Nicole Abraham 2020 Q&A: OTW Communication and Future

[Note: In total, there will be 6 Q&A posts to cover all of the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. The candidates were limited to 300 words to answer each question, but they were allowed to rearrange and combine questions within a single post to more clearly express their thoughts. Candidate answers represent only the views of the individual candidate and are not endorsed by the OTW.

Due to a high volume of similar questions this year, many questions were merged and duplicate questions were left out. Other than this, questions appear in the form they were submitted. Questions represent only the views of the individual questioner and are not endorsed by the OTW.]

In your opinion, which of OTW’s long standing issues would be easier to fix, and what steps would you take to address it?

In your opinion, what are the most important threats to the OTW, and what are the most urgent threats to the OTW?

As mentioned in my platform, I believe that one of the most important threats to the OTW is volunteer burnout. Volunteer labor is easily our scarcest resource, and we consistently have more work that we would like to accomplish than people with time and training to do that work. Although it may not be the easiest due to the variety of potential reasons for burnout, this is the OTW’s most crucial problem to address. Without the labor required it is extremely challenging to implement any other necessary improvements.

One important step in increasing the sustainability of the OTW is increasing cross-committee knowledge and communication. Helping volunteers understand the impact of what they and the OTW as a whole do, as well as ensuring that no one is working in isolation, assists in boosting volunteer motivation. Not only can this lead to increased volunteer retainment, it would also encourage teamwork on future projects.

Internal communications, barriers on sharing knowledge, and lack of transparency are perennial challenges for the OTW. What do you think is the most important step we could take to address these issues during your term on the Board? What specific actions will you commit to as candidates to make the OTW a more transparent organisation with fans? [merged question]

Internally, I believe one of the most important steps to improving the ease with which knowledge is shared is to increase documentation on what is being done and why certain decisions are made. This is a place we’ve often struggled, as ensuring something gets documented properly can often be pushed aside in favor of beginning the next important project, especially when volunteers are already spread thin. A key element to ensuring internal documentation is created and updated is ensuring there are volunteers that have both the time and motivation for this project. This could potentially be done by recruiting or training people who have a specific interest in documentation, or by finding ways to lighten the task load of volunteers with key unrecorded knowledge.

Externally, one of the most important steps that has been taken to increase transparency is publishing the OTW’s budget. Ensuring that the budget continues to be shared in a way that is understandable to the average fan is vital, particularly because we run on the support of donors. Additionally, I believe that the OTW’s monthly newsletter, which shares some of the projects committees have been working on during that month, is an underutilised resource. Promoting that to wider audiences would hopefully increase the understanding of fans curious about what the OTW is doing at any given time.

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?

Collaborating with other Board members and OTW leadership at large, particularly in relation to public statements and important decisions, is vital to ensuring we maintain a consistent message that supports the OTW’s ideals and the values it was founded on. I wholeheartedly support the OTW’s mission, and know that it is vital as a Board member to put the needs of the OTW before any personal preferences. During my time as a member of the Policy & Abuse committee there were many occasions where I had to enforce AO3’s Terms of Service, even if the work I was protecting contained subject matter that I did not personally enjoy. I believe it is best to approach the Board’s mission with similar ideals. As a Board member, it is important to remember that we speak not only for ourselves, but for the millions of fans who trust and benefit from the OTW’s services.

What would you like to see prioritized in OTW’s strategic plan while you are on the board? Where would you like to see the OTW in five years? How would you like to set the stage for that over your Board term? When you step away from Board after the conclusion of your term, what would you like your legacy to be? What kind of lasting impression do you want to leave on the OTW? [merged question]

One goal I would like to work towards in the next few years is being able to reliably support paid staff. Getting to that point requires quite a number of steps, particularly diversifying our sources of income so that even if donations were to drop temporarily in the future we could continue to support our staff’s livelihood. As a Board member, I would do whatever I could to support our Finance team and ensure they have the resources that they need to investigate and pursue further opportunities. Additionally, it’s incredibly important to improve the sustainability of the organisation as a whole. Working to increase volunteer retention is a large step in this, but it must also be supplemented by making sure we find the time to recruit and train new volunteers. Improving internal communication and providing easy ways for volunteers to learn what other committees are working on would not only improve any collaborative efforts, it would also contribute to increasing internal transparency. At the end of my term on the Board of Directors, I hope to leave the OTW in a more sustainable position than when I began.

Buy-in from committee chairs is a crucial step to enacting any change in the OTW. How do you plan to convince the chairs of the various committees to support your platform, even if it means changes to how their committees operate?

Ideally, it would be best to work with chairs from the beginning when developing any plans that may involve their committee. They will be the ones who best know both any potential challenges and what changes are most likely to be beneficial. In terms of particular problems I care deeply about, I do believe that most chairs will support my main goal of increasing volunteer retention, and are an extremely valuable resource when determining possible causes and solutions. Chairs form the backbone of the OTW. They perform an incredible amount of work and possess a large collection of knowledge, and I plan to seek their guidance throughout my term as a member of the Board.


ETA July 15, 2020: The note at the top of each Q&A post was updated per a recommendation by the OTW Legal Committee.