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.