Strategic planning update

The Strategic Planning workgroup very much appreciates the feedback we’ve gotten on the roadmap post that went up during the recent drive and want to take this opportunity to respond to some of the common themes. Of course, we may not have seen all of the posts people have made in their personal spaces about these issues. We’d love for people to contact us (http://transformativeworks.org/contact/communications will get a message passed to us) so that we can hear what you have to say. We will do our best to respond to each of you individually, though we can’t promise individual responses if the team is overwhelmed with feedback.

We did want to clarify a few things based on the feedback we’ve gotten so far. For starters, the roadmap is a very basic, high level document that outlines the very tip of the Strategic Planning workgroup iceberg. Its original audience was intended to be the OTW Board, which is why it may seem strangely structured and/or sound overly academic. The drive came up on us quickly after the roadmap was created and, in our haste to get it out to you all, we decided to post it with almost no editing. We apologize for any confusion this caused.

What we’re working on is the first public Strategic Plan for the OTW. The group consensus is that this needs to be the most basic, org-organizing, internal problem-addressing SP possible. Our goals are to make it:

  • practical
  • usable
  • implementable
  • straightforward
  • as jargon-free and plainspoken as possible
  • short-term


The OTW’s long-term strategy and goals, relationships with external actors and other orgs, etc., are all things we are keeping in mind, but, as far as this particular plan goes, the org just isn’t there yet. Although it may seem old for fandom, the OTW is absolutely a baby in its non-profit context. With that in mind, the Strategic Planning workgroup is focused on making this version of the plan basic, operational, and short-term even for a strategic plan (which would normally cover up to 5 years). Our goal is to specifically design this first plan to help the org gets its feet underneath it and address a bunch of internal, systemic problems that are, in fact, a big part of what’s preventing the org from formulating workable long-term goals or pursuing strategic projects such as, for example, teaming up more with the EFF.

Although it was not written into the roadmap, transparency is very important to us. While none of us have the time to spend hours writing lengthy updates about what’s going on, we have committed to giving at least monthly (if not more frequent) updates in order to keep the org as a whole updated on our process. Anyone with feedback on our updates should absolutely get in touch with us if you’re comfortable doing so, especially if you have thoughts on how we can structure these better or provide information in a more efficient or transparent way. (A message through http://transformativeworks.org/contact/communications is the best way to contact us.)

Everyone in the Strategic Planning workgroup sees our role here as that of synthesizers — which means, contrary to how it might have seemed in the roadmap post, the majority of our time is going to be spent gathering information from actors/stakeholders at all different levels of the OTW. We will be seeking to find out how you use the org, what you need, what you do, what you’d like to see change, what you’d like to see stay the same, etc. with the goal of increasing satisfaction and usability. Our major information gathering techniques are:

  • observing internal org meetings
  • reading internal org documentation
  • group-on-one interviews
  • group-on-group chats
  • original surveys tailored for each division of the OTW, for both current and formerly involved persons
  • original surveys tailored for users/interested parties
  • compiling and analyzing data from the big OTW survey

This kind of information gathering is something we have to do incrementally and carefully, so that we get usable, helpful information that we can actually synthesize into practical plans for each division of the OTW, as well as the org as a whole. We’ll be as transparent as possible about how we come to the conclusions we do about each division/part of the plan, while maintaining the confidentiality of the participants.

We’d also like to be clear, so that there is no confusion or suspicion about this: No one in this group has any desire to make any kind of proclamation from “on high,” and no one in this group has any kind of fundamental personal agenda outside of helping make the OTW work more smoothly and successfully. We want to get the OTW into shape, but we are not particular about the type of shape. We’re okay with a square, or a hexagon, or a rhombus — but it’s very clear to us, and we’re hopeful you agree, that the OTW can’t go from a squiggly line to a fractal without a lot of work.

This work is going to take time. We are currently working from a very loose timeline that has the first version of the strategic plan being released in December. We haven’t worked on developing a more structured timeline for these reasons:

  • We don’t want to set up unrealistic expectations
  • We don’t want to put the workgroup in a position where our choices are “fulfill unrealistic expectations by cutting corners and burning ourselves out” or “fail”
  • We aren’t yet clear ourselves exactly how much time each step is going to take; currently, each member of the Strategic Planning workgroup is putting in ~5+ hours every week. (That may seem particularly low or particularly high, but it’s the number we’re comfortable with, especially since we’re trying to avoid the burnout endemic in the OTW.)

We are hoping that the regular updates will both serve as a way of keeping you updated on our progress and provide us with a better way to eventually evaluate how long each step will take.

Of course, we are still in the “set up” phase; once we’ve successfully gone through the division we’ve chosen for our test run, the next divisions should run much more smoothly and quickly, and we hope we’ll be able to refine and release a more definite timeline. Practically, we also realize that it takes a lot of time to gather and synthesize information in a useful way. Synthesizing data, discussing it, figuring out the steps to take, going back to consult with the actors and stakeholders who provide and are affected by the information — that’s not stuff that can be completed with one two-hour meeting the week after.

Again, we’d like to encourage feedback (messages sent through http://transformativeworks.org/contact/communications will be passed to us, and that is the best way to reach us); in addition to trying to address the feedback in our updates, we will also be folding the feedback into the information we gather for synthesis. Contact will be kept as confidential as possible, and while some of the text of questions may be shared verbatim (especially when being addressed in future updates), any names attached will be withheld.

We look forward to hearing from you — and working together as we move forward.