Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Retreat

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

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 think they are very valuable to the org, and help plan for the future. I was not at any previous meetings, but I will be attending 2015’s as one of DevMem’s chairs. From everything I heard from participants, it was a very good experience and much was accomplished. Email and chat are great, phone calls are better, but doing in person meetings is often the best way to get things done quickly, and to cover a lot of issues. I also find that when I do things via email, I can get distracted by the internet or other things. At an in-person meeting, you are focused on the matter at hand and you figure it out.

Most orgs have in-person meetings all the time, because of their setup at brick and mortar locations. The OTW is different and so has to operate differently. From most of the reports I heard from the previous retreats, everything went well and a lot was accomplished. Further, it’s much easier to hate someone you are not in front of. These kinds of meetings in person can be healing in relationships.

You mentioned North America as a location, and I would not be averse to seeing it elsewhere, as long as cost is keyed into it.

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

This is a complicated question. Ideally all chairs would attend because all committees deserve to be represented, but there’s only so much time in a day and a weekend. I like how each retreat we’ve had so far has kind of focused on various things. This is how they’ve been done in the past. In 2014 it was about the strategic plan and this year will have SP as well as some other things, like building development and budgeting. So as it stands, when the meeting’s theme falls under the purview of a certain committee, then they would be invited.

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?

If you couldn’t tell from my previous answers, I think the retreat is pretty important. Costs seem high, but when you think you have people coming from all over the world, it could be worse. A lot of people give up their time to be there, and none of the board or volunteers made money on it. So, I do not have any ideas on how to make it more cost effective, but if anyone does, I’d be happy to talk about it.

Alex Tischer 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 not believe that there have been any noticeable results from any of the previous meetings. No great steps forward appear to have been made on any of the topics that were said to be discussed and I have not yet seen any of the documentation that was allegedly written at the first meeting. So far, my opinion is a very unfavourable one. Of course right about the time these questions will probably be published there will have been another meeting. Maybe there will be actual concrete announcements from that meeting other than a Board member resigning from their post shortly after. Until there is any proof of work done in person that couldn’t have been accomplished online, I’ll remain skeptical. I don’t doubt there could be hypothetical benefits to the idea. There just have been none so far.

How would you as a Board member, go about choosing who and what committees are invited to the annual retreat?
I would draw up the agenda for the meeting with specific goals to be achieved during the retreat and then approach the committees that are involved with the items that are to be discussed — especially with the concrete aspect of their implementation, as the Board tends to be removed from these matters and it’s hard to account for this in plans without any representation from the executive side of the organisation. Hypothetically inviting all committees just to have them there would be nice for representation, but at the current cost for those retreats, I would try to only invite people that are actively most relevant for the discussion.

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?

To find a more cost-effective way, I would like us to investigate other options than in-person meetings again. We are an all-online org: online meetings via Skype or some other teleconferencing software should not be beyond us.

Even my professional organisations manage to hold all but their legally-required AGM via the internet, and those are not tech-minded people in the least. Even if we someday have, say, a retreat where they’re having a debate or presentation about an issue relevant to the whole OTW, why not stream it to everyone instead of limiting it just to attendees? That would mean we would need to fly fewer people and could include far more.

Katarina Harju 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?

There’s no denying the fact that there are some benefits to meeting in person. It is true that some work is done more efficiently in person, and that it’s not a bad idea to just connect with the people you’re working with, which does often happen easier in person. If there were sufficient concrete results to show from these meetings, then I might consider them reasonable and even healthy for the organization, a possible way to improve our efficiency and collaboration. The fact is however, that so far none of these annual meetings have achieved any actionable results and, as such, I can not in good conscience try to defend them.

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

The meetings should have at least a tentative agenda before any such decisions are made, and that information should be available at the very least for people volunteering in the organization. Any decisions of who should participate in the meetings should be based on plans for what will be handled in the meetings, taking into consideration the costs and the potential contributions that each part of the organization can bring to each debate. These plans and decisions should be made visible, they should be discussed in open meetings of the Board, or when this isn’t possible then the pertinent information should be made available on the internal wiki.

Having these discussions and plans take place exclusively in closed sessions of the Board, where the only thing anyone can find out is through short items in the Board’s meeting minutes saying that discussion happened, weeks after the fact, is a sure way of breeding resentment and suspicion about the retreat as a whole.

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?

I strongly believe that we should look further into alternatives to in-person meetings, such as video conferencing, of which I personally have had positive experiences, and which sounds like a communication boost that an all-online organization should definitely at least attempt. I also don’t see why the in-person meeting should be annual at this point, especially since the results so far have been debatable. Perhaps an in person meeting every second or third year would be more than sufficient.

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.

Q&A Process and First Answers!

Today the Elections Committee is excited to reveal the first set of Q&A answers! The topic will be conflict of interest. Before we begin, we’ll explain how the posting process will work.

There are 56 questions (we received 58, but two pairs were similar enough to be combined). Thank you so much to everyone who submitted a question! They are sorted into 17 groups according to topic, such as ethics, finances, and management. The candidates were given a period of 21 days to answer those groups of questions, one at a time, in the order they preferred, with a maximum of 24 hours to finish a single group. The deadline to answer all the questions is October 14th.

Instead of waiting until that day to post all the answers at once, we will post responses once all the candidates have completed the same set of questions. We have a document where you can check which sets of questions are more likely to be posted next.

To make it easier for users to browse for topics concerning them, we will not clump all of a candidates’ responses in the same post. Instead, we will post each group of questions separately for each candidate, with one tag unique to that topic and one tag unique to the candidate. People browsing our site will be able to search for all of one candidate’s answers or for all answers to a particular set of questions.

Once the answers have been published, the chats will be held. We have yet to confirm the dates and times, but please watch this space for those!

Without further ado, you’ll be able to read the candidates’ individual answers regarding Conflict of Interest by following the links below:

If, on the other hand, you want to read all the Q&A answers at once, you can do so through the Q&A 2015 tag.

Katarina Harju 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 would be a situation where either my professional judgement was compromised by personal interest, or where I owed a duty to either party, all parties, or an interested third party and could not do justice to everyone involved in the situation. As there are almost no situations in the OTW where personal financial gain would be an issue, most conflicts of interest would likely be in regards to personnel issues. There are policies to safeguard the OTW with regards to financial conflicts of interest, but nothing to protect our volunteers against the other kind. While I would hope that I would understand to recuse myself if such a situation arose, it is increasingly apparent, partly because of developments during this election season, that strict policies governing and limiting Board behaviour, including conflicts of interest, need to be introduced and enforced.

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 is a fallacy to assume that I, or any other potential Board member, would lose what feelings or loyalties we might have towards a committee if we stepped down from our roles. However, the truth is that my duty is first and foremost to the OTW as a whole, and its mission, not to any individual committee or person. I trust and firmly believe that the people with whom I have served on various committees understand and share that sentiment.

I also firmly believe that any and all decisions, barring issues of confidentiality, should be discussed and voted on openly or the information otherwise made available to the people serving in the organization. Then in such a case that my own judgment on my objectivity were to fail, I would hope that it would be brought to attention and subsequently appropriate action taken.