Michelle S 2022 Q&A: Board Work

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

What are a couple of major issues that you know the OTW Board struggles or has struggled with, and how would you personally act to avoid them if elected?

In the past, Board has felt out of touch with the OTW’s committees and volunteers, and I think Board members since then have been working to fix that perception. I would like to continue that work by holding public Board meetings where possible, hosting more internal sessions to allow volunteers to reach out directly to the Board, and in general increasing visibility of internal contact methods.

Another issue I would like to act on, should I be elected, is external communication and transparency. Again, I feel like this is an area that has seen improvement since I joined the OTW six years ago, but there’s always room to improve. I’m sure these ideas have already been discussed internally, but one thought I’ve had is posting Board updates on the OTW’s website on their own in addition to including them in the monthly newsletter, to better highlight the Board’s day-to-day work where possible.

What do you feel is the area where the OTW is currently most lacking, and what plans or ideas do you have for improvement in that area?

One problem I know the OTW has is intercommittee communication, especially between volunteers. A lot of committees end up working without interacting with other volunteers, who might frequently have ideas to help them with their tasks. Of course, there’s always a fair amount of work that doesn’t require interacting with other committees, but I think it would be helpful to increase opportunities for chairs and team leads to share and highlight resources and what has or hasn’t worked effectively. In addition, it could be useful to increase peripheral awareness of what other committees are doing in general, beyond the monthly newsletter.

The Board’s lack of executive control over all aspects of OTW operations has always severely limited its internal power. How do you think the Board should act if there are strong disagreements with a committee chair’s vision for a task or project?

There should always be room to talk things over and discuss different options. Where compromise is possible, it should be used to best effect. At the end of the day, the Board is supposed to have sight of the bigger picture, and so I can imagine there are times when they have to make decisions that may not make sense to a chair. In these kinds of situations, if at all possible, the Board should explain their decision if it is possible to do so while still abiding by legal constraints and confidentiality. However, I also think it’s important for Board to listen to chairs, especially when there are disagreements, and take their vision into account when making decisions.

The board appears to be reverting back to 2015 and is once again pushing out volunteers and chairs that they don’t agree with and/or get along with. How would you support fairness and impartiality in handling personnel issues if you noticed fellow board members being neither fair nor impartial.

The idea behind having a Board of Directors instead of just electing a singular chief officer is that there are multiple people to handle things. And the idea behind having contested elections every year is to make sure that the Board gets fresh new directors every year, and that the voting members of the OTW have a choice as to who will represent them. If someone is struggling to be fair and impartial in dealing with an issue, then the Board should agree to hand the task or problem off to another member of the Board.

In addition, personnel issues can (and likely should) be handled by the Volunteers & Recruiting committee, which could help in fraught situations.

Earlier this year the OTW’s volunteers got targeted in a malicious attack. What do you think should be changed to keep something like this from happening in the future?

I do think there should be changes made; however, I’m hesitant to go into very specific plans in the concern that malicious attackers could make use of areas where plans may not have been implemented yet. In general, I think security needs to be tightened, both technology-wise and volunteer-wise.

Do you think OTW needs to improve external transparency? For instance I’ve seen people who think the recent appointment of a volunteer to find a Diversity Consultant means there was no work done on the subject before that appointment, which as an internal volunteer I know isn’t true.

As I mentioned in the first question for this round, I do think the OTW needs to improve internal and external communication, which includes transparency. Using the Diversity Consultant Research Officer position as an example, it’s been mentioned in the OTW Newsletters almost every month this year; however, not everyone is going to sit down and read those as thoroughly as others might.

So, as a Board member, I would want to talk to the Communications committee and see what ideas they have for sharing information on a wider basis. I would also want to speak with individual committees and see if they have anything they’d like to share – not on a regular basis, necessarily, but just when exciting things happen for them.

Do you think moving towards hiring employees is a key structural priority for the OTW? If not, why not? If so, what do you think is a major obstacle keeping this from happening?

I do think it’s very important to continue moving towards hiring employees. There is a lot to be worked out before we get there, of course, but as with everything else, we have to keep moving forward and continuing work on this. The OTW can’t just snap its fingers and acquire paid employees, but we can start laying the groundwork for bringing in these positions.

We need a steady source of income, especially with the high-level positions we’d be likely to hire for first, and we’d need a better idea of where we want to hire and what that would mean for us legally. We’d also need to sort out benefits and ensure that volunteers don’t fall to the wayside as we begin to bring in paid employees. The Board of Directors has been working on creating a Paid Staff Transition Officer role for exactly this reason – to have someone who would be responsible for project managing the path to hiring paid staff. Should I be elected, I would be delighted to assist with finalizing that role and helping to search for a person (or people) to fill it.

[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.]