Claire P. Baker 2017 Q&A: Communication and Outreach

[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]

How would you approach improving org-related literacy of non-staff volunteers, staff, and members for all committees?

It’s important that we have ample opportunities and resources for learning, and that we encourage their use. We need to make sure our internal documents are up to date and easily navigable, be willing to answer questions as we receive them, and have opportunities to showcase our work to each other. We may also want to consider improving OTW-wide training resources to give all new volunteers a better basic knowledge of who we are and what we do.

I would definitely recommend that interested volunteers join the public chat spaces of other committees. It’s a great way to glean information about the day-to-day work done across the OTW, and to gain an understanding of each committee in turn. Short overviews can also be found in Communications’ Five Things posts and our internal newsletters. Fanlore’s information on the OTW is another great resource, and one that all volunteers can add to.

Our current three-year strategic plan involves exploring the possibility of Organization-wide meetings. I echoed this in my original platform: I believe that informational meetings could be an ideal way to increase general OTW awareness.

The best way to learn, however, is often to ask questions. Whether this means asking clarifying questions about what’s going on in chat spaces, or researching the answer in our internal documentation, there really is no better way to learn than to ask.

What is one way that you think the OTW can improve with regards to how information about its work reaches fans?

I would love to see more in-person opportunities to talk about the OTW, particularly at conventions and conferences. To my knowledge, this has never really been a priority within the OTW: occasionally a convention will contact the OTW and Communications will aim to find available people to attend, or people from the OTW’s legal or academic sides will be present for panels, or members will arrange a small meetup at events when they know others will be attending. However, performing a more concentrated outreach this way could allow us to further spread knowledge knowledge of who we are and what we do, along with information like best practices when posting on AO3 and the lessons we’ve learned along the OTW’s ten-year journey. I’d also like to see support for attending conventions and conferences as well, though I believe it’s above our budgetary means at the moment. Similarly, a Conference Of Our Own would be an amazing way to share information with the academic and fan communities surrounding the OTW.

These changes would take a fair amount of buy-in from across the OTW, including a potentially large budget and a considerable number of work hours to realize. I certainly wouldn’t want to promise to make these happen, as I do think that keeping our digital projects running is our top priority. However, if the right conversations are started, who knows what could happen?

What do you see as priorities for improving communication – both between the Board and individual committees, and between the OTW as a whole and fandom communities?

In the past two years, I’ve seen so much of a shift towards openness across OTW. The Board has been a large part of this, establishing regular check-ups with each committee and working with our new Finance committee to produce open budgets. Continuing this trend of openness, I think, will lay the guidelines for good communication in the years to come.

Ideally, each committee should have a strong connection with the Board that allows for enough communication to meet both sides’ needs. The main challenge here is with the dynamic membership; what worked between two groups in one incarnation may not with another. Hopefully good documentation and mentoring can ensure that these relationships can further develop and grow stronger with time. I think the idea of one-on-one communication (which I’ve mentioned before) can also help here, giving each member of each committee a chance to get their voice heard, and in turn allowing Chairs and Board understand the OTW’s needs on an individual level.

Our Communications committee does a great job in spreading our fandom news across the OTW and social media. We also get a lot of positivity back from our users, especially when AO3 is acting up and our team is working hard to make it run properly again. I’d love to see more chances to connect with individuals, whether it be in person or online, but for the most part I think that openness and creating ample chances for communication is key both within the OTW and for outreach into the greater fan communities.