacting Open Doors to talk about an archive import announcement.

I think what our projects need is support that empowers them and helps them to do their work as well as possible. The best way to collaborate with any of those committees and projects is to accept first and foremost that each of them is different, and has a distinct culture and environment. As a result, we should listen to what the committees tell us, understand how they work, and plan and act accordingly as much as possible. If, for example, Open Doors needs a new tool, or Fanlore needs more staffers, or AO3 coders need to hire a contractor, we should facilitate these things to allow the committees to do their work.

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?

Accountability: I would like to see a change in how accountability is currently a one-way street in the OTW. Committees are expected to keep open, clear, and up-to-date meeting minutes and agendas; to report monthly on what they have been doing to Board and to other committees; to present well-researched proposals whenever they’re thinking of doing anything; and to document their internal procedures and structures thoroughly. This standard is not followed by the Board and this has to change. The Board should abide by the same level of accountability that is expected of OTW committees—it should lead by example, not lag years behind.

In more practical terms, this means discussing non-personnel matters in open meetings by default, except when explicitly requested otherwise by the committees or people involved; keeping meeting agendas and minutes accessible and understandable, with context and relevant information about decisions made; reporting monthly to all volunteers and committees about what the Board has been working on regularly; and keeping Board’s wiki section up to date with relevant documentation about its internal structure, responsibilities, roles, roadmap, projects and non-personnel matters under discussions. OTW volunteers shouldn’t find out about major org news from twitter or tumblr; there should be internal communication of what’s going on, and currently there is absolutely none.

Cross-committee collaboration: There is far less cross-committee collaboration in the OTW than there could and should be: we lack the tools, the open communication channels, and the flexibility. It makes everyone mostly unaware of what everyone else is doing—and getting anything done together is unnecessarily difficult. We need to work to facilitate more talking between different committees, without tying that to a rigid format or hierarchy. Moving away from choke points in communication can only benefit the OTW and we should do all we can to acquire the tools and create the environment that will make this possible.

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’ve done some reading into the legal requirements for nonprofits in Delaware, where the OTW is incorporated, and more specifically with what is expected of nonprofit directors under US law: essentially, legal, management and financial oversight, executed with due care, with loyalty to the membership, and in good faith.

Board has the responsibility to uphold the goals and mission of the OTW and its projects, and to support the volunteers working to achieve said goals. This means not only networking with other organizations and individuals working towards the same objectives, but also making sure all committees and staff have the tools they require to do their work. Board has a duty to supervise the financial well-being of the organization, and to ensure that fundraising, spending and accounting are happening responsibly, honoring all the fans who have entrusted us with their donations. Board should communicate with chairs effectively and behave with integrity and commitment in order to ensure an overall environment of feedback, helpfulness and productivity.

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 don’t have any chair roles at the moment, and I can step down from my current positions should it become necessary. I intend to wait and see how much work and time Board will demand and restructure my OTW roles as needed taking this into account.

Alex Tischer’s Bio and Manifesto

Bio

Alex Tischer, DrMedVet: Is an ECC veterinarian. Grew up in Germany and currently lives in the UK. Has been in fandom since before the millennium and has migrated through more fandoms than can be listed here. The most current ones include Rivers of London, Person of Interest and Mad Max: Fury Road. Has been a member of the OTW pretty much continuously since 2008, volunteering in some capacity for the same amount of time. Apart from media fandom has also somehow ended up in the weird and wonderful world of sports – which are very niche groups that resemble fandoms in surprising ways. When not dealing with sick pets, Alex can be found doing assault courses, climbing and trail running nearly as often as consuming media.

Manifesto

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

The current Board has met some structural and internal problems that it has not yet been able to solve in a satisfactory way. On the contrary, it’s reflecting these issues towards the rest of the organisation in its many interactions with our committees. There is a lack of vision, communication, and prioritisation that I find worrisome. Some committees are so bogged down by their own documentation and procedural debt that they cannot make steady progress on their day-to-day tasks, or even define goals for their future. Instead of empowering committees, the current Board is looking to make the situation worse.

We’re still suffering from high volunteer turnover and from serious org-wide structural problems, like a lack of solid financial oversight that doesn’t rely on one sole person to do all of our bookkeeping. I believe that by joining the Board, I could offer and implement reliable changes that would go beyond procedural changes for their own sake, and allow us to truly step into the future instead of constantly trying to reinvent the wheel.

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

Over the years, I have been an active member of quite a number of organisations and committees. There, I served in various capacities, ranging from treasurer of a Student Union to member of the Web committee and Health and Safety committee of my professional organisations. All of these experiences have taught me quite a lot about managing people – I remember my days of drawing up the rotas for 40+ clinical postgrads and/or interns. They have also allowed me to learn how to approach a task in different ways, and how to come up with creative solutions to a problem. I believe that the Board severely lacks these problem-solving skills, and I wish to fill that gap.

As for my history within the OTW, I became a Translation staffer over a year ago, after volunteering in various other committees for six years. It has allowed me to truly discover the everyday challenges we must face, and to help overcome some of them at the scale I could work on. It has also allowed me to connect with our other committees, and to get a taste of their ambitions for the future, but also of their limitations. I would bring with me the vision that Board so desperately needs, as well as the knowledge of how our largest committees function and thrive.

Board also suffers from frequent miscommunication problems with our volunteers, staffers and chairs. Straightforward and efficient communication is something my work as a vet, and in the Translation committee itself, with its 170+ volunteers, has taught me how to handle, and I am sure I can help foster a good working environment in the organisation.

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

If I could end my term having moved the org towards more open communication and broken up the siloing of committees in just a small way, I would count it as a win. We really need to strive for more transparency and in-org cooperation, in order to give our users what they truly deserve: a well-oiled machine that can focus all of its energy on bettering its projects instead of losing steam on internal squabbling.

If we’re talking big dreams here, a better framework for providing adequate support to the OTW’s projects would be high on the list. For example, the Journal committee is a group that have mostly been left to their own devices, supported by the Board when needed but otherwise trusted to make their own decisions. They have had minimal turnover in the past five years and are publishing their 20th issue this September. While not every committee should or can be as independent, the Journal committee is an example of how the Board can constructively support a committee by trusting it.

Another good example is the Archive: Board’s focus for the OTW has tended to shift from the AO3 for reasons I cannot understand. Considering how dear this project is to us all, it would seem natural to provide it with the best care and nurturing possible. I would particularly like to bring some of the executive spotlight back on it, so we can truly give our small team of volunteer coders the means to improve the Archive even more, and never again leave them scrambling to maintain it due to lack of funding or tools.

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.

I joined the OTW in 2008, which means I’ve seen the OTW and its committees come into being from the beginning. Over the years, I’ve helped out in a number of committees: as a tester, a wrangler, a Support staffer and a translator. More recently, my work as a Translation staffer has allowed me to learn how to interact with most of our current committees in order to provide them with the support they need while learning more about their individual styles and atmospheres. I’ve found that communicating clearly, answering emails as quickly as possible, and generally staying open and flexible to every possibility are key requirements. The way we approach each committee has to be tailored to their specific needs: collaborating with Legal is necessarily different from working with Journal, just as Fanlore and Open Doors have their own challenges.

The committees are usually quite aware of their weaknesses and strengths, and I think it is important not to try to impose help from above. On the contrary, we need to make sure that the collaboration and support provided are actually wanted and needed. Of course, to ascertain this we need more interpersonal contact than pro forma documentation, which is where our prospects for a productive future seem rather bleak.

It would be particularly difficult for me to emphasise one of our projects, as they all cater to specific and essential needs in fandom. I am happy to see them all thrive, and will keep doing my best to provide any help I can to the committees that nurture them. Being on Board would simply put me in a position to do more for all of them, while solving some immediate concerns such as the lack of mutual respect and understanding in their relationship with Board.

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?

I think sorting out our administrative structure should be a priority. It’s telling that we don’t have a functional unit dedicated to finances. This is an embarrassment to the org externally, and a constant source of worry internally. The fact that people are still willing to donate to our organisation without a reliable finance committee or auditing structure is a testament to the importance and the usefulness of our projects. However, it would be irresponsible to keep relying solely on users’ trust in our good faith; we owe them more than that. The current administrative architecture is holding together through sheer force of will, and thanks to the unwavering dedication of some of our more active chairs, staffers, and volunteers. The least we can do to repay their services is to streamline cross-comm processes and reduce the administrative burdens on user-delivery committees. This would allow us to reduce our volunteer turnover rate, smooth out our production processes, and encourage the release of more content and new features for our users’ enjoyment.

As a more outward-facing goal, we need to work on internationalisation. It’s one of the OTW’s most important aspects for me – connecting fans all over the world in their passion for fandom. Translating all of our projects and acquiring the resources to maintain our Legal Advocacy project outside of the US are wonderful goals, but we can’t achieve them with our current limitations, and so far the solutions Board has put forth haven’t helped. Concentrating all internationalisation thinking in one committee or workgroup with large ambitions but no means to achieve them is not working out in a useful way. I would like to shift the focus of our strategy on this topic, and instead give each committee the freedom to work on these concerns efficiently.

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?

Yes, of course I am familiar with the legal requirements. It would be very ill-advised to run for Board without reading the necessary documentation and laws!

Aside from its legal duties, I believe that our Board’s key responsibilities lie in having an operational overview of the OTW. Directors are the ones responsible for keeping financial constraints and strategic goals in mind while overseeing our committees and providing them with the support they need. They have to be the vision of the organisation, but also its driving force.

More concretely, this means Board members should show up to meetings, and do so on time. They need to answer emails in a timely manner, and to foster good relationships with our professional partners (from both other organisations and any companies we have contracts with—we should pay our bills on time, for one), as well as with our volunteers. They are required to stay up to date with the latest major developments in each of our committees, but not to be so involved as to lose sight of our long-term missions. Last but not least, they should ensure that they are accountable for their work, as they are the one true window our users have into the working members of our organisation. This means that Directors must strive for more transparency and honesty, and make a constant effort to make their work, discussions and decisionmaking more open to the membership and to OTW volunteers.

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 am generally efficient and good at managing my time, which is why I see absolutely no reason to hand over my current seats in the Translation and Support committees if I am elected to the Board. Over the years, I have worked out a productive way to allocate my time to complete my daily tasks, and more. I presently manage to juggle my professional and personal lives with my work in the OTW’s committees with absolutely no difficulty whatsoever. It would be no trouble at all to add a set amount of time for Board work to my schedule, complete with a good margin left to handle unexpected and urgent tasks.

It all comes down to having good organisational skills, and really, what kind of Board member would I be if I couldn’t even handle a bit of timekeeping? It seems like this would be the bare minimum required to sit behind the wheel of an international organisation, considering that dealing with timezones and constraining schedules is an everyday reality for all of us.

2015 Elections Timeline Announcement

Elections has been hard at work getting ready for the upcoming 2015 OTW Board Election! A big part of that has been scheduling each of the events that comprise the season. Click here for a timeline of Elections events.

We’re also excited to announce that the 2015 Election will be contested—that is, the members of OTW will vote on which candidates fill the seats.

We do not have a set deadline for membership to be eligible to vote yet, but if you begin or renew your membership by the end of September, you should be in the clear!

If you have or will have served nine months as an OTW staff member by November 1, 2015, and you would like to declare your candidacy, please email us at elections@transformativeworks.org with your legal name and a statement that you are over 18 by September 11, 2015 at 11:59 PM UTC.

More information on how our process works will arrive, along with an announcement of the candidates, in two weeks, so be on the look out for that. We’re looking forward to a great elections season, and we hope to see you there!