Priscilla Del Cima has a Law degree and is finishing an MBA at Fundação Getúlio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro. She first joined the OTW in 2009 and has worked on various committees since then, including Development & Membership, AO3 Documentation, and Wiki. She has been serving as chair of the Translation committee since working to restructure the team in late 2013, and is also working to rebuild the Finance team.
1. Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?
I have skills and experience that I believe can help the Board, especially this Board right now, with the workload and challenges they’re facing. They spent their first few months dealing with a difficult handover and transition process and have accomplished a lot in the short time they’ve had, but there’s still a lot of work ahead. One thing I’ve done a few times now is work with a team that’s got a lot of under-documented know-how and processes and help them think things through, get everything on paper, and review and improve as needed. The OTW’s internal atmosphere and communication improved significantly in the past year (there’s still more to do, of course!) and it feels like we’re in a good place to start making significant advances with regards to cohesion and knowledge management.
2. What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?
Chairing the Translation committee means overseeing the management of about 200 volunteers, and a lot of experience relevant to Board work. It includes making decisions about and dealing with tricky personnel issues, working out communication difficulties to try to help everyone find common ground, debriefing extensively and often with volunteer coordinators about their progress and issues, interfacing with pretty much every other team in the OTW about their translation needs and expectations, and doing long-term planning and course correction for Translation as needed. I’ve also worked with OTW fundraising for a few years, which gives me a good perspective on an entirely different part of the organisation’s activities.
In real life, I’ve mostly worked with contract and property law in Brazil—not as directly applicable as the above, except in that I kind of enjoy reading and picking apart contracts. I’ve also been studying a lot about project management and business process analysis in the past few years.
3. What goals would you like to achieve during your term?
- Having high-level planning and goals for the OTW. We don’t really have high-level goals for the organisation as a whole that make sure all teams and projects are working in the same direction and considering the same priorities in their everyday activities. This means sometimes we’re heading in different directions, or not even aware of what others are doing. I would like to work with Board and committee chairs to reach an agreement on what our priorities should be and make sure everyone’s current work is advancing those priorities; regularly check in with them to see how things are progressing and changing; and make sure this will continue to happen in the future.
- Creating basic training for new Board members, accessible to all OTW volunteers in our internal wiki, explaining in detail what all the everyday responsibilities of a Board member are, the workflows involved, and what internal and external resources one should read when joining (or even before joining).
- Rebuilding the Finance committee, with regular processes in place for bookkeeping and contracting external tax preparers, CPAs and potentially audits as needed. This one’s a bit of a freebie, because work is already ongoing and we’re recruiting in August, but I’m looking forward to it finally being settled.
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.
I’ve worked in Wiki, the committee that oversees Fanlore, and in Docs, the committee that writes FAQs and tutorials for AO3. I’ve also collaborated with the Fanlore and AO3 teams, as well as the Journal (TWC), Legal, and Open Doors committees, in my work in both Translation and Development & Membership. I’m pretty familiar with all our projects and the inner workings of the committees involved in making them happen.
I think the Board has two main roles in supporting these projects (and all our teams): making it possible for teams to have the tools and resources they need to do their work, and checking in with them regularly to make sure they have set goals and are making progress towards them—and if not, to discover why not and what can be done to help. Teams in the OTW have very different cultures and work rhythms, so finding ways to get everyone on the same page can be tricky, but it’s important to have accountability regarding plans and progress. That’s essential for our volunteers’ motivation and for our legitimacy as an organisation. We’ve even had issues in the past of entire committees (like Translation) stopping work or disappearing entirely for months; we need stabler structures to prevent that.
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?
- Budgeting and fundraising: The OTW had its first budget published this year, and there’s a lot we’re still learning about planning and forecasting our income and expenses. It hasn’t been a process without its growing pains and we still have a long way to go, but I think we’re making progress in terms of awareness of what we need to communicate and how we should do that. We need to make the discussion, analysis, and reporting of this data more regular and integrated with our fundraising and our communication with members, users and fans. As we set up the Finance committee, I’m hoping it will have that perspective from the get-go; I’ll do everything I can to make this a priority both there and in Board.
- Expectations and culture: There are many aspects of our organisational culture that need changing over time. One that I would stress is that we need to define our expectations more clearly. In many parts of the OTW there are still traces of a culture of “this is volunteer work, so any kind of work is good work”: it’s always okay to take weeks or months to do something, to delay emails endlessly, and so on. This can lead to many issues, both internally and externally. Yes, it is volunteer work, and precisely because of that, we need to be respectful of each other’s time and efforts, clarify each role’s expectations from the outset to avoid surprises and imbalances, and address issues if they occur. I hope to be able to share my experience fighting this mindset in teams so far and help identify and reverse instances of this.
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?
In our specific case, the Board realistically has to not only fulfill the traditional nonprofit US Board role—duty of due care, duty of loyalty and duty of obedience, including fiduciary responsibility, following applicable laws and bylaws, carrying out high-level supervision of committees’ work—but also do a lot of executive work with committees. The Board is meant to help them in various ways, from coming up with solutions to problems or conflicts they’re facing, to reviewing their proposals for compliance with OTW policies and roping in other teams as needed, such as Legal.
We need to find ways to change this in the future, because it effectively means Board members get caught up tracking and discussing these minutiae and don’t have time to think about high-level goals and where the OTW and its projects should be heading. Thinking of goals for projects and teams ends up being solely the responsibility of committee chairs, if we can spare the effort. But since we often don’t discuss our plans with each other, there can easily be gaps or contradictions among teams’ goals and activities, or committees can make big changes or shift goalposts unnoticed. It’s a serious structural problem that needs addressing on multiple levels, and changing this will be a challenge.
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 as Translation chair by the end of the year regardless of the election. For the past few months, my fellow Translation chair and I have been training someone to step up as junior chair, which he is about to do.
As for Finance, my role there is to help them get set up, which I can do from Board just as well. I’ll leave the committee once it’s stable—after a new batch of volunteers has been trained, the basic processes have been discussed and hammered out, and everyone is working.