Alex Tischer 2015 Q&A: OTW Culture and Communication, Group 1

How do you plan to engage staff and volunteers in dialogue regarding Board decisions and the direction of the organization? How about the membership?

I don’t think it would take a lot to engage a substantial amount of staff and volunteers in dialogue about any of those subjects. If we stopped discouraging them from speaking up and actually communicated Board decisions openly right now, I think we would have a serious problem stopping them from voicing their opinion.

More seriously, there will of course always be different levels of engagement and forcing volunteers, that just want to wrangle tags in their fandoms and not be involved in larger org politics, to engage with any of this is not the task of the Board either. General engagement levels will also fluctuate over time and there will be things that the large majority will simply not care about and any attempts to interest them in the subject will be futile.

I think the best Board can do is to keep their actions as transparent as they can manage and keep as many channels of communication open as possible. Be that office Hours, an anonymous comment box, email addresses readily available or a functional comment form on the website. Communication with Board will by necessity be a relatively one-sided information flow in most of those venues but members of the Board will have to show a willingness to listen and act on information received via those channels before staff and volunteers, let alone the wider membership, will feel their opinions are valued and their engagement wanted.

Talk about one thing a committee you served with did really well and how this taught you something valuable about collaboration in the OTW.

Translation is really, really good at getting its volunteers involved. Even though they initially sign up to translate texts, a large percentage of them end up helping with any kind of admin task (of which there are many in the committee). This system of spreading the workload over a large group of people who are happy to help does not only reduce the workload for staff but also helps to give a sense of purpose and community to the whole group. I am not a person that likes to ask for help in any kind of situation, but my work with Translation has shown me that there are benefits to asking for help and involving others in your tasks even if you could potentially manage on your own.

What are three things you think Board can learn from committees?

The main thing I think Board could learn from the committees is how to communicate openly and not restrict information to just a small group of people. Another thing that could be learned is how to interact with and be accountable to people who are below you in an arbitrary hierarchy. On a much smaller scale, Board could learn how to schedule meetings across multiple time zones. Most, if not all of the committees, have found some way to work with that restriction of an international online org but a large number of Board meetings seems to be canceled because they can’t get a quorum of people to attend.

What are your thoughts on a more public ‘in person’ presence being established by the Org? How might you see this balanced with the desire and in some cases need for privacy?

I can’t answer this as I do not understand the question it is asking, sorry.