[Note: All questions from members and candidate responses appear in the form they were submitted and represent only the views of the individual who wrote them. Questions and responses are not endorsed by the Organization for Transformative Works.]
Hi everyone, and welcome to our 2nd candidate chat for 2023!
Today you’ll have the opportunity to observe 3 candidates: Jennifer H, Qiao C and Zixin Z
My name is Marion and I’ll be hosting the candidate side today. On the audience/open_chat side, your host will be my fellow Elections Committee member disjointed.
disjointed, can you wave so everyone can see you?
A transcript of the candidate side of the chat will be posted publicly on our website. The open chat transcript will not be posted there, but its transcripts will remain visible until after the election. During the chat, you may see candidates fix their typos; this is to make Elections Volunteers’ job easier later.
As the candidates discuss each question, audience members can notify disjointed that you have questions for the candidates – either follow-ups or new questions – by raising your hand like this: o/ (for new questions), or o// (for follow-ups to the current question)
A moderator will post the questions in the #questions channel. Please vote on questions you’d most like to see answered by reacting to them in the #questions channel with the ⬆️ emoji. I will ask them during appropriate pauses in the conversation between the candidates. We welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:
– Specify who your question is for, or if it’s for all candidates.
– Refer to everyone in the room by their username in this conversation. Don’t use other names you may know them by.
– Please keep questions reasonable and polite, as well as under 50 words (these are our expectations: https://elections.transformativeworks.org/electionsprocess-behavior-expectations/).
– Please note that we will not accept questions that require candidates to read and respond to any linked posts;
– Make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the platforms (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2023-en/2023-bios-and-platforms/) or the Q&A (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2023-en/2023-qa/). If it’s a follow-up to one of those, please say so.
Now, I’d like to welcome our candidates and invite them to say hello.
Hi everyone! Super excited to be here : )
Hello everyone!! 👋
Thanks all. Here’s our first question of the chat: It’s become apparent that there are missing checks and balances within the OTW to hold those in leadership positions accountable for misconduct. Should you be elected, what first steps would you take to cover these gaps?
At this point, it appears there are few ways to either discipline or remove people in leadership positions from the organization in general. Yesterday, my fellow candidates noted ways to reform the current CCAP system, which I fully support, and I believe that clear guidelines should be added to address disciplinary issues amongst leadership.
However, there are times when immediate action will be necessary—especially if the people in question are creating an environment that is exceedingly hostile and unsafe for current volunteers. In order to address this, I support adding methods to remove Chairs and Board members.
One of the first actions that I would take is reviewing the current bylaws and noting what the specific methods currently available are. Second, I would workshop new bylaws with my co-board members and others and then work together to put these into place. It is important that everyone in the organization is held to the same standards and accountability, and currently that is not the case.
I think the first step I would like to take is to review the Constructive Corrective Action Procedure (CCAP, a procedure for dealing with OTW Code of Conduct violations) to extend its effect to Board Directors, as I have explained in my Board Work II Q&A: https://elections.transformativeworks.org/zixin-zs-2023-qa-board-work-ii/
I also think it is important to ensure that the party responsible for disciplinary practices is neutral and would not stand against the interest of non-leadership volunteers. See my answer from the first live chat for details: candidates_chat_2023
I am also looking forward to working with OTW Committee Chairs and project leads on improving leadership accountability, as I believe this is a subject they are also dedicated to!
I think for the first step, we should talk to stakeholders and assess the situation. With realization of the missing stairs, we will work with the VolCom Committee, Legal Committee and related committees and experts to decide on the priority for each task.
Before starting to work on them, we should also provide a timeline for each investigation in order to track the tasks.
Thank you all!
This question is for Jennifer and Qiao, as Zixin already answered this question in Chat 1: There is a perennial problem with volunteer burnout, retention, and recruitment across many committees of the OTW. What steps, if any, do you think board can take to aid committees with ensuring that volunteers are supported appropriately?
And for Zixin: How does your experience managing the Weibo account influence your views on OTW communication strategies?
In addition to the feedback venues that we already have in the org, I think the Board should actively reach out to committees and volunteers and ask for their input and opinions. By doing so, I believe taking the initiative to reach out will in turn encourage the committees to do the same.
We are also in the process of researching HR professionals. I expect the HR expert to help mitigate burnout from too many tasks for our volunteers, and to allocate tasks more reasonably as well as seeing progress make more consistently.
The reasons for volunteer burnout and retention are going to vary vastly depending on the committees that people are on. For example, our Policy and Abuse Committee (PAC) typically has high-stress, urgent work that they address on top of the day-to-day tickets. Our Tag Wranglers are currently getting hundreds of tags a day in some fandoms. Our Accessibility, Design, & Technology Committee (AD&T) has a large backlog of changes and improvements that they are working on with few people with the requisite knowledge to assist.
I support an internal audit to better understand what work, and how much, people are doing so that we are better able to provide them with the resources that they need to succeed and feel supported in their roles. As mentioned in my Q&A 4 (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/jennifer-hs-2023-qa-board-work-ii/):
“I have been curating a discussion guide for in-depth interviews to better understand volunteer experiences in the organization, from onboarding through their current role and expectations. I already have several volunteers who have raised their hands to participate in these interviews once it is complete.
This discussion guide includes questions such as: were they sufficiently prepared for their duties during onboarding; do they understand what the different functions of the organization do; where do they feel comfortable discussing their thoughts on the organization or, if not, why not; are they comfortable coming to their Chairs when they have problems, and if not, do they have someone that they are comfortable going to; do they feel supported in the organization, etc.”
In Candidate Chat #1, Kathryn mentioned the possibility of exit interviews. For some committees that are quite large, like Tag Wrangling, this may not necessarily be feasible; however, I think that it would be a great step in general to better understand why volunteers are leaving the organization and where extra support could be had.
Last, I feel there is a culture of people not feeling like they can ask for help or take the hiatuses / breaks that they need. There is a lot of pressure on some committees and a backlog of work that hangs over their heads, so to speak. I want to foster a culture where people feel enabled and encouraged to step back and ask for help or spend some time away from volunteer work if needed.
First, I want to point out that OTW’s Weibo account is a bit different from other social media platforms as it is currently the only non-English channel we have. Therefore, the Weibo moderation team does relatively more outreach than other social media moderators, e.g. we can answer user questions about AO3 and other OTW projects in comments and DM, or translate and post AO3 status updates, according to the current policy of the committee. We would also post most news announcements in its full translation, as Weibo allows a higher word count and it improves accessibility for Chinese users who may not have access to our websites.
I think what I gained from modding Weibo is that the OTW should put our users and members’ need as a priority, and try to be as transparent as we can as a part of our responsibility. It is also important to open up more accessible channels for outreach and communication for both English and non-English speaking fans to engage with OTW activities, as I have seen many users (and other committees) benefited from having a channel to contact us in a way that is more accessible to them!
Thank you! Our next question is for all candidates. One of the issues that the OTW has historically faced is a lack of people willing to step into leadership roles such as Chairs and Board. Do you have any thoughts about how to either encourage more people to take on those roles or make those roles less scary to volunteer for?
I definitely agree that it’s an issue that the OTW needs to solve! I think one way to reduce burnout (and thus makes these roles less scary) is to reduce the amount of work Board and Chairs have to do, by introducing admin staff to committees and Board. This can also allow leaders to focus more on non-time-sensitive tasks that need attention.
Another way is to recruit more chair-track volunteers and chair assistants, so that volunteers could have the opportunity to learn how chairing a committee is like, and get familiar with the process if they are interested in such position. It can also help prevent emergency situations where a committee’s chairs suddenly have to leave the org and there are no volunteers prepared to take up their place.
First, I would like to review chair work amongst the varying committees to better understand which tasks can be delegated to others, then instituting volunteer positions to specifically address this type of work. This way, they are gaining relevant knowledge and working closely with the current chair (which should allow for unofficial mentoring and such), but this would also relieve some of the duties traditionally associated with chair positions as well, which should help make the position seem more approachable.
I also support the current movement to overhaul internal documentation. Internal documentation is lacking amongst all committees and, as such, chairs are typically going to be the people who hold the requisite institutional knowledge needed for the position. By de-siloing this knowledge, it is my hope that more volunteers will feel ready and able to take on the responsibilities of chair work.
Last, I would like to add support to current (and future) chairs. I feel that some people stay in these positions because nobody else is willing or able to take them on, and this further compounds the problem of chair positions becoming this big, scary burden to take on. I’m not sure what this support would look like yet, but it is something that I would like to look into.
Similar to chairs, I would like to review board work to see what can be delegated to another role. There is currently a lot of (unofficial) conversation happening on this topic amongst volunteers, and I wholeheartedly support it!
One of the things about the Board is it seems like this scary, nebulous place where people don’t know what to expect if they’re elected. I would like to improve transparency so that volunteers have a better understanding of what would be expected in a Board role, while also improving trust so that volunteers (and the public) have a better idea of what the Board is actually doing day-to-day.
Same as other volunteers, the chairs are also facing burnout issues. For common volunteers, chairs and the Board should provide support for them to in task allocation; for chairs, the Board should also consider how to lifting burden for them. We could achieve so by creating more leadership roles, and delegating admin tasks to a group of people rather than letting only one or two people be solely responsible for them. We are also working on recruiting specific chair tracking volunteers.
For the Board, I think the biggest challenge in recruiting people in this position is the low trust between the Board and volunteers and user base. The lack of trust is a result of lacking transparency, a serious and long-standing issue within the organization. I have discussed about how to deal with such issue in my Q&A 4 (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/qiao-cs-2023-qa-board-work-ii/).
Thank you for all of your answers! Our next question is about siloing.
OTW volunteers often point to “silo’ing” (aka a relative isolation between one another) of the org’s committees as a pervasive issue. What do you think could be done to counteract this, improve communication and relations between parts of the OTW, or the general knowledge of how the various committees and projects work?
I think improving internal documentation, as mentioned in my last response, will not only help those interested in becoming chair/Board, but will also allow all volunteers to gain knowledge about various committees that may not have been openly available to them before.
Second, I think part of the onboarding process should include an introduction to all the various committees and the types of work that they do rather than focusing on the committee that they are volunteering for and the ones that they may work closely with. I recently learned that there are eighteen (18!!) committees in the organization. In training, I was introduced to only a handful of them.
Last, I would love to improve transparency about the type of work that is done across the organization. Some areas, like PAC, are understandably confidential; however, there are plenty of other committees that could share what they are working on to the broader volunteer base. I’m not sure what this would look like yet, and it will likely differ across all committees, but it is something to think about.
One example, though: I recently started helping our AD&T team with testing site changes before they’re made live. This has introduced me to more of the work that they do and the processes that they go through!
As I have mentioned in my Board Work II Q&A (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/zixin-zs-2023-qa-board-work-ii/), I think holding open-house discussions about committees’ work would be a good way to encourage inter-committee communication!
It would also be nice if the OTW-wide induction process could include more information (e.g. composing wiki pages for new volunteers, introducing them to committees’ public channels and how their committee’s work relates with other committees) on each committee’s work (or provide an optional training module for those interested), so that volunteers can have the chance to be introduced to the wider org outside their committee.
In our current work flow, I have to admit that for certain committees, volunteers have little opportunity to work or collaborate with other committees. In our workspace there are many channels loosely related to org work or not at all, where we could have discussions or casual talk with other volunteers without interrupting org work. Our internal documentation also allows volunteers to learn about other committee’s organization and work flow. I think it’s important that we encourage people to ask questions about other committees when they are curious about (It’s also a good way for attracting attention in internal recruitment!)
Thank you for your answers! Our next question related to Board Director hiatuses. How would you (all) come up with a hiatus procedure for board members that balances their personal needs with their responsibilities to voters?
I think it’s definitely understandable for Board members to run into occasions where they have to prioritise their life outside the OTW, and therefore it’s important to have a formal hiatus procedure for Board so that Directors can feel their duties are taken care of by their colleagues when they could not.
Candidly, I’m not sure what this would look like yet; however, I have given it some thought, especially in light of this week. Theoretically, with 7 board members, this should not be a problem if one or two need to step away for a bit. However, we’ve found ourselves in a situation where there were only 5 board members in seat, with 2 of them on hiatus. This left three—less than half of the original board. This shows that we will absolutely need contingency plans in place and actionable hiatus procedures.
Some other thoughts: on one hand, I support people taking the time they need (within reason–I think if someone will be gone for a while we should look into either having them step down, potentially temporarily or otherwise). But it is also important to recognize that there are legal obligations that we will have and real, tangible work that needs to be done.
I know this answer may not be sufficient, but it is absolutely something that has been on my mind and I am more than open to discussing it with my fellow candidates and volunteers!
I think a standard for hiatus procedure should include the maximum allowed time period of hiatus (so that Board members wouldn’t take an infinite hiatus and still take up a Board seat); change in quorum for Board so that members wouldn’t be expected to return to org work while on hiatus; if the person taking the hiatus has a special role (President or Secretary) or other particular tasks, how that role or task should be transitioned to other Board members before the hiatus begins in the ideal case (unrelated to hiatus procedure, but it’s also useful to have workflow documentation for the transition to be smoother or in case the person has to go on hiatus under an emergency).
I think we should include the following requirements in a hiatus procedure:
- Retain a minimum members (like 5 out of 7 members, or 7 out of 9)
- Return for crucial votes
- Provide estimation of hiatus duration
If an active member’s request of hiatus will cause deficiency of (1), they should discuss with members who are already in hiatus that if they can both change the hiatus duration at some degree to help retain the minimum in active members.
(Loving these suggestions, Zixin and Qiao!)
Thanks you all! That was a tough question. On a lighter note, for our final question in this chat, a member of the audience channel would like to know, what’s the most interesting or surprising thing you have learned about the org during this election campaign?
I’m relatively new to the organization, so I’ve been learning a LOT during this election campaign. I think one of the most heartwarming (not necessarily surprising or interesting) things has been the amount of support from volunteers regarding actionable changes that they’d like to see. We all want to make the organization a better, safer place and I feel empowered to be able to see these changes through!
That kittens and sharks are allowed to run for Elections! /joking
When I composed my platform responses, I asked a few volunteers to beta read my draft. In the third question for my platform (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/zixin-z-s-bio-platforms/), I mentioned that I want to improve AO3’s accessibility for non-English speakers. From my understanding, establishing a multi-language interface would take up a lot of effort, which is why I proposed developing external tools as an alternative to this. I was very surprised when one of my beta readers informed me that the process can actually be shortened significantly if we have paid staff for Accessibility, Design, & Technology (AD&T) Committee, which I imagined would take a decade with volunteer efforts.
This makes me further believe that, as the OTW has grown to a size significantly larger than when it’s founded, it is important for us to transition into a more professional organisation to meet the increasing need of fans (not only in language support but many other aspects as well). I think it can also allow for a better environment for volunteering experience and avoid volunteer burnout!
English writing skills in formal document 🙏 which is indeed something I rarely touched in my daily life, since in engineering the graphs (with simple and proper captions) are more universal than textual description. During the election season, however, the importance of lingua franca was clearly pointed out, which had me realize that in this international organization and our multilingual projects, it’s the importance of communication not only in languages but also in mutual respect that should be paid attention to. I appreciate everyone who has offered help in improving my English, and I would like to give back by facilitating the communication we all deserve.
Thank you for sharing your experiences! That’s all the questions we have for today!
Thank you to our audience for being so supportive and for submitting questions! Thank you also to our lovely candidates. Thanks to disjointed for modding the open chat, and thanks to our other mods working in the background today. We’ll have the transcript of this room up on the website within a few days. Have a great day, everyone!
Thank you, everyone!
Thank you all so much for coming and asking the questions!
Thank you, election team and audience! And thanks to especially my fellow candidates ❤️