Matty Bowers 2015 Q&A: General Management

How would you describe your management style? Your communication style?

A good manager tailors their approach as needed; it changes depending on the situation and the people involved. If the group calls for a ‘take charge’ leader, I can do that. If they instead need a ‘facilitator’, I can do that as well. As a Board member I’ll take the approach best suited for whatever situation I find myself in.

I tend to be friendly, honest, and tactful in my communication with others. I also believe that listening is a key component of communication; it’s important to speak with people, not at them.

You all described your thoughts on “the key responsibilities of a/the Board” in your manifestos. However, with the exception of the bylaws, which are legally rather than functionally focused, there isn’t a clear publicly available list of the duties and responsibilities of the board. Would you be interested in changing that?

I would be very interested in changing that. As chairs, we are required to document the key responsibilities for chairing our committees; these same requirements should be made of Board as well

There has been a lot of mention of Board micromanagement and workload. What are two things that you would like to see immediately shifted off of the Board agendas to both decrease micromanagement of the organization and free up Board time for focusing on more strategic issues?

1. Staffing decisions: There is little point in having Board approve staffing changes; volunteers are allowed to serve under any name they wish and it is possible for them to simply change names and volunteer under a name no one knows. Having Board vet staffers does nothing but allow them to undermine a chair’s decision.

2. Personnel Conflicts: Board has neither the training nor the time to deal with these sorts of issues. We would be better served by setting up a more effective system for handling them.

The OTW has now spent over 3 years developing a 3-year strategic plan. This seems extremely long based on practices in other organizations and raises concerns both about the relevance of such a plan due to organizational shifts and, from the outside, raises questions about the ability to find consensus in the organization. What are your thoughts on how long it has taken to develop the strategic plan, and what steps would you take as a Board member to improve or streamline the process of both finishing up the current plan and setting up the development of the next iteration of the strategic plan?

Our Strategic Planning committee started collecting information several years ago, and designed the current plan around that information. However, I worry that much of the data collected then would now be outdated, meaning the plan will not be as effective as it should be.

Ideally, Board should be working in partnership with the SP committee to produce a streamlined, achievable plan which focuses on the big picture and does not get bogged down in details. Any future strategic plans should have both a comprehensive plan and timeline set from the beginning. It should take into consideration any possible setbacks and have steps in place to accommodate them.

Matty Bowers 2015 Q&A: Retreat

In 2013 and 2014, the Board had in-person meetings in North America, and there will be another this October. What is your opinion on Board retreats and their outcomes so far?

I do think in-person meetings can be beneficial. However, I am not convinced they are necessary for the OTW at this point in time. As a chair and a volunteer on several different committees, I have yet to see any positive results from these retreats. The 2013 retreat was ostensibly to work on documentation for Board; this project has yet to be completed. The 2014 retreat was to focus on the Strategic Plan for the OTW; the timeline for this project has been delayed yet again due to feedback from chairs and volunteers. The 2015 retreat ended several days ago, yet no agenda, minutes, or other official documentation have been posted.

I would prefer we hold off on any further Board retreats until after we have evaluated their usefulness and investigated whether other options, such as voice/video chats, would be of more use. Not only would these be more cost-effective, they would also allow Board to invite a wider range of participants.

How would you as a Board member, go about choosing who and what committees are invited to the annual retreat?

If we do decide to continue holding annual Board retreats, I would like to change the timing so that incoming Board members, not outgoing, can attend. There is little point in spending donation money flying in Board members who will be exiting Board in a couple of months.

As it stands, only certain committees are invited to send representatives; this limits the number of perspectives that can be offered and can give the appearance of favoritism. In the future, I would prefer that Board invite all chairs and representatives to participate via voice/video chat during set sessions. This would cut down on costs and ensure that voices from all committees are heard, not just ones specifically chosen by Board.

Last year the board’s in person meeting cost $18,355.21, 17% amount of the OTW’s total expenses. Do you have any ideas how to do this meeting a more cost effective way going forward?

As noted above, I’d like to suspend Board retreats for the foreseeable future. I think holding regular voice/video chats would be more cost-effective and better serve both our volunteers and members. At the moment, I think the money spent on retreats could be put to better use.

Matty Bowers 2015 Q&A: Conflict of Interest

How would you define the term “conflict of interest” and how might it apply to you while serving on the Board?

A conflict of interest arises when one is involved in a situation where they or someone close to them could personally benefit from a decision. If the person puts their needs before the needs of the organization, they are no longer upholding the duties they swore to follow.

As a Board member, I would of course recuse myself from any situation where I felt the benefit to either me or a committee I was on could impact my impartiality.

Given that some of you intend to keep your other Org positions, how do you intend to deal with conflicts of interest when matters arise which impact your committee?

a. For example, if your committee wants to implement a change which requires Board approval, but is not necessarily in the OTW’s best interests, or would have an impact on another committee, how would you ensure that your contribution to the Board’s decision reflected your position as a Board member and not your personal opinion as a member of the committee?

b. Conversely, if another committee sought Board approval for something that would impact your own committee, how would you ensure that you were giving their arguments a fair hearing?

It would depend on the situation. If needed, I would have no problems recusing myself should I feel I couldn’t make an impartial decision. In both Abuse and Support we often have times when we need to recuse ourselves from tickets because it impacts one of us personally or because it directly impacts someone we know. This is a normal part of committee work, one which I’d have no problem practicing as Board.

A. Neither I nor any committee I work with would deliberately submit a proposal or change that wasn’t in everyone’s best interest. All proposals written by any committee I’m in carefully consider not just our needs, but those of the organization. If it’s decided the project would be helpful to us, but detrimental to the OTW in general, we would discard the proposal.

If by some chance we overlook a reason a project would negatively impact the OTW, it should still be caught before it is submitted for Board approval; all proposals need to be approved by any committee even slightly impacted by the change. At the point any potential problems would be noted and again, the proposal would be discarded. Should it somehow reach Board level, the committee would most likely be horrified they missed something and would withdraw the proposal.

B. Again, this is fairly unlikely to happen with any committee I work with regularly. Most committees do everything in their power to ensure everyone is onboard with any major changes. If a negative issue was pointed out, in general the committee would graciously discard and investigate other options.

I understand this was an issue in the past, and still may be for some committees. With a few exceptions though, these days the OTW chairs tend to be a close-knit bunch who work well together.

Matty Bowers’s Bio and Manifesto

Bio

Matty first stumbled upon fandom back in May of 1998; however, she didn’t truly get involved until 2001. Her first fandoms were Highlander and Buffy, however she quickly fell into a variety of other fandoms. These days she is very much a fan of fandom; she’ll read pretty much any epic length work in any fandom! Matty mainly lurked the first few years, but eventually started contributing to fannish projects such as newsletters and rec communities. She was fascinated and intrigued when she first heard rumblings about building a place where fandom owned the servers, and joined the OTW as a tag wrangler when the call for volunteers was made in 2009. Since then she has worked on the Support, AO3 Docs, and Abuse committees. Matty graduated with a degree in Education and spent over ten years teaching before moving on to a job in the tech field. She is currently working as a manager for a local business, and in her spare time works as tech support for her many friends and family.

Manifesto

1. Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?

I have served in the OTW as a volunteer, a staffer, and a chair in various committees in different situations—I’ve worked in functional and nonfunctional teams, and learned what it takes to improve. This hasn’t always been easy, but I’m willing to put in the work needed. Along with some amazing staffers, I helped transform both Support and Abuse from nonfunctioning committees to thriving committees. This experience has helped me understand how the OTW works, or doesn’t work, on multiple levels. I believe we’ve reached a critical point in the OTW’s development and I want to help the Board and OTW grow and move forward.

2. What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?

Throughout my career, both as a teacher and a business manager, I’ve gained an enormous amount of experience dealing with people in a variety of different situations with different deadlines and needs. Communicating quickly and effectively is a key part of teaching; this is another quality I think will serve me well on the Board. Working in elementary education also teaches one how to handle multiple projects and get things done.

These experiences served me well when faced with the task of bring Support, then Abuse, back from the brink of collapse. Both committees were overwhelmed with the workload and faced severe staff shortages. With the support of some amazing staffers, I was able to improve our workflow and training, create more effective ways of communicating with other committees, and maintain a stable core of dedicated and active volunteers that allowed us respond to user needs in a much more timely manner. The foundation built should help both committees grow as user demand increases. I’m very proud of this work, and of the teams we’ve built together.

I think Board has reached a critical point as well, and I believe that the lessons learned from working on Support and Abuse will be of great use while serving on Board.

3. What goals would you like to achieve during your term?

One of the first things we need to do is take a look at where we are now and learn what committees actually need from Board. To do this, it is important to involve all the chairs in dialogue about the state of the OTW and its committees. I would like to be part of a Board that can have this dialogue with chairs — that is aware of ongoing problems and that can promote integration and collaboration among chairs to reach solutions to the problems we have in common.

In the past few years we have struggled with consistency. Some committees seem to be thriving, while others are continuing to struggle. It is imperative that the OTW find balance and ensure that all of its committees and the Board are working together by the time I leave office. Our internal and external communication often seem fractured; this gets in the way of our projects’ progress and of a happy and productive environment for our volunteers. This needs to change, and I think that the first essential step is for the Board’s culture to change.

4. What is your experience of the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Please include AO3, TWC, Fanlore, our Legal Advocacy work, and Open Doors, though feel free to emphasize particular areas you’re interested in.

I have worked on Support, AO3 Docs, Abuse and Tag Wrangling for several years, and as chair I have collaborated frequently with AD&T, Systems, Legal, Translation, Communications, and Open Doors staff. I’ve seen first-hand how incredibly dedicated everyone in these projects is, and how effective collaboration among them can be, with the right processes in place. On a personal level, I enjoy working on Fanlore and enthusiastically devour each journal and consider these important fandom resources.

I think the most important thing I can do as a Board member is to find out what each project needs and do my best to accommodate that. The Board should be ready and available to offer resources and guidance to committees and staffers as needed, but allow them to stand alone on day-to-day actions. One of the first things I’d like to do as a Board member is reach out to every project and have an open, honest dialogue concerning where they are and where they are looking to expand. I will then make these needs a priority and ensure that all projects have the tools, staff, and resources they need to be successful.

5. Choose two topics/issues that you think should be high priority for the OTW, both internally and externally. What do these topics mean to you and why do you value them? How will you make them a part of your service?

I would like to see more transparency and communication between the Board and the OTW volunteers and members. OTW volunteers should understand why the Board makes the decisions it makes, and what it’s planning for the future. Not only does increased transparency allow for greater accountability from Board members, it also gives staffers and volunteers a better understanding of what is going on within the organization. Being able to view the big picture allows everyone see how their efforts are shaping the OTW, and to feel more engaged with the organization as a whole.

I’d also like to ensure that every committee has the help and resources it needs to succeed. From past experience, I know exactly how difficult it is to chair a committee without enough staff or the appropriate tools. I think it’s essential that committees that badly need new tools to do their work should receive support and approval to implement them from the Board within a reasonable timeframe. Committees should be able to get all their bills paid on time. Staffers should be approved in a timely manner. Emails should be responded to promptly. This hasn’t been the case so far, and it’s something I hope to change.

6. What do you think the key responsibilities of a/the Board are? Are you familiar with the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors?

I’ve spent several years working for offline non-profits and as Support chair, I did quite a bit of independent research into the requirements for US-based nonprofits.

The Board needs to be responsible for overseeing the OTW and making decisions that serve the best interests of the organization and its members. I believe it is the responsibility of the Board to ensure that volunteers and members are kept abreast of what is happening in the organization, from finances to the day-to-day decisions of the Board. We need to ensure the OTW is in a stable to place to achieve its mission to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms..

7. How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the OTW, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?

I recently stepped down from both Tag Wrangling and Support, and I have started a chair track training program for Abuse. By the beginning of next term, I should have a shiny new Abuse co-chair. At the end of next term, we should have several other staffers who have finished chair track training; one of these lucky staffers will join as co-chair, allowing me to step back to staff level. My goal is to stay on with Abuse in some capacity in order to keep in touch with committee concerns. I feel that it is important that Board members stay involved and understand committees’ needs. Remaining with Abuse, an AO3 committee that works with all the other AO3 committees as well as directly with the user base, would allow me to stay connected to these other parts of the OTW and to the Archive’s user base.