4 October 2014 Minutes (Retreat)


October 4, 2014, 9 AM – 6 PM Eastern

BOARD DIRECTORS PRESENT: Andrea Horbinski, Anna Genoese, Cat Meier, Eylul Dogruel, sanders

OTW STAFF PRESENT: Legal: Betsy; Strat Plan: Hana Lee, Elliot Oberholtzer, Gryph, Jessica Steiner, M. J. MacRae, Niko Thompson; VolCom: Michelle, Curtis, Tianrui

GUESTS: Jules (Communications facilitator)

1. Discussion of the dangers of empathy led by Jules

  •  The most important person who needs empathy is ourselves
  •  Empathy burnout is real
  •  Empathy is a choice
  •  Empathy is hard
  •  If you feel that you HAVE to have empathy, it can make you "sicker"
  •  Just because we are learning empathy as a skill/tool doesn't mean we have to use it all the time

2. Discussion of Ombuds Committee

  •  Revision to Ombuds Administration Committee
  •  Collaborative document revision

3. Discussion of Open Doors

  •  Praise from Board
  •  Functional Committee
  •  Come very far since its inception
  •  Asks for money in a good way – many committees either don’t ask for money at all, or expect automatic approval without adequate information and/or explanation when they do ask

4. Discussion of Website issues and communication issues

  •  How committees communicate with each other
  •  There is often a breakdown
  •  Move responsibility for facilitating these discussions to Communications Facilitation Team
    •  Example: Wintergreen’s predecessor yelled at me and therefore I don’t know how to talk to Wintergreen

5. Discussion of professionalism and guidelines came up

  •  Concern over if things would be well represented internationally
  •  Concern over if things would be well represented inside of the same country
  •  Concern over ombuds being able to handle multinational issues

6. Discussion of "suggestion box"

  •  Idea about having a suggestion box so people can give ideas to committees they aren't part of
  •  Available to everyone
  •  Anonymous
  •  Clear that it is a suggestion, both to people making it and people taking the suggestion

– Break for lunch –

7. Question: what training does Board need as individuals? As Board?

  •  Recruitment should be done so that Board members can "hit the ground running" with minimal "executive duties" training
  •  More professional development opportunities that are not org-driven
    •  e.g. how to manage difficult people – two-day training, only $300, very applicable no matter what
  •  people shouldn't join an executive committee without any management/business experience or without any willingness to be trained
  •  fundraising knowledge
  •  professional experience
  •  more structured way of teaching, especially when people are international or come in without non-profit or business experience
  •  basic skills for next two years:
  •  management
  •  basic mediation
  •  people knowing the job description is important
  •  basic financial literacy
  •  fundraising training,
  •  needing to learn how to be comfortable asking for money
  •  job description that is the real job description
  •  how to read the bylaws
  •  duty of care
  •  attorney-client privilege
  •  general non-profit skills 101 specific for Board candidates
  •  training in the values of the OTW, best practices of leadership
  •  Could OTW values for leaders be put into the job descriptions?
    •  keep group on task
    •  task orientation balanced with attention to process and structure (but can let it go when necessary)
    •  leads as servant to group
    •  group dynamics
    •  safety needs and inclusiveness
    •  compassion
    •  have fun leading, playful
    •  take risks
    •  keep commitments, are prepared
    •  clarity, authenticity, etc.
      • helps signal that this is currently an executive management position
      • this is our image of an ideal Board member, is this you?
      • come be that person with us
      • going in forewarned
  •  expectations can vary with culture and professional background

8. Discussions of Chair Issues

  •  Consistent issues for all chairs
    •  succession
    •  Chairs not wanting to be chairs
    •  Chairs wanting to be chairs but due to lack of support and training having difficulty
    •  Chairs who want to move on but can't find someone to replace them and don't think they can leave
    •  training for chairship
  • how to run a meeting
  • how to delegate
  • usually more broader management-level skills rather than committee-specific skills
    •  training of staff
    • sometimes this is because chairs don’t feel prepared to train staff
    • evidence in staff who didn't feel trained
    •  lynchpins
      • either senior staff or chair themselves, vital to health of committee, due to skill set or org knowledge → leads to burnout
      • issue across the org
      • chairs who have to rebuild committees often do so because they lost a lynchpin
      • chairs doing staff work
      • high burnout rate
      • chairs going missing, committees go into state of panic
  •  how to support chairs so that they don't burn out
  •  documentation underlies all of these issues
  •  a lot of interconnectivity between these issues although they are distinct problems
  •  it's really easy to become a lynchpin without knowing it
  •  preventing single point of failure requires realtime documentation
  •  really hard for busy people to do
  •  figuring out how to make that happen (more easily) is key
  •  documentation gets out of date so quickly
  •  documentation needs to be managed by whole committee not just by the chair
  •  getting everyone on the committee to recognize the importance of documentation, even if it’s just minutes, is difficult
  •  being a lynchpin leads to bad behavior on the lynchpin's part because you know how important you are
  •  Why doesn't Strategic Planning have a lynchpin issue?
    •  prioritize documentation, establish procedures every time they do things they might do more than once
      • this would be difficult for older committees to do
    •  SP had the advantage of getting a fresh start
    •  had some space
    •  most other committees had to hit the ground running
  •  Problems with chairs
    •  chairs will designate someone to be chair after them despite not having that authority
    •  new appointments

9. Discussion of Documentation

  •  People are scared of the word documentation
  •  There is a huge documentation debt
  •  there’s a continuation of the older culture of not having the documentation or training
    •  a lot of committees where culture hasn’t been to document
    •  there needs to be an intentional cultural shift to get that to change
      • VolCom had that shift, and now the committee has a culture where documentation is important
  •  some of these staffers, especially in technical committees, are very inexperienced writers
  •  these are the committees that really need it
  •  they don’t have it clear in their mind what the structure is or the process
  •  there does seem to be a measurable improvement in many committees that centers around the time VolCom told people to document
  •  Org can/should think about cloud-based storage/tools
  •  Committees often struggle with documentation because they think they have everything documented but actually need to articulate the process first before being able to document it
  •  Suggestion of "documentation mentors"
  •  Best practices for documentation
  •  Skills workshops on "How to take Minutes"; "How to Document This Task"; etc.
    •  examples: Abuse could hold workshop on asynchronous meetings using Basecamp
  •  Note documentation resistance may be related to nostalgia and shift from charismatic to bureaucratic
  •  People need tools in order to do their documentation
    •  example: templates!
  •  Recruit for each committee to have specific documentation roles

10. Discussion of Chairs and Co-Chairs

  •  Specialized roles between co-chairs
  •  chairs from different committees can act as resources for each other
    •  example: there are some committees with fantastic documentation and they could help people who aren’t so good at it
  •  chairs/committees can hold workshops for the committees that are struggling, ask them to explain or do a skills thing – like wiki code.
  •  co-chairs and/or vice-chairs are a great idea
    •  overlap with the co-chair who is in second year, provide mentorship for new co-chair in their first year and then have them provide the next co-chair for the second
  •  sometimes not always possible for a committee to have co-chairs because no one is interested
  •  different types of structures work for different committees
    •  for example: co-chairs, chair with senior staff, chair with pool of chair-track staffers,
  •  Problems with co-chairs include
    •  ambiguous and/or redundant leadership

11. Concrete goals for chairs

  •  Each committee to:
    •  articulate best structure
    •  create procedure for best structure
    •  create plan for implementing best structure

NOTE: best structure would support them in their work and provide for optimal work distribution.

  •  Board and VolCom would lay out expectations/basic guidelines for chairs
  •  Chair training plan available but does not promise chairship
  •  Chair training identifies more than one candidate
  •  Make clear management experience here will translate to other plces
  •  Empower staff to improve themselves through professional development
  •  Wiki page to be created of possible committee structures
    •  To do item for VolCom and SP
    •  Committees can copy-paste off this as a template to work off of
    •  Anna will start this page and send to SP and VolCom
  •  Jules brings up criteria of self-knowledge
  •  People are easier to lead the more their self knowledge matches what those around them say
  •  If someone is aware they are lacking skills and is aware it is better than if they think they know everything even if they have less weaknesses than others who are more aware
  •  Option for VolCom and Board to work together to review and approve committee staff and chair position descriptions or request revision

12. Specific areas for chair training

  •  Delegation
  •  Staff management
  •  increasing staff engagement
  •  professionalism
  •  meeting management
  •  succession
    •  procedure in case when chair has no succession plan
    •  when chair leaves without a succession plan
    •  how to do the intervention
  •  increasing intercommittee communication to provide redundancy and backup across committees

SP point of clarification:

  •  intercommittee communication came out of chair suggestions, eg: "I see these other committees doing great things, I wish they can come help me do these things";
  •  other chairs and committees acting as mentors in the things they do really well
  •  SP always asks ''what are the best things about your committee that you would like to see other committees adopt''; we need mechanisms for sharing that

Notes from Board:

  •  different expectations across the org about management skills
  •  some people hate non-profit terms and the formality
  •  an academic journal wants to work more like academia
  •  open source projects should act more like open source
  •  Org identity and culture issues
    •  The terms and formality can be offputting
    •  the concepts are not
  •  The reality is that we are a non-profit first and firstmost and there are legal expectations of us that trump everything else

13. Committee specific updates



1. Approved Ombuds Administration Committee

2. Approved Dispute Resolution Team

3. Approved Communication Facilitation Team

4. Approved OTW general Dispute Resolution procedure

5. Approved intra-Board Dispute Resolution procedure

6. Discussed confidential staff issue

7. Discussed Library of Congress Creative Commons issue

8. Discussed tw.org going down


Minutes approved by the Board on 5 October 2014.

Minutes amended on 9 October 2014 to clarify Open point #3 (re: committees asking for money).

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