Milena Popova 2017 Q&A: Communication and Outreach

[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]

How would you approach improving org-related literacy of non-staff volunteers, staff, and members for all committees?

I think the social element of our chat platform is one of the most useful tools we have in this regard as it enables people to meet and talk regardless of what specific committee or project they’re on. A ridiculous amount of work gets done and connections get made in organisations when you have informal spaces like that. So finding ways to encourage social or mixed social/work uses of chat to enable that kind of informal cross-pollination would be great. Tag Wrangling run regular wrangling parties, which are a mix of social and work – I’d love to be able to reapply something like this on a cross-committee basis.

I think breaking down the volunteer/staff distinction would also go a long way towards improving org literacy. It would abolish the perceived status distinction, making it easier for volunteers to engage. And it would hopefully give volunteers a greater stake in the org and more incentive to learn about different parts of it. Incentives on their own are of course not enough: we need to give people the opportunities to learn. Regular committee Q&As would be good for this. Also, when joining a particular committee, it would be great to get some training from the various liaisons to/from other committees on what exactly the links and overlaps are. (This could be pre-written or a chat session, or a mix of both.) I’d also love to introduce a suggestion box for committees. Sometimes someone in one part of the org might have a great idea for another committee but not know who to approach and how. Having a formal-ish mechanism for this might help, though we’d need to implement it in a way that doesn’t completely flood some committees.

What is one way that you think the OTW can improve with regards to how information about its work reaches fans?

At Communications we put a lot of work into building the organisation’s social media presence across a range of platforms and we’re getting some good engagement. We’re also proactively reaching out to more mainstream media and looking to get coverage of our work. A great example of this is the media outreach work we’re doing around the OTW’s anniversary celebration. I think one opportunity that we could take up more would be to collaborate with others, especially in fannish communities, in their own spaces. Legal have put a lot of work into this recently, attending conventions in person and also appearing on fannish podcasts, which is great. Fanhackers recently attended the Fan Studies Network conference and were able to provide some live coverage and make lots of new connections. There’s basically a whole fandom media ecology out there that serves the communities we’re targeting, and that we could add value to by collaborating.

What do you see as priorities for improving communication – both between the Board and individual committees, and between the OTW as a whole and fandom communities?

I think I’ve covered quite a bit of this in the previous two answers. A couple of things to add. I love that the Board now have a public channel on our chat platform where anyone can ask questions of them, that we get regular updates from Board in the newsletter, and that there are public Board meetings anyone can attend. Committee chairs also already have a direct link with Board through dedicated chat channels or other means. And it looks like asking committees what they need is now a regular annual practice, which is great. My personal perspective here is as a volunteer and non-chair/management staffer, so I think where we could potentially do better is making all this information more accessible to more staffers/volunteers (esp those not in management positions) by presenting it in bite-sized formats in spaces where they are likely to come across it, rather than having to go hunting for it and then being hit by a firehose of information.

As for fan communities, beyond collaborating with other people in their fannish spaces, I think word of mouth is something we may be underestimating. I have recently introduced several friends to the OTW and AO3 who I’d just assumed would have known about it. We are all part of lots of different fannish communities on and offline, with lots of different fan cultures. I know that I sometimes assume that surely everyone knows about the OTW by now, but that’s definitely not the case. So this is one where every single one of us can play a part by enthusiastically squeeing at our fannish friends.