Aline Carrão 2015 Q&A: Transparency

A number of candidates cited the issue of Board transparency in their manifestos. What does a transparent Board look like to you, and what specific steps would you take to ensure the Board you serve on is a transparent Board? / Many candidates talked about the need for transparency for the board to volunteers/members. What does your vision for transparency entail?

A transparent board communicates openly with the rest of the org, documents and justifies their decisions, and listens to feedback from everyone involved. In practical terms, this means being held accountable to the same degree that committees already are: the board should do regular reports about what they’re planning and working on; keep up-to-date and comprehensible minutes; set clear requirements for their roles and ensure that these requirements are met; document responsibilities and goals; and have open meetings where relevant topics are actually discussed in-depth and not just voted on pro forma.

Due to legal reasons, internal transcripts of meetings are purged every year. However with a lack of consistent and comprehensive information posted to internal and external locations, details of Org interactions can be lost to the abyss. This leaves voters with a dearth of details when attempting to learn about the Org, and in this situation, candidates. What internal remedies would you suggest? And what would you suggest voters do in the mean time in lieu of relying on the rumor mill (FFA & emails) and digging through various social media sites?

Internally, we need to document decisions, decision-making processes and projects in the wiki in a comprehensible and extensive way that will keep old decision and projects, including those that were later canceled, from vanishing into the ether. For voting members, I believe we could do a better job of publishing clear news posts about the OTW and the board’s current projects and ongoing work, similar to what Accessibility, Design & Technology and other parts of the org already do when they have an update or something new in the works. We need to cultivate members’ goodwill and comprehension through an atmosphere clear information and communication. It won’t always be possible to please everyone, but being forthcoming with information and then listening to what people say in return are important steps that can only make us stronger. For this year, I don’t have any better solutions than social media and the candidate chats that will happen. Talk to us candidates, ask questions, read our news outlets; these are the sources of information we have available right now.

The current Board has had frequent issues keeping an available agenda for their weekly meetings, which were often cancelled or cut short due to lack of quorum or matters to discuss. What do you think the purpose of open Board meetings is, and what would you change about the current setup?

The purpose of holding an open board meeting is to allow other parts of the OTW to participate in the board’s work, to help the board and everyone present gather a wide variety of perspectives about the discussions taking place, and to help hold the board accountable regarding their discussions, decisions and votes. None of these goals are met by the way these meetings are currently being conducted, and I believe we need to restructure how they happen.

If there isn’t enough work to require a weekly meeting, we need to address this and not just have board members showing up to announce that “board has nothing for open board today” week after week. This is disrespectful towards people who showed up for the meeting and leads to a lack of engagement in volunteers, who end up not expecting anything to get done in open meetings.

The meetings need to be understandable not only to board members but to everyone who interested. The same is true of agenda and minutes. Just taking a vote on a decision previously reached in the closed part of the meeting or the board’s mailing list without summarizing or explaining what’s going on serves little to no purpose. An open board meeting has to welcome participation and not contribute even more to exclude those committed enough to come.

I would also move the calendar for open board meetings away from Basecamp, which is not open for volunteers. It would be great for volunteers to feel welcome to participate in open board as well.