Aline Carrão 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 intend to make public as much of the discussion and decisions as I can, taking into consideration reasonable confidentiality standards, as well as make myself personally available to any OTW volunteer through chat and email. I also believe we can do a better job informing the membership of decisions, ongoing debates and new developments using the OTW/AO3 site news spaces and social networks. Our internal affairs are completely opaque to the public at large, and that is neither necessary nor healthy for the organization. Everyone in the OTW knows we can’t please everyone in all things, but we also need to have a culture of taking criticism (both internal and external) in stride and of learning from it. That starts with creating opportunities for people to hear about our plans in the first place.

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

One thing that I believe works very well and is a good example of straightforward, collaboration between committees made simple inside the OTW, is the current setup for answering abuse and support tickets from users in languages besides english. It works smoothly, with very little overhead, and a short turnaround time. And it is a a great example of collaboration and internalization working in practice.

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

The committees I’m in have a strong culture of working constantly with others without any huge incidents—for example, Translation works with Communications and AO3 Documentation often, as does Support with Accessibility, Design & Technology and Tag Wrangling. Everyone manages to get on the same page without major hangups, and we’re all in close contact to get things done as efficiently as possible while minimizing the risk of miscommunication. It would be good to see the board coexist with committees in this kind of atmosphere of open communication.

Internally, I think there are many good practices that committees adopted in order to function as a teamwork environment that the board could stand to learn from, too. For example: how to work collaboratively on a large scale, sharing information and responsibilities without micromanaging or constantly looking over anyone’s shoulder; how to navigate the balance between delegating authority and owning responsibility; how to document and keep accessible records of ongoing projects, discussions, procedures and decisions; and how to answer emails and act on things without excessive delays and detours.

Finally, I think board should take a leaf out of committees’ work and establish basic criteria for their own performance, so that board members can know what they’re signing up for and how they’re doing, and so that there are guidelines against which to measure directors for the sake of accountability. Board procedures should be written up, including task tracking and rotations to ensure workload is shared equally. There should also be some training, so that new members can hit the ground running. It doesn’t have to be all created at once; no committees did that. But it should start somewhere.

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 think it’s great idea to have more of a physical OTW presence in conventions and other fan spaces in various countries. The individual needs for privacy of volunteers should be respected, of course. Participating in this capacity needs to be strictly optional, and if we ever recruit for this kind of role specifically, we’ll need to add it clearly to the position description and be upfront about it when selecting people.