Atiya Hakeem 2015 Q&A: Retreat

In 2013 and 2014, the Board had in-person meetings in North America, and there will be another this October. What is your opinion on Board retreats and their outcomes so far?

The 2013 retreat was supposed to produce a number of important documents better codifying the duties and obligations of the Board. Those documents appear to have been abandoned unfinished.

The 2014 retreat was originally going to include committee chairs. This idea was scrapped, and the retreat was re-tasked to involve creating a strategic plan, based on often out-of-date surveys and interviews and with no direct input from the project committees. A year later, implementation of a plan has not begun.

There has been no report yet as to what may have been accomplished at this year’s retreat, which, once again, did not involve chairs or staffers from the OTW’s project-related committees (AO3, Fanlore, TWC). In general, the retreats have been held with extremely little transparency either as to their agendas going in, or their results.

I think there can be great value to meeting in person; as part of my real-life job in academia I organized twice-yearly meetings for all the labs that were part of our collaborative grant. However, I do not believe that the OTW Board should go forward with in-person retreats for now. The amount of money that has been spent on the retreats is a significant portion of our budget, and the results so far have been basically non-existent.

How would you as a Board member, go about choosing who and what committees are invited to the annual retreat?

As I stated in answer to the question above, I don’t favor having in-person retreats at this point. However, I do see value in having a virtual annual meeting, as described below. I’d invite the chair(s) of each of the OTW’s committees to attend or to send official representatives to speak for the committee.

Last year the board’s in person meeting cost $18,355.21, 17% amount of the OTW’s total expenses. Do you have any ideas how to do this meeting a more cost effective way going forward?

Video conferencing was developed as a way for organizations to have meetings between far-flung members with the benefit of face-to-face interaction but without the expense and hassle of travel. It seems an excellent fit for us, as an online-only organization with volunteers all around the globe. Holding meetings via video would drastically reduce the costs involved, and would allow the Board to invite chairs and/or staffers to give the perspectives necessary to have an effective meeting about the Org’s direction. Non-Board attendees wouldn’t need to tune in for parts of the meeting that weren’t relevant to them, outgoing and incoming directors could both attend without unnecessary expense, and meetings could even be held more than once a year, if they proved productive.