Or, who I think you should vote for, and why.
Disclaimer: The following reflects my own personal opinion, not the official position of any committee of the Organization for Transformative Works.
I've been an OTW volunteer since January 2009; since January 2010, I've been a member of the International Outreach committee, which has just been renamed Internationalization & Outreach to better reflect its goals and purview, and I've been a tag wrangling volunteer since the Archive of Our Own went into open beta in November 2009. As a writer for the Transformative Works and Cultures
Symposium blog, I'm also a subsidiary member of the Journal committee.
I believe in and care deeply about the mission and potential of the Organization for Transformative Works as a radical panfandom experiment, as a venue in which all fans who choose can find a cross-fandom home with diverse resources for their needs. I'm exceedingly proud of what the OTW has accomplished so far, and of my own small part in it, and I am convinced that this Board election in particular finds the OTW at a crossroads. We as an organization need a Board that will be responsive, flexible, and supportive of us as volunteers and staffers and as fans with diverse, valid interests and desires for the OTW.
Without divulging any confidential matters, I don't think it'll be much of a surprise to people with an interest in the OTW when I say that volunteer burnout has been a huge issue for us over the past two terms or so, if not longer--I can only really speak for the length of time in which I’ve been involved with the organization. Just over the past term my home committee, I&O, has seen a lot of good people depart because they didn't feel like the committee’s efforts were being valued, or that they themselves were being supported in their work at the organizational level. (Julia Beck, the current chair of I&O, definitely has first-hand appreciation of the fact that the OTW desperately needs to serve its volunteers better.) Looking around, volunteer support and retention is one of my biggest priorities. If the OTW can't build itself a sustainable volunteer infrastructure now, it will eventually self-destruct. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I believe the future of the OTW and its projects is on the line in this Board election, and this issue is why.
Like a lot of people--at least, I can say for certain, like Julia Beck--I am deeply frustrated by the OTW's track record on representation. This is basically the issue that I&O was created to address, and it's deeply frustrating and mortifying to me that after nearly two years as a committee we're still having to fight for almost every step towards increased representation outside the mainstream of (Western) media fandoms. There are a lot of concrete examples I can't mention here, but I know that for me personally the issue is reaching the make-or-break point: if there isn't real movement on issues of representation in the next term, I don't know that I'll be able to continue to justify my involvement in the OTW to myself. Moreover, I believe that an OTW that isn't better representative of fandom globally would, on a fundamental level, be betraying its own vision of itself. This Board election is critical for the OTW in light of its ongoing problems with representation.
Transparency is a related concern for me as well. I can't put it better than via_ostiense
, a staff member and the 2012 chair of the Volunteers & Recruiting Committee, put it in her post
…considering that the OTW is raising money from fans under the banner of being an advocate for fandom, I think we had either damned well prioritize transparency and having permanent, active channels for discussion open or else return everyone's donations. Someone who's curious about the OTW's projects or has a concern about them should not have to join as a volunteer or staffer just to find out what's going on and to have their concerns taken seriously.
Board candidate and current I&O chair Julia Beck has more thoughts on (Why) Management Matters
When I talk about the importance of processes and guidelines, I don't mean "let's pile on more tools/requirements/hoops to jump through, harr!"
What I mean is: let's whittle down those processes and choose our tools so that they're as intuitive and simple as possible. (This is hard. I'm so unhappy with the translation process atm, let me tell you. But we'll keep trying.)
What I mean, most of all, is: clear structures, consistent guidelines and transparent processes are crucial, because they help create an equal environment. They translate to lowered barriers for participation. They mean that you don't need to be personally influential, know the right people, or secret pathways in order to create a successful initiative. (As an example: if the structure is clear, purview becomes clearer, so you know who to turn to and ask for support or collaboration. It also fosters accountability.)
We can't wait for people to struggle their way to the top -- not least of all because it's a selection process that is detrimental to diversity. No, really. Think about it. It's not only about certain personality- and neurotypes prevailing -- it's also that advocating for non-mainstream perspectives always, always takes more energy. So simply saying that everyone is welcome without adapting internal structures to match? Doesn't cut it.
And despite everything I wrote above, the OTW has still, overall, been the happiest and most supportive working environment I've even been in. And -- yeah, here my starry-eyed idealism is showing, but -- if people are willing to put in the work, they deserve to have that opportunity, an even chance at making their experience inside OTW satisfying and meaningful.
If, at this point, you're still not sure about the basics of the OTW Board election and how it works, facetofcathy
has an excellent post laying out the information: A look at the OTW Board of Directors elections and the candidates
's post is more or less unbiased.
The rest of this post isn't.
So let me say, before I go any further, that I fully intend to support and work with the Board to the best of my ability no matter who wins the open seats. That said, it's my passionate belief that no Board election, and especially not this one, should be a popularity contest
. Some of the candidates have a lot more name recognition and visibility than others. Neither of these factors necessarily correlate with who among them will produce the best Board for the OTW.Links
Here are candidates' statements
about why they're running for the Board and what they hope to accomplish.
Concise candidate chat transcript
provides the edited version (just the Q&A) from the first candidate chat.
Here's the full transcript, with text and screenshots
After the first candidate chat, the candidates were asked follow-up questions and had 24 hours to respond in writing. Here are their answers.
I believe in the OTW, plain and simple; that’s why I’ve stuck around this long, when I have at multiple points been so, so tempted to just quit and take my complaints to the critical masses outside--which, let me be clear, I believe the OTW needs to listen to and needs to learn from. I have a lot of friends out there on the critical horizon--many of whom, moreover, were once OTW volunteers themselves or who have tried their damnedest to meet the OTW or the AO3 halfway and been, frankly, almost totally stonewalled or stymied.
A lot of them don’t feel comfortable speaking out on this, for various entirely valid reasons; troisroyaumes
, however, has posted about why she’s voting in the Board election
, from a position of utter dissatisfaction:
What upsets me is the total dependence on one or two individuals in the first place! From what I've gathered, this problem is systemic to the organization and not just limited to AO3. Again, I know that there are some active efforts to work on this issue and why a lot of OTW staff have been talking about sustainability, but I'd like to know that the new Board will prioritize it (as well as the other two issues I name above) for the upcoming year. If there are not enough volunteers with the right skill set, then the organization should invest in training and actively recruiting volunteers who do have the right skills. (Seriously, sometimes an organization can't just wait for volunteers to walk in the door. E.g. if AO3 needs coders, maybe someone should try to directly contact fans who know Ruby and ask them to volunteer.)
I've been involved in volunteer organizations offline that had this same problem: it is extremely frustrating and often leads to implosion and leadership vacuum when the one key person burns out or gets sidelined by other commitments. There needs to be collaboration, delegation and procedures for transferral of leadership. To put it abstractly, a robust network needs to build in redundancy and crosstalk in order to tolerate perturbations. That's why biological systems have paralogs and epistasis, people!
To be frank, I haven’t had time to completely digest troisroyaumes
’ post, but I strongly agree with Julia Beck’s post noting her criticisms
I'd just like toss out there: you're a random fan who likes the idea of giving back to fandom a little through volunteering. You get involved in the OTW. You evolve to the level of staffer! (Score!)
But then you realize you have even less say than before because you've traded in the right to publicly criticize it openly for a chance to make things better. But the structure is not set up in a way that allows you to effect much change.
So. What do you do?
This is why critical outside voices (or bold internal ones like via's) like these are so vital at this point.
I'm not saying I have all the answers, or that I agree with everything they wrote. But I don't need to -- I just need a willingness to listen, to take this very, very seriously, and take a lot of notes.
I believe in the OTW, and I believe that the OTW can, should, must
do much, much better. Furthermore, I believe firmly that some of the candidates, in their statements and answers to questions, have demonstrated a dangerous lack of understanding of the nature and scope of the serious problems facing the OTW today, and what the Board needs to do to address these problems in the immediate future.( Institutional structures, and why I do not endorse Betsy Rosenblatt )( Transparency, and why I do not endorse Naomi Novik )
For all of these reasons and more, I cannot in good conscience endorse either Novik or Rosenblatt’s candidacies for the Board, and I would ask that those who believe in making the OTW more sustainable as an institution and more responsive, representative, and transparent as an organization not endorse or vote for them either.
I can and do, however, endorse the remaining four candidates for the Board in the strongest possible terms:Julia Beck
Other people have written posts going into greater detail about what makes these four candidates great choices for the Board; I’ve already made this post too long, so let me link to other people who have also endorsed some or all of them:hl
, 2011 Board member: OTW Electionrenay
, 2010 Tag Wrangling lead, 2011 Tag Wrangling Co-Chair: OTW 2011 Board Electionvia_ostiense
, 2012 Chair of Volunteers & Recruiting: OTW Election Stuffstultiloquentia
, OTW Electionsboundbooks
, Snippets from the OTW Board Chat Transcript
Between the four of them, Sanders, Beck, Scott-Thompson and Pearson have the needed experience, perspective, ideas, and grasp of reality to potentially transform the Organization for Transformative Works in the best possible way. For that reason, I am voting for them in the 2011 Board election, and I urge you to do the same.