[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]
1. What goal or mission from the other candidates do you most agree with and would you also like to see implemented?
There are a lot of goals all three of us already share, such as the reconstruction of the Finance committee, a focus on volunteer retention and cross-org communication, and serious consideration for contract, if not full-time, employees.
James raises one issue that I agree is central to a continuing healthy board is his proposal of a recall option. The Election Committee has done an amazing job in recent years to continue establishing sound and fair election guidelines and to improve the actual election process. I hope they can create a similarly sound and fair process that would allow recall of board members who have illustrated criminal behavior, malfeasance, abuse of power, or have failed to perform their prescribed duties.
Priscilla addresses a fundamental concern that OTW faces when she demands “high-level planning and goals for the OTW.” I have been privileged to have worked in a committee where the OTW project, the overall goal, and the specific committee work all coincided, namely publishing Transformative Works and Culture, OTW’s academic journal. Other projects rely much more heavily on a various committees: Accessibility, Design, & Technology Committee, Support, Abuse, and Documentation, for example, all primarily contribute to the Archive, and it is important that they talk to one another as well as Communication, Translation, Development and Membership, and others. High-level planning should help improve the coordination among committees with shared goals and avoid mission creep within individual committees.
2. The OTW Board has a long history of well-meaning people becoming disconnected from the Org and its committees, and getting caught up in dramatics, which reflects badly on the Org as a whole and is counterproductive. While the Board has had the chance to start with a clean slate this year, these problems are quite typical for non-profit organisations. What is your strategy to avoid ending up with a situation like late 2015 again?
The most important way to assure a functioning Board is to have a candidate pool that is familiar with the org, its inner functioning, but also its larger projects. Board members have to be able to plan for the OTW’s long-term future as well as understand its day-to-day workings. Looking at the current Board, all members had worked productively in committees for several years and had proven themselves to other staffers and volunteers, at least, as dedicated staffers and good colleagues. They brought this ethos to the Board and the last year indicates that it is possible to have a functioning and productive Board.
All that being said, different work styles, modes of interaction, and personal conflicts all too easily creates dissent and dramatics. Most of the current Board has worked together before, which helps immensely, and Priscilla, James, and I have all worked and extensively interacted with the Board members. In fact, one of the most important recent improvements is the introduction of a new shared org-wide communication tool. The ability to meet digitally for work, fannish discussions, and personal communication has allowed members to meet across different committees in a relaxed and user-friendly atmosphere that had been lacking on our previous tools.
Given that contentious Boards are common in non-profits and that none of us can predict individual future candidates or our potential interactions, it is all the more important to implement James’s suggestion of a recall possibility. OTW can try to elect the best Boards from here on out, but we also need the ability to recall members who boycott or harm the org’s mission and future.
3. Both James and Kristina mention that there are several committees struggling to move forward with their goals, because they’re too busy staying afloat. What would be your strategy to identify these committees, identify their largest problem areas and get them moving forward again?
When we started OTW, everything had to be created from scratch. All staffers effectively created their own goals and missions and trained on the job. In some instances (such as Journal, Legal, or Systems), this worked, because we drew from professionals in the field who could transfer their abilities; in others, there were more difficulties. Over the years, the org has created better strategies and established protocols on how to select and train new staffers and volunteers, a process which works extremely well in a strong and functioning committee, such as Translation.
Once a committee struggles, it is difficult to reorganize itself without help: lacking sufficient personnel, this lack prevents them from recruiting and training the very people they would need to become sustainable. It is at that point, that Volunteers & Recruiting and Board need to find ways to help the committee re-create itself from scratch. In the past year, Board has stepped in and helped two committees (Web and Finance) to become functional again and start recruiting and training. This was possible, because other org members with the necessary expertise and leadership experiences effectively stepped in and rebooted the committees.
In general, we need to assure that all committees have a clear sense of OTW’s “high-level goals” and interact/communicate with other committees that share these goals. We also need to create more intra-org mentoring, either informally or formally. Priscilla, for example, helped me draft the training manuals for Journal, and it was immensely helpful to learn what procedures had worked or failed for another committee.
4. James was the only candidate who mentioned Internationalisation of the Archive. Why isn’t this a priority for the other candidates? While this is obviously a long term project consisting of many variables and steps, that shouldn’t mean no progress should be made. What small step forward in this process do you think achievable during your term on Board?
As a non-native English speaker, internationalization is a cornerstone of OTW’s mission. Our current Board has a majority non-English native speakers, and the staffers and volunteers with whom I interact tend to be in all time zones and natives of too many languages to list. Internationalization means many things within OTW, from the actual members and general goals to the specific projects and AO3 in particular.
Personally, I have mostly been concerned with the former, namely recruiting widely and diversely and making our work relevant and accessible as broadly as possible. In my area of TWC that meant appealing to international scholars and soliciting essays that address a wide range of themes and topics. It means meeting new scholars in new disciplines in other countries. It also means enabling translation of essays and providing specific support for non-native scholars. Likewise, I know Legal has begun to reach out to non-US areas to address the needs of more fans.
The Archive has a lot of goals that it has not yet reached, including the archiving of diverse fanworks and further Internationalization. I am excited about the many languages on which stories can and are archived at AO3, and I agree with James that translating the interface is most certainly another step in the right direction, but it certainly isn’t the only important goal in making the archive more encompassing.