Zixin Z’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?

Before I begin my answer, I want to apologise for spending less than ideal time on this set of Q&A responses. I was caught up between health and family issues, which took up the time I originally planned for doing research and outreach.

It’s hard to say what’s the main type of work I want to do, because there are so many! Aside from routine work for Board such as approving financial spendings, I want to increase transparency by exploring more forms of communication both internally with volunteers and externally with members and users. I want to help with the transition of the Organisation for Transformative Works (OTW) into a more professional organisation by implementing structural adjustments such as hiring external staff for Human Resources (HR). I want to establish clearer procedures for holding Board members and Committee Chairs accountable for potential misconduct.

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?

I think the current Board is facing a tremendous workload compared to the relatively small number of volunteers available. At the beginning of the term for OTW Board 2022, there were 7 volunteers serving on Board. With 2 of them resigning as of May 2023, there are only 5 volunteers remaining at the time of this writing. With some of the 5 volunteers currently on hiatus and some others experiencing real life hardships, I imagine it must be very stressful for current Board members, especially as there have recently been many controversial issues that need the Board to address them.

In an ideal world, having more Board members would of course be nice. In practice, the Elections Committee has spent great effort in finding and supporting candidates to run for Board Elections each year so that the current number of seats can be filled, and I think this would only be harder if we expand the number of Board seats. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t do this, but pointing out a practical issue that needs to be solved should the decision be made.

As I have suggested in my previous platform answers and Q&A sets, I support introducing administrative roles to OTW Committees, and this includes Board as well. I hope by sharing some of the admin burden of the duties Board members currently shoulder, the admin staff can assist Board in better executing projects and allow Board members to be more focused on other significant tasks.

While I don’t know the details of Board workflow, I think an open and friendly environment that allows discussions to happen rationally without personal grudges, ideas to be raised without fear of retaliation, and for volunteers to feel welcomed and supported is the utmost priority for a positive work environment.

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?

I think some of the distrust has grown from lack of transparency and supervision. Therefore, Board could try opening up more transparent communication with both volunteers and members and users in general. This may be done by means such as holding more frequent, high efficiency meetings or improving the speed of responding to inquiries (internally and externally) by recruiting administrative staff.

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?

I think it is definitely worth considering! A lot of the problems we are facing now originate from structural dysfunction, and I will discuss with other Board members (and consult non-Board volunteers for their input) if an external audit would be an appropriate solution for the OTW. If any Board members or volunteers offer a better alternative, I would be open to that too. In the meantime, I think it’s also important to support documentation for committees, which would help the external expert to have a better understanding of the organisation.

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?

Please allow me to quote my answer from Board Work I:

If the problem is that there are conflicts of interests among committees, I would consult other Board members to determine the priority and try to ensure at least the essential part of the project is not stagnated, while seeking if there are alternative solutions to meet the needs of committees.

Should interpersonal conflict arise, I can utilise the techniques I am going to mention in my answer to the next question.

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?

As English is not my first language, I am always cautious about my comprehension of other people’s messages and try to avoid making assumptions. I have also developed the ability to understand messages in different contexts from my three and a half years of Weibo moderating experience, both of which I think would be helpful in conflict resolution. Additionally, while my work in the Policy and Abuse Committee (PAC) is not exactly conflict resolution, it does involve explaining principles to users who may be frustrated, confused, or upset.

In terms of conflict with other volunteers, I would temporarily stop engaging further in conversations if one of us becomes too heated or hostile, because that usually does no good to problem solving. Instead I would take a step back to cool down and think with an open mindset before I continue to express my point of view and see where there is common ground for both parties.

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?

I want to establish a more coherent system for Board member’s accountability through means such as extending the effect of Constructive Corrective Action Procedure (CCAP, a procedure for dealing with OTW Code of Conduct violations) to Board members. It will require advice from legal expertise and potentially changing the OTW bylaws if necessary, but I think it’s a necessary step towards a more healthy work environment and regaining trust from both internal volunteers and members.

I also want to review the CCAP to see if it can be updated to meet the needs of an organisation much larger and diverse than it was at the time it was drafted, and consult HR on how to ensure each Committee’s criteria for issuing CCAP is consistent.

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?

Quoting my answer for the 3rd question above:

Board could try opening up more transparent communication with both volunteers and members and users in general. This may be done by means such as holding more frequent, high efficiency meetings or improving the speed of responding to inquiries (internally and externally) by recruiting administrative staff.

Yes, I would discuss with other Board members regarding the possibility of holding more frequent meetings. One problem for this year’s Board is that we are now going to have Board members living in Asia, so we might have to coordinate another usual meeting time because of time zones (in past years, Board meetings have been at 3/4 am for me).

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?

Some of our committees hold open-house discussions in their public work channel periodically, which I think would be a good way for Board to facilitate more open communication between Board members and non-Board volunteers. For volunteers that prefer to hold conversations in private, personally I would be open to scheduling DM chats (or group DMs if they prefer to communicate with multiple Board members in the DM). I think surveys and focus groups are also nice ways to facilitate communication, and should we adopt these methods I would try my best to design surveys/focus group questions that will give useful feedback, and consult relevant expertise as I do so.

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

This is so hard to choose because all the other candidates are so capable and passionate, and I would gladly work with all of them! That given, if I have to name one fellow candidate, I’m really looking forward to working with Anh: I have been in awe of how much effort they have put into their platform and Q&A sets, their genuineness towards members and users’ concerns as well as volunteers’ thoughts and opinions, and how they could address them in clear, eloquent language. I believe their documentation skill as a Fanlore volunteer and past experience modding fannish archives are also invaluable to Board.