Antonius Melisse 2021 Q&A: Board Work/Communication

[Note: In total, there will be 3 Q&A posts to cover all of the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. Candidates were limited to 300 words per answer.]

Being on Board, you will experience periods of high-volume, high-stress work, and receive feedback ranging from thankful and enthusiastic to angry and hostile. Have you thought about what self-care routines and support systems you might need to have in place to maintain good mental health during your term?

I already work with deadlines a lot, so high-volume and high-stress periods of work will be nothing new to me. Receiving feedback also isn’t new, although the volume will likely be much higher than I have so far experienced.

I am however quite old enough to be aware when I’m experiencing more stress than is healthy for me, and will continue to employ the self-care routines I currently do. I love to take long hikes when I’m getting stressed to allow myself to sort things out in my head. I play video games to unwind and release some frustrations. I talk to my close friends to vent and put things in perspective. As such, I fully expect to be prepared for what Board work will throw at me.

The board isn’t very accessible to members that are not also volunteers. One example of this is the infrequency of public meetings. What do you think the board can do to be more accessible and accountable to paying members?

Currently, Board is already working on making sure that public meetings are now held every quarter, instead of twice a year, so that this avenue becomes a bit more approachable already, which is a good step in my eyes.

I would also like to look into how possible and how time-consuming it would be to organize AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions with individual Board members every so often, just so people can get more involved in discussing things with individuals on the Board, so we’re not just a faceless amalgam.

The OTW Board often has to speak with one consistent voice when answering questions and requests from the public, individual volunteers, and various committees. This sometimes means enforcing policies for the good of the OTW that may go against your personal preferences. How would you balance this need for consistency?

It’s more important that we are consistent than that my personal preferences are met. Things will almost always be discussed among Board before a unified voice is agreed upon, so it’s not like I don’t get my say, even if we end up going in another direction. Therefore, I don’t see this as an issue.

Committees with heavy workloads vs available volunteers like AD&T and PAC don’t seem to recruit as much as other committees (like Tag Wranglers). Should the board get involved in directing/monitoring recruitment cycles if individual committees have more work than their volunteer base can handle and aren’t recruiting?

Things aren’t quite as simple as just recruiting when there’s more work than the current committee can handle. In the examples you mentioned, the volunteers are required to have certain skills. In the case of Accessibility, Design & Technology, people will need to know Ruby on Rails, complete an assessment, familiarize themselves with the systems that are currently already in place, what is being worked on and what takes priority before they can actually start taking on workload of their own, during which time, they will take time from a more senior volunteer. Similarly, when a new volunteer joins the Policy & Abuse committee, there is a lengthy training period that takes time and involvement from our current volunteers.

There’s also the fact that Accessibility, Design & Technology has a few contributors who are not officially volunteers, but who still help them out. These people usually want to keep things a bit more casual — they like contributing code when they can, but they don’t always want the involvement a volunteer has.

Usually, the committee chairs will be the people most aware of what a committee needs and if the time is right to train new volunteers; definitely far better than Board will. So no, I don’t think Board should direct recruitment cycles. If things seem really dire, we can talk to the chairs, but we shouldn’t push things on them needlessly.

Is there anything y’all have learned within OTW/AO3 that you didn’t know before?

Working as a Translation volunteer manager, I’ve definitely learned how to wrangle planning meetings with multiple timezones involved. But the most important thing I have learned is that there is a massive group of dedicated fans of all kinds, working together to keep the Organization and the Archive going strong, so we can all keep enjoying the things we create the way we want to. It’s the volunteers, members and all other fans that make the OTW as great as it is.

[Note: All questions from members and candidate responses appear in the form they were submitted and represent only the views of the individual who wrote them. Questions and responses are not endorsed by the Organization for Transformative Works.]