Milena Popova 2017 Q&A: OTW Changes

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

What do you believe are the 2 most important tasks the OTW has accomplished in the past two years? Why?

Getting to a point where the strategic plan is being implemented is a great achievement as it gives us a clear roadmap for the near future. It will allow us to create sustainable processes, build our capacity, and put in place better recruitment, induction and retention initiatives, hopefully preventing volunteer/staff burnout and making sure we have the people and skills necessary to keep the org running smoothly. Secondly, I think that our flagship projects going from strength to strength while re-organisation and strategic planning work has been ongoing in the background is a testament to our staff and volunteers’ commitment. AO3 has hit 3 million works; Transformative Works and Cultures continues to publish excellent scholarship in a way that’s accessible to fans and academics alike; Legal has continued to intervene in a number of important cases to protect fans’ creativity and reached out to fans at cons; Fanlore has over 40,000 articles on fannish history and culture; and Open Doors has continued to preserve fannish archives at risk. So I think it’s super-important to recognise the day-to-day work we do to serve our community and celebrate those successes we sometimes take for granted.

Name one way that you think the OTW needs to change in the next few years. Why is this change important for the organization?

I would like to see us become more consciously and deliberately diverse and inclusive. I’d like us to examine our structures to see how we can even better live up to our value of “infinite diversity in infinite combinations”. This may involve recognising that even within our inclusive community some fans are more marginalised than others. It may involve having some difficult conversations – with our critics, with each other, with the wider fan community. I would like to proactively work with committees to understand what each part of the org can do towards making this a positive and constructive process. I think this is hugely important for us as an organisation so that we can ensure we continue to serve all fans in their infinite diversity and infinite combinations.

You mentioned improving the OTW’s accountability to the wider fan community and engaging constructively with feedback. Are you thinking of anything specific when you mention this? Is there a particular type of often-submitted feedback that you think the OTW should address?

We have been criticised by fans of colour about the kinds of structures and spaces we create that make them feel unwelcome. And fans of colour have reported feeling dismissed when they have raised this, and that responses to such criticism are framed as a free speech issue. The thing is, as a community and as an organisation, we’re actually really good at balancing different people’s needs when we put our minds to it. We have, for instance, systems and structures in place that centre the wellbeing of sexual violence survivors while still allowing all kinds of fic to be published on the Archive. But we do have an enforceable warnings system, precisely because we recognise there are competing needs that we need to address to be a truly inclusive space. Given our values of accessibility, diversity, and inclusion, there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to centre fans of colour and their wellbeing within our community in similar ways.