Margaret MacRae – Elections Q&A (Part 4)

12) There has been a lot of discussion and confusion both within and outside the OTW related to the concept of ‘transparency’ and what that means in relation to the work of the Board and the work of the organization as a whole. How would you define transparency in these contexts and what steps would you take both to ensure everyone is clear on what transparency means and to hold the Board and the organization accountable to that definition?

A previous question was all about maintaining confidentiality and now this one is all about transparency. I don’t think that they are mutually exclusive at all. Transparency, to me, means being able to explain each decision that I make. So if I were to vote for one funding proposal but veto another, transparency is being able to say, “Funding proposal A clearly explained why the external training course will develop staff skills that committee X needs to realize specific goals. Proposal B did not explain why it’s necessary to hire a contractor on an indefinite basis.” Those are just examples. Transparency also means telling someone, “Hey, I can’t get into that because it’s confidential.” Lots of my suit-job is confidential, and that’s the same for my friends, and there are times where I have to say that to a friend, and they respect that I have to maintain confidentiality. They don’t think that I am doing it to be petty, or because its something bad for them, or anything like that. To me, part of being a Board member is answering questions, but there will be times that I can’t, and I will be transparent about that, too.

13) The OTW has had issues with regards to clashing perceptions of authority and hierarchy between the Board and committees. Staffers and volunteers vocally resist both steps that are perceived as attempts to verticalize the org’s structure and any Board decisions that are understood as top-down orders. What is your perspective on this issue?

I think that the org has taken a lot of missteps with internal management. Some of those steps intentionally alienated people and others were well-intentioned but ended badly. The result is that Board is not trusted. I actually think that staffers and volunteers don’t have a problem with leadership, since many admire and respect the chairs of their committees and other chairs generally. Their problem is with Board. Sometimes it’s just with the idea of a governing committee, which I can respect why people like the idea of leaderless organizations, but we don’t have that at any level, and I don’t think it’s realistic for an org of our size to function without leadership. Other times, it’s the individuals who have held the office, and I can understand why that is, too. I think a lot of the org’s issues with authority stem from the fact that it’s really easy to destroy trust and really hard to rebuild it.

Personally, I hate that the org talks about things in terms of “can’t, won’t, no!” We started seven years ago as a kind of crazy but cool idea, and we have grown into something incredible. We are proof that that you can realize audacious ideas, set huge goals, and crush expectations. I think that a lot of this “can’t, won’t, no!” comes from the org’s distrust in leadership. It’s scary to take risks and and try new things under the best circumstances, and when you don’t think that the Board has your back, it’s a thousand times worse. But it’s hard for the Board too. I want to help the org move forward and conquer new challenges, and that’s incredibly hard when staff and volunteers are going “can’t, won’t, no!”

14) How do you see your role on the Board in relation to OTW staffers and volunteers and OTW members? How do you plan to reconcile different staffers’ visions for the org? How do you think a Board member should act when staffers disagree with decisions that are under Board purview?

Fundamentally, I think that my role as a Board member is to listen to the entire OTW community. There is no way that I can make an informed decision on Board or represent the org if I do not know what the people who make up the org want. That said, my duties as Board member are to the OTW, not to it’s staffers, volunteers, members, archive users, or the general public. While each of those groups is part of the OTW, I strongly hope that in a hundred years the OTW will still exist and still be defending and promoting fanworks. I know that there are internal disagreements about the direction of the org and the org’s allocation of resources, and that will always be true. In my opinion, it’s the Board’s job to make decisions that ensure the org’s continued growth and stability, which may very well not always be what staffers, committees, members, and the end user want. I think that the Board should act professionally when staffers disagree with a decision, and the Board must explain why it made those decisions and why they support the org’s long-term goals.

15) What do you think are the unique challenges in interacting with a staff comprised entirely of volunteers as opposed to paid staff? How do you plan to navigate this?

We talk a lot in the org about professionalism, and generally I don’t think that our problems with it stem from being an organization made up entirely of volunteers. As an org, we are committed, enthusiastic, and successful, and that is totally because of our volunteers’ commitment, enthusiasm, and determination to create this community. Yes, people drop off the face of the planet, and yes, they can be bad about returning email, and there are miscommunications because of the nature of chats, but all of those issues to me are more problems because we are entirely internet based. Moreover, we as an org can be incredibly harsh to each other, and I, for one, have witnessed things that I would describe as bullying. I don’t think that we do this because we are volunteers, I think we do it because we are separated by screens and pseudonyms. In my suit job, to my face, I have had opposing counsel comment on my physical appearance, make insinuations about my sexuality, in court refer to me by a nickname I don’t even use, and more than once tell a judge I don’t know how to do my job. Yet, the single worst thing another attorney said to me was in an email. I honestly don’t believe that he would have said the things that he did if we had been face-to-face. My point is “professionals” can be jackasses online too.

As for navigating, first, I am going to model better behavior. Honestly, if I find that my first reaction to something in the org is to belittle someone, call them a name, or do anything else that I wouldn’t do if we were sitting in the same room, something is wrong and I need to get to a healthier place. Losing my temper, yelling at someone, or refusing to cooperate doesn’t make me right or superior, it makes me weak and small. Second, I will call people out for doing any of the above or in anyway making the org unsafe for someone. It’s unacceptable under any circumstances, and we should be better than that. Hell, we are better than that.

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Margaret MacRae – Elections Q&A (Part 3)

9) All candidates’ manifestos mention the rapid growth of the OTW, and therefore the need to grow a better internal infrastructure. What kind of infrastructure are you aiming for? In addition to that, what do you think should be the future role of the OTW Board? Advisory? Executive? Something else?

Right now we need to have an executive committee and what we have is the Board. There are too many projects and committees to not have an executive committee. In three years, I would like to have an advisory board that focuses on external outreach as well as an executive committee that is made up of each committee chair and executive staff or executive board. I don’t really care what we call them, but a group that would oversee setting internal priorities and the allocation of org resources. I should clarify that when I say we need more infrastructure, I don’t just mean an advisory and executive board. We need to increase infrastructure throughout the org. This means building in redundancies at each level, documenting processes, and developing procedures where we have just been muddling through.

10) If it were up to you alone, what steps and structural changes would you suggest to transition the Board out of doing day-to-day work?

First, I would clarify the purview of each of committees that we have and then look at filling the gaps (e.g. a committee to handle support tickets for Fanlore). Then I would clarify the requirements for each position within the org. Some of this would be pretty basic, like if you are on Board you have to be willing to reply to your email in a certain timeframe, or if you are a Chair you need to be willing to stop doing some staff level work, while some of it might be more complicated, like to be a member of Legal you need to be a member of a bar association. (Some committees have this already, but it’s not universal.) Finally, I would look at how to organize the committees into teams.This might be project based, skills based, or an amalgam of both and would give each team its own “executive” or “executive team” (I don’t like these terms, but I am not really sure what to use. Super chairs?) who would be responsible for dealing with providing day-to-day management and facilitating the team’s work. Ideally, this would free up Board to deal with org wide management.

11) If you could make one concrete change in the OTW tomorrow, what would you do?

So I am definitely assuming that anything is possible. If I was given a magic wand and told that I got to make one thing happen, this is what I would do: the OTW would be fully staffed, the staff would have the skills we need, and each position would have a back-up person. By that I mean that there is someone who can step in and fill in at a moment’s notice. I am not saying get promoted, but fill in. (We as an org need to stop promoting people who don’t want the promotions.) My step-dad died unexpectedly at the beginning of this year, and I didn’t hesitate to go on hiatus because every other member of SP could step up and do my tasks. This was possible because we document what we do, and we make sure that we have more than one person trained to do all of our regular tasks. In some committees, it might mean that when one person takes time off, several people have to move up. During law school, I worked for a retailer that insisted on this policy. When our store manager was offered a special role for six months, the assistant store manager became the acting manager, one of the key-leaders became acting assistant store manager, and so on. This worked because everyone had the training to step up, and everyone trusted that the person who would be taking their role had the training and knew how to do it. Life happens, and people should know that they can take the time they need to deal with that. Creating these redundancies may mean needing to cross-train via committee too, and it will certainly mean that people will need to trust their co-workers and document their work.

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Margaret MacRae – Elections Q&A (Part 2)

4) What do you believe the Board’s role should be in the area of fundraising in particular? What kinds of concrete acts should or shouldn’t Board members do with regards to fundraising planning and execution?

On this I would defer to DevMem. For the other non-profits I have dealt with, professionally and as a volunteer, the Board’s role was much more advisory than our Board. We don’t have a board buy-in, aside from the $10 membership fee, and I would be extremely upset if we moved in a direction where we recruited board members exclusively, or mostly, because of their ability to write large checks or get their friends to write large checks. To me that is anthesis of our mission and values.

That said, I can think of several ways that Board can help DevMem, not the least of which is clear up DevMem’s purview. I personally am very committed to building membership and outreach to fans, but in many ways that important goal takes DevMem away from focusing on development, which is vital to the org. Both are great missions, but I am not sure that they are missions that should be accomplished by the same committee in concert. Also, we need to diversify our fundraising. I know that DevMem wants to do this, but they already have a ton on their plates.

Clearly, one of the ways to do that is to work on getting grants. The fact that the Grants Committee was never able to get off the ground makes me really sad, but there are clear lessons that we as an org, and especially Board, can learn from it. I have written grants before, and I know how much work it is to develop a grant program, so I am hesitant to add grantwriting, or managing a team of grant-writers, to DevMem’s load. I know that it will relieve a lot of DevMem’s pressure if Board steps up and develops a functioning Grants team. As for more practical things, if DevMem tells me to write a letter to a supporter, call a donor, or make a face-to-face request for a donation, I am happy to do that and in fact have done all of that before. (I don’t really know how many potential donors there are in north Idaho…so face-to-face might be unlikely.)

5) What kind of challenges, in your opinion, does the OTW face in the financial area? What do you think are our most pressing needs and flaws in that realm?

We are an incredibly lucky org and in a great position because we are supported by numerous donors. I realize that might not be readily apparent, but one of the non-profits I worked for had to seriously cut back its programing, fire staff, and take on debt because it lost one major donors. Major donors are great, but they come with their own problems. The fact that we have such a large donor base is phenomenal. It is also really appealing to large donors and grant funders.

That said, we have to start developing our donors more. We also need to move away from relying exclusively on the drives and word of mouth to find our donors. It’s a long-term goal of mine that we develop an advisory board who can work at getting the word out about the org. There are numerous development tools that we don’t make use of because we don’t have the staff to do it. That has to change.

Overall, our current internal financial management lack necessary redundancy. What I mean is that we have created a system that creates a lynchpin. If Sanders were to get hit by a bus, I would be super sad, and the org would be super screwed. When I was the general manager of a non-profit my boss, who telecommuted, and I had the bus rule. Both of us had to maintain our files, physical and electronic, in a way that we agreed to so that if one of us got hit by a bus the other could sit down at the desk or access the work computers and immediately know what was going on.

6) Would you be able to lay out your vision for OTW’s financial future? How do you intend to balance the committees’ different needs?

I hope that when I complete my term the OTW has at least six months of cash reserves; drives regularly raise $100,000; and the org has been awarded five grants, one specifically to train technical staff to support the archive.

As for balancing the committees’ needs, I am more concerned with ensuring the OTW’s continued growth and stability. As a board member, my duty is to the OTW as a whole. Each committee’s needs are important, but those needs must support the OTW’ overall health and continued existence. Of course, it’s impossible to please everybody anytime, or anybody all the time, and I assume that there will be times that the org’s needs will upset individual committees.

7) We’re currently projected to be operating at a financial loss this year. Do you have any concrete plans for how you’ll address issues of financial sustainability going forward?

The org’s rapid growth makes it hard to really address what our operating costs are. I know many people in the org would argue that our operating costs include the cost of expanding our servers to match the growth of the archive. I really respect that position, but if we continue to operate at a loss that may very well be an untenable position. If it comes down to it, until we can develop new funding sources, the org would need to deliberately slow its growth. This idea makes me queasy, but we need to grow at a sustainable pace. Obviously, economy would need to be practiced in other areas as well, but the bulk of our expenses have to do with the archive’s rapid and awesome growth.

Ideally, it would be great if the org were in a position to project its growth so that we could fundraise to meet that projection, instead of reacting to outgrowing our current capacity. It would also be great if we were running capital campaigns to buy new hardware, getting grants to fund expert contractors, and developing major donors to support specific projects.

When I reversed an operating deficit at a meatspace non-profit I had to cut services, staff, and raised the cost to our users. Was it fun? No. Did people like me for it? Not really. Was it the fiscally responsible thing to do? Yes. This is one of the reasons you need a strong board or functioning executive; there are times that no one wants to do the unpopular, but necessary thing. We aren’t anywhere near this point yet, but if you are asking if I will do the unpopular thing to right the org’s financial ship: Yeah, I’ll do that.

8) AO3’s continued survival currently depends on a small handful of volunteers doing massive amounts of unpaid work. If those people became unavailable, what would your plan be to keep the archive from going under? Do you have a sense of how much it would cost to hire external contractors to do that work?

First, yes the archive survives because of the work of a handful of volunteers, but our entire organization survives because of the work of volunteers who put in insane hours for little reward. I do not want to ignore the hard work and commitment of anyone in this org. It should not matter if you bring specialized skills, or incredible enthusiasm for our mission–each volunteer is priceless.

The next thing is that we have to stop creating lynchpins. If the org can’t find volunteers with the skills we need, then we should start recruiting volunteers that we can train. If our staff doesn’t have time to teach someone so they have the skills that we need, we should find an external training that will develop our staff’s skills. If we can’t find an external training that works for us, then we should hire a contractor to teach us. I would much rather teach a person to fish then give them a fish. (Come to Idaho we can go fly fishing. Its fun!)

I have no idea how much it would cost to hire contractors. I don’t understand the point of this question. If you are asking would I just blindly hire a contractor and pay them what they ask, well no; because that isn’t the responsible way to hire services. I would expect that the various committees that need contractors would identify the specific skills the contractor needs, then get multiple bids for specific jobs, and then present this information to the Board and explain why, even though Contractor A costs more than Contractor B, A is the better choice to accomplish the needs of the committee.

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Margaret MacRae – Elections Q&A (Part 1)

1) Being an OTW Board member is a time-consuming job. What do you think should be an average day in the life on an OTW Board member? How much time do you think you can dedicate to OTW Board work each day? Describe a handful of standard activities you believe you should do on a daily basis.

Well, first, make sure that I have responded to any emails that I have received even if its just to say, I got your email, and I will get back to you by X date with a response. Second, attend any meetings that I have agreed to attend. Third, complete any tasks that I said that I would do. At a certain point, my belief about my duties is irrelevant, and this is why we as an org need to clarify the Board’s purview and the duties of director. As a director, the entire org is my boss, and the org should define what my job duties are. It’s no different than my meatspace boss telling me that part of my job involves writing case notes even though I find them boring. Of course, I may decide that I do not want to be a board member based on what the org tells me I have to do (right now I think its far too vague what the org expects from the Board), but that is a different issue.

2) What does the org’s expectation of Board members’ respect for confidentiality mean to you? Where would you draw the line when talking about internal org matters with friends and acquaintances via IM, email, locked DW/Twitter/etc, anon memes, or in person?

Confidential information stays confidential. I realize that sounds simple, but in many ways it is that simple for me. While I am not the org’s lawyer, or functioning as a lawyer when I am on the Board, as a lawyer I am still bound by professional rules. Almost everything that I do professionally is confidential. Additionally, the Board, or a Board member, revealing certain confidential information could be a violation of its fiduciary duty. I am happy to go into more detail about this with you, but for me, confidentiality is one of the simpler parts of being a Board member.

3) Since 2011, there have been no contested elections for OTW Board. The fact that an OTW Board position has at this point essentially become a “you want it, you got it” position undermines OTW’s legitimacy externally, and more importantly, Board’s legitimacy internally.

a) In light of this statistic, and the known fact of high director turnover, do you feel that the recent decision to expand OTW Board to 9 members is a good decision? If so, why?
Your question seems to be asking several things, all of which are different and independent issues. For the sake of clarity, and because I think each issue should be addressed separately this answer takes the issues that I see one at a time.

First, am I concerned that we have not had contested elections? Absolutely, however I do not share your concerns that it has undermined the legitimacy of the OTW because the org has followed the bylaws at all times. We can, of course, change the bylaws so that uncontested elections are not valid or to require that a candidate must receive a minimum number of votes to hold office. Practically, both of these situations would most likely lead to fewer Board members, which is an issue for the org’s overall health, or the Board choosing to appoint members without any org-wide process, which is also currently permitted under the bylaws.

My concerns stem from this: why are we as an org not developing diverse, experienced, and committed leaders? We should have contested elections, and the candidates should be phenomenal. We should have candidates that represent a wide range of fandoms, professional expertise, and org experience. I am stoked that I will be a part of a board where the five members come from four different countries. I do not know how to encourage people to run for Board, though I do have ideas about why the org is not developing the incredible people that we have. I would like to ask every chair and staff member: have you thought about running for Board? What are the reasons that you decide not to run? What can the org do to create a Board that you want to be part of? (I realize that there are many people who have no interest in management, or whose lives don’t afford them the time to be on Board–and this raises another issue, which that the time commitment should not be so burdensome that only an elite few can handle it. Ultimately, I can’t believe that is every staffer except for the five on Board.) We need to solve this problem, but I don’t think that looking to the people who do step up is going to offer the best results.

Second, you say recent change to the bylaws, but I can’t find a record of our various bylaw changes, so I don’t know when the change was made. (Ugh, and we should have a record of each version of the bylaws somewhere. I was also told these are supposed to be off-the-cuff answers, so I am not tearing through the wiki.) Recent is a vague term, however, I do not think that the size of the Board as provided in the bylaws, whatever it was previously and is currently, is an issue that is unrelated to contested elections. The Board needs to be large enough that no one Board member can control the Board’s direction. A diverse Board is a check on power that the org lacks right now. As for burnout, that is going to happen with a Board that is too small because there simply aren’t enough hands to share the work. Again, the Board also needs to be reflective of the org’s expertise, needs, and values, which is hard to do with a Board that is smaller than nine. I would be concerned if the Board’s membership was set at anything below nine. I would rather have those seats empty and work at developing future Board members, than have it be too small and discourage people from running. The fact that we as an org have not been able to fill those nine seats is an issue that has nothing to do with the size of the Board.


b) How do you address concerns about the fact that Board is currently the ruling body of the OTW and is supposed to represent the Board as an entirety, considering the lack of a democratic voting process? Do you think this undermines your position?
As I touched on in the previous answer, the Board is legitimately elected even if the elections are uncontested because they conform to the process provided in our bylaws. I am sorry to harp on this, but it’s maybe my number one pet peeve that I hear in the org. (It’s a lawyer thing.) We as an org can change the bylaws, but the bylaws are our governing document and therefore define what a legitimate election is for the OTW.

Let me be clear–I do not like that our elections are uncontested, and I wish that I was running in a contested election. However, that is outside of my control.

I do not believe that this is your explicit intention, but your entire question implies an accusation that I am perpetuating the Board’s perceived illegitimacy by running in an uncontested election. I don’t know what to tell you other than I wish that there were more candidates, but my desire to give back to the OTW and to fandom shouldn’t be curtailed just because no one else is willing to run. If there were allegations that the election was illegitimate, say, as a totally fictitious example, because VolCom refused to approve the candidacy of a staffer who in fact did meet the candidacy requirements, I would have huge qualms about participating in that election as a candidate.

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Soledad Griffin

Q&A (October 20, 2014- October 27 2014): Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Biography

Soledad Griffin is a Literature undergrad student who is currently working for a governmental educational plan for Argentinian youth called Jóvenes y Memoria. She designs and leads workshops about Argentinian social issues, organizes events that range from office parties and small regional meetings to gatherings of more than 10000 people, and trains, supports and manages volunteers to help with these tasks.

She has been in fandom for more than half her life, starting out in the Spanish-speaking anime fandom at the tender age of ten and later participating in a wide variety of fandoms. She has written fanfic, run fanclubs, organized conventions, created fanvids, and written meta, but these days her main fannish engagement is journal-based roleplaying.

Sole joined the OTW as a wrangler in 2010 and became part of the Tag Wrangling staff in 2011. She joined Internationalization & Outreach in 2012 and has since became chair of I&O. She has also served in the AO3 Support committee and the Survey workgroup, and was the lead of the Category Change workgroup.

Manifesto

1) Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?

The OTW has changed, expanding our scope and our userbase, but its internal structures still have many issues, and we continue to outgrow them at a fast pace. The internal atmosphere can be harsh and unkind, making the org an incredibly difficult place for many of us (volunteers, staffers and Board members included). I want to support my fellow OTW volunteers, and I want the org to be sustainable in the long term.

I have opinions, ideas, and skills to help with the transition towards a more sustainable organization and with internal structures that can handle the expansion that has already happened. I believe that the Board is the ideal place for me to do so.

2) What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?

In terms of OTW experience, I’ve served in the org for four years now. I’ve been in several committees, and my work in the Category Change workgroup taught me how to navigate complex issues that became even more complex after years of unfruitful discussion.

I have participated in all sorts of fandoms – in more than one language, both locally and online, etc.

I also have over eight years of volunteer experience that gave me a background in managing volunteers, facilitating debate and consensus, planning events, and working well under pressure. I know how to support other volunteers, how to inspire confidence, how to handle workloads fairly, and how to discuss disruptive behaviour in a productive manner. I know how to debate painful, complex issues with people from wildly differing backgrounds in such a way that everybody feels heard and secure.

Once you have successfully survived a three-day event with 2000 teenagers and no hot water, you can survive anything.

3) What goals would you like to achieve during your term?

In Spanish, ‘confidence’ and ‘trust’ are the same word – confianza. That’s my first and most important goal: to engender ‘confianza’ in ourselves and in each other so that working in the OTW is easier and more rewarding for all involved.

One of my goals is to define a clearer path towards the future, taking into consideration what we have learnt since the org began and allowing ourselves to rethink and rebuild our internal structures, how we make decisions, and how we work.

I am currently Internationalization & Outreach’s chair, so further expanding and widening our volunteer and user-bases is central to me. Our volunteers and staffers have very diverse backgrounds that we should be able to harness in order to reach out to currently underrepresented fannish communities and traditions. This way, we might be able to learn from them and they might be able to benefit from what we have to offer and that .

4) What is your experience of the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Please include AO3, TWC, Fanlore, our Legal Advocacy work and Open Doors, though feel free to emphasize particular areas you’re interested in.

The primary project I’ve worked with is the AO3, starting as a tag wrangler and then both as Support staff and the Category Change workgroup lead, so I’m very familiar with both the behind-the-scenes process and our users’ needs and opinions.

As an I&O staff member, I’ve been in contact with many of the other projects and areas of the org, given that our mission involves the whole org, but my knowledge of those other projects is less hands-on and more second-hand.

My first step to collaborate and support those committees would be to ask them what are their needs are, what are their goals and where they are regarding those goals. In general, I think that it’s important to make sure every stakeholder is and feels involved in the decision making process regarding their own purview. The Board should also ensure that the attention and resources that the OTW gives to each of its projects is equal and appropriate.

5) Choose two topics/issues that you think should be high priority for the OTW, both internally and externally. What do these topics mean to you and why do you value them? How will you make them a part of your service?

The first topic I would like to address as a Board member is outreach. It’s probably clear by now, but my org work in the past years has been about what strategies we can devise to make the OTW more diverse and to use that diversity in a way that benefits us and our members and users. However, in order to reach out to different fannish traditions that have historically felt left out or distinctly not catered to by the OTW’s projects, we first have to ensure the org is welcoming and can address their needs. This interest stems from a very personal stand-point – most of what I have done fannishly is outside of the areas where the OTW is a familiar presence. I want to change that.

From a more internal point of view, ‘confianza’, as I have already mentioned, is my main interest and goal. While many committees are great places to work, in general, we do not trust each other in the organization. We should be able to trust not only other individual staffers, but also that this organization has our best interests at heart, and we should be able to do this even when we disagree with others in the org. This trust on a general level would mean that we can feel secure and confident, knowing that we have each other’s backs and being more able to deal with criticism of our work. We need to make sure that we all are involved in decision-making, that communication lines are open and frank across the org, and that everybody feels valued.

6) What do you think the key responsibilities of a/the Board are? Are you familiar with the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors?

I am familiar with those requirements, and many of them are guiding principles that I already strive to fulfill in my org work as a chair and as a staffer in general.

Personally, I believe the Board’s main work is to articulate our goals as an organization and the best path to achieve them. From experience, I believe that to attain this, the Board must facilitate discussion internally when needed, create consensus, and be understanding of different perspectives (while being aware that not everybody will agree and that decisions must be made). The Board also has a responsibility to identify problems and diagnose solutions for internal conflicts and to oversee and advise committees.

7) 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?

Currently, my only role is as Internationalization & Outreach chair, a committee that is in the midst of a very long and occasionally confusing process of re-organization and re-defining its goals and work methods. I cannot realistically leave that post short term, but I am exploring options for succession plans. I plan to leave my staffer role as well once this process is finalized and the committee is back on track, knowing that in my position as Board member I would be able to advise I&O.

Jessica Steiner

Q&A (October 20, 2014- October 27 2014): Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Biography

Jessica Steiner began her fanfiction career by writing her first Star Trek novel in middle school. By the late 90s, she discovered that she wasn’t the only one doing this kind of thing and entered fandom, initially writing in Gundam Wing and Weiβ Kreuz and moving on from there. She’s always been a fandom wanderer, exemplified by her having written in over 30 fandoms just since finding a home at the AO3. Currently her primary fandoms are Homestuck and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As a day job, Jessica runs a legal aid family law practice, primarily working with victims of domestic violence and people with serious mental health and drug addiction issues. When not doing that, she’s working on building a platform as a professional writer and writing coach. She joined the OTW in 2012 and served on the Strategic Planning Committee.

Manifesto

1) Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?

After spending the past two years on the Strategic Planning Committee, I feel I have a good basis of knowledge and understanding of where the Org has been, where it is now, and where stakeholders would like to see it go in the future. Now that the current Strategic Planning process is beginning to wind down, I would really like to help move the OTW to the next level in a measurable way. Joining the Board seemed like the best way to do that.

2) What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?

In my day job as a family lawyer, I work with people who are going through crisis, such as victims of domestic violence and people with serious addiction and mental health issues, every day. I’ve developed both patience and empathy while managing to maintain a level of emotional distance that allows me to help guide them through some of the worst times in their lives while remaining level-headed myself. This, along with my training in mediation and conflict resolution, will be invaluable, given some of the ongoing issues that we see throughout the Org. (I elaborate on these in questions 5 and 6.)

In addition, I have years of professional experience with documentation management and training (in my previous life working in quality assurance at pharmaceutical companies), as well as people management, in my position as the head of a small legal firm.

3) What goals would you like to achieve during your term?

I would like to personally assist in turning the Board into a cohesive team that knows what they are supposed to do and has the tools to do it – a Board that can lead the OTW into becoming an organization that we can be proud to recruit our friends to work with. I would like to see the Strategic Plan finalized and executed, and for at least the majority of the goals to be completed during my tenure on the Board. Specifically, I would like to take part in developing a system to ensure that all committees and workgroups have the resources and support to achieve their goals.

4) What is your experience of the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Please include AO3, TWC, Fanlore, our Legal Advocacy work and Open Doors, though feel free to emphasize particular areas you’re interested in.

During my time on Strategic Planning, we have surveyed and reviewed all of the different OTW projects, so I feel I have a pretty good grasp on each of them. As I mentioned earlier, I really want to work with each of them in a systematic way to ensure that they all have the resources to accomplish their goals. For example, I’m excited about recent dialogue we had with Legal about expanding their advocacy to allow non-lawyers to help out in some ways, while I know Fanlore is in need of more staffing resources.

Every committee has their own unique needs, and the Board can’t be everything to everyone. We should be a resource and support to the extent that we can be, while trusting each committee or set of committees to do their work both autonomously and collaboratively as needed, without top-down micromanagement.

5) Choose two topics/issues that you think should be high priority for the OTW, both internally and externally. What do these topics mean to you and why do you value them? How will you make them a part of your service?

The absolute most important priority is sustainability. This goes into training, staffing, and documentation – we need to create the foundational infrastructure to make sure that no single person is unable to take time for themselves if they need it, and no committee will ever fall apart when they hit a speedbump.

The second is communication. Not only is it important to improve the basic lines of communication between the committees and reduce silo’ing, which happens when different committees work too much in isolation from one another. I particularly want to see the Org leave behind some of the bad feelings and history that unfortunately have built up. I believe that, moving forward, we should build a culture of trust, forgiveness and empathy for one another. We’re all fans. We’re all doing this out of love, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that sense of joy and passion we have for fandom. We might not all agree all the time, but we should be free to express our opinions without fearing retaliation. On the flip side, we should all remember that when you hear or see something that you don’t like, it doesn’t necessarily come from a place of malice.

6) What do you think the key responsibilities of a/the Board are? Are you familiar with the legal requirements for a US-based nonprofit board of directors?

Right now I believe that we have to face the reality that our Board is currently an executive Board and is in a position of leadership of the Org. The Board’s main responsibility is to be the engine, driving the OTW forward in the direction that we want to go. The Board should be in tune with our vision as an organization, as well as with all of the committees’ needs and where they all fit within that vision.

The Board is not in a position to do the day-to-day work, and I get the sense that our Board has been placed in that position a bit too often recently.

Yes, though I am not American and haven’t worked in a non-profit, I am familiar with the legal requirements and the duty of care that Board directors hold towards the organization.

7) 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 plan to step down from Strategic Planning (in any case, a requirement to be on the Board), so I will have the time to devote myself fully to my Board duties. Prior to stepping down, I will be assisting Strategic Planning with a recruitment round and training to ensure that the transition is smooth.