[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 4th and final candidate chat for 2023!
Today you’ll have the opportunity to observe 2 candidates: Kathryn S and Qiao C.
My name is Dae 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 :uparrow_otw: 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.
Let’s get started with our first question(s) – one for each candidate:
question for Kathryn, since this has been asked of Qiao earlier. It’s become apparent that there are missing checks and balances within the OTW to hold those in leadership positions accountable for misconduct. Once elected, what first steps would you take to cover these gaps?
For Qiao, (if it’s allowed to ask this so both can have questions), I borrowed from a question in chat 1 that Kathryn S has already answered: How would you improve disciplinary practices to ensure they are working to prevent discrimination not reinforce it?
I answered this partially in the Board Work II Q&A: https://elections.transformativeworks.org/kathryn-ss-2023-qa-board-work-ii/
As mentioned there, we need to ensure that Board members are subject to CCAP (or whatever replaces it), substantially revising or replacing the CCAP process, and potentially changing it from a Chair responsibility to a responsibility of the Volunteers and Recruitment Committee. In addition, I think that in the long term we need to reduce the responsibilities of leadership positions so that more people are able to take on those leadership roles and we don’t have to rely on the same few people.
In the short term, it’s a much harder question to answer because so many structural and organizational changes are required. I think that the best thing we can do is make it clear that we new board members are dedicated to change and ready to listen to anyone who has a problem or a solution to share. The more we know and the more proposed solutions we have, the faster we can start working and the more effective that work will be.
I think we should have a neutral group of people dedicated to investigation of discrimination in the org. We should have a timeline of periodic investigation and make sure that investigation reports are well documented and feedbacked to the Board on time. We also expect our DEI consultant to provide professional opinions and firm help on the above tasks.
Thank you both for your answers!
Here’s our second question, for both candidates:
There have recently been some concerns raised about certain committees having more control/influence than others, especially in regards to Legal and PAC, & whether this is appropriate. What do you make of these criticisms, & what solutions do you see to these tensions between different parts of the org?
I understand that siloing and lack of cross-committee communication and collaboration are significant issues for the Org. Unless people are active on our internal messaging system and interact with volunteers from other committees there, it is difficult to know what is really going on with other committees. There is available documentation, but it can be difficult to find, especially if someone isn’t actively looking for it.
I think that most of the concerns about some committees having more control/influence than others comes from this lack of understanding. Without clear communication and transparency, it is easy for people to take isolated information/incidents and extrapolate without full awareness of the situation. Therefore, more transparency and communication is the appropriate solution.
I would like to encourage more cross-committee collaboration and communication so that committees can more easily learn about and from each other – in fact, so that picking up improvements and practices from other committees becomes routine! My first thought for how to do this is a monthly chat with representatives from all committees, but I am open to further suggestions.
I think it’s kind of inevitable that certain committees would be more influential than others in the org, due to the duty of committees. In addition to that, I have also worried about influence from the Board members’ belonging committees on decision making, especially when this year seems to be the very first time that we have multiple candidates and Board members from the Tag Wrangling committee, which is also my committee and the largest committee in the org.
I would like to enhance communications between committees and the Board to ensure that voices from all aspects could be heard and opinions could be well considered.
Thank you both for the thoughtful answers.
Here’s one for each of you:
For Kathryn: you’ve been with the OTW for a while. What is the biggest / longest-running roadblock you’ve see that keeps the org from becoming the best version of itself? What do you think can be done to remove it?
For Qiao: In your Q&As, you’ve mentioned that in “the Tag Wrangling committee, when recruiting for speakers for a specific language, we always have mentors who speak that language…” Does Tag Wrangling have training documents translated to other languages? What are your thoughts for how OTW can better support EAL volunteers with regards to training?
At the highest level, I think that the issue is that the organizational structure was designed for a much smaller organization serving far fewer users. We’ve largely been scaling up and iterating on an existing structure that was simply never meant to handle this kind of load. I am hopeful that we will be able to reorganize the Org in a way that makes sense for its current size and scale and will be better able to handle growth.
At the volunteer level, I think the biggest challenge is the cycle of overwork, leading to recruitment, but recruiting and training volunteers takes a lot of effort and resources, so they may not be trained or supported well enough or the people doing the training may be overburdened, so either the new volunteers leave fairly quickly (which means we lose the investment in recruitment and training) or the more experienced volunteers are at higher risk of burnout. I think that the best thing we can do to get out of this cycle is to focus resources on better supporting existing volunteers and on the recruitment and training process. It is better to recruit fewer people and train them properly without overwhelming existing volunteers and then ramp up as the committee has more capacity.
In the meantime, we can look to internal recruitment to support the committees with the greatest need. Internal volunteers are familiar with many of our tools and processes, so they require less time and training to get up to speed.
At the moment, we don’t have training documents translated into other languages. Previously, I have heard from our EFL new wranglers that they found the training docs to be too long to memorize necessary points. While I think our training docs are well written and very careful in giving trainees guide, I do believe that having docs translated in trainees’ first language would be helpful when they just started the training process. We could do so by having a group of translators dedicated to translate internal documents.
The Tag Wrangling committee possesses most members in the org now, taking up half of the population and are very abundant in different language speakers. Therefore we established mentor system in other languages the earliest in the org. Yet I think with translators’ help, other committees could also provide more supports towards new EFL volunteers by the mentor system or translated traning docs.
Thank you both!
Here’s the next question, for both of you: What ideas do you have on better promoting collaboration across committees in a systemic, robust way that do not solely rely on interpersonal friendships among volunteers, especially for committees that are not typically active on social tools, like Legal?
Open Doors has adopted several practices from other committees, like having Chair Assistants and regular 1-on-1 chats between Chairs and volunteers. I recently updated Open Doors’ policy for which pronouns to use when responding to comments on news posts and shared it with volunteers from other committees who were interested. These exchanges happened because of volunteers who served in multiple committees or were already active in social spaces, and I would very much like to encourage this kind of exchange in an official capacity!
As stated in a previous question, I think that a monthly chat, open to all volunteers and with official representatives from all committees, would be useful. We could have standard questions like, “What is a problem that has come up in the last month and how have you solved it?”, “Have you updated any documentation recently, and if so, why?”, “Have you created any new policies or procedures that you think would be useful to other committees?”
I would also ask that committees that are not currently active on social tools consider revising their stances, because it’s an incredibly important way to build community and engage in informal learning. If they are not willing to be there all the time, perhaps they would be willing to join for regular chats focused on their work (in addition to the monthly all-committee meetings).
Some of our committees that don’t frequently appear in workspace could always be contacted with emails. Yet, I also found that may not be the most effective way for our volunteers to communicate with them, especially when there is a tensive concern regarding certain topic going around internally.
I would like to suggest every of our committes to have a public channel in the workspace. If a committee is usually off from social tools, then they should schedule periodic Town Hall type Q&A session in their public channel.
For the next question: Are there any ideas that other candidates have proposed, or issues that they have raised during the elections cycle that you are particularly interested in? Or, what have you found most interesting while talking with other candidates during the elections cycle?
I partly answered this in the last question of the Board Work II Q&A: https://elections.transformativeworks.org/kathryn-ss-2023-qa-board-work-ii/
I actually adopted the idea of Board-Track Volunteers and/or Board Assistants from Jennifer H. I am extremely excited that Anh is also interested in fandom preservation and in working to support fannish projects and archives outside of the OTW and AO3. Zixin’s experience in PAC and Comms means that she has a lot of great ideas for better communicating with AO3 users and OTW members, especially people who don’t speak English or who speak English as an additional/foreign language.
As for my co-candidate in this chat: I really appreciate Qiao’s focus on increasing language diversity of the OTW and prioritizing internationalization of the AO3 interface. For example, I didn’t know that the search was difficult to use for languages that don’t separate words with spaces, or that the payment processor used for OTW membership doesn’t offer payment options suitable for many people outside of the US.
I did notice that the other two EFL candidates have both come with concerns regarding making our projects more accessible to EFL users as I have. The other two candidates (that I didn’t know before the election) also discussed about enhancing communication with user base. I am really impressed that all of the candidates pay attention to the communication issues and come up consideration on how to improve it. I believe that with such united determination, the severe communication issue we are now facing to could be solved in near future.
Thank you both for your answers 🙂
Our next (and possibly final? We’re running close to time) question is: What would you consider to be a successful first year as Board member? I.e. at the end of the year, how would the OTW have changed in ways you considered to be positive?
In the very first month on Board, I think we would be getting familiar with all committees. During the process we will work out a plan for stable and effective communication with the committees.
Upon our annual strategic plan, we should be getting in touch with our potential EDI consultant and HR professional within next months. They would help in solving the diversity and discrimination issues as well as burn-out issues.
We will report the progress of ongoing tasks periodically in Q&A sessions to public. By the end of first year, I expect improved internal and public communications, respect between committees and between volunteers and higher retention rate.
TOS revision should be complete and the new TOS should be in place. This will help PAC better address harassment as well as solving other issues that have cropped up over the years.
DEI consultants and HR consultants should have been hired and started working; ideally, they will have been working for several months and already have some early results from their work
We should have figured out all of the issues and preliminaries with hiring paid staff and started searching for our first paid staff; ideally, we would have our first paid staff hired by the end of the year
Through the controversies and discussions of the last couple of months, I have learned that the OTW is missing documentation, plans, and procedures that I would consider necessary for any reasonably well-run organization. Examples include clear Org-wide standards for when to use the CCAP, an Org-wide crisis communication plan, and Org-wide standards for moderating comments on news posts. These can all be created in a year and need to be.
The Board Assistant Team should be up and running! They would be helping with Board administrative work and helping respond to emails to the Board.
Improved process for public Board meetings, based on the suggestions Jennifer H gathered (referenced in my most recent Q&A: https://elections.transformativeworks.org/kathryn-ss-2023-qa-board-work-ii/)
Improved internal communications and cross-committee communication, collaboration, and learning (monthly meetings!)
It may be a bit of a stretch since we will need the DEI and HR consultants to do it, but I’d really like to have the CCAP revision/replacement done within a year.
…I had a lot of ideas; I’m sorry I took so long!
That’s all the questions we have, and a wrap for the candidate chats! Thank you to our audience for being so supportive and for submitting questions! These have been a really great series of chats and we’ve really appreciated the good humor, collaboration, and support.
Thank you also to our lovely candidates. Thanks to dj for modding the open chat. We’ll have the transcript of this room up on the website within a few days. Have a great day, everyone!
Thank you Kat, Election and audience!💖
Thank you so much for attending, everyone!
And thank you, Qiao!
And thank you Elections for their excellent moderation!
I’d also like to thank a fellow OTW volunteer who has been an incredible help through this process. They beta’d all 4 of my Candidate Q&As, as well as reviewing my answers on the fly for this chat and the previous one!