Qiao C’s 2023 Q&A: Board Work II

[Note: There will be 4 Q&A posts total, covering all the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. Candidates were limited to 300 words per answer.]

What’s the main type of Board work you want to do, concretely?

I am most interested in coordinating goals with committees and workgroups, for I believe that I could and should help in facilitating effective internal communication as soon as possible. I would be willing to reach out to committees and ask for their input or opinions on things. I believe by doing so, it would encourage the committees to do likewise. I would also like to make more use of asynchronous chat instead of live chats because timezone is difficult to manage and according to my experience as tag wrangler in a big team, asynchronous chat is not less efficient in organizing discussion.

Is the current Board’s collective capacity sufficient? Their multi-year delay to update on a priority issue indicates otherwise. Would you support adding seats or administrative staff to the board? What would allow individual directors contribute more (and more effectively) to the organization?

Previously, we had nine members on the Board. I think the number was lowered because it seemed difficult to get enough candidates each year. In the ideal case, more seats on the Board should improve diversity and function and I absolutely support it.
However, we are still facing challenges in getting enough candidates each year. Despite their wish to help the organization to change, volunteers are hesitant to run for the Board because the working environment for a Board member is unsustainable. The low efficiency in communication between the Board and committees and individual volunteers also leads to low trust internally.
We need to solve the trust issue about the Board and make a healthier environment before next election season to expect more participation from our volunteers. Hopefully within two or three years we could collect enough candidates to consider enlarging the Board’s volume again.

The OTW has a history of distrusting its Board of Directors (most notably demonstrated in the 2015 elections). What steps do you think the Board could take to regain trust, not just with internal volunteers, but also with the broader community of fandom?

The lack of trust is a result of lacking transparency, a serious and long-standing issue within the organization. The lack of communication from the Board with the volunteers and with the user base has deepened this situation, for instance, late replies (or no reply at all) to emails from users to the Board.
As representatives of the organization, the Board is responsible for reporting on the progress of projects to our users, therefore the public meeting should be promoted more. I also suggest that we separate Q&A sessions from public meetings and hold the Q&A sessions more frequently. As members of the Board, we should listen to feedback from volunteers for they are directly influenced by the decisions the Board makes. I propose that for each question received, the Board will provide a general timeline as to when an answer will be given.

As a Board member, would you support contracting external subject matter experts to perform an institutional audit, including potentially developing a revamped org chart, with the goal of strengthening internal efficiency and organizational resilience? If not, how would you pursue those goals?

In my opinion, we are now in desperate need of help from contracted experts. The organization’s volume and complexity are far beyond its self-adaptation capability. For diversity issues, we are actively researching for a DEI consultant with help from an internal DCRO. For burn-out issues, we are also in the process of researching HR professionals. I expect the HR expert to help overburdened committees in task allocation. These examples are what we are currently working on, but I would support reaching out to other types of experts as well. During my Board term I hope to reach out to committees to see what other experts could aid them or the wider organization in our work.

Serving on the Board of Directors means you will have to work with all committee chairs. How do you plan to handle situations where your priorities do not align with the priorities of committee chairs?

When the priorities of the Board conflict with that of the chairs, with respect to each other’s work, we should sit down for a discussion. I would listen to the chairs’ concern and carefully specify the points in a task that induce conflict. When we have a Board member who works for that committee, I would suggest that member to be liaison between the Board and the committee so both chairs and the Board could better understand each other’s situation.

How would you handle conflict – with volunteers, users, other board members, the OTW’s aims? Are you good at conflict resolution? Especially understanding people’s viewpoints in a text discussion, and explaining and standing up for your own without making stuff blow up. What strategies do you use in those situations?

When handling a conflict, if there is a point in someone else’s view that I am not certain about, I would carefully ask them to make it clear so that I don’t mistake their meaning or motivation. When stating my own opinion, I usually number them so we could easily narrow the discussion on more specific topics if disagreement happens. This helps me a lot in negotiation. I believe that with time serving in the Board I would become more experienced in conflict resolution, yet at the moment, it is one of many things I would like to learn from my colleagues who are better at it.

Considering the evidence that has been brought to light of past board misconduct, if elected, what would you do to make sure such egregious misuse of power cannot be repeated?

As I have discussed in my last Q&A set: as long as the US laws about non-profit organization allow for it, we should really establish an impeachment mechanism that could be launched by our common volunteers. Right now, a Board member cannot be impeached by volunteers even if they violate the Code of Conduct .If a certain Board member misbehaves, there is little that other volunteers can do to seek recourse but wait for that Board member’s term to end. I would like to discuss with our Legal and related committees about the possibility of establishing such an impeachment mechanism as soon as possible.

What would you do to improve transparency of the Board’s actions and processes so that fans outside the org know what the OTW is doing? Board meetings are an hour long, held just four times a year, and frequently end without sufficient time to answer questions. Would you be in favor of holding meetings more frequently, making them longer, or holding special Town Hall type sessions where the focus is on answering questions?

I think we should separate the Q&A session from the public Board meeting. A Board meeting requires attendance of all or most Board members because some processes need a vote, e.g., approval of an annual plan from the Strategic Planning committee. Because Board members are located all over the world, arranging these full-roster Board meetings is challenging due to the various timezones and holding them more frequently is likely to make that harder, especially if the number of Board members is increased. However, I do think we could arrange regular Q&A sessions with only two or three Board members. By doing so, questions could be answered more often and in time. Board could also give regular reports on project progress such as in the monthly newsletter or in the Q&A sessions. Since some popular social platforms are falling apart recently (and likely will not be miraculously saved), I also think we should promote a different method of publicly collecting users’ feedback and sharing updates to our user base.

How to you plan to improve internal org communications so that every volunteer has a chance to be heard, rather than just the loudest voices? For example, do you have plans to do surveys or focus groups of among volunteers?

At the moment I don’t think volunteers’ “chance to be heard” by decision makers is a communication issue anymore; a serious problem we are facing is that decision makers pretend they don’t hear anything, selectively respond to things they do want to hear, or retaliate against those who say things they don’t want to hear. Therefore I propose that for each and every feedback we receive, the Board will provide a general timeline as to how soon a response will be given. This is a different problem from mere issues with communication.
Survey is indeed a good approach, in a normal situation. When a project might involve volunteers from multiple committees or volunteers with specific skill sets, e.g., speakers of a certain language, it is a very considerate step we should definitely take.

Name another candidate you are looking forward to working with and describe how you believe your skills or experiences will complement each other.

I do want to say how excited I am to work with all the wonderful candidates this year, but if I have to name one, Anh! I didn’t know her until the election season began, and I regretted that we didn’t meet earlier. We need her opinions on AI works because she is an artist and she is one of those who is heavily affected by AI technologies, therefore she should have deeper consideration on this topic than many of us. She speaks multiple languages and has shown her understanding of diversity, and I believe her ideas and cultural background will bring a new and much needed perspective on diversity. I’m also glad that she is from a different committee from me, because together we could bring views from different aspects to the Board and provide better communication with different committees.