Matty Bowers 2015 Q&A: OTW Culture and Communication, Group 2

What in your opinion are three key aspects in which the Board needs to improve with regards to its interactions with OTW volunteers? What would you personally do to improve them?

  • More transparency
  • Better financial oversight and management
  • Ensure all volunteers are treated respectfully

I’d like to see more and more Board work taking place in Open Board sessions, with clearer agendas and minutes presented for work that needs to be handled confidentially.

I would like us to do a thorough audit of our finances and ensure we have a workable budget set each year.

Our volunteers are amazing. They spend hours of their free time keeping our projects up, wrangling tags, answering user questions, updating volunteer records, writing new posts – the list goes on and on. Board should respect this work and our volunteers; we would not be here without them. We can do this by not only publicly and privately praising their work, but also by being respectful in how we treat individual committees and what we ask of them.

For the past several years, candidates who were later elected (or allowed due to uncontested election) have outlined several goals to improve the environment of the Board, the dynamic between the Board and staff, and other aspects of the OTW environment. But reports are that, despite this, things are not improving. Why do you think this is, and what steps will you take to stick to the goals you’ve outlined in this area if elected to the Board?

It’s difficult to make changes when one is in the minority. At this point the only way to make the structural changes needed is to get a majority vote on Board. If that happens, then we have a chance at making things happen. It’s still essential to have the ability to inspire motivation and cooperation from the rest of the organization — which is why it’s crucial to involve committees in the discussion and planning.

If not, there are smaller changes that can be undertaken. Basic documentation can be created and updated, emails can be answered promptly, agendas can be posted before meetings, and newsletter blurbs can be routinely drafted, just to name a few possible changes. I may not be able to make all the changes I’d like, but I promise to do as much as can be done.

There have been reports from past directors and from both current and past volunteers and staff that the Board spends more time on petty disputes with each other and on targeting staff and volunteers who question their decisions than actually caring about the welfare of the organization. Whether it is true or not, the perception is there and it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the organization or the Board. How might you work to change this perception (or reality) and begin rebuilding trust between the Board and relevant constituencies?

When everything is done in secret, people on the outside have no clue what is going on; this breeds mistrust and frustration. Increasing transparency can combat this; as more of the process happens in public, volunteers can learn how the Board works and understand why certain decisions are made.

I also believe Board has a responsibility to treat volunteers and committees respectfully. Creating unneeded busywork, interfering in committee work, or putting unnecessary obstacles in the way of major projects makes committees feel less trustful of Board. Committees are already under great pressure to perform, they don’t need Board making the situation worse.

I do think Board members need to be more accessible in general. Office hours (a set time where individual Board members were available in chat) were a great start, but not everyone participated and those that did had fairly erratic schedules. It might be helpful if all Board members participated and members rotated each week.