Laure D. 2021 Q&A: Board Work/Communication

[Note: In total, there will be 3 Q&A posts to cover all of the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. Candidates were limited to 300 words per answer.]

Being on Board, you will experience periods of high-volume, high-stress work, and receive feedback ranging from thankful and enthusiastic to angry and hostile. Have you thought about what self-care routines and support systems you might need to have in place to maintain good mental health during your term?

Thanks for asking! I’ve worked in stressful environments before, and I have experience keeping a healthy balance in those circumstances. I’ve also been a woman-presenting-person on the internet for around 20 years, and it’s done plenty to prepare me for hostile feedback, including taking it into account even though it can be uncomfortable.

I think it is helpful to try and see criticism in a professional way, and not take things personally, even if it can be hard. I’m also well accompanied and supported by amazing volunteer colleagues who have a lot of experience within the OTW, and on whom I can rely to help me navigate these situations as a team.

The board isn’t very accessible to members that are not also volunteers. One example of this is the infrequency of public meetings. What do you think the board can do to be more accessible and accountable to paying members?

This is definitely something I’d like to explore more, if elected. It could take time to set up, but having Board members do more frequent public meetings would be a good place to start. If I’m elected, I’d have to learn more about what’s already in place and try to find new ways to communicate, both internally and externally.

Accountability and transparency are both important and sometimes difficult to maintain, so I’m committed to improving how openly the Board communicates, with the help of my fellow Board members.

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?

I find having a united front good, and I’m willing and committed to discuss with other Board members any issue that needs reflection. I am happy to adapt and learn and I have no problem accepting group decisions that have been sufficiently debated.

While my values are deeply important to me, and I am comfortable defending my point of view, as a board member it’s important to prioritise the needs of the many. If I happen to really be at odds with a decision in the making, I’d try my best to argue my case and get support to try and find a compromise.

Committees with heavy workloads vs available volunteers like AD&T and PAC don’t seem to recruit as much as other committees (like Tag Wranglers). Should the board get involved in directing/monitoring recruitment cycles if individual committees have more work than their volunteer base can handle and aren’t recruiting?

Board members keep in touch very regularly with Committee chairs, to stay aware of their needs and their capacities and help them if needed. But I don’t think the Board imposing a recruitment would be a good idea. As a Translation volunteer manager, I have experienced first-hand that it takes time and energy to select and train a new recruit, and it’s a difficult juggling act to stay on top of an already important workload and support a new volunteer at the same time.

This is why chairs and volunteer managers are in a better position than Board to know whether they can recruit, and how often. As I wrote in a previous post, I’m very keen on supporting chairs and other volunteers in this, by discussing and not imposing.

Is there anything y’all have learned within OTW/AO3 that you didn’t know before?

I’ve learned so much! Both because it’s the first time I’m volunteering for an organisation, and also because the OTW and the Translation committee in particular are very international and the tasks very varied, allowing me to hone a number of skills.

I talked about the most important thing I learned in the OTW in a post about volunteers’ work a while ago. And it was progressively letting go of my guilt reflexes from previous jobs. I’ve worked in companies that relied a lot on punishing and guilting employees for mistakes, and I find that to be really bad management! Guilt doesn’t work as a lasting motivation. So volunteering in the Translation Committee and finding kind, solution-oriented management was great. And now that I’m also a volunteer manager, I’m striving to keep that up and hope I’ll be able to bring that mindset to my work as a Board member if elected.

[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.]

At the request of the candidate, this post has been edited to remove personally identifiable information.