Natalia Gruber is a teacher and lives in Brazil. She has been a volunteer with the Organization for Transformative Works since 2016, and served in the OTW Board from 2019–2021. She is currently co-chair of the Translation committee, leading a team of 250+ volunteers spread all over the world, and a member of the Volunteers & Recruiting committee. In the past, she has also volunteered for the Tag Wrangling and Policy & Abuse committees.
1. Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?
When my Board term came to an end last year, I wasn’t sure I’d be running again — especially not this soon! I planned to focus on my other roles for a few years before I considered this path again. However, the recent malicious attacks suffered by OTW volunteers have made me realize there is too much I still want to do as a member of the Board of Directors, and that working on improving volunteer safety and support is a task that cannot wait.
If elected to the Board, I hope to be able to support our various teams as we discuss and implement measures to help prevent and mitigate attacks like the one who took place in May. My main concern throughout this situation has been the impact it’s had on our volunteers, and the measures that could be taken to ensure something like this never happens again. Our volunteers’ affectionate, supportive, and defiant responses made me feel even more determined to investigate every possible way we as an org can better serve our volunteers. The OTW depends on its people, and it’s the people that make this org worthwhile.
2. What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?
As someone who has already served on the Board of Directors in the past, I believe my greatest strength is my existing knowledge of the role and its challenges. I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about the OTW, and to form good working relationships with our committees’ leadership through the years. In my time as a Director, I helped the organization navigate several delicate situations and difficulties, and each of these instances prepared me to address the new challenges that we will certainly face in the future.
Board work can be stressful and frustrating, and many Board members find the experience unexpectedly challenging. I don’t believe there is an easy solution to this problem, but my previous experience might be useful, because I can help my fellow Board members learn the ropes, as well as implement structural improvements to make Board work more sustainable.
Additionally, in my years chairing Translation, I’ve practiced management techniques that guarantee the functional operation of a 250+ volunteer team. This work requires extensive coordination across the OTW, plus flexible, responsive planning. I bring this know-how with me to the Board, where it will help me in assisting inter-committee work and coordination.
3. Choose one or two goals for the OTW that are important to you and that you would be interested in working on during your term. Why do you value these goals? How would you work with others to achieve them?
I believe the OTW should be able to provide more resources to its volunteers — better tools, more development opportunities, and better support. We can and should work towards acknowledging in every way we can the people who dedicate so much time and energy to making our organization and its projects flourish. That can happen in the form of professional development opportunities and of increasing awareness of how OTW work experience can be used to help volunteers in their careers. We can also investigate non-monetary benefits and services — for example, there are organizations that could potentially provide mental health support to our volunteers who have encountered disturbing content, and many companies offer products and services to non-profit organizations like the OTW at lower costs. There may be legal aspects to consider given that ours is a volunteer workforce, but I would like us to discuss whether doing this is possible, and in what other ways we may be able to support our volunteers.
Another goal that is very important to me is the implementation of more transparent and efficient policies regarding volunteers, especially ones involving inactivity, performance, and discipline. Right now, the burden to address these issues is entirely at the discretion of individual chairs, who have vastly different skill sets and experience levels. I have worked with people in the past who felt very comfortable dealing with complicated personnel issues, and ones who felt very unprepared, and the OTW provides little training or standardized procedures for those who take on management roles. If elected, I would do my best to communicate with OTW leadership as a whole and look for ways to improve our processes in a manner that was fair, consistent and transparent for our volunteers.
4. What is your experience with the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Try to include a range of projects, though feel free to emphasize particular ones you have experience with.
Over the years I have cooperated with many committees and projects — as a volunteer, as a chair, and as a member of the Board. I worked directly with AO3 during my years in Policy & Abuse, a time during which I got a deep understanding of the challenges involved in enforcing policy for such a large and diverse user base. But during my time on Board, my knowledge of all these moving parts has expanded and evolved, and I also got to learn more about projects I hadn’t had that much contact with before, such as Transformative Works & Cultures, and know more about their own challenges and goals.
I have always believed that the best strategy to support our committees and projects is to listen to them and trust their own experience when it comes to the difficulties and issues they go through. I hope to be able to be a resource for any committees who desire the Board’s input and assistance, without ever presuming I know more than they do about their own work.
5. How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the OTW, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?
I don’t foresee issues carrying out my work as a Translation committee chair in parallel with my Board duties (which I already did in my last term), but I have full confidence that should I need to reduce my workload in Translation, my co-chairs will be prepared to support me and take over my duties, as well as train replacements as needed. I’m fortunate to be part of a lovely and reliable team, and have no reservations about stepping down and handing over projects if I find that to be the best course of action.
Earlier this year, I joined the Volunteers & Recruiting committee with the goal of helping with administrative projects that would affect the entire OTW, such as implementing new tools and policy updates. If I am elected to the Board, I won’t be able to work on these projects in the same capacity, as Board members cannot be Volunteers & Recruitment members in order to maintain the latter’s neutrality in personnel matters. I would, however, like to find ways I can still support and contribute to these projects, in any way that I can.