Alex Tischer 2015 Q&A: OTW Culture and Communication, Group 2

What in your opinion are three key aspects in which the Board needs to improve with regards to its interactions with OTW volunteers? What would you personally do to improve them?

I think that the current Board is lacking any ties to the vast majority of OTW volunteers, and to how our projects work. Most of them have come from small, very siloed committees and have not interacted with the general volunteer pool in a long time. This lack of interaction shows in all their decisions and discussions.

One good thing the short-lived office hours last year did was bring engaged volunteers in contact with Board members. Naturally, Board doesn’t have to be BFFs with every tag wrangler, but I believe a general, friendly contact between Board and committees would benefit the whole org.

Of course that kind of contact is not something you can actively force, but as a first step, I would encourage Board members to mingle with volunteer groups in a public space, listen to what they say more than talk at them and hopefully, slowly, develop the relationship to the point where they have a good idea of what OTW volunteers actually do, and volunteers can actually view them as individual people, not as a nebulous entity.

For the past several years, candidates who were later elected (or allowed due to uncontested election) have outlined several goals to improve the environment of the Board, the dynamic between the Board and staff, and other aspects of the OTW environment. But reports are that, despite this, things are not improving. Why do you think this is, and what steps will you take to stick to the goals you’ve outlined in this area if elected to the Board?

I think staying an active member in as many of my committees as I can manage would be very important to make me stick to my goals. This would keep me grounded in the day-to-day goings-on of the org and also make me visible and available to a large number of volunteers and staff. It would also help with the perceived hierarchy, as within the committees I would obviously continue to follow the relevant chairs’ lead and would be less at risk of losing my sense of perspective.

There have been reports from past directors and from both current and past volunteers and staff that the Board spends more time on petty disputes with each other and on targeting staff and volunteers who question their decisions than actually caring about the welfare of the organization. Whether it is true or not, the perception is there and it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the organization or the Board. How might you work to change this perception (or reality) and begin rebuilding trust between the Board and relevant constituencies?

I think the most important thing to do to stay as transparent as possible. Only have closed board meetings where it can’t possibly avoided and provide extensive minutes for those. Have all your disputes out in the open where volunteers can see what’s going on and what’s being said. Rebuilding the trust between the Board and the members is not going to be a quick or easy thing, but by constantly showing that there is nothing untowards going on and proving to everyone watching that all debates are reasonable and all Board members are working towards the best interest of the organisation and are willing to compromise is the first step in that direction.