Nikisha Sanders 2015 Q&A: Conflict Resolution, Group 1

When Elections was ordered to remove Nikisha Sanders from the 2015 Election ballot, the committee was told to erase all information about her candidacy from the website. However, Elections firmly feels that there is no situation in which candidates, whether former or current, should be silenced or erased from Election information. As in all circumstances, Elections’ policy is to only edit and/or post candidate-written information with candidate permission. Therefore, with Sanders’ permission, we have posted the Q&A responses she completed prior to her removal.

Please describe your approach to conflict resolution. Read More

Nikisha Sanders 2015 Q&A: Conflict of Interest

When Elections was ordered to remove Nikisha Sanders from the 2015 Election ballot, the committee was told to erase all information about her candidacy from the website. However, Elections firmly feels that there is no situation in which candidates, whether former or current, should be silenced or erased from Election information. As in all circumstances, Elections’ policy is to only edit and/or post candidate-written information with candidate permission. Therefore, with Sanders’ permission, we have posted the Q&A responses she completed prior to her removal.

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

Matty Bowers 2015 Q&A: OTW Culture and Communication, Group 1

How do you plan to engage staff and volunteers in dialogue regarding Board decisions and the direction of the organization? How about the membership?

While I realize the old liaison system was unpractical, I do think Board should be encouraged to meet periodically with chairs to discuss both committee and OTW goals. Board cannot lose touch with committees’ goals, and it’s important to keep open communication in all directions to make sure everyone is always on the same page.

I’d also like to encourage Board members to participate in Office Hours, with each Board member signing up for one week a month. This will allow volunteers and members to interact with Board members informally and give everyone a chance to ask questions and build a relationship with Board.

Talk about one thing a committee you served with did really well and how this taught you something valuable about collaboration in the OTW.

I became Support chair at a difficult time. Not only was the committee itself in a precarious situation, there was severe dissension between many committees and individual volunteers. Trying to navigate such a situation as a new chair was a nightmare. For a while I focused on my own committee, hoping that in the meantime the other issues would resolve themselves. When that didn’t work, I eventually starting reaching out to the other chairs in the hopes we’d find some common ground. Surprising no one, it turned out we all wanted the same thing – healthy committees, happy volunteers, and a functional Board. The details were trickier, but in the end, talking and listening to each other made all the difference.

These days many of the OTW chairs talk on a weekly, if not daily, basis. We generally know how things are going and help each other out as much as we can. We’ve learned how to communicate effectively and it shows in the work we are doing.

I think strengthening the lines of communication between Board and committees is vital. We work better when we are working together towards the same goals.

What are three things you think Board can learn from committees?

  • How to get stuff done.
  • How to get along.
  • How to work together as a team.

What are your thoughts on a more public ‘in person’ presence being established by the Org? How might you see this balanced with the desire and in some cases need for privacy?

I think it would be beneficial for the OTW as a whole to work on our expanding public presence.

While our Communications committee is amazing, it could be helpful to have our Board members also be more proactive about their presence on social media. In most functioning nonprofit Boards, members act as the face of the organization. They help with outreach, fundraising, and boosting awareness of the organization as a whole.

This is likely to be more of a long-term goal for me, though one we should be slowly working towards. At the moment, I feel we need to focus on getting the organization in a more stable place before we turn our attention outwards.

Matty Bowers 2015 Q&A: Transparency

A number of candidates cited the issue of Board transparency in their manifestos. What does a transparent Board look like to you, and what specific steps would you take to ensure the Board you serve on is a transparent Board? / Many candidates talked about the need for transparency for the board to volunteers/members. What does your vision for transparency entail?

Board has regular meetings which are divided into two sections: Open Board, where Board meets in a public chat room which everyone can attend, then Closed Board. After the open portion is finished, Board members move over to a locked chat room that only they can access. In the past year, very little Board activity has happened in Open Board. Since last month, all Open Board meetings have been cancelled.

I would like to advocate that more activity take place in Open Board, not Closed. Matters that are handled via email or outside of Board meetings should be announced or updated during Open Board so that everyone can follow what is happening around the organization. Comprehensive minutes should be posted promptly after each meeting.

The OTW sends out a monthly newsletter; committees and Board are encouraged to draft a quick summary of what’s been happening the past month. With a few rare exceptions, Board never participates in this; I’d like to change that. Monthly Board updates should be mandatory.

Due to legal reasons, internal transcripts of meetings are purged every year. However with a lack of consistent and comprehensive information posted to internal and external locations, details of Org interactions can be lost to the abyss. This leaves voters with a dearth of details when attempting to learn about the Org, and in this situation, candidates. What internal remedies would you suggest? And what would you suggest voters do in the mean time in lieu of relying on the rumor mill (FFA & emails) and digging through various social media sites?

Documentation is key here. I think every committee and Board needs to complete a yearly report which clearly outlines issues faced and decisions made, as I’ve been doing each year for Abuse. We also need to be better at recording both the good and the bad. Several committees have started writing up ‘lessons learned’ type reports, which are excellent ways of documenting both in a positive manner. I think this is an example Board would do well to follow.

For now, the best way to learn about candidates is by reading these Q&As and attending the chat sessions we’ll all be attending. It’s not a perfect solution, but it may have to do until we can make some serious structural changes in the organization.

The current Board has had frequent issues keeping an available agenda for their weekly meetings, which were often cancelled or cut short due to lack of quorum or matters to discuss. What do you think the purpose of open Board meetings is, and what would you change about the current setup?

Ideally, Open Board meetings should be held so that volunteers and members can keep informed about new and ongoing issues, and understand how and why specific decisions are being made. They also give everyone a chance to ask questions, share information related to the discussion, and ensures a certain degree of accountability.

In a perfect world, the agenda for each Board meeting should be posted 24-48 hours before the meeting which should be scheduled conveniently so that all, or most, Board members can attend. If, for some reason, people’s plans change and there won’t be a quorum, then it would be a good idea for those who are available to work on things like updating documentation, writing blurbs for the newsletter, talking with volunteers/members who arranged their schedule to attend, etc.

I’d also be interested in trying to integrate voice chat meetings occasionally. I think being able to chat directly as a group will increase efficiency and help Board members build trust as they get to know each other better.

Katarina Harju 2015 Q&A: Transparency

A number of candidates cited the issue of Board transparency in their manifestos. What does a transparent Board look like to you, and what specific steps would you take to ensure the Board you serve on is a transparent Board? / Many candidates talked about the need for transparency for the board to volunteers/members. What does your vision for transparency entail?

To me this means that all Board meetings should be held openly, except in those cases where a closed session is required because of confidentiality issues. When issues are discussed or decided upon using tools that are not accessible to everyone in the organization, like for example mailing lists, all relevant information needs to be transferred to someplace where it can be viewed by everyone volunteering in the organization, and the information needs to be made available in a timely manner. Having people be able to see the steps leading up to a decision should help everyone understand why a decision is made. Furthermore, I feel that inviting more opinions during discussions can only help improve the end results, bearing in mind of course that there are situations where some people will end up displeased with a decision and that the Board cannot let itself be caught up with trying to please everyone in every situation and therefore forget to make timely decisions.

Due to legal reasons, internal transcripts of meetings are purged every year. However with a lack of consistent and comprehensive information posted to internal and external locations, details of Org interactions can be lost to the abyss. This leaves voters with a dearth of details when attempting to learn about the Org, and in this situation, candidates. What internal remedies would you suggest? And what would you suggest voters do in the mean time in lieu of relying on the rumor mill (FFA & emails) and digging through various social media sites?

It is true that there is minimal documentation available about anything regarding the Board and that the Board meeting minutes, even when posted in time, are not very informative on their own. I believe that important information does need to be transferred somewhere more permanent, because later on it might for example be important to know why a certain decision was made, not just what was decided. I also think that the meeting minutes should be made more extensive and include at least the main points of discussions.

This of course does nothing to help find reliable information right now, and I’m not sure there is a good answer currently. Even directly asking people in the organization might be difficult, since I know some people right now are wary of saying too much and having that taken as a reason to be removed from the organization. Still, I can’t think of any better advice to offer than asking the people who are involved.

The current Board has had frequent issues keeping an available agenda for their weekly meetings, which were often cancelled or cut short due to lack of quorum or matters to discuss. What do you think the purpose of open Board meetings is, and what would you change about the current setup?

The way open Board meetings happen at the moment is very close to useless, since usually nothing is discussed in them and they are often cancelled altogether. I believe that open Board meetings should be a way for anyone interested to keep up on what is currently going on and to see how the Board operates. For this to actually be possible issues should never be handled in closed Board meetings, unless they involve confidential matters.

I have seen it argued that the reason why certain topics have been discussed in closed sessions as opposed to open ones is simply because that is where a Director happened to mention the topic. This only proves that there is not sufficient preparation for the meetings, because an agenda should be available before the meeting and it should include the topics up for discussion, which does not mean that matters outside an agenda should not come up, but certainly such topics would be in the minority. Furthermore, having an agenda available beforehand would make it easier for people outside Board to decide if they wanted to attend a meeting, or if they had any relevant information that could be shared on a topic, which then, if needed, could even be shared with the Board before a meeting.

Because of the cancellation of several meetings, both beforehand and because of a lack of quorum, I think it’s time to reevaluate the necessity of weekly Board meetings. I find it much more sensible to schedule regular Board meetings with longer intervals between them than having to cancel them so often because enough Directors did not show up. Hopefully reducing the number of meetings would increase the overall attendance in them. I believe it is something worth considering, because open Board meetings are important and it should be important that they are regularly attended by the Directors.

Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Transparency

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

A number of candidates cited the issue of Board transparency in their manifestos. What does a transparent Board look like to you, and what specific steps would you take to ensure the Board you serve on is a transparent Board? / Many candidates talked about the need for transparency for the board to volunteers/members. What does your vision for transparency entail?

I think sometimes, board seems secretive. They do have issues of confidentiality sometimes which makes things difficult to talk about. One thing I would do would be sure that it was known that my inbox was always open, both my personal as well as my board account. I’d always be happy to chat with anyone too, and answer questions. I believe in clear lines of communication between board and everyone else. I won’t hide anything other than what is confidential for legal or policy reasons.

Due to legal reasons, internal transcripts of meetings are purged every year. However with a lack of consistent and comprehensive information posted to internal and external locations, details of Org interactions can be lost to the abyss. This leaves voters with a dearth of details when attempting to learn about the Org, and in this situation, candidates. What internal remedies would you suggest? And what would you suggest voters do in the mean time in lieu of relying on the rumor mill (FFA & emails) and digging through various social media sites?

Well, this year we’re in the good position of having our candidates answer sixty questions on many topics. That will help fill in the blanks on some of us, I hope. We will also be having some live chats with different candidates, which will allow us to speak to you one on one. For myself, if you have any questions you wish to ask privately, you are welcome to contact me and I would be more than happy to talk to you.

I do hope the chats show people more about the candidates and how they react in real situations, as opposed to answering these questions or manifestos in private and their own time.

The current Board has had frequent issues keeping an available agenda for their weekly meetings, which were often cancelled or cut short due to lack of quorum or matters to discuss. What do you think the purpose of open Board meetings is, and what would you change about the current setup?

I think open board is there so people have a chance to speak with the board in a public setting. Some of what board has to do can’t be done or discussed in a public setting, so they need to do it elsewhere. Further, one of the things I love about the OTW is how international we are. I believe our current board members live in 4 or 5 times zones, spread out over vast distances. It’s hard to schedule meetings with that setup, but there is always room for improvement.

I do like how board meeting times fluctuate a bit so people in various time zones can have access to it. Consistency is good but I would rather be accessible for others.