Kati Eggert 2020 Q&A: OTW Communication and Future

[Note: In total, there will be 6 Q&A posts to cover all of the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. The candidates were limited to 300 words to answer each question, but they were allowed to rearrange and combine questions within a single post to more clearly express their thoughts. Candidate answers represent only the views of the individual candidate and are not endorsed by the OTW.

Due to a high volume of similar questions this year, many questions were merged and duplicate questions were left out. Other than this, questions appear in the form they were submitted. Questions represent only the views of the individual questioner and are not endorsed by the OTW.]

In your opinion, which of OTW’s long standing issues would be easier to fix, and what steps would you take to address it?

I believe taking steps to improve external transparency and accountability is one of the easier fixes to achieve. While our different projects already provide e.g. newsletters and news post updates in addition to information available on their websites, recent discussions have shown that we still need to improve on that point. This might be accomplished by making more information accessible on our websites, as well as informing our users in additional news posts about the ins and outs of our different committees — for example, updates of their current projects as well as their limitations, our policies and frequently asked questions. Since news posts can be easily missed and get buried fast on our front pages, we could also look into informing our members about those articles via opt-in emails and incorporate that information into our FAQs. And lastly, an overarching communication strategy should also include a focus on engaging our users on other platforms like Twitter and Tumblr.

In your opinion, what are the most important threats to the OTW, and what are the most urgent threats to the OTW?

In my opinion, the most important threat is our ongoing dependence on a small number of key figures with very specialized skill sets and knowledge that are indispensable for the continued existence of the OTW and especially the Archive of Our Own. To mitigate that problem we need to successfully recruit and train additional volunteers and improve the documentation of institutional knowledge within the organisation. Additionally, we should also look into expanding our use of contractors to relieve the pressure put on those key figures and continue to investigate our options with regard to deploying paid staff in critical positions.

I would categorize the increasing harassment and racism against some of the Archive’s users as the most urgent threat. The OTW is already taking multiple steps, as detailed in the Organisation’s recent statement of Board, Chairs and Leads, to address that problem. Of the announced forthcoming features and solutions a review of our current harassment policies might be the approach that could be implemented most quickly to help mitigate those negative experiences.

Internal communications, barriers on sharing knowledge, and lack of transparency are perennial challenges for the OTW. What do you think is the most important step we could take to address these issues during your term on the Board? What specific actions will you commit to as candidates to make the OTW a more transparent organisation with fans? [merged question]

Some key steps I would like the Organisation to commit to are improvements to our internal documentation, especially regarding our internal workflows and jurisdictions, including comprehensive and up to date FAQs for every committee. I would like to see an overhaul of our internal wiki – while we have a lot of information, it is sometimes out of date and not easily findable without the right keywords. I also hope that we can achieve more transparency about the status of our committees’ different projects so that volunteers from other teams might understand why some of them may or may not be going forward as planned. Those suggestions are of course depending on the workload of the committees involved, but the Board itself can implement those solutions for its own area of responsibility.

For my position on measures to increase external transparency please see the first question.

The OTW Board often has to speak with one consistent voice when answering questions and requests from the public, individual volunteers, and various committees. This sometimes means enforcing policies for the good of the OTW that may go against your personal preferences. How would you balance this need for consistency?

Due to my professional job as well as my work in the Policy & Abuse Committee I am very accustomed to those situations and understand the need to speak and act with consistency. Both positions encourage and value internal discussions from multiple viewpoints. But once a conclusion has been reached, either by majority decision, leadership decision or due to legal provisions, all employees / volunteers (respectively) have to abide by and communicate that. We are not implementing those decisions as individuals but as an organisation.

What would you like to see prioritized in OTW’s strategic plan while you are on the board? Where would you like to see the OTW in five years? How would you like to set the stage for that over your Board term? When you step away from Board after the conclusion of your term, what would you like your legacy to be? What kind of lasting impression do you want to leave on the OTW? [merged question]

We have just reached the end of our first strategic plan (2017-2020) and are in the process of developing a subsequent one, guided by a five-year Vision Statement that will provide its framework. One of the goals of our previous strategic plan was to increase volunteer engagement, retention and development. I would like to return to that issue in our second strategic plan since we have not yet found sustainable solutions to reduce volunteer turnover and address volunteer burnout.

Within the next five years, I would like to see the OTW advance on the internationalisation of our projects – something that I have discussed in more detail on my platform.

I have been volunteering for the OTW for the last 5+ years and am now running for Board because I care for this Organisation and its goals and want to see it improve further. Serving on the Board of Directors is just one more job that needs doing and leaving a personal impression or even a “legacy” is not important to me. Furthermore, any progress the OTW is making will not be achieved by just one volunteer or Board member; we can only make headway if people are cooperating, whether within a single committee or across several. If the Board can support the committees and projects to the best of their ability while advancing towards our wider goals I will be satisfied with a job well done.

Buy-in from committee chairs is a crucial step to enacting any change in the OTW. How do you plan to convince the chairs of the various committees to support your platform, even if it means changes to how their committees operate?

To prepare for the election, I have talked to multiple current and former Chairs as well as Board members to get a better impression of scope and responsibilities of the Board as well as feedback on my platform. I received valuable feedback on possible changes within the Organisation and more importantly on our current limitations. Everyone I talked to was highly motivated, but also very open about the constraints we face due to limited resources and the difficulty of recruiting volunteers with specific skillsets. If elected to the Board I plan on continuing this dialogue and providing support to committees and Chairs as needed. Above all, I am aware that the people who have to do the work – all of whom are volunteers – are the ones whose perspective and buy-in we will need in order to enact change. Any proposed changes will need their input and expertise, and from there I am confident that we can work together to find a solution.


ETA July 15, 2020: The note at the top of each Q&A post was updated per a recommendation by the OTW Legal Committee.