Zoë Tucker’s 2020 Q&A: OTW Communication and Future

[Note: In total, there will be 6 Q&A posts to cover all of the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. The candidates were limited to 300 words to answer each question, but they were allowed to rearrange and combine questions within a single post to more clearly express their thoughts. Candidate answers represent only the views of the individual candidate and are not endorsed by the OTW.

Due to a high volume of similar questions this year, many questions were merged and duplicate questions were left out. Other than this, questions appear in the form they were submitted. Questions represent only the views of the individual questioner and are not endorsed by the OTW.]

In your opinion, what are the most important threats to the OTW, and what are the most urgent threats to the OTW?

I view any factor that compromises our ability to successfully support and thus retain our volunteer base as the most important and most urgent threat to OTW’s success. The OTW and its projects are maintained by the work done by all of our volunteers with diverse skill sets. No one could do this work on their own, or with only a dozen or even a hundred other people, and so our volunteers are our most valuable resource.

This becomes a particular threat in cases where one person or only a few people do a majority of a committee’s work on their own, and become linchpins. These particular volunteers are more prone to burnout due to their essential roles, and the sudden loss of even one or two would be detrimental to the OTW as a whole. Part of the path towards reducing pressure and dependence on individual volunteers is finding new volunteers who might be suitable to take on a portion of the responsibilities usually upheld by these key individuals. Creating and maintaining documentation around what these individuals do is also vital; I’ll touch on that more in a later response.

I know we lose volunteers for several reasons, including life circumstances or simple incompatibility with the volunteering responsibilities they thought they would enjoy, but some problems can and should be resolved or at least improved upon. We don’t want to lose people we could have kept if they had received more guidance on what their next steps should be, or if they felt their concerns were better heard. The continued success of the OTW depends on our pushing towards and maintaining a positive working environment so that all our volunteers feel welcome and included.

Internal communications, barriers on sharing knowledge, and lack of transparency are perennial challenges for the OTW. What do you think is the most important step we could take to address these issues during your term on the Board? What specific actions will you commit to as candidates to make the OTW a more transparent organisation with fans?

In your opinion, which of OTW’s long standing issues would be easier to fix, and what steps would you take to address it?

I believe everyone volunteering for the OTW is acting in good faith, and that no one is deliberately shutting out other volunteers, OTW members, or our users. None of the issues the OTW faces have a simple fix, but I think the problem where committees are seen as insulated from the wider organization can be helped by strengthening existing working relationships between committees and fostering a culture wherein we encourage curiosity about the internal workings of our committees as well as committees we don’t serve on. I have seen how much our volunteers care about their work, and their enthusiasm to share it with and explain it to others, and I want volunteers to always feel welcome to observe internally public parts of other committees’ workspaces and to ask questions about the work they see.

I can’t commit to any actions on the part of the Board of Directors upon my potential election, but I can encourage the scheduling of live public chats so that more OTW members have the opportunity to talk to Board members or other committees in real time. I can also help do the work to get meeting minutes posted more quickly, so that our members and users can be better informed on the ongoing workings of the Board of Directors.

The OTW Board often has to speak with one consistent voice when answering questions and requests from the public, individual volunteers, and various committees. This sometimes means enforcing policies for the good of the OTW that may go against your personal preferences. How would you balance this need for consistency?

I wholeheartedly believe in and support the OTW’s mission and values, and believe it’s important for us as an organization to work cohesively in order to achieve them. Sometimes a Board member will need to publicly speak in support of things that they would not have personally chosen as a course of action, but I understand that the responsibility of presenting group decisions comes with the job, and it’s something I’ve had to do before.

The key to contentedly presenting a choice you would not have made yourself is knowing that your concerns were heard and considered before the decision is made. If everyone understands the thinking that went into the decision, it’s possible to individually present consistent reasoning for a course of action determined as a group. I will endeavour to make sure that everyone’s thoughts and concerns are heard, including my own, and then will be confident that I can support a decision made for the good of the organization and the fans it serves, regardless of my individual thoughts on the matter.

What would you like to see prioritized in OTW’s strategic plan while you are on the board? Where would you like to see the OTW in five years? How would you like to set the stage for that over your Board term? When you step away from Board after the conclusion of your term, what would you like your legacy to be? What kind of lasting impression do you want to leave on the OTW? [merged question]

As I stated in my platform, I’m enthusiastic about encouraging further documentation, an ongoing work in progress for the OTW which I would like to see continued and prioritized again in our next strategic plan. In our most recent plan, we aimed to utilize documentation to achieve more sustainability in the amount of work all volunteers and especially chairs have to do. A lot of work goes into the management side of our committees, and volunteers might still need to retire for any number of reasons. Every year the work that our volunteers face continues to grow, and current committee members have less and less time and energy available to recruit for more help. Distributing work more evenly requires more documentation of essential work as well as training new and existing volunteers to take up that essential work. Both training and documentation can be difficult to achieve when there is not a strong base of reliable volunteers, and yet these resources are also necessary to create and maintain that strong base.
In five years, I would like for us to be in a position with fewer linchpins, better work distribution, and overall less dependency on individual volunteers, so that people are able to temporarily or permanently leave the OTW without fearing that their absence would cause a major disruption. I don’t know that I value having an individual legacy of my time on Board, but if I can leave behind a group of people less stressed and more productive for my having been a part of leadership, I will be pleased.

Buy-in from committee chairs is a crucial step to enacting any change in the OTW. How do you plan to convince the chairs of the various committees to support your platform, even if it means changes to how their committees operate?

I believe that if two parties have a good relationship with each other, trust that they’re both acting in good faith, and recognize there is a problem, the discussion is not a matter of one party convincing the other. Most of the basic work of the OTW is done by chairs and the volunteer base, not the Board itself, and so successful change has to start from everyone agreeing that a problem exists. The role of the Board of Directors is then necessarily one of collaborating with and facilitating communication among disparate parts of the OTW so that solutions can be reached, and supporting Chairs and volunteers in making eventual changes into reality, not deciding what to do in a top-down manner. I don’t see my potential role as convincing chairs of what they need to do – if anything, I expect my mind to be changed by chairs who know more about what needs to be done in their committee for success than I do.

There are some cases where it is appropriate for the Board to approach committees to suggest major fundamental changes are needed for the health of the OTW, but the Board is most influential when called upon by the committees themselves to resolve a problem. My work will be to find a path forward to what I want to see happen that is compatible with the existing priorities and workflow of the committees involved.


ETA July 15, 2020: The note at the top of each Q&A post was updated per a recommendation by the OTW Legal Committee.