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 [email protected]

Chat Transcript with Soledad Griffin and Margaret MacRae – Oct 31, 2014

briar_pipe

Hi everyone, and welcome to our candidate chats! This is the second of a series of three, 90-minute-long chats with two of our Board candidates – the candidates present today are Soledad Griffin and Margaret MacRae. 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/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 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. This is another question that was sent in during the Q&A but was aimed specifically at Sole:

“In your answers, you said, “While many committees are great places to work, in general, we do not trust each other in the organization.” Can you clarify the meaning of this? What makes you think so? What experiences led you to this understanding? How do you think they might impact your actions as a director?”

Soledad G.

/typing

briar_pipe

ty ^_^

hele

o/ (unrelated, to MJ)

Soledad G.

When I started as a tag-wrangler, the relationship between the staff and the volunteers wasn’t… the best and the root of it was that many wranglers did not trust the staff to have their own best interests at heart. (That wasn’t the case.) When I was in Cat Change, I saw that same fear and it’s a fear that’s specially about the Board not being competent/making bad choices.
Now, this doesn’t mean I believe that we should never question the choices the Board makes, but good faith in our discussions is central and pivotal.

Michelle D.

o/ (unrelated, question for both)

Soledad G.

That’s what I mean by trust – not always agreeing, just believing that every other staffer also believes in this org and what we are doing.
Many times, we believe the worst. And that’s not a productive starting point, at all. So as a Director I will trust you, in the sense that I will belive you’re giving me your honest opinion and that you, in turn, know that I’m here to work honestly. /done

briar_pipe

Thanks, Sole. Hele, you had a question for MJ?

hele

yes!

In question seven, you answered, among other things:

“If it comes down to it, until we can develop new funding sources, the org would need to deliberately slow its growth.”

how do you envision that happening? Because practically speaking I see no way, since even closing account creation would not slow the Archive’s. /done

(which is our bigger expense, I mean)

M. J. MacRae

practically, I think it would be a nightmare and anything that we did could have long term affects that aren’t worth it. If we were close account creation we could lose a huge group of fans who move on to other things. Limiting the amount of space people can use i.e. you can only upload so much data in a certain time would also mean people going to other places

hele

I don’t want to interrupt

briar_pipe

hele, please let MJ finish.

hele

but I think our biggest growth factor is consumer users

briar_pipe

Then I’ll call you for a follow-up.

M. J. MacRae

(still typing I will say done.) Personally, I would like our fundraising to be more prospective than reactive

hele

(it’s not a new question, I’m clarifying a tech detail)

M. J. MacRae

which ideally would avoid an issue with an operating deficit

briar_pipe

(*nods* I’ll call you for a follow-up, I promise)

M. J. MacRae

however, its proven to be hard to predict the rate that the archive will grow, or at least that is my understanding.

I am totally opposed, personally and as a member of the org, to charging for any part of the archive which means that we can’t use price to control growth.

What I said was a worst case situation, but if things were truly dire I would absolutely consider every option that would ensure the org survived./done

briar_pipe

Ok, hele, did you want to ask a follow-up?

hele

(no need for follow up, I just wanted to know if MJ had concrete ideas she was referencing)

briar_pipe

Ah, ok, thanks hele and MJ. ^_^
Michelle, you had a question for both?

Michelle D.

yes, thanks! One of the potential goals for the strategic plan is creating an alliance/coalition with at least 3 orgs. What is one org that you think would be a good fit for an alliance with the OTW? (If no specific org, what kind of org do you think would make a good alliance?)

Renay

o/ (new question for both)

hele

o/ (new question for MJ)

Michelle D.

(sorry, I was done!)

M. J. MacRae

Well shooting for the moon, I would love to work with Google’s Made with Code or Girls who Code

Soledad G.

Personally, I admit I haven’t thought of specific orgs (well, I have been researching local academical groups that might be interesting to work alongside with), but I think that other groups that work with copyright law.

/done

M. J. MacRae

since many fans are young women who are also under represented in tech fields I think that fanworks are a great way to get young women interested in coding

/done

briar_pipe

Thanks, Michelle, MJ, and Sole.
Renay, a question for both?

Renay

What are your thoughts on chair track training, or on other methods you see in the org (or would like to see in the org) to attract volunteer leaders to the OTW? /done

Soledad G.

THAT IT’S THE BEST IDEA EVER.

That’s my reaction as a soon-to-retire chair.

M. J. MacRae

WORD

Should I go into more detail?

Soledad G.

As a soon-to-be Board member, I think it’s incredibly important we do attract people willing to lead to the org.

A lot of chairs are people who *had* to become Chairs and might be more comfortable in other positions. Chairing requires management skills that are not necessarily staff skils. Plus chair training is something we really need /done

Renay

If you have more detail, sure? 🙂 (But it’s fine if not)

M. J. MacRae

because simply put I think that we have to start recruiting specifically for people with management skills or interest in developing management skills and entering management roles. I don’t know what else to say other than I think Volcom knows that I will give them any support they need to make this happen

/done

briar_pipe

Thanks Renay, Sole, and MJ!

hele, you have a question for MJ?

hele

yes! pretyped and everything

This is a short one! In question 6 you said “Of course, it’s impossible to please everybody anytime, or anybody all the time, and I assume that there will be times that the org’s needs will upset individual committees.” Did you have concrete ideas in mind, or was that just a ‘it could happen’? (I literally can’t imagine an idea that would upset a committee, vs individual people in committees, so I would love an example that illustrated the concept)

/done

(pretyped everything but that >_<)

M. J. MacRae

Well, I could seeing a situation where you told a committee, we won’t be able to fund your proposal this quarter because we have decided that buying a new server is the number one priority for the org right now.

(there proposal might be to hire a contract graphic designer which is important)

(wrong there, it was their)

I can also see a committee coming to Board with a great idea that is somewhat outside their purveiw and Board having to say we love this idea, but right now you are understaffed and not fulfilling your duties already

like if SP had said to board we want to do the NP 101 sessions instead of finishing surveying the org, that wouldn’t really work. /done

hele

that makes sense, thanks!

briar_pipe

Thanks, hele and MJ!

Are there any other questions right now?

Michelle D.

o/

briar_pipe

Go ahead, Michelle.

Michelle D.

(thanks!) to both: do you have any goals for your first three months as a Director? /done

M. J. MacRae

not cry? I would like to have support staff in place for Board and have met with each chair

Soledad G.

Retire from I&O in a reasonable manner./done

M. J. MacRae

/done

Soledad G.

Those are great goals. I’m stealing them./done

briar_pipe

^_^

hele

o/ (for MJ)

briar_pipe

Go ahead, hele.

hele

You mentioned in question…

sorry, less prepared now

13°

“Personally, I hate that the org talks about things in terms of “can’t, won’t, no!””

As someone who _is_ currently somewhat opposed to some of the Board’s plans, I find that phrasing curious — can you detail where ‘the org’ is opposing stuff like 3yos?

/done

(or, more neutrally phrased: opposed to things unreasonably)

M. J. MacRae

Let me clarify, I didn’t mean we should force consensus or that disagreements are bad

briar_pipe

(Thanks for rephrasing, hele.)

hele

o/ (brief non-question clarification)

M. J. MacRae

I am going to use a irl example here: so my coworker’s 14 yr old daughter wanted to spend Friday night with her friends instead of trick-er-treating with her family even though her dad is leaving on a two week work trip right afterwards.

Instead of fighting her parents, she asked if her friends could join the family, which was a great compromise

hele

o/ (correct that to follow up question, sorry)

M. J. MacRae

I realize that its not always possible to offer solutions, but I really appreciate when someone says “hey thats not going to work for XYZ but if we do ABC instead we will get to the same place.”

Or “I think your ultimate goal is wrong, but if we do this we can accomplish this part of it which is why you want that goal to begin with.”

does that make sense?/done

briar_pipe

hele, go ahead. ^_^

hele

First, to clarify, I didn’t take your answer to mean that disagreements are bad or anything like that! However, it does worry me that you’re qualifying current disagreement like one would qualify a child’s — as being unreasonable.

so I’m not looking for how to would define reasonable disagreement in general

(I think we probably agree in general terms)

but rather, you made assertions about the org as it is

I’m interested in what disagreements you would qualify as unreasonable currently

/done

briar_pipe

(I’ll allow this one, but I do ask that we focus more on questions for the candidates, rather than outright discussion for now.)

(Hopefully there will be opportunities to have full discussions in later contexts.)

hele

(I’m not looking to discuss! Purely informative about MJ’s opinions)

M. J. MacRae

I don’t actually see the issue as disagreements, but a cultural attitude of thinking that things are impossible. I know that at least one of the goals that I suggested at the retreat was shot down because it was going to be hard and a stretch for the org.

I would rather someone come to board with an ambitious proposal then say its impossible to hire the coders that we need because it costs to much.

lets identify the problem, and work together to create a solution instead of starting with “no we can’t do that.”

/done

Renay

o/ (new question for both!)

briar_pipe

Thanks, hele and MJ! Renay, go ahead.

Renay

What specific project management skills will you bring to the organization as part of the Board? Do you have any experience with risk management (either formal or informal)? 🙂 /done

M. J. MacRae

are we talking like legal risk managment?

Soledad G.

(I’m. googling what that means >.<)

M. J. MacRae

i.e accessing the org’s legal liability for certain decisions?

briar_pipe

Renay, if you would like to clarify, please do.

Renay

Sure, sorry. 🙂

Risk management is the identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks during the planning stages of a project or initiative.

How things might go wrong — and how we’ll deal with them if they do.

Soledad G.

Ah, okay.

M. J. MacRae

thanks, you say risk management and I am like of course I can access whether a decision opens up to a lawsuit its what I do all day.

Soledad G.

I’d say I have experience with it (informally). In my RL volunteering, we have to reassess whether what we are doing opens us up to new risks all the time.

M. J. MacRae

assess not access

Soledad G.

(Risks that range from ‘kids will be bored’ to ‘this is opens up to lawsuits :D’)

We create new projects all the time and that’s an intengral part of it.

M. J. MacRae

outside of the legal arena, and I really have only dealt with employment law, civil rights, and criminal liability, I understand the concept but its not something I have directly dealt with

Soledad G.

/done

M. J. MacRae

/done
I am not sure that I answered your question?

briar_pipe

Thanks Renay, Sol, and MJ.

Renay

no, it did!
Thank you!

Soledad G.

[For the record, I’m leaving tomorrow for a 10000+ people HUGE EVENT OF HUGENESS. I might not be. at my best.]

briar_pipe

Are there any more questions?
Ok, if no more questions appear in the next minute or so, what I’d like to do is ask each candidate to choose a topic they would like to talk about that either hasn’t been discussed yet or that you have more thoughts on that you weren’t able to express earlier, and tell us about it.
So please be thinking of topics while we wait to see if there are any questions.

M. J. MacRae

I would love to ask anyone who feels up to talking about it, why they think we don’t have more people interested in running for Board?

briar_pipe

Is that a question for the room, or a topic you’d like to talk about yourself?

M. J. MacRae

several people have brought up that our lack of contested elections is less than ideal, which I agree with, but I don’t really have solutions to offer since my mindset clear is “well, I’ll run then.”

Soledad G.

That was my exact reaction lol

M. J. MacRae

As I said in my Q&A I don’t think I am the right person to at least identify the factors that make people hesitant to run. Iam happy to work on fixing those problems though

Soledad G.

Yes, more than… a subject I’d like to talk about I have a few questions I want to ask?

Or rather, i could talk about why questions are the basis of leadership for me.

M. J. MacRae

(mine is really just a topic.)/done

briar_pipe

Ok

Soledad G.

You want to go first, MJ?

briar_pipe

This is kind of flipped from the intent, but it’s a small group, so maybe we could make this work?

Soledad G.

Let’s try, at least 🙂

briar_pipe

MJ or Sole, if you want to ask questions, people could raise their hands to answer?

M. J. MacRae

If no one wants to talk about it I understand, but developing more Board candidates is a longterm goal for me and I really want to know what are the big road blocks right now. So if anyone wants to jump in please do /done

briar_pipe

Is that ok with both of you?

Soledad G.

It’s okay, yep

M. J. MacRae

yes.

briar_pipe

Ok, so MJ has a question about the lack of board candidates. Does anyone want to answer from their own perspective?

Renay

o/

briar_pipe

Renay?

Renay

I’m speaking just for myself here, not my committee (want to be clear!)
But the reason I have not run for Board in the last two years (when I was interested in doing so) is because there was no position description and I had no clue what kind of hourly commitment I was making.
That’s since been fixed, but those PDs are new and haven’t been stress tested
There’s no training at all
There is no hint to how the body handles tasks internally
It’s very opaque about work distribution and task management, and just very very daunting. /done

Soledad G.

You’re making me rconsider, Renay.

Renay

Too late. The only way out is through. 😛

M. J. MacRae

I am writing a list to start fixing each of these. They are such good issues, Renay

Soledad G.

Yes, it’s so. concrete.

briar_pipe

Thanks, Renay. Does anyone else want to answer MJ’s question?

Jessica S.

/claps

briar_pipe

Ok, Sole or MJ, do you have any other questions you’d like to ask the room?Soledad G.

Hm, yes.
It’s a very simple question, actually. What do you expect Board to do?
/done

briar_pipe

Does anyone want to answer? Feel free to raise your hand.

Renay

o/

briar_pipe

Renay?

Renay

That’s really open-ended! So just some ideas off the top of my head: financial care, spending our money wisely, investing in our future via reserves or actual investments if that is something that’s possible

Michelle D.

o/

Renay

Outreach to other orgs to continue building relationships and partnerships

Investment in organization leadership (chairs, staff) so directors can step back and have more *time* for strategic direction
Also, documentation. Docs for the whole Board! For everything. \o/ /done

briar_pipe

Thanks, Renay. Michelle?

Michelle D.

similar to one of Renay’s points, networking to increase visibility, resources/skills available to the org, and support fans in new ways (if possible!) /done

briar_pipe

Thanks, Michelle.
Does anyone else have an answer for Sole?

briar_pipe
Ok, we have about 5 minutes left. Are there any additional questions for Sole or MJ?
Ok, Sole and MJ, do either of you have further questions for the folks here?

M. J. MacRae

No. I just want to thank everyone for coming
and for letting us turn the tables on them

Soledad G.

Me too. And I’ll warn you that I will keep asking questions. 😀

Michelle D.

thank you MJ and Sole! and Mei for modding!

briar_pipe

Thanks for coming, everyone!

Renay

Thanks for all your answers! 🙂

briar_pipe

I doubt this is an issue this time, but 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

The final chat, with Jessica and MJ, will take place on Saturday at 15:00 UTC: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?iso=20141101T1500

Feel free to hang out here if you like, but I’m going to declare us done 30 seconds early. ^_^

Margaret MacRae – 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?

My first reaction is to step in and tell the director to tone it down in the public chat and to apologize for their unprofessional behavior. What I would probably do is send the director a private chat message that amounts to “your behavior is unprofessional right now. Take a few deep breaths and ask for a moment to ‘step out’ of the room so you can calm down, and then apologize to the staffer as well as everyone else present.” I try to praise in public and reprimand in private. I don’t know if the director would listen to me, and if she did not, then I probably would step into the public room and suggest that everyone “slow down” and take a few minutes to calm down.

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?

It’s hard to be positive and professional when people are calling you names, talking behind your back, and being rude; this doesn’t matter if you are on the board or a volunteer. I think that it can be a pretty vicious cycle when someone intends to be rude, and most of the time I think that these conflicts start for no reason. Communicating exclusively via the written word means that people will fill-in tone and intention. We don’t have the benefit of non-verbal cues, which can make it easier for miscommunications to happen and harder to realize when someone is bothered or hurt by something that you say. I try really hard to check everything with the speaker, both so that I make sure that I understand the speaker’s point and their intention. I also try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume that they didn’t mean for something to be rude or insulting. Obviously, sometimes people do make it clear that they are very intentionally calling you names or being rude. In those cases all I can do is remain professional.

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

The same way that I avoid burnout as a lawyer: I will set boundaries and priorities. I turn off all technology at 9 PM. Experience has taught me that I will have a more meaningful face-to-face life when I make time that is technology or job free. I get into the back-country where there is no internet or electricity pretty regularly. I also put my cell phone in my purse and I don’t check it when I am out with another person or even just eating dinner at home. It’s really important to me to be present when I am with someone or doing something. The people that I love deserve that, and I am much happier and healthier person when I am not instagramming every moment of my life. The same is true when I am in a chatroom for org, I won’t talk on the phone, or watch a movie, or do anything that takes me away from being present. This is different for everyone, and I know some people need something to add distance or to stay engaged. I am much happier with the OTW when I take the time to really be present in the org and make the time to truly give myself space from it too.

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Margaret MacRae – 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?

A previous question was all about maintaining confidentiality and now this one is all about transparency. I don’t think that they are mutually exclusive at all. Transparency, to me, means being able to explain each decision that I make. So if I were to vote for one funding proposal but veto another, transparency is being able to say, “Funding proposal A clearly explained why the external training course will develop staff skills that committee X needs to realize specific goals. Proposal B did not explain why it’s necessary to hire a contractor on an indefinite basis.” Those are just examples. Transparency also means telling someone, “Hey, I can’t get into that because it’s confidential.” Lots of my suit-job is confidential, and that’s the same for my friends, and there are times where I have to say that to a friend, and they respect that I have to maintain confidentiality. They don’t think that I am doing it to be petty, or because its something bad for them, or anything like that. To me, part of being a Board member is answering questions, but there will be times that I can’t, and I will be transparent about that, too.

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?

I think that the org has taken a lot of missteps with internal management. Some of those steps intentionally alienated people and others were well-intentioned but ended badly. The result is that Board is not trusted. I actually think that staffers and volunteers don’t have a problem with leadership, since many admire and respect the chairs of their committees and other chairs generally. Their problem is with Board. Sometimes it’s just with the idea of a governing committee, which I can respect why people like the idea of leaderless organizations, but we don’t have that at any level, and I don’t think it’s realistic for an org of our size to function without leadership. Other times, it’s the individuals who have held the office, and I can understand why that is, too. I think a lot of the org’s issues with authority stem from the fact that it’s really easy to destroy trust and really hard to rebuild it.

Personally, I hate that the org talks about things in terms of “can’t, won’t, no!” We started seven years ago as a kind of crazy but cool idea, and we have grown into something incredible. We are proof that that you can realize audacious ideas, set huge goals, and crush expectations. I think that a lot of this “can’t, won’t, no!” comes from the org’s distrust in leadership. It’s scary to take risks and and try new things under the best circumstances, and when you don’t think that the Board has your back, it’s a thousand times worse. But it’s hard for the Board too. I want to help the org move forward and conquer new challenges, and that’s incredibly hard when staff and volunteers are going “can’t, won’t, no!”

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?

Fundamentally, I think that my role as a Board member is to listen to the entire OTW community. There is no way that I can make an informed decision on Board or represent the org if I do not know what the people who make up the org want. That said, my duties as Board member are to the OTW, not to it’s staffers, volunteers, members, archive users, or the general public. While each of those groups is part of the OTW, I strongly hope that in a hundred years the OTW will still exist and still be defending and promoting fanworks. I know that there are internal disagreements about the direction of the org and the org’s allocation of resources, and that will always be true. In my opinion, it’s the Board’s job to make decisions that ensure the org’s continued growth and stability, which may very well not always be what staffers, committees, members, and the end user want. I think that the Board should act professionally when staffers disagree with a decision, and the Board must explain why it made those decisions and why they support the org’s long-term goals.

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?

We talk a lot in the org about professionalism, and generally I don’t think that our problems with it stem from being an organization made up entirely of volunteers. As an org, we are committed, enthusiastic, and successful, and that is totally because of our volunteers’ commitment, enthusiasm, and determination to create this community. Yes, people drop off the face of the planet, and yes, they can be bad about returning email, and there are miscommunications because of the nature of chats, but all of those issues to me are more problems because we are entirely internet based. Moreover, we as an org can be incredibly harsh to each other, and I, for one, have witnessed things that I would describe as bullying. I don’t think that we do this because we are volunteers, I think we do it because we are separated by screens and pseudonyms. In my suit job, to my face, I have had opposing counsel comment on my physical appearance, make insinuations about my sexuality, in court refer to me by a nickname I don’t even use, and more than once tell a judge I don’t know how to do my job. Yet, the single worst thing another attorney said to me was in an email. I honestly don’t believe that he would have said the things that he did if we had been face-to-face. My point is “professionals” can be jackasses online too.

As for navigating, first, I am going to model better behavior. Honestly, if I find that my first reaction to something in the org is to belittle someone, call them a name, or do anything else that I wouldn’t do if we were sitting in the same room, something is wrong and I need to get to a healthier place. Losing my temper, yelling at someone, or refusing to cooperate doesn’t make me right or superior, it makes me weak and small. Second, I will call people out for doing any of the above or in anyway making the org unsafe for someone. It’s unacceptable under any circumstances, and we should be better than that. Hell, we are better than that.

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Margaret MacRae – 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?

Right now we need to have an executive committee and what we have is the Board. There are too many projects and committees to not have an executive committee. In three years, I would like to have an advisory board that focuses on external outreach as well as an executive committee that is made up of each committee chair and executive staff or executive board. I don’t really care what we call them, but a group that would oversee setting internal priorities and the allocation of org resources. I should clarify that when I say we need more infrastructure, I don’t just mean an advisory and executive board. We need to increase infrastructure throughout the org. This means building in redundancies at each level, documenting processes, and developing procedures where we have just been muddling through.

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?

First, I would clarify the purview of each of committees that we have and then look at filling the gaps (e.g. a committee to handle support tickets for Fanlore). Then I would clarify the requirements for each position within the org. Some of this would be pretty basic, like if you are on Board you have to be willing to reply to your email in a certain timeframe, or if you are a Chair you need to be willing to stop doing some staff level work, while some of it might be more complicated, like to be a member of Legal you need to be a member of a bar association. (Some committees have this already, but it’s not universal.) Finally, I would look at how to organize the committees into teams.This might be project based, skills based, or an amalgam of both and would give each team its own “executive” or “executive team” (I don’t like these terms, but I am not really sure what to use. Super chairs?) who would be responsible for dealing with providing day-to-day management and facilitating the team’s work. Ideally, this would free up Board to deal with org wide management.

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

So I am definitely assuming that anything is possible. If I was given a magic wand and told that I got to make one thing happen, this is what I would do: the OTW would be fully staffed, the staff would have the skills we need, and each position would have a back-up person. By that I mean that there is someone who can step in and fill in at a moment’s notice. I am not saying get promoted, but fill in. (We as an org need to stop promoting people who don’t want the promotions.) My step-dad died unexpectedly at the beginning of this year, and I didn’t hesitate to go on hiatus because every other member of SP could step up and do my tasks. This was possible because we document what we do, and we make sure that we have more than one person trained to do all of our regular tasks. In some committees, it might mean that when one person takes time off, several people have to move up. During law school, I worked for a retailer that insisted on this policy. When our store manager was offered a special role for six months, the assistant store manager became the acting manager, one of the key-leaders became acting assistant store manager, and so on. This worked because everyone had the training to step up, and everyone trusted that the person who would be taking their role had the training and knew how to do it. Life happens, and people should know that they can take the time they need to deal with that. Creating these redundancies may mean needing to cross-train via committee too, and it will certainly mean that people will need to trust their co-workers and document their work.

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Margaret MacRae – 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?

On this I would defer to DevMem. For the other non-profits I have dealt with, professionally and as a volunteer, the Board’s role was much more advisory than our Board. We don’t have a board buy-in, aside from the $10 membership fee, and I would be extremely upset if we moved in a direction where we recruited board members exclusively, or mostly, because of their ability to write large checks or get their friends to write large checks. To me that is anthesis of our mission and values.

That said, I can think of several ways that Board can help DevMem, not the least of which is clear up DevMem’s purview. I personally am very committed to building membership and outreach to fans, but in many ways that important goal takes DevMem away from focusing on development, which is vital to the org. Both are great missions, but I am not sure that they are missions that should be accomplished by the same committee in concert. Also, we need to diversify our fundraising. I know that DevMem wants to do this, but they already have a ton on their plates.

Clearly, one of the ways to do that is to work on getting grants. The fact that the Grants Committee was never able to get off the ground makes me really sad, but there are clear lessons that we as an org, and especially Board, can learn from it. I have written grants before, and I know how much work it is to develop a grant program, so I am hesitant to add grantwriting, or managing a team of grant-writers, to DevMem’s load. I know that it will relieve a lot of DevMem’s pressure if Board steps up and develops a functioning Grants team. As for more practical things, if DevMem tells me to write a letter to a supporter, call a donor, or make a face-to-face request for a donation, I am happy to do that and in fact have done all of that before. (I don’t really know how many potential donors there are in north Idaho…so face-to-face might be unlikely.)

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?

We are an incredibly lucky org and in a great position because we are supported by numerous donors. I realize that might not be readily apparent, but one of the non-profits I worked for had to seriously cut back its programing, fire staff, and take on debt because it lost one major donors. Major donors are great, but they come with their own problems. The fact that we have such a large donor base is phenomenal. It is also really appealing to large donors and grant funders.

That said, we have to start developing our donors more. We also need to move away from relying exclusively on the drives and word of mouth to find our donors. It’s a long-term goal of mine that we develop an advisory board who can work at getting the word out about the org. There are numerous development tools that we don’t make use of because we don’t have the staff to do it. That has to change.

Overall, our current internal financial management lack necessary redundancy. What I mean is that we have created a system that creates a lynchpin. If Sanders were to get hit by a bus, I would be super sad, and the org would be super screwed. When I was the general manager of a non-profit my boss, who telecommuted, and I had the bus rule. Both of us had to maintain our files, physical and electronic, in a way that we agreed to so that if one of us got hit by a bus the other could sit down at the desk or access the work computers and immediately know what was going on.

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?

I hope that when I complete my term the OTW has at least six months of cash reserves; drives regularly raise $100,000; and the org has been awarded five grants, one specifically to train technical staff to support the archive.

As for balancing the committees’ needs, I am more concerned with ensuring the OTW’s continued growth and stability. As a board member, my duty is to the OTW as a whole. Each committee’s needs are important, but those needs must support the OTW’ overall health and continued existence. Of course, it’s impossible to please everybody anytime, or anybody all the time, and I assume that there will be times that the org’s needs will upset individual committees.

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?

The org’s rapid growth makes it hard to really address what our operating costs are. I know many people in the org would argue that our operating costs include the cost of expanding our servers to match the growth of the archive. I really respect that position, but if we continue to operate at a loss that may very well be an untenable position. If it comes down to it, until we can develop new funding sources, the org would need to deliberately slow its growth. This idea makes me queasy, but we need to grow at a sustainable pace. Obviously, economy would need to be practiced in other areas as well, but the bulk of our expenses have to do with the archive’s rapid and awesome growth.

Ideally, it would be great if the org were in a position to project its growth so that we could fundraise to meet that projection, instead of reacting to outgrowing our current capacity. It would also be great if we were running capital campaigns to buy new hardware, getting grants to fund expert contractors, and developing major donors to support specific projects.

When I reversed an operating deficit at a meatspace non-profit I had to cut services, staff, and raised the cost to our users. Was it fun? No. Did people like me for it? Not really. Was it the fiscally responsible thing to do? Yes. This is one of the reasons you need a strong board or functioning executive; there are times that no one wants to do the unpopular, but necessary thing. We aren’t anywhere near this point yet, but if you are asking if I will do the unpopular thing to right the org’s financial ship: Yeah, I’ll do that.

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?

First, yes the archive survives because of the work of a handful of volunteers, but our entire organization survives because of the work of volunteers who put in insane hours for little reward. I do not want to ignore the hard work and commitment of anyone in this org. It should not matter if you bring specialized skills, or incredible enthusiasm for our mission–each volunteer is priceless.

The next thing is that we have to stop creating lynchpins. If the org can’t find volunteers with the skills we need, then we should start recruiting volunteers that we can train. If our staff doesn’t have time to teach someone so they have the skills that we need, we should find an external training that will develop our staff’s skills. If we can’t find an external training that works for us, then we should hire a contractor to teach us. I would much rather teach a person to fish then give them a fish. (Come to Idaho we can go fly fishing. Its fun!)

I have no idea how much it would cost to hire contractors. I don’t understand the point of this question. If you are asking would I just blindly hire a contractor and pay them what they ask, well no; because that isn’t the responsible way to hire services. I would expect that the various committees that need contractors would identify the specific skills the contractor needs, then get multiple bids for specific jobs, and then present this information to the Board and explain why, even though Contractor A costs more than Contractor B, A is the better choice to accomplish the needs of the committee.

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