Chat Transcript – July 29, 2017

briar_pipe

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

In today’s Chat you’ll have the opportunity to speak with these 3 lovely candidates: Claire P. Baker, Danielle Strong, and Gimena Calixto.

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

Stephanie, can you wave so everyone can see you?

 

Stephanie Godden

o/

 

briar_pipe

Thanks! :heart:

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 Stephanie 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)

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

Stephanie 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.

Remember, you can absolutely ask follow-ups! If you were interested in the candidates’ responses to the Q&A question about volunteer burnout, for example, you can ask them to expand on a particular idea for addressing that.

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

Ok, we have our first question!

How would you handle possible disagreements with fellow board members without compromising the organization’s leadership?

 

Claire P. Baker

There’s nothing wrong with disagreements in general: often times arguing and debate can lead to an understanding of different sides of an issue, and hopefully lead to a more well-rounded solution at the end of the day.

Hopefully having a debate period and voting would help solve most issues (if not all).

 

Gimena Calixto

I agree with Claire in there being nothing wrong with disagreements in general. But also: I feel like I would handle disagreements with Board members the same way I already handle disagreements with fellows staff and volunteers, in all honesty.

 

Danielle Strong

Any time you’re working with a group of people there’s bound to be disagreements, especially when you’re in a leadership position. I feel it’s important to express oneself politely but firmly, explaining your stance as clearly as possible and answering any questions that arise from it accordingly. However, it’s also important to be able to see and accept other perspectives, and I would make sure to carefully consider the viewpoints of the other Board members and be willing to change or modify my position where and when I felt it necessary. If I felt extremely strongly about an issue and was unable to concede the point I would nevertheless defer to the majority decision, as it’s basically impossible to always get a 100% agreement on every single subject, so you have to be able to compromise.

 

Gimena Calixto

(Which is: approaching communication with respect, while presenting my own side of things.)

Also agreeing with Danielle on the importance of accepting other perspectives.

 

Claire P. Baker

Agreed. Respectful communication is really important in any situation.

That’s also one of the good things about having an odd number of Board members: barring abstentions, ties are less difficult. Though hopefully a consensus can be reached that can make everyone satisfied.

 

briar_pipe

Well, sounds like the team all agrees! :heart:

Our next question is a fun one: If given a year’s worth of donations, how would you allocate it?

 

Danielle Strong

All in one go? AD&T and Systems!

 

Claire P. Baker

Could I ask, for clarification, if this was getting double our proposed budget, or how we would budget a year in the Org with the usual amount of funds?

 

Danielle Strong

Good question Claire!

 

Gimena Calixto

Well, if it came into existence out of thin air for me, I’d be tempted to give it to AD&T and Systems straight away, to be entirely honest. If the proposed scenario was… putting me in charge of the budget for some reason, I’d go to Finance and consult with them.

 

Claire P. Baker

Yeah, the important things would definitely be to talk to Finance and to each committee and see what they needed. If it was bonus money, we could look into some chances to expand on things (more new servers, more contractors ((or looking more steadily into the employees debated last chat)),  possibly getting more outreach….). It depends fully on how discussions with each committee went, and what ideas we could come up with to strengthen the Org!

 

Gimena Calixto

(As a first step, since they’re the ones most acquainted with all the organization’s expenses.)

 

briar_pipe

(Ok, it looks like the question has been clarified. It would be double our budget.)

 

Danielle Strong

I’m the same as Gimena, if it were a random donation of a year’s funds to do with as we will  then at least a significant portion of it would go to AD&T and Systems, since I feel they are in the greatest need, but since fund allocation isn’t really my circus I would talk to Finance to see where they would be best used. If it were the budget as a whole that’s definitely not my circus and would be something much better discussed with Finance, and I don’t really think the entire budget should be left in the hands of one single person, especially one who has never handled a budget before!

In that case my first answer still stands pretty much haha

 

Gimena Calixto

If this was a magical double budget, I’d probably go to AD&T and Systems and talk to them about how the funds can be allocated in the best way to help them out, or how we can start covering bases for the future, if at all possible.

 

Claire P. Baker

One pet thing I’d like to see is possibly setting up more or less a bursary to help send members to conferences, or get started on a Conference of Our Own, but that would be far down the list of priorities.

It’s a fun “nice to have” to think about, but I’d agree that making sure our current projects are as robust as possible would come first.

Also, saving some of it for future needs would be wise. I’d assume that there’s little harm in adding to our reserve, in case we need it in future years.

 

briar_pipe

Thanks, everyone!

Our next question is: Given the expansive nature of the organization, what would be your approach to discussing an aspect of the organization that you do not have prior familiarity with? Assume this is a discussion that would be internal to the organization.

 

Claire P. Baker

It depends on how immediate the answer needed to be. If there was time to do research and to consult with the part of the OTW in question, that would be the wisest choice.

 

Gimena Calixto

I’d first seek out the people who are familiar with the aspect, and listen to what they have to say, in order to get acquainted with the subject. In terms of how, it depends on whether this is about a committee, specific area knowledge, a particular issue, etc.

 

Claire P. Baker

If the answer does need to be immediate, we can still point out that we need to do that discussion and research before giving a final answer. (Like with the above question, where we all agreed that Finance would need to be consulted before we went allocated an entire double budget!)

 

Danielle Strong

I would start by familiarising myself with that aspect’s internal wiki page, and then discuss with other Board members and the Chair of that committee (if relevant) so I could learn more about it. I would make sure that my contribution to the discussion was based on what I have learned rather than conjecture, and accept that I am not the most knowledgeable about that aspect so my thoughts may not be an ideal solution to whatever issue we are discussing. At the end of the day we all have to start somewhere, and I know I won’t magically gain a complete knowledge of the entire OTW overnight if elected, so making sure I fill those gaps in my knowledge by researching as much as I can in order to be productive would be a high priority.

 

Claire P. Baker

Our internal chat space is another great tool; being able to talk to others in real time (whether for a quick answer or in a scheduled chat) is such a great boon.

 

Danielle Strong

Definitely!

 

Gimena Calixto

Agreed.

 

briar_pipe

Alrighty, thank you all!

For our next question, we have a follow-up to the budget question from earlier, inspired by your responses: “I was going to ask a follow up of the budget question they just finished, I was wondering whether the candidates would prioritize putting the money/resources into new features for AO3 that’ve been planned or if they’d prioritize getting maximum stability for what we have, like increasing server capacity and maybe having more people around the clock so that when the archive goes down fixing it isn’t as hampered by work or sleep schedules”

 

Claire P. Baker

I would say that’s more up to the related committees than it is up to us. That said, we’re in the middle of an upgrade right now, and getting that completed would probably be their first priority.

 

Danielle Strong

I would discuss with AD&T and Systems where they feel the money would be best used, to be honest. My current understanding, given that we don’t really have time for me to go off and research, is that they most need the resources to complete current stabilisation and that new features need to take a back seat while we get everything we currently have working smoothly, but the committees may feel that with such a large donation they are able to spend some time adding some new features as well. It really would be down to them, I wouldn’t feel comfortable dictating to them what they should prioritise since they would know better what would be most useful, though I suppose if they suddenly decided to blow all the money on something I considered frivolous I would want justification for that and would maybe guide them towards more appropriate spending!

 

Gimena Calixto

My first instinct is to say that I’d like the resources to go into projects that are underway, in all honesty. But ultimately, as I already said before, I’d go to the committees and ask them what they feel needs to be done, since they are the ones who have a better understanding of things.

 

Claire P. Baker

It also depends on time, of course, unless everything was being contracted out: money can only do so much without having time to along with it!

Again, like we’ve all said, the committees would know what is possible with our volunteers (and beyond) best.

 

briar_pipe

nods Thank you for those thoughtful responses!

Switching topics now, our next question is: To continue with the large push towards transparency throughout the organization, what would be your approach to increasing the knowledge of the various aspects of the organization internally or to the world at large? Would this be something that you would be in favor of?

 

Claire P. Baker

The short answer to the second part of this question is yes. More Org literacy for everyone would be amazing and I’m basically always in favour!

 

Gimena Calixto

Agreed.

 

Danielle Strong

I believe we touched on this a little in the last chat, and yes I would be in favour of increasing the knowledge of the Org both internally and externally. I think that our transparency has come along in leaps and bounds in the last couple of years, and would love to see both volunteers and users broaden their understanding of what the Org does and what we’re here for. I think in the last chat several of us mentioned potentially making certain internal information public, which I still think could be a great idea (obviously with the input of relevant committees), and if I remember correctly I think I also mentioned a little in my Q&A about considering things like cross-committee chats and volunteer sharing between committees (where possible) to help our internal volunteers increase their knowledge. I’ll link to the relevant Q&A here for you to read my full answer: http://elections.transformativeworks.org/danielle-strong-2017-qa-communication-and-outreach/#more-3324 Please do speak up if this doesn’t quite answer your question though!

 

Claire P. Baker

Like Danielle said, we talked about methods a bit in our Communication and Outreach Q&A  (you can see all of our answers to that at http://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2017/2017-qa/2017-qa-communication-outreach/ )

Ideas like working on our internal documentation, outward resources like Fanlore, and possibly creating an Org-wide training module on the OTW maybe good options.

There’s some very basic OTW information given right now when people join, but there is room to expand on that for sure.

 

Gimena Calixto

I think that we already covered many options we’d like to see explored both in our Q&As and in the last chat. One approach I’ve already talked about (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/gimena-calixto-qa-communication-and-outreach/#more-3621 first question) that I would like to take internally, at first (and if possible), would be to try and instate something similar to StratPlan’s open office hours in other committees, to encourage volunteers to become more acquainted with aspects of the organization that they might not actively interact with, generally.

 

Claire P. Baker

There is also an OTW handbook in the OTW’s current roadmap, which would be completed during the tenure of the successful candidates. This would also be an invaluable tool in increasing Org-wide knowledge.

 

briar_pipe

Awesome, thank you!

So, moving from the specific to the general: For all of the candidates, what would you consider the biggest problem with functionality of the OTW and how would you approach fixing it?

 

Claire P. Baker

A few years ago, I would have said communication and openness. But we’ve made big strides to break barriers and promote openness over the past little while. Our chat space helps so much with this, as does the reformation of our Finance committee. I applaud the Board and committees that have worked to make this possible.

We still have a ways to go before everything is solved, but we’re a much better and stronger Org for it than we were before.

I think one of the biggest issues now is the lack of redundancy in several areas. We have several people who serve as linchpins in the Org, without whom we may not be lost, but there would certainly be some major setbacks. We need more people, preferably geographically separated unless there’s a specific need for geographic ties, who are able to fulfil any role and task in the Org.

Making sure everything is documented will help with this, and making sure there are succession plans in place. We need those who are currently vital to our projects to share their knowledge and train others so that we’ll be fine when they’re gone. (Though hopefully they’ll stay around and make the OTW more awesome for years and years to come!)

We also need to make sure that they have the time to do such, which goes back to making sure each committee has the resources they need to work as successfully as possible.

 

Danielle Strong

Having given it some thought, I feel that Org-related literacy is a point where we could definitely make some headway with improvements. As we’ve seen both in the Q&A questions we were asked, and those asked in last and this chat, knowledge about the OTW is something people are interested in/concerned about. There are gaps in the knowledge of both volunteers and members that we can and should fill, and I think that if people have a greater understanding of the Org it will improve the way the Org functions. As for my approach to fixing it, I would love to actually ask volunteers and members alike what they would like to know, and do our best to accommodate them (provided there are no confidentiality concerns).

Oh agreed with Claire too!

Further to Claire’s point, I would love to see more Chair track training for committees – this is difficult because most of the time the Chairs simply do not have time to train, especially if they sit on multiple committees, but if it could be done it would hopefully take some weight from their shoulders and allow them to focus on other things. (Or just plain take a vacation!)

 

Gimena Calixto

I agree with Claire’s first statement.

Other than that, I feel like we have addressed what I would count as my main concerns (and how we would approach them) during our Q&As: volunteer retention and burnout (which aren’t issues quite unique to the OTW, but pretty much a staple of most non-profits), the lack of complete and updated documentation, etc.

I also agree that making sure succession plans are in place is a must. We can never be too prepared for contingencies.

 

Claire P. Baker

I think chair training for all committees is on the current roadmap, but I agree: having more of it and formally would be wonderful.

I was lucky enough to have a basic but good training system in place before I became chair, which is largely thanks to the co-chairs who decided to take my current co-chair and I on, back in the day. There is probably work we could do to make ours stronger, but definitely having a chance to train as a chair before formally taking the role was good in easing myself into the process. If other committees are able to do something similar, that would be vital.

Having co-chairs also ties in with the redundancy issue: with three of us spread out around the world, we usually have one of us available at any point in time, and can take breaks when we need to without jeopardizing the functionality of our committee.

 

briar_pipe

Thanks, everyone!

Our next question is one that Gimena already answered, but the other two haven’t yet: “What do you think we could do better as an org to improve internationalization/international outreach?”

 

Claire P. Baker

My first step would be talking to our members and volunteers from around the world and seeing what they perceive the top needs as being.

As a Canadian, I know I’d like to see more OTW presence outside of America (at conventions or otherwise), but I also know that most answers I’d come up with personally would be from a largely Western, North American perspective still, and I know we’d need to look beyond that to truly answer this.

 

Danielle Strong

As a non-US and non-EU volunteer this is something I have thought about a little in the past. While I love to see the amazing work Legal, for example, do in the USA and Europe, I rarely hear of anything similar happening over here in the East (I’m in Australia). I know that it is particularly difficult here as the country is so large and we’re all very spread out, so even if we were to have a large number of volunteers in Australia it would be unlikely we could all get together at a single convention or event without some of us needing to travel a very long distance. That being said, I know many of us would be more than willing to put in the hours and the work to improve our presence in our countries if we were able to get support from the Org, such as booking panels/covering ticket costs etc. Within reason of course, I’m not talking about a thousand dollar flight or anything here, just small costs that might help us along the way. However, I’m really not sure how viable that is, or whether or not it’s an appropriate use of Org funds.

To be brutally honest, I would definitely have to do a lot more research on this topic before giving a definitive answer. It’s something that I do feel is important, but I currently lack the knowledge to do more than speculate here.

 

Gimena Calixto

One thing that didn’t make it into that Q&A (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/gimena-calixto-qa-communication-and-outreach/#more-3621), but got shortly addressed in the one about Communication and Outreach (http://elections.transformativeworks.org/gimena-calixto-qa-communication-and-outreach/#more-3621) has to do with the US-centrism of our official communications, like our This Week in Fandom newsletters. If feasible, I’d like to explore ways to make these spaces more inclusive of world-wide fans, including coverage of events taking place in other countries, for example.

briar_pipe

Thank you for those nuanced thoughts, everyone! Before we go, one last short & sweet question for everyone: What has been your best experience so far in the OTW as a volunteer?

 

Claire P. Baker

Is “everything” an acceptable answer?

There is an amazing group of people here, and the work we do can feel very fulfilling. There’s a lot still to do, and the workload can be stressful at times, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve spent volunteering with the OTW for anything.

 

Gimena Calixto

This might be the hardest question, since there are so many things that I’ve enjoyed about volunteering for the OTW.

 

briar_pipe

Would you each like to pick one example?

With the understanding that there are many awesome things to choose from?

 

Gimena Calixto

Well, one obvious thing is finding all these people who are fannish and building new awesome relationships.

But another thing I’ve really, really liked about being a tag wrangler is getting to make canonical tags, honestly.

It feels like I’m leaving a tiny part of me out there.

(I also really enjoy getting to use those tags, later on.)

 

Danielle Strong

This might be surprising, but running for Board has actually been amazing! I absolutely love all the aspects of working with the Org, but this has been a really fantastic experience. Getting to hear from users and volunteers alike about what interests them, what concerns they have, what they would like to see, as well as talking with my fellow candidates and seeing how we all approach different subjects is fascinating. It has been both terrifying and wonderful! But honestly, working with Abuse is so rewarding and the whole team are so much fun, it would be hard to choose between all my experiences with them :heart:

 

Claire P. Baker

I agree with Gimena! The amount of friendships and good conversations that we have are amazing. There’s such a wonderful atmosphere, and the camaraderie is pretty wonderful.

I’ve also introduced more than one friend to the OTW now, and seeing them join their committees and flourish in their work has been amazing too.

So maybe… being able to support others, and feeling their support as well. Whether it’s someone I’ve met through the OTW, or someone who I’ve seen enter the Org. It’s a great community, and that’s something I love and am super proud of.

 

briar_pipe

And on that cheerful note, we’re a bit past the scheduled end time, so I’m going to bring this chat to a close. Thank you to our audience for being so supportive and for submitting questions! :heart:

Thank you also to our three candidates.

Thanks to Stephanie, for modding her first ever chat.

 

Gimena Calixto

(Thank you briar_pipe and Stephanie!)

 

Danielle Strong

Thanks to you both! :heart: :heart:

 

Claire P. Baker

Yes! Thank you!!!!!!

 

briar_pipe

We will have one more of these, with the other three candidates, at 4pm UTC on Sunday: https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?iso=20170730T1600&ah=1.5

 

Stephanie Godden

(<3 thanks all of you for making it a great experience!)

 

briar_pipe

I hope you all have a wonderful morning/evening/middle of the night! This transcript will go up soon, along with the transcript from the first chat.