Soledad Griffin – 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.

I should be able to dedicate around 30 hours per week to my Board work without interfering with my other responsibilities. Longer hours than that are not sustainable on a long term basis, let alone for several years, in my experience.

I do not believe that, given the nature of Board work and what I believe the Board’s job to be, there can be an ‘average’ day or ‘standard activities’ that are more specific than ‘reply to emails in a timely manner’.

Internally, the most important task is to keep track of committees’ work and to maintain diverse lines of communication with staffers and volunteers, so that they can bring up any matter that needs Board input. It is also important for the Board to be able to discuss the org’s wider goals.

I also think that communicating with other organizations and institutions that have goals in common with the OTW is part of Board’s purview, as well as looking for new possibilities for collaboration.

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?

The first, obvious line is mentioning names or identifying information, which is something I wouldn’t do, in any context. I wouldn’t mention specific situations or any projects that are not public yet either. However, I would continue to talk in general terms with my friends privately, because the OTW is an important part of my life.

In general, however, there needs to be more openness regarding internal org matters, and I would discuss my personal views of the OTW publically if it did not mention anything specific or confidential. I do not believe that encouraging a culture of silence is good for this organization. There can be reservations among volunteers regarding discussing org work, even when it doesn’t interfere with anybody’s privacy or disrespect confidentiality.

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?
That decision was made in light of how heavy the Board workload was, and I respect those who made it and their reasons for doing so. However, I do not think it was the right one, not when there are not enough candidates to fill those seats on a yearly basis. Smaller groups also have an easier time finding consensus and coordinating work.

Personally, I believe the answer was to reassess the Board’s workload. The high director turnover was a symptom of a Board that was not working the way it should and was not interacting with the org in a way that was productive, not of a Board that was too small.

This was meant to address the larger institutional problem of candidates not coming forward but it only worsened it.

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?
I believe ‘the Board as an entirety’ was supposed to read ‘the membership as an entirety’, wasn’t it?

With that mind, it does undermine the Board’s legitimacy in some senses, but first, the issue of representation is larger than no contested elections. We are also representing the interests of people who cannot be members – those who cannot afford it and those that have no access to our payment options, yet are volunteers and users of the OTW – so the fact is that the Board election is never going to represent the entirety of our stakeholders because a large number of those stakeholders cannot vote in the elections.

It is a problem, not only because there are no contested elections that will give the candidates legitimacy with the membership, but also because the lack of candidates is a symptom of a larger problem, as I mentioned in the previous question.

However, there is more than one way of building legitimacy. I would do so with my work, proving that I am qualified for Board work.

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