Atiya Hakeem 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 would let the OTW’s volunteers (and possibly the membership) see:

  • What specific issues they are considering
  • The discussion surrounding those issues

It would definitely let the entire OTW membership see:

  • The decisions made and the reasoning behind these decisions
  • Board’s long-term goals for the Org
  • The OTW’s prospective budget
  • The actual accounting of money spent

To achieve this transparency, I would:

  • Have all major Board business that does not involve personnel matters or direct mention of sensitive information such as bank account numbers discussed in Open Board meetings (open at least to volunteers, and possibly to the public) before a decision is made
  • Start Open Board meetings with an update on any (minor or urgent) business that was concluded during the time since the last meeting
  • Make sure that Open Board meetings happen as scheduled, with an agenda detailing what will be discussed
  • Make sure that minutes for Open Board meetings are detailed and posted in a timely fashion
  • Make sure that minutes for Closed Board meetings exist in brief
  • Make sure that Board always has a report for the monthly Newsletter
  • Have regular Office Hours or be otherwise available for communication, with no penalty for expressing opinions, even those I do not agree with

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?

I strongly dislike the transcript purge, particularly for meetings. I feel that it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater in terms of losing the history and context of the Org. If we really feel it’s necessary to do this, I think it’s vitally important that good, detailed minutes be kept, and that minutes of Board meetings are available both internally and externally. Additionally, Board should have regular Newsletter reports.

One might argue that it’s better that dirty linen not be washed in public, but I feel that having records be transparent and public will help motivate us not to have dirty linen. Ideally everyone will behave reasonably at all times, but hopefully at least everyone can behave reasonably while being watched. And if not, that is certainly information that voters may find useful.

For now, I’m afraid my best suggestion would be to read the candidate Q&A answers and especially to attend candidate chats, interact with the candidates personally, and see how we interact with each other.

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?

I think that Open Board meetings should be where major Board decisions that do not directly concern confidential personnel matters take place. Of course issues will need to be discussed before the meeting in other venues, but the final discussion and decision should happen in the open when at all possible.

One reason I’ve seen cited by Board as to why Open Board is so short and infrequent is that Closed Board is long. This can be solved by moving all non-confidential issues to Open Board and by Board stepping back from involvement in personnel issues that can be handled by Volunteers & Recruiting and the committees involved. I think Board members should be expected to make a commitment to regularly attend meetings, and that frequent non-attendance over a prolonged period should be cause for removal.