Chat Transcript – July 26, 2017

Araise

Hi everyone, and welcome to our First Candidate Chat of 2017!

In today’s Chat you’ll have the opportunity to speak with these 6 Candidates: Claire P. Baker, Danielle Strong, Erica Dulin, Gimena Calixto, Jessie Camboulives and Milena Popova.

My name is Araise, and I’ll be hosting the candidate side today. On the audience/open_chat side, your host will be briar_pipe. We’re both members of the Elections Committee.

briar_pipe, can you wave so everyone can see you?

 

briar_pipe

o/

 

Araise

Transcripts of the candidate side of the chat will be posted publicly on our website. The open_chat transcript will not be posted there, but both its transcripts will remain visible until after the election. During the chat, you may see candidates fix their typos; this is to make Elections Staff’s job easier later.

We will welcome your questions in just a moment. As the candidates discuss each question, audience members can notify briar_pipe that you have questions for the candidates – either follow-ups or new questions – by raising your hand like this:

o/ (for new questions), or

o// (for follow-ups to the current question)

briar_pipe will pass me the questions, and I will ask them during appropriate pauses in the conversation between the candidates.

briar_pipe and I welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:

– Specify who your question is for, or if it’s for all candidates.

– Refer to everyone in the room by their username in this conversation. Don’t use other names you may know them by.

– Please keep questions reasonable and polite (these are our expectations: http://elections.transformativeworks.org/elections-process-behavior-expectations/).

– Make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the platforms (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2017/2017-bios-and-platforms/) or the Q&A (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2017/2017-qa/). If it’s a follow-up to one of those, please say so.

Ok, that’s it for the intro! We now welcome your questions for the candidates.

And the first question, for all of you is: What kind of work are you most looking forward to, if you join Board?

 

Erica Dulin

I’m looking forward to getting to know more of my fellow volunteers.

And learning more about what they do.

 

Claire P. Baker

There’s a few things that I’m looking forward to, but most of them involve taking on more of a facilitating role, and helping others do their work.

I’m looking forward to talking to the committees, getting a better idea of the greater picture, and problem solving ways to best move the various pieces and the OTW as a whole forward.

 

Danielle Strong

I’m really looking forward to working with committees I haven’t really crossed paths with before and increasing my understanding of the Org as a whole.

 

Milena Popova

I am really looking forward to learning more about parts of the organisation that I currently don’t work with and learning what those projects and committees need from us. I’m also looking forward hopefully doing some big-picture thinking with fellow board members. I like strategy work, especially when it’s informed by what the community needs.

 

Claire P. Baker

And I agree, Erica. There’s a ton that we’re all going to have to learn, and it’s going to be a wonderful experience doing so. (If a bit of a steep curve. But such is the challenge for all new board members!)

 

Erica Dulin

There is some work that is ongoing that the current board has started, and I look forward to jumping in and helping out.

 

Jessie Camboulives

I believe that the one thing I’m looking forward the most is to be able to check in with committees, and help them work on their most challenging issues. I’d love to be able to communicate with everyone more openly, get more insight on our pain points, and brainstorm solutions with our chairs, staffers and volunteers.

 

Gimena Calixto

I’m looking forward to learning about the different committees that I don’t have as much knowledge about, listening to them, getting to see how they work, and finding ways to help them achieve their goals.

 

Araise

Thank you! Next question, also for all of you: Many of the candidates have said things about transparency in their bios. Can we get a few practical examples of how they -actually- think to achieve this?

 

Erica Dulin

There were definitely suggestions made in the Q&As, and I think the one I would like to look at first is going through our internal documentation and deciding what could be made public.

 

Claire P. Baker

Agreed. Keeping information both available and up-to-date is a big thing here.

 

Erica Dulin

We have newsposts that are these great roundups about the happenings of the committees, and I love those, and the 5 Things posts about our volunteers. More of those would be awesome.

 

Milena Popova

I think for me it’s about building on what the Board has already started over the last two years. I’d mostly like to find ways to make the information that the Board publish more accessible and more digestible to staff/volunteers, as well as to members. And possibly adding some additional info to what Board already puts out, especially things like updates on the budget and the strategic plan.

 

Erica Dulin

I think we could make more posts and add more to our FAQs, when it comes to moving information from the internal site to external sites like tw.org and Ao3, etc.

 

Gimena Calixto

I’d like to start by saying that I think one of the greatest steps towards achieving transparency was reinstating the Finance Committee, and making our budgets public. But I also think making certain internal documentation public and keeping it as updated as possible would probably increase the public’s trust in us and our decisions.

 

Jessie Camboulives

There’s two sides to this issue. First, transparency from the Board to the rest of the organization: this is something Board has been working on since 2015, and they have tried a lot of things to make it work. Unfortunately, we still have very little show of hands at public Board meetings, and few people read the minutes afterwards. Our internal newsletter itself doesn’t have a wide readership. I would like to see if we could find more hands-on ways to engage our teammates. Ideally that would imply working on issues that are relevant to our volunteers and staffers, and not simply focusing on keeping the lights on.

The second side is transparency from the Organization to its users: this is something we’ve talked about more extensively in  the Q&A, but I would like to see us try some new solutions to communicate about our work. It does raise many questions, though: we could send emails to our members to keep them up to date. But then how many emails do we send? How do we avoid spamming people? Etc.

 

Claire P. Baker

I think working on this on our back end is also important. All committees recently had to submit purview documentations to clarify roles, and various position documents will be similarly updated in the next while, starting with chair roles. Internal transparency, and making sure everything is clear and understandable to all our volunteers, is another important step to take here.

Transparency is not quite the same as education and literacy, but the two certainly do go hand in hand, and the more opportunities we have for the latter, the easier I believe the former will be.

 

Danielle Strong

I would work with current Board and other relevant committees to determine what we are actually able to do in order to improve transparency, as so many improvements have been made in the last two years that it is something I feel I would want to handle delicately. As others have mentioned there are definitely documents & information that could potentially be made public to improve transparency to our members and users.

 

Jessie Camboulives

Priscilla raises an interesting point in the other channel, I do believe it’d be good if our committees could all have a more detailed page on our main site (http://www.transformativeworks.org/). It would clarify many things for both our members and our volunteers!

 

Erica Dulin

I’d like to bleed out more info with the assumption that people aren’t browsing all sites. I work almost entirely on Ao3 and the internal site, and it seems to me like the userbase doesn’t often go to core sites like tw.org, so maybe having less click-throughs to information might help.

 

Milena Popova

I think Jessie makes an excellent point actually – some of this work is about improving engagement as much as it is about increasing transparency. I think it’s crucial that we have an engaged organisation (staff/volunteers, members, and wider user community) to hold us to account.

 

Danielle Strong

That would probably help with recruitment as well, since if people have a better idea of what a committee actually does they are more likely to choose to volunteer for it. I know I shied away from Tag Wrangling recruitment before I joined Abuse because I had no idea of what TW actually was!

 

Erica Dulin

I hear that a lot.

 

Claire P. Baker

Fanlore is another good tool for helping with that basic information: I believe most if not all committees have a page on there.
With wikis, there’s always the dual-edged sword of the openness that comes with everyone being able to edit, and the wariness that anyone can, indeed edit, but there is a lot of good basic information on the OTW to be found there.

 

Jessie Camboulives

The main issue with Fanlore is finding new editors. As I understand it, Priscilla has done a lot of work in the past year with the committee to help old gardeners and find new teammates. Our Wiki committee is very fragile, but hopefully as it grows and gets better we can make good use of Fanlore!  (If you’re interested, please apply!)

(or just edit it, we have lots of pages in need of love!)

 

Claire P. Baker

The more people add information, the stronger Fanlore can be, right Jessie?

 

Jessie Camboulives

Yep! Encyclopedic project and all that, we need expertise from everyone 🙂

 

Araise

Our next question is this: Firstly I would like to thank everyone who is running :smiley:

Do you think in the next two to six years we will need to start employing people? If so how would you prepare?

 

Erica Dulin

No.

 

Jessie Camboulives

I absolutely think this is something we’re going to have to push forward, yes. As we grow this is a structural change that will become necessary if we want to stay sustainable. We’ve already started working with contractors and it has allowed us to make incredible progress. I think that the first thing we have to do is locate the positions it would be the most useful to hire for, and work with Finance to ensure that we have the necessary financial stability to do so. We should then work with the relevant committees to define appropriate ways to find the people we need, and support them through the process.

 

Claire P. Baker

Agreed. The OTW has already found it necessary to contract out in the past; chances are we are going to need to do a lot more of this or start hiring sometime in the not-too-distant future. The question of who and how is huge. We’ve already had some successes and failures and learned a few lessons, and revisiting these will probably help us look into how to move forward. Definitely, talking to Legal about how to do this will be imperative, as well as what Jessie has mentioned.

 

Erica Dulin

I would prepare by asking AD&T and Systems to fill me in. I am not comfortable with the idea of paying anyone else, outside of contracts for those committees.

 

Gimena Calixto

I feel like there’s a kneejerk reaction in some people when considering this, because it brings questions of who we are paying and who we are not paying, and why that is. But I also think there are certain committees where this will have to become a reality eventually, taking into consideration the hardships they are facing. We’ve worked with contractors and benefitted from it greatly.

 

Milena Popova

We do (possibly did?) already have a Contractor of Our Own. Having said that, my preference would be to find ways to get the work we need through volunteering. My impression is that tech (AD&T and Systems) are probably the two areas where we are struggling to get the right skills through volunteering the most. One of the original visions for the OTW was that we would help people develop those skills in house and that’s something I would like to revisit and see what would need to be true to make that happen. I do know that if you’re already struggling for time and people, training up new people can be a huge timesink, so maybe paying for some of this work temporarily to free up capacity to do the training may be an option. But I would also be open to committee chairs making the argument that we genuinely need to employ people long term.

I think if that were to happen, we would need to look at the organisational structure, roles and responsibilities, how contractors are managed and how they relate to unpaid staff/volunteers. Or if we end up with full-time/permanent employees again, how that impacts existing unpaid staff/volunteers.

 

Gimena Calixto

I agree with Milena’s considerations.

 

Erica Dulin

I agree with Milena on that last bit, for sure.

 

Danielle Strong

I’m not entirely sure what role(s) would require an employee, or if we would be able to budget for a part- or full-time position. I suppose if it did come up in that time frame we would have to discuss with Finance and Legal to see what our options are, and what viability we have, as well as determining the length of the role and how we would recruit for it. My knowledge of non-profit organisations in the USA is limited, unfortunately, so I would be reluctant to state specifics on preparation without having a greater understanding of the way the Org works. My experience with non-profit organisations in the past has been only with very small groups, which could never afford a paid employee outside of occasional contract work.

 

Milena Popova

I think we’d also need to do some work with Legal to understand employment terms and jurisdictional issues. We are a global organisation but legally we are Delaware-based so that may potentially raise some interesting questions with regards to what employment law applies and how.

 

Jessie Camboulives

Any contracting we do will be restricted to very specific linchpin positions in any case. I don’t believe we will move away from a mostly volunteer-based model. The positions we need to hire for are not usually roles that our volunteer can comfortably/already fill.

 

Danielle Strong

To clarify, I’m talking specifically about an employee as opposed to a contractor, I re-read my answer and realised that might not come across.

 

Erica Dulin

There is a huge difference between us having contractors and us having long term employees.

We’d have some pretty significant growing pains.

We’d have to rebuild our structure.

 

Jessie Camboulives

I don’t believe that in the long run there’s a very big difference, aside from the financial sustainability (and the legal matters). Unless we approach paid work as a quick-fix, per-project thing, which is not necessarily the case: I believe we’ll need some long-term investments if we want to make strides on large projects.

 

Erica Dulin

But bringing in people to help AD&T and Systems with heavy lifting, we have done that with contract workers, and we probably will have to keep doing that.

If you have long term people, we have to build for that. We would have to say, get an HR department, and re-negotiate who is paid and unpaid.

 

Claire P. Baker

It honestly depends on what committees’ needs are going forward, and what we legally are able to do.

 

Erica Dulin

Not just legally, but financially able.

 

Claire P. Baker

Also, do we not have a HR department of sorts already? Just because it’s volunteer work does not mean it’s not human resources.

[Jessie reacts with +1]

 

Erica Dulin

Volcom and Human Resources are different things.

Or at least should be, as it would put an additional burden on Volcom.

I’m not saying we can’t, just that it would be a massive from the ground up change.

Apart from say coders, I think the discussion about paid volunteers should be something to think about way farther down the line from here.

 

Gimena Calixto

I don’t think anyone here thinks this won’t be a huge undertaking.

 

Milena Popova

I can’t emphasise enough how passionate I am about the “training people up” thing. One of the things I’d like to look at is if we can find organisations with similar values to ours to partner with to help us do the training. (But again, if a committee comes to me and says this is just not feasible, I’m definitely open to that conversation.)

 

Erica Dulin

Like after the current StratPlan and dealing with infrastructure and linchpins, etc.

So in maybe three to six years.

For example.

 

Danielle Strong

It’s very difficult to find people with the necessary skills who are willing and able to give up the many hours it takes to perform tasks such as those being done by the AD&T/Systems contractors in order to get those tasks completed by volunteers, so in that sense contractors are absolutely necessary, and I do feel that if other committees end up having a similar need it should be similarly met. Two to six years is, in honesty, quite a wide time frame so it would be difficult to say that what is likely to be true for 2 years’ time is also likely to be true in 6 years, I definitely don’t think it will be needed or viable in the next 2 years, but in 6? Maybe, maybe not.

 

Jessie Camboulives

(I think that if we’re going to deal with our infrastructure and linchpins we might as well take this on now instead of building something to destroy it immediately after)

 

Claire P. Baker

I will agree that this is an issue that is more likely to come to a head after the upcoming term is complete, but certainly, if it’s something that our committees feel we need to look into, it’s something that the current board is going to need to lay the groundwork for.

[Jessie and Gimena reacted with a +1]

 

Araise

Next, a follow up for our second question:

To my previous question on transparency. Jessie raised a point on open board meetings and a second point on org to user transparency. In Translation we get sent an email to remind us of a T-meeting. How would the candidates feel about combining an attempt to improve open board meeting attendance AND user interaction by sending users a separate email-reminder for such a meeting with all the details? Do you think that would improve attendance and user interaction or would it feel spammy to users?

 

Claire P. Baker

The problem with this, as I believe James has brought up in the open chat, is how long it can take to send an email out to all members.

 

Gimena Calixto

Exactly.

 

Jessie Camboulives

I don’t believe we should reach out to all of our users via mail for Board matters (not that it’s technically feasible, anyway, apparently). But I would be interested in reaching out to our members that way if it is possible (with an opt-in system)

 

Erica Dulin

Users? Like volunteers and paid members? Or… everyone?

 

Milena Popova

I would certainly be in favour of trialling an opt-in system for this where users can specifically sign up to receive those reminders.

 

Danielle Strong

Agreed. I don’t think sending an email reminder to users would be very helpful anyway, but I wonder if there could be a Calendar system (maybe compatible with Google or Outlook calendar?) that would serve our needs and allow interested users to get reminders about important Org events that they are able to attend (e.g. Open Board, Elections Chats, etc) without us needing to send out an email to everyone?

 

Gimena Calixto

Something that I think could be useful would be to use headers to inform users about Board meetings, as we do to inform them about our drives or about issues on the Archive.

 

Erica Dulin

Oh, I like that idea.

 

Danielle Strong

That could work, they’re very eye-catching!

 

Claire P. Baker

Having a public calendar actually isn’t a bad idea, Danielle, if we wanted something that people could opt-in to.

 

Milena Popova

I like both the public calendar and headers ideas, subject to how much behind-the-scenes work they would cause.

 

Claire P. Baker

Another potential problem could be needing to change where or how public board meetings are held if they become too popular, but that is an issue that could be addressed if and when it became necessary. (I know that we can raise the limit of people who can meet there, for example.)

And certainly, it would not be the worst of problems to have!

 

Araise

Next question says:
AO3 is probably our most popular project, do you think we can use its popularity to engage users with the rest of OTW?

 

Jessie Camboulives

I think we already do! We advertise our drives there, our open position listings, our news posts etc. And it has had noticeable effects. So yes, I think this is something we can, and already explore.

 

Gimena Calixto

Agreed.

 

Erica Dulin

Agreed.

 

Danielle Strong

Yeah, Jessie nailed it for me too

 

Claire P. Baker

Having the OTW tweets section on there also adds some level of that: look through there and you can find links to Fanlore articles, elections news, guest posts, and more.

 

Milena Popova

I agree with Jessie that we can and we do. (Yay headers!) I guess the bigger question is what would we want to engage users with, and what would we want them to do as a result of that engagement? There are some projects where there may be clear calls to action – “become a Fanlore gardener!” and there are others where we might want people to be aware of them but not necessarily need them to do anything. So I think this would involve an exercise in working out what we would out of that engagement and then going for it, the same way we do with drives, position listings, etc.

 

Claire P. Baker

I largely agree, Milena. Though not including too much is also important: I’d hate to stand between someone and their fanworks!

 

Araise

The following question says:
Should there come a time when OTW Board acts against the mission or the best interests of the organisation, what kind of mechanisms do you think there should be to protect the org? Currently there’s basically nothing we can do in practice.

 

Claire P. Baker

There is in part: I know that in the bylaws that a 2/3 vote  of board members can remove one of their own (and I strongly hope that we never have to use it) but I will agree that there’s nothing currently for the whole board.

 

Milena Popova

One very common tool in UK non-profits is an Annual General Meeting to which all members are invited, may put forward motions, and vote on them. This is frequently accompanied by the option of an Emergency General Meeting that a certain number of members can call. We would potentially have practical issues both in physically hosting these in whatever online space we have, and in ensuring they are quorate, only members can vote, etc. Having said that, it’s worth thinking about how we could make something like this happen – I do think our membership would come to the aid of the organisation if it was a genuine emergency.

 

Jessie Camboulives

I don’t believe there is any excuse for the Board to act against the OTW’s mission, or the best interests of the organization. Upholding this mission is one of the main duties of Board members.
Currently, we still lack the proper failsafes to properly keep the Board accountable for its actions (the mechanisms we have are, as said, impossible to put in practice). I would really like to work with Legal to see if we could give Chairs more power in that regard: they’re the ones who deal with Board most of the time, and they make the best whistleblowers in my opinion. It would be great, I think, if they could use that position to protect the org if needed.

 

Danielle Strong

I think we definitely need something like this in place, and it is so difficult to figure out what, exactly we could do to remedy this. Especially as if the entire Board becomes redundant we would have to scramble to find replacements. Though as we have seen, that is not an impossible task. If anyone is to be responsible for this outside of Board itself, it would likely have to fall to Legal to implement? But in order to get the ball rolling could it be possible for a clear majority (2/3 like with Board?) of Chairs to approach Legal? It’s a really tough one, especially without knowing the inner workings of either Board or Legal, and I’m sure many, many suggestions have been made and rejected for viability reasons. It’s something I’d prefer to have more knowledge of before making any more concrete suggestions.

I like the idea  of an AGM, though Milena already covered the difficulty we would have on getting that to work, but something along those lines could be helpful.

 

Claire P. Baker

There’s also the issue that board members can be chairs and are sometimes called upon to be acting chairs, so if such was put in place, we would need to make sure that either a clear majority of non-board chairs was possible, make it that one could not be both, or make it clear that those filling both roles were discounted from such a vote.

 

Jessie Camboulives

Absolutely. We need clear rules regarding conflicts of interests

 

Danielle Strong

Yeah definitely

 

Gimena Calixto

I agree with Jessie here. Although giving our membership a way to state a vote of no confidence sounds like a great idea, I worry about the implementation of that in practice.

 

Milena Popova

While I agree that Chairs would make excellent whistleblowers in the event of something going seriously awry with the Board, our ultimate responsibility it to our membership. (Which does raise the staff/volunteer vs paid member question that I’ve talked about in my platform and the Q&A.) So we do need to be careful about that one, for legal reasons as much as anything else.

 

Erica Dulin

Our membership would have to have a fuller picture of what’s going on for that to work. So starting there might be a good idea.

I don’t really have an answer for this one.

 

Milena Popova

I think Erica makes an excellent point with regards to membership engagement. I’ve been thinking recently about how we now basically have a fannish media ecosphere, with podcasts, and Twitter accounts and blogs with large followings, and some of them do cover structural issues of fandom. And some of them also do discuss the OTW and how we work etc. – I think encouraging that both by collaborating with the people doing this and by being responsive to feedback and criticism would help with that engagement so that if needed the membership can hold us to account.

 

Claire P. Baker

Definitely. I do think that volunteers tend to know more about the OTW as a whole than our general membership (and still not as much as we should!). Building resources for OTW literacy is pretty vital.

Unfortunately, it does mean that right now, I’d think that Chairs (or the volunteer pool as a whole) would be generally the most knowledgeable in knowing if and when the Board was acting not in the OTW’s best interests. But with volunteering not tied to membership, and representing only about a tenth of members if everyone were to be both, it may not be fair to the whole membership to leave a decision up to them.

 

Jessie Camboulives

My main concern with membership voting is that it’s very very hard to put in place: even elections have a pre-period that lasts two months. And informing our members requires translations that may be hard to come by if we’re in an emergency, especially if our transparency and general org-literacy efforts haven’t improved by then.

 

Claire P. Baker

Would it need to be a Board decision or a referendum to make a smaller group officially responsible for lack of confidence?

 

Milena Popova

One of the things we could look at is what safeguards other organisations with similar structures (distributed global memberships) have.

[9 people reacted in agreement]

 

Claire P. Baker

Certainly. It’s an issue that we probably should research more into.

 

Araise

Thank all of you for your answers! We’re a little over 15 minutes, so it’s time to wrap it up for today.

Thank you, again, for the answers, I hope you had a good time, and thanks to everyone who asked the very interesting questions for them.

 

Jessie Camboulives

Thank you for moderating, Araise :heart:

 

Gimena Calixto

Thanks, Araise!

 

Claire P. Baker

Yes, thank you!

 

Milena Popova

Thank you, Araise, and thanks to briar_pipe for working out what was a question and what was people talking about Dream Daddy!

[6 people reacted with joy]

 

Danielle Strong

Thanks to everyone :heart:

 

Araise

:heart:

 

Erica Dulin

Thank you all! :heart:

 

Araise

Next chat will be Saturday, July 29, at 1 a.m. UTC, with Gimena, Claire, and Danielle

Click here if you want to see what time that is for you https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?iso=20170729T0100&ah=1.5

Thank you all for coming, and see you on Saturday! :smiley: