Chat Transcript with Margaret MacRae and Jessica Steiner – Nov 1, 2014

Trey C

I think we can just get started? People can always come in whenever.

Hi everyone, and welcome to our candidate chats! This is the final one of a series of three, 90-minute-long chats with two of our Board candidates – the candidates present today are Margaret MacRae and Jessica Steiner. The purpose of these is to see how candidates interact, both with each other and the public, and to give OTW volunteers and members a chance to ask questions not already covered in their manifestos, bios, and Q&A, as well as to ask individual questions of specific candidates. If you missed the first two, the transcripts of all three chats will be posted publicly on November 4.

We welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:

– Please keep them reasonable and polite (I may declare a question out of bounds if necessary, in order to spend our limited time on questions the candidates can reasonably answer).

– As I said earlier, make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the manifestos (http://transformativeworks.org/news/board-candidate-manifestos-qa-and-chats) or the Q&A (http://transformativeworks.org/news/elections-2014-qa-and-chats). If it’s a follow-up, please say so.

– Specify who your question is for, or if it’s for all candidates.

– Raise your hand to speak, like this: o/. You will be called on when it is your turn to speak. Use /done when you’re finished.

I don’t think I have any questions left over any more, so I’ll go ahead and open the floor.

😀

Trey C

Anyone?

Jessica S.

Everyone’s still recovering from Halloween parties

Trey C

Point, Jessica xD.

M. J. MacRae

or halloween party fails

Jessica S.

Yeah, I’m sorry MJ :<

Trey C

Alright, I’ll start us off then. This question is aimed at both candidates.

Jessica S.

I didn’t actually attend a Halloween party but I did have nearly 200 children rob my house of candy

Trey C

(Gah, worst thing about Halloween is all the KIDS)

Anyway, yes. What steps would you plan to undertake as a Board director to foster healthy communications between the Board, OTW committees and workgroups and users or OTW members?

Jessica S.

(It totally cramped our Elementary-watching with pausing every 10 seconds)

I can get this one first, MJ?

M. J. MacRae

cool

Jessica S.

I think a lot of it is somewhat outside of my control.

Jessica S.

But on a personal level, I am making a real commitment to listen to feedback, even if there’s that knee-jerk reaction of like “Oh it’s that person” or “No they’re wrong”

One thing that I really truly believe, and this goes back to my background as a writer, that all concrit had something to it

Even if you disagree, the reason why someone is saying what they’re saying is often valid and can indicate legit problems elsewhere that also should be addressed

(And if this makes no sense, I apologize. I’m not yet caffeinated)

I also want to try to encourage the same attitude in my fellow Board members

Trey C

(You’re good, no worries!)

Jessica S.

Furthermore, I want to spend time with each committee, either on some kind of rotation or whatever, so that people feel comfortable coming to me and so I have some idea of what’s going on directly with committees

And finally I intend to maintain office hours

/done

Trey C

MJ?

M. J. MacRae

First, I plan on continuing office hours. Or I should say I plan on having office hours; I can’t speak for anyone else. Overall, I believe in documenting Board’s actions as much as possible. I know that people will not always check minutes, and emails, but the Board’s actions should be clearly documented

that includes soliciting feedback, and listening to it

Elz

o/

M. J. MacRae

Much like Jess I strongly believe that there is value to all constructive criticism, and I think its really important to understand why someone responds they way that they do to a situation

finally, like Jess I am hoping that I will be able to meet with every committee on a rolling basis so that staffers can put a “face” to my name

/done

Trey C

Thank you both! Elz?

briar_pipe

o/

Elz

this is a very nuts-and-bolts kind of question, but do you think there’s anything practical that could be done to get board meeting minutes posted more quickly? I know they have to be approved, but there’s often important information in those, and not everyone is able to attend the meetings in person /done

SunnyB

o/

M. J. MacRae

I’ll take this one first

Yes! I do. So I want to recruit support staff one of whom will be in charge of taking minutes

ideally that person would take them, immediately after a meeting edit them, send the draft to board for review, board comments and votes over email, and the staffer gets them up on the wiki

I am shooting for a 24 hour turn around

BUT board will have to vote on them within that window to make it happen

M. J. MacRae

(which is somewhat outside of my control, but I plan on asking for us to adopt it as a standard practice)

/done

Jessica S.

^this

No but seriously

I’m personally quite curious if every individual person on the Board really needs to vote on minutes – I’m not certain if it’s a bylaw thing or a practice that’s been adopted? But I think if we can’t get to that 24 hour thing, I would suggest looking at that seriously and seeing if we can do a quorum instead, and put the minutes up anyway

/done

M. J. MacRae

(both a bylaw thing an possible a US legal thing. Legal will need to weigh in

the minutes are legal documents that Board can be held liable for.)

Jessica S.

(Yeah if that’s the case then you can’t do anything, obviously :<)

Other than try to really get a commitment from everyone to look at minutes in a timely fashion

/really done?

M. J. MacRae

I think it is quorum right now? I’ll look after this meeting

quorum should be fine

Jessica S.

Cool

Trey C

Alright, moving on for now, I’m sure that’s something you can keep in mind for later. briar_pipe?

briar_pipe

Thanks, Trey.

My question is for both candidates. First, have you seen the latest Drive information from DevMem and Comms? And if so, does that change any of your thoughts on our financial future, which you posted to the Q&A?

/done

M. J. MacRae

my last convo with dan was at the beginning of the drive, and I have not seen the final numbers. Until we can duplicate it I am hesitant to say this is more than a flash in the pan

and no matter how much we raise at drives, I dislike that our fundraising is limited to a single method. /done

Jessica S.

I’ve been following it generally, and I did see the final total. Obviously it is very exciting to blow through our goal so completely, especially since I know we weren’t sure we’d make it

I am slightly concerned people will take this and sit on their laurels. I understand some people (outside the org) are saying “Oh isn’t this great now you don’t need to do a drive in April” which isn’t realistic

And definitely agreed that we need to figure out what we did right and try to reach a consistent number we can rely on, as well as having more ongoing sources of money we can count on regularly for stability

/done

Trey C

Thanks! SunnyB?

SunnyB

thanks Trey

ok, so I had a question typed out, but I’d first like to ask a follow-up question if allowed re: multiple sources of income

Trey C

That’s fine, you can go ahead.

SunnyB

What do you see as possible alternative sources of income for the OTW, outside of Drives? I believe MJ mentioned grants in her Q&A, any others?

Jessica S.

I know it’s a somewhat fraught conversation, but the merch store would be an example

M. J. MacRae

capital campaigns

Jessica S.

(fraught because I know lots of people want it, but it’s more complicated than it sounds to set up)

/done for me

M. J. MacRae

developing large donors, corporate gifts (this one is fraught with some hard issues)

the merch store is a great idea and one that is not really fundraising to me. Dan can talk about the ton of development tools that we don’t really make use of as an org…yet

M. J. MacRae

(I have an NP 101 on this planned)

/done

Trey C

Awesome. Feel free to ask your original question, SunnyB.

SunnyB

thx for the answers!

ok, pretyped question: My question is to both candidates. Both of you have mentioned (I think even in the earlier chats) the idea of rotating through committees to learn more about them. How do you intend to for this to happen?

where I’m coming from is that the OTW is not like a RL workspace, where you could just walk into the department and by being present soak up what’s happening

how do you intend to “rotate through the committees”?

/done

Jessica S.

This is something that’s being talked about still, as part of replacing the liaison system.

M. J. MacRae

So, another support staffer for board I want to recruit will do calendaring, and essentially would set up meetings for me and then tell me to be there. I know not every committee has meetings like Legal uses a listserve, but the particulars will get ironed out (I am also assuming that these meetings will be scheduled at the committee’s convenience not mine)

Jessica S.

The basic idea is to attend meetings for those committees that do have meetings, not to participate but to just be there and answer questions if necessary and just to see how things are going

For committees that don’t have meetings, we’ll have to get creative.

M. J. MacRae

in a perfect world I would like to meet with each committee once a quarter but that will need to be tested and figured out

Jessica S.

Either way, it’d depend a lot on what the committee can accommodate and what’s practical. So conversations with chairs will be important to figuring it out

/done

M. J. MacRae

like I don’t want to impose to often or ignore anyone at the same time

/done

Trey C

Okay, I think SunnyB was last in line so we’re open now. Would anyone else like to say anything?

Lady Oscar

o/

Trey C

Yay. LO?

Lady Oscar

It sounds like with the support staff (I’m finding that confusing with Support staff ^^; ) taking over administrative functions and Ombuds handling disputes, Board will have more capacity free for other things. Ideally, what would you like those things to be?

/done

M. J. MacRae

First, working with chairs and volcom to get chair succession plans in place (I hate the term admin staff bc irl suit job the admin staff are treated like second class citizens and it drives me batty. They run the fucking courthouse numnuts!)

second, working with devmem to create and implement a development plan

third, working with AD&T and Systems to figure out how/where/when to hire contractors to offer the most assistance

those are the three off the top of my head./done

Jessica S.

First, figuring out what the Board wants to be! And how to make that happen.

M. J. MacRae

(oh thats a really good place to start)

Jessica S.

+1 to what MJ just said

I see the Board’s proper place is ensuring that the overall work of the org is moving us towards our vision, and that the committees are doing the work they should be doing

I don’t mean that in a micromanaging way, but for example, if a chair disappears, then the Board should be responsive in ensuring that the gap is closed as soon as possible

Or if a committee wants to start a new major project and submits a proposal, the Board shouldn’t be so bogged down in admin work and mediating interpersonal disputes that they can’t respond

So I think a lot of this admin staff idea is less about opening the Board up to doing things they aren’t already doing, but giving them time to actually do that important stuff in a timely fashion as well

/done

M. J. MacRae

in a timely fashion!

yes!!! this!!!

/done

Trey C

Thank you both xD. Any other questions?

(We’ll probably wrap at the hour if there aren’t)

Jessica S.

Well if there aren’t questions, I have one for you guys to finish us off

Trey C

Go on, Jess?

Jessica S.

What’s the first concrete thing that you would like MJ and I to do when we start our work on the Board?

M. J. MacRae

(you can include Sole, we will pass it along)

Jessica S.

(Totally XD)

Elz

o/ in answer

Trey C

Go ahead, Elz.

Elz

figure out how we’re spending our money next year in a way that will build trust with donors and encourage them to continue supporting us /done

Trey C

Anyone else?

briar_pipe

o/

Trey C

Yes, briar_pipe?

Eylul D.

o/

briar_pipe

Restructure Board basic task tracking and documentation to be more efficient and consistent, so that Board members are less stressed and more effective. /done

Jessica S.

Amen

Trey C

Eylul?

M. J. MacRae

word

Eylul D.

pace yourself enough that you can stay for full 3-year term. 🙂 (it is good for the org too)/done

Jessica S.

o7

Trey C

That looks like a salute! Was it a raised hand?

Jessica S.

It was a salute XD

Trey C

Oh! That’s pretty cool.

Alright, I think that’s it for the 2014 elections!

Before we finish off, I’m aware there was some frustration with the format of these chats – please feel free to send in any feedback you have (either about the chats specifically or the elections process as a whole) either via our public form: http://transformativeworks.org/contact/elections or directly to elections@transformativeworks.org

Chat Transcript with Soledad Griffin and Jessica Steiner – Oct 29, 2014

Trey C

Hi everyone, and welcome to our candidate chats! This is the first of a series of three, 90-minute-long chats with two of our Board candidates – the candidates present today are Soledad Griffin and Jessica Steiner. The purpose of these is to see how candidates interact, both with each other and the public, and to give OTW volunteers and members a chance to ask questions not already covered in their manifestos, bios, and Q&A, as well as to ask individual questions of specific candidates. Please note that the transcripts of these will be posted publicly.

We welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:

– Please keep them reasonable and polite (I may declare a question out of bounds if necessary, in order to spend our limited time on questions the candidates can reasonably answer).

– Please make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the manifestos (http://transformativeworks.org/news-topic-tags/otw-sections/elections or the Q&A (http://transformativeworks.org/news/board-candidate-manifestos-qa-and-chats). If it’s a follow-up to any of those, please say so.

– Specify who your question is for, or if it’s for all candidates.

– Raise your hand to speak, like this: o/. You will be called on when it is your turn to speak. Use /done when you’re finished.

I’m going to start us off before opening the floor, with a question that came up a couple of times during the Q&A but was aimed specifically at Sole, and so was not included.

Afterwards, anyone can feel free to go ahead.

Your manifesto states that you are also currently chair of Internalization and Outreach. Being a chair is a job which can be just as challenging and time-consuming as being a Board member, even more so for this specific committee, which is in “a very long and occasionally confusing process of re-organization and re-defining its goals and work methods”. How do you realistically plan to fulfill both jobs so that neither of them gets neglected?

Soledad G.

I don’t.

I’ve already started my chair sucession plans.

So the job, currently, is more about training my sucessor and set realistic goals for I&O than about the day-to-day chairing of I&O.

*setting

I plan to stay as a staffer for a while longer, to support my sucessor and the committee.

But in terms of chairing, I don’t plan to fulfill both jobs.

/done

Trey C

Okay, thanks, Sole. Does anyone have a follow-up to that, or would anyone like to ask about something else?

hele

o/

Trey C

hele! Go ahead.

hele

ok! For Jess
you mention in the AO3 question — let me check the number

8) AO3’s continued survival currently depends on a small handful of volunteers…

that one

that you feel that fandom will supply if we lose one of more of our lynchpins there — AD&T has actually recruited relatively recently (unlike, say, the situation with accountants that was discused in one of the SP chats)

why do you think we have been unable to get duplication on those posts anyway?

/done

Trey C

(You can go ahead and answer without the whole o/ thing, Jess)

hele

(one *or* more — sorry for typos)

Jessica S.

I…honestly don’t know. I’m not in a position to know exactly what AD&T has done in terms of recruitment, or where they advertised, or how difficult such positions might be to find

So I’m not really sure how I can answer this question in any intelligent way.

/done

hele

I think it was regular advertisement like other positions in the org

so: the org’s news outlets

thanks, anyway!

Jessica S.

Okay well, I’m sure mumble could probably tell you better than I can

Lady Oscar

o/

matty

o/

hele

(I think mumble sustains that experienced ruby coders are just hard to get ;))

Jessica S.

(I’d buy that)

Trey C

Alright, I think we’ll move on.

LO?

Lady Oscar

I’m not mumble, but am a member of AD&T. I wanted to clarify that yes, we did advertise for experienced Ruby coders and did not get results.

/done

Curtis J.

o/

Trey C

matty?

matty

My question is for both candidates:

There were a few statements posted earlier in the Q&A that showed a lack of understanding in how certain committees work and the problems they face. (this is also something we’ve seen with current board members) This combined with phasing out the liaison roles worries me. Asides from requiring committees submit reports, which frankly never seem to be acknowledged, what measures do you think can Board can take to combat this?

(some examples – board not knowing the differences between support/abuse, or telling people with fanlore issues to contact support via ao3, or not understanding how our servers work and why we need to buy them at certain times, etc) /done

Jessica S.

o/ I can go first if you want?

Trey C

Sure, Jess, go ahead.

Jessica S.

ok, so the issue of not being plugged in with committees as well as we’d like was a long-discussed topic at the retreat that doesn’t have a clear solution as of yet

One of the things that SP found quite clearly in our data gathering was that the liaison system wasn’t working well in most cases and I think that’s generally acknowledged

Part of the hopes of the feedback round is that we’ll be able to generate ideas about good ways of keeping things plugged in – not to phase out liaisoning without a replacement

I agree that the report idea didn’t seem to be working

An idea that was kicked around was some kind of rotating system where the Board members come and visit with all the committees from time to time rather than a single liaison + committee structure

So tl;dr ideas would be great coming from all quarters at this point, and I hope that a great solution will be found soon and included in the strategic plan

/done

Soledad G.

I’ll go now then 🙂

First, I’d like to know if/which mistakes I made in my Q&A if that was at all possible.

Second, I don’t think the liaisoning system was working. If the lack of understanding was happening even now, then it’s not the answer.

I admit that I don’t have an idea because the obvious one (reports), as you mentioned, isn’t working either.

TBH, from my personal stand-point, there is little Board can do but to ask honest questions about what committees need and how they work. There are entire areas of the org I know very little about.

/done

Jessica S.

(Also yes, please tell me if I messed something up, too!)

Lady Oscar

o/

Trey C

Alright. I think we can just treat matty’s point as a general observation and move on from this one? Curtis, you can go ahead.

Lady Oscar

nm

Trey C

(Curtis, can you confirm if you’re still typing?)

Lady Oscar

I’ll re-raise o/

Curtis J.

One issue that has been cited over the past couple of years in public spaces regarding the org is volunteer burnout and retention. Do you see this as an issue from within the org, and, if so, what steps do you think should be taken to address it? (Sorry side issue came up.)

Trey C

No worries! /done?

Curtis J.

/done

Soledad G.

I can go first this round 🙂

Jessica S.

By all means XD

Soledad G.

I’m currently chairing a two people committee

(Well, me, a staffer and a Boar dmember.)

So it is an issue for me.

Leaving aside I&O’s… particular situation, it’s a problem across the org. For example, see the problems LO mentioned about recruiting coders with Ruby on Rails experience.

There are several factors that I think impact in the situation. One is the stressful idea that nobody else can do the work we do. That kind of pressure worsens over time and people leave because they must and not because they. want.

Volunteers will retire over time – that is a reality. The problem is that the org runs through people at a fast rate.

There’s also the problem of the org atmosphere. It can harsh and unforgiving, people’s work may not be respected.

So, as Board, I think one of the steps we can take is to focus on duplicating and documenting roles.

The problem with the org atmosphere is more vague, but I think it’s important to listen to staffers and volunteers to identify specific problems. And it’s important for us to ask questions, even questions that seem obvious. /done

Jessica S.

Man, Sole totally said everything that I was going to say

I know I talked a lot about self-care in my Q&A answers but I think it’s really important that we all be in a position to feel like we can take time off if we need to. Otherwise, like Sole said, you’ll wind up flaming out by necessity and then there’s a hole left

I think succession planning is really key, and that includes key positions other than chairs. Having someone as a backup so you can take time off is so important

And I’m probably going to gush about SP a lot tonight, but oh well.

But one of the things that I think has made us successful is that we all back each other up and even though two of us decided to jump ship to the board it won’t cause a ripple

hele

(o/ follow up to this)

Jessica S.

And I’m rambling repeating what Sole said, so /done

briar_pipe

o/

Jessica S.

Oh sorry, can I add to my answer?

I just remembered something else I was going to say

Trey C

Sure!

Jessica S.

I think we also need to recognize that volunteers are not always going to stick around in as many numbers as we’d like. People will fall away because there’s nothing really keeping them here but their passion and desire to be here

So just because people leave doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong

But if we forget this, then we’ll drive people away by mistreating them

/really done

Trey C

Alright, we’ll go to hele’s follow-up first so we can wrap this up, and then get back to LO. hele?

hele

yes! OK, actually, related to Jessica’s last point!

do you think getting duplication will be harder for some posts than for others? Because, while I feel I can totally document my posts in the org so that someone with reasonable will and desire to do so can do my work, james documenting his wouldn’t really mean anyone can go in adn sysadmin, in my view. /done

Jessica S.

Oh, for sure. Yeah, naturally it’ll be harder.

Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be persistent in trying, though, and have that as a goal until it’s achieved.

/done

Soledad G.

I agree, hele.

hele

makes sense, Jess!

Soledad G.
And also – evey sysadmin post has its quirks. If somebody else was going to work with/instead of james, they’d need that info /done

hele

(of course!)

Trey C

Okay! Moving on then, LO?

Lady Oscar

Sorry, my question is also partially a followup.

Trey C

That’s okay xD.

Lady Oscar

First, yes, I totally agree that we will always have attrition and need to recruit to make up for that. And I think hele’s point that having extra people-power isn’t a solution for some posts.

One thing that has bothered me with Board over the time I’ve been here is that there haven’t been a lot of AO3-committee people on it. Given the failure of the liaisoning system, I feel that’s a strong concern.

And that has led, I feel to the fact that the concern that volunteers leave because their work is not respected to mainly come down to volunteers not having their work respected _by our Board_.

At least in my experience, our fellow committees may have communications issues (which I feel are definitely improving!) but the main friction is the concern that Board don’t understand the concerns, goals, and skills of the AO3 committees.

I’d like to hear thoughts from the candidates on those subjects.

/done, and sorry for being wordy ^^;

Soledad G.

I can go first.

Jessica S.

Go for it :3

Soledad G.

First, I *am* a AO3-committee person. Yes, I’ve spent the last year mostly in I&O, but most of my OTW work has been AO3-related.

I respect the work you do and understand the basics. Except for coding, which is really not my expertise at all.

Second, and more importantly, I do not claim to know *everything* about the work you do. I said it already, but I’m going to ask questions. It’s impossible to expect that the Board will know everything about everything when they start out.

But it’s also important to say that, currently, there are no Fanlore people either.

That does not mean we cannot grasp what Fanlore needs or wants. I can always ask.

Lady Oscar

follwup o/

Soledad G.

/done

Lady Oscar
er +o

Jessica S.

Should I do my answer first or LO’s follow up?

Lady Oscar

go ahead

Trey C

You go ahead, Jessica.

Jessica S.

OK

So I guess my first thought when you were asking your question is that if there aren’t enough AO3 people on the Board it’s because none have stepped up to do it, which is sort of obvious and not very helpful I know :/

I can certainly say for myself that I came to the org exclusively through AO3. I literally did not know about any of the other org projects until I joined SP

I have a lot of respect for what each and every person does, and feel that every one of our committees are doing something very important

But talk is cheap and I can say that. I can only say that I intend that my behaviour over the next few years will bear that out and I hope that if I ever seem to act with disrespect towards the work that someone is doing that someone will let me know so I can correct it.

And I feel that every other Board member should feel the same way. And indeed, every other person in the org.

/done

hele

o/ (non follow up, so I believe after Mei sometime!)

briar_pipe

o/ (mine was actually a follow-up to Curtis)

Michelle D.

o/

Curtis J.

o/

Alison Watson

o/ (not follow up)

Trey C

LO, you can go ahead but I’m going to interrupt here with a tiny request to re-focus questions so they are actual questions, because your original one was very open-ended, and the point of these chats is to try to get to know candidates.

And then we’ll move to briar_pipe.

Lady Oscar

Er…I’m not sure what to do with that?

I kind of thought something open-ended that let people talk would let us get to know people?

If you don’t want me to address the issue of attrition and why there aren’t more AO3 people volunteering to join Board, we can move on.

Trey C

That was a ‘go ahead with your follow-up’, with a general point to everyone here.

Lady Oscar

No, go ahead, I’m not sure I understand the distinction.

Trey C

LO? I can move on if you’d like.

Alright, I’ll sit down with you later. briar_pipe?

briar_pipe

Thanks!

To build on Curtis’s question about turnover: I’d like to ask about staff training, as separate from documentation (skills, not knowledge base).

Do you have any ideas for developing our training systems as an org to improve staff retention and quality of work, and more specifically for the Board itself? And as a follow-up, how do you plan to approach your own training, after you join the Board? /done

Jessica S.

My turn to go first I think

Firstly, ideas about developing our training systems as an org

I am a huge supporter of mentorship and cross-training.

I know that training can sometimes seem like the last priority when there are fires everywhere, but I do feel that we need to be greater emphasis on training from the very moment a new person is inducted

I know that Volcom is working on some awesome stuff that I’m so excited to see be developed.

I’m also super excited about ideas being tossed around about a Board track, where people who would potentially be interested in someday joining the Board could take part in directed skill development and learn about the org as well, so that when and if they choose to take that leap

They actually would already have the skills and knowledge needed.

These are things that I hope to be directly involved in developing as time goes on

Secondly, about my own training, I’m thankful that I have a decent knowledge base about the org generally because of SP

My plan over the next 3 months and beyond is to lean hugely on the existing board members for mentorship and guidance, as well as make specific effort to familiarize myself even more with the org by attending more chats, trawlign the wiki more and just basically paying a lot of attention

I’m sure that once I actually begin Board work, the learning curve will be steep, and I’m prepared for that /done

Soledad G.

Well, we keep agreeing, Jess. Regarding my own training, I do plan to read all the documentation, read all the chat transcripts and just listen in general at first.

I am lucky that my RL background has trained me in some skills I believe are mega important for a Board member (ie., how to listen, how to build consensus, how to manage my stress.)

In terms of general training, it’s one of the areas where I will rely on the experts here and listen to VolComm. (I actually manage and help train volunteers in RL, but it’s a totally different context.) But mentoring is central! /done

Trey C

Alright. I think hele was next? We only have about 7 minutes left, so hele will probably be last. 🙁

hele

I’ll try to be quick!

a question just for Jess

you said:

Some of the reasons for that lack of trust are historical, and some of it is due to the reality that there really is nothing about the process of selecting Board members that ensures that they’re any more qualified to make such decisions than anyone else in the org.

do you think that all actions that led to that lack of trust are historical?

/done

(by historical I mean ‘done by board members that are no longer on the Board)

Jessica S.

(h/o I’m just quickly refreshing myself on the context. What was the number of that question, hele?)

hele

let me find it one sec

Jessica S.

nm I found it

hele

12ª
ahh, too late, the story of my life 😛

Jessica S.

Haha, no worries

No, I don’t think all actions that have shaken trust in the Board have been taken by Board members who are no longer on the Board.

/done

Trey C

Okay, I think we’ll wrap up now so we don’t finish late. Sorry, Michelle, Curtis and Alison! We’ll be accepting follow-up questions based on anything in this chat for the next hour, via our public form: http://transformativeworks.org/contact/elections

Feel free to send them in, or attend one of the next two at these times: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?iso=20141031T0001 and http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?iso=20141101T1500

Thanks for turning up, everyone! 😀 We hope to see you again next time.

Jessica Steiner – Elections Q&A (Part 5)

16) How would you respond if you saw a fellow director speaking harshly to a volunteer in a public chat?

It may depend on the circumstances, but overall I don’t see any excuse for being harsh in a public space (or a private one) to anyone, let alone a Board director to a volunteer. I like to think that I’d tell them to knock it off, and then try to mediate the dispute in the moment as best I could. I’d also discuss the incident with the director in private to try to help them to figure out a better way to deal with their anger without creating a confrontation. If this was part of a pattern of behaviour, I’d discuss with other Board members whether such a person should remain on the Board at all. There’s a difference between disagreement and being disrespectful to people. Disagreement is fine, but we should always strive to be respectful, and someone who doesn’t think that’s important shouldn’t be in a position of power.

17) It’s been shared by past Directors that Board work is both incredibly time-consuming and stressful and this can sometimes bring out “the worst” in people and can lead to negative interactions within the organization that have a lasting impact. From your outside observations so far, what difficulties have you noticed? Do you have any ideas for how to combat this issue that you will try to implement either for yourself or others during your Board service and how might you encourage self-care for yourself, your fellow Directors, and OTW personnel at-large?

I have definitely been witness to some incidents like this, and I have already spoken privately with some people involved with such incidents in the past and given feedback about how I felt they went down.

In terms of prevention and healing, I’m hopeful that the Ombuds Team will be a big help in this area. I personally deal with incredible amounts of stress and strife in my day job – as you might imagine, given that most of my clients are fleeing abusive relationships or have had their children placed temporarily in foster care. The feedback I receive in my practice is that I’m patient and empathetic. I achieve this by doing my best to maintain my composure in the moment, focusing on problem solving and on the viewpoint of the person I’m dealing with as best I can, and having a strong support network to help deal with the emotions later on. I’m sure this same strategy will work with the OTW.

Not everyone can be perfectly nice all the time, though. Sometimes emotions get heated, and I’m as guilty of that at times as anyone. The most important thing, I think, when that does happen, is to have the maturity to recognize when you screwed up or that the other person was justified in their anger and to have the integrity to apologize and forgive.

18) How do you plan to avoid burnout as a director?

I recognize that I have a tendency to take a lot on and not want to let people down, and that’s something I continually try to work on. My intention is to do my best to recognize when things are getting overwhelming and take a step back. My wife is a huge support in this regard and also a gigantic emotional support. She also has the advantage of not being involved with the org in any capacity, though she is fannish. I have a large support network outside of the org, and I intend to lean on them greatly. I’m also excited by many of the proposed Board-related goals that will hopefully make their way into the strategic plan, and I think that implementation of those early ones will make a huge positive impact on the day-to-day experience of being a Board director.

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Jessica Steiner – Elections Q&A (Part 4)

12) There has been a lot of discussion and confusion both within and outside the OTW related to the concept of ‘transparency’ and what that means in relation to the work of the Board and the work of the organization as a whole. How would you define transparency in these contexts and what steps would you take both to ensure everyone is clear on what transparency means and to hold the Board and the organization accountable to that definition?

The issue of transparency has been a matter for a great deal of discussion during my time with Strategic Planning. My personal take is that the issue isn’t really a lack of transparency on the part of either the Board or the Committees. I’ve found that everyone is pretty much willing to be open and engage in communication about what they’re doing and why. The Board publishes minutes of their meetings and has taken specific steps to try to address the issue of transparency with regard to their own procedures, such as instituting office hours and open Board sessions. Certain aspects of what the Board does are by necessity confidential, and I hope that everyone can understand and recognize why that is. That doesn’t mean that the Board is not transparent. If there’s a specific area where people feel they are not being transparent, however, I’m more than open to being corrected.

I think the real issue here is a lack of trust that the Board (and perhaps some Chairs as well, to a lesser extent) is going to always act in accordance with the best interest of the OTW, and that they have the ability – the skills and level of judgment – necessary to make good decisions in furtherance of that goal. Some of the reasons for that lack of trust are historical, and some of it is due to the reality that there really is nothing about the process of selecting Board members that ensures that they’re any more qualified to make such decisions than anyone else in the org.

I hope that much of this mistrust can be alleviated over time as the Board demonstrates integrity and good leadership skills. Leadership and management training for the Board is critical in furtherance of this goal.

13) The OTW has had issues with regards to clashing perceptions of authority and hierarchy between the Board and committees. Staffers and volunteers vocally resist both steps that are perceived as attempts to verticalize the org’s structure and any Board decisions that are understood as top-down orders. What is your perspective on this issue?

On some level I can understand this (it goes back to the issue of trust I talked about in the last question), but to be honest I’m somewhat baffled by the resistance to any kind of hierarchy and decisions being made by the Board.

In my view, the autonomy and incredible skill and dedication shown by our Committees needs to be respected. We have some very skilled Chairs and a huge number of staff and volunteers doing a great deal of amazing work. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need a hierarchy of some kind, even if it is quite flat compared to the average offline for-profit corporation of a similar size. In an organization composed of over 400 individuals, we cannot run by total consensus. Obviously if everyone agrees, that’s awesome! And the Board should not take decisions which are within the purview of a committee and impose their own view except in extreme circumstances. We need to trust the committees, just as the committees need to trust the Board. But even in an ideal situation, sometimes a decision needs to be made even if not every person agrees with it. Sometimes there is no one “right” decision and one “wrong” decision, yet someone has to pull the trigger and be the one to decide what happens next, after all of the discussion has happened and all the feedback has been gathered and listened to.

The Board should not be meddling in the day to day running of Committees. But there does need to be a group of someones (though ideally I would like that group to include the chairs in a more active way) whose job it is to focus on the bigger picture and the overall mission of the org. A body who has the ability and authority to identify gaps and fill those gaps, and ensure that, in a general sense, the individual working pieces of the org are forming a whole that moves us in a direction we want to go, rather than just working away in isolation and at cross-purposes. If the Board didn’t have the authority to act, then they couldn’t fill that role.

14) How do you see your role on the Board in relation to OTW staffers and volunteers and OTW members? How do you plan to reconcile different staffers’ visions for the org? How do you think a Board member should act when staffers disagree with decisions that are under Board purview?

I think to some degree I answered this question in my last response. I don’t think that a Board member is inherently better or more qualified than anyone else, and they should respect the opinion and listen with great care to the feedback being received from the rest of the org. That doesn’t mean, though, that every single decision made must be agreed with by every individual person in the org. I don’t think that any time disagreement is heard that it should be dismissed as a “vocal minority”. If there is disagreement, it could mean that something has been missed, and that should be considered overtly. As I said, though, people can disagree and yet both be right to some degree. No decision will satisfy every single person. Some level of trust needs to be built on the part of staffers and volunteers that, even though the Board might make a decision that one might personally disagree with,they are doing their best to make the best decision they can, and they are listening.

15) What do you think are the unique challenges in interacting with a staff comprised entirely of volunteers as opposed to paid staff? How do you plan to navigate this?

Volunteers are not employees. It’s critical to be aware at all times that a volunteer is donating their time out of their own passion and the goodness of their hearts. The staff are not getting a salary for this (and I would point out that neither am I) and have no incentive to stay or even to do satisfactory work, except for their own internal desire to do so. As a result, one must not have the same expectations of a volunteer compared to an employee.

This is one of the reasons I’ve talked so much about support in my responses. Each person in the org should feel that their work is valued and important, but also that they can take some time off to do what needs to be done in their real life if they need to. Real life jobs and school have to take precedence, because the org is never going to pay our rent, so systems need to be in place to make sure that our very important work continues no matter what any individual person needs to do to care for themselves. We should all care for and support one another and be prepared to take up slack if we can when it’s needed. We should also never take one another for granted.

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Jessica Steiner – Elections Q&A (Part 3)

9) All candidates’ manifestos mention the rapid growth of the OTW, and therefore the need to grow a better internal infrastructure. What kind of infrastructure are you aiming for? In addition to that, what do you think should be the future role of the OTW Board? Advisory? Executive? Something else?

I believe that every committee needs to form an internal structure that provides back-up for chairs and other important positions as well as having enough members to cover the work that needs to be done. What that looks like for each committee will be different, but I don’t think that any Board member, chair, staffer, or volunteer should feel that they can’t ever take time off or the committee (or entire OTW) will fall apart. I also feel that each chair should have a clear succession plan so that if they do need to leave unexpectedly, there is someone (or, ideally, more than one person) prepared to step into the role.

As for the OTW Board, I think that ultimately it would be best for us to have a body who fulfils the role of an advisory-style Board, doing promotion and networking. However, we will always have a need for an executive-style body. Whether both of those roles would be provided by the Board, or whether the Board would be split in two, or some other structure, I don’t know.

10) If it were up to you alone, what steps and structural changes would you suggest to transition the Board out of doing day-to-day work?

Both the Board and Chairs need some administrative staff, in my opinion. For example, I would recommend the Board have a few staffers associated with them who can handle their calendar, answer emails, and take minutes, etc. Chairs should also have people with these skills who work in a support capacity. I think this alone would relieve a lot of the burden and allow both Board and Chairs to focus on other things. I also believe that the Board’s purview should be more clearly defined, which would help ensure things that they shouldn’t be doing can be more easily identified and delegated to the appropriate people.

11) If you could make one concrete change in the OTW tomorrow, what would you do?

I would send all Chairs and Board members to intensive people and project management training.

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Jessica Steiner – Elections Q&A (Part 2)

4) What do you believe the Board’s role should be in the area of fundraising in particular? What kinds of concrete acts should or shouldn’t Board members do with regards to fundraising planning and execution?

I honestly don’t have any experience with fundraising, and it is really not an area of interest to me. That being said, I’m willing to do what needs to be done to support the OTW’s financial stability, and if that means getting out and promoting the OTW, then that’s what I’ll do. It’s my understanding that most Boards of non-profits spend most of their time fundraising and building contacts with people who have money to generate patronage. The people who comprise those Boards have such networks available to them and usually have a lot of money themselves, and they don’t get involved with any actual running of the corporation they support. That’s not really the kind of Board we have right now, though I think we should work towards having something more like that in the future.

5) What kind of challenges, in your opinion, does the OTW face in the financial area? What do you think are our most pressing needs and flaws in that realm?

From discussions I’ve seen, it appears that the biggest challenge in the financial arena is ensuring that the AO3 has the server capacity it needs to remain running as we continue to grow. It concerns me that we don’t seem to have anyone covering our finances who is a fully accredited accountant – no offense meant to sanders in the least, whom I believe does know what she’s doing and is doing the best job she can – but I do think (and I believe she agrees with me) that a CPA should be looking at this. DevMem has also had some upheavals in leadership in the past year, and that concerns me as well. They are a hugely important committee and need to be fully functional and stable.

6) Would you be able to lay out your vision for OTW’s financial future? How do you intend to balance the committees’ different needs?

My vision is an OTW with enough regular and stable donations, supplemented by income from other streams, to sustain its current needs and projected growth. I think we need to ensure that DevMem is a stable and functional committee with more people who have real experience and an interest in fundraising and finances. Finances and budgeting are an area I know very little about, and I have to defer to the people who know more about the current financial situation and the committees’ financial needs.

7) We’re currently projected to be operating at a financial loss this year. Do you have any concrete plans for how you’ll address issues of financial sustainability going forward?

I know that we do have a surplus, to help cover the necessary expenses, but we should continue to work on promotion and develop other stable income streams. To me, ensuring that DevMem has the resources it needs to be a sustainable and functional committee is the best means for ensuring our financial stability. That means providing Dan with support, and may mean recruiting for more people, possibly a new co-chair, but I’m honestly speculating on exactly what their needs are. Ultimately, I would defer to Dan, as the chair of DevMem, and sanders, as the Treasurer, to have a far better idea of what needs to be done than I do.

8) AO3’s continued survival currently depends on a small handful of volunteers doing massive amounts of unpaid work. If those people became unavailable, what would your plan be to keep the archive from going under? Do you have a sense of how much it would cost to hire external contractors to do that work?

The situation is a serious one, I agree. I don’t believe it’s that likely that every one of those lynchpins would suddenly become unavailable at the same time, but I think recruitment of people with duplicate skills to help spread the load and cover if people become unavailable is of paramount importance. I honestly don’t know how much it would cost to duplicate those skills with external contractors, but I’m certain our budget doesn’t allow it. Luckily, there are tonnes of skilled people in fandom.

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