The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is pleased to share with you our vision statement. The document below will be the framework for our new strategic plan. (You can find out more about our previous strategic plan in the linked 2020 post.) During the next 12 months or so we will be finalizing specific goals and action plans to make these items happen. While our final plan will need to be flexible and adapt to changes around us, this vision statement is the foundation of what we want to work towards to improve the OTW and help it continue providing services to fans.
The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms. We believe that fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate.
The OTW represents a practice of transformative fanwork historically rooted in a primarily female culture. The OTW will preserve the record of that history as we pursue our mission while encouraging new and non-mainstream expressions of cultural identity within fandom.
Our vision for the OTW of three years from now is a stable, consistent, connected, and continually growing organization that is proactive about its role in fandom and beyond, and continues to serve fans.
The OTW will use this strategic plan to create key internal improvements that will help support and retain current volunteers, attract new ones, and encourage transparency and the OTW’s capacity to adequately serve diverse groups of fans worldwide.
Priorities & Challenges
Visioning discussions within the OTW have determined six main priorities and five major challenges to focus on within the next three years:
- AO3 Development
- Internal Sustainability
- Governance Development
- Paid Staff
- External Communication
- Diversification of Fundraising
- Retention and Recruitment
- Diversifying Spaces
- Legal Challenges
- Public Narrative
These priorities and challenges, laid out in further detail below, will be used to shape our strategic plan.
Visioning discussions within the OTW have determined our six priorities for the next three years.
We will continue to develop the Archive’s infrastructure. This will include exploring the development of tools to prevent and combat harassment, help users create a self-managed experience, make the interface accessible to non-English-speaking users, and expand our multimedia support. These new features align with AO3’s development roadmap, and will not come at the expense of existing coding priorities and ongoing maintenance.
The OTW will improve the sustainability of our internal committees by focusing on succession planning, diverse recruitment, delegation, retention, documentation, conflict management, and internal communication.
We will continue to revise and carry forward the proposals for re-envisioning our leadership models that were developed during the 2017-2020 strategic plan.
We will explore models for incorporating into our structure a limited number of paid staff positions that will not replace volunteer roles, but instead provide necessary infrastructure to keep our work sustainable within a majority-volunteer organization. A Paid Staff Officer will be appointed by the Board to manage next steps towards incorporating paid staff.
We will remodel our external communication to increase awareness of our mission, strengthen the consistency and reach of our public messaging, and improve public relations by increasing transparency with both members and non-members about the OTW as a whole.
We will work to strengthen the financial stability of the OTW by exploring areas such as additional non-commercial/non-advertising fundraising methods and low-risk investment opportunities. We will continue working to ensure that our financial practices are in keeping with the best practices for nonprofit organizations.
Our leadership and volunteers have worked throughout the visioning process to articulate the challenges they see the OTW currently facing, or facing in the next three years. We are committed to facing these challenges as we work for our organization’s future, and to sharing our work transparently with our stakeholders.
The OTW’s structure tends to be siloed, with different parts of the organization not frequently informed and engaged with work that doesn’t directly touch on their purview.
This impacts organization-wide projects and initiatives, internal communication, transparency, volunteer retention, and committee sustainability—it is hard to work together when mechanisms to do so don’t exist. When we cannot share resources and support between different parts of the organization, each committee is left to manage on their own in case of emergency leadership transition, reactionary workload, etc.
- In order to move towards sustainability, we will improve our internal communication and our consistency across the organization.
- Future models for governance and staffing structures will address siloing.
Retention and Recruitment
Many of our OTW committees have high rates of turnover, and fall into a cycle of recruitment, training, and loss of new recruits, meaning that they must soon begin recruiting again. A connected concern is recruitment cycles that do not yield enough, or sometimes any, new recruits to fit a committee’s needs.
This impacts burnout and workload distribution for long-time volunteers and knowledge-holders (“linchpins”), who rarely have their workload burden eased by new recruits. It also impacts overall committee capacity, as recruitment and training take time away from other work.
- In order to move towards sustainability, we will improve our yield of quality recruits that fit a committee’s needs, our retention of new recruits, and our ability to move new recruits into positions of responsibility previously held by linchpins.
- Paid staff positions, if created, will be designed to relieve linchpin workload burdens.
The OTW has received valid criticism as to its failure to prioritize creating a space that is welcoming to all groups, especially Black fans and fans of color. Because of this inaction, the tools, goals, and strategies for prioritizing diversity are not in place across all parts of the OTW, resulting in many fans and volunteers feeling unwelcome on the Archive and in the Organization.
We will work on the implementation of processes to increase diversity and inclusion within the OTW, allowing the incorporation of policies to establish a system in which volunteers are actively welcomed within the Organization, and fully assisted when faced with discrimination of any kind.
We will develop additional resources to document and evaluate shortcomings in the OTW, and new mechanisms to proactively discover problems we may have overlooked. These efforts will be guided by, and involve at all levels, volunteers from non-American, non-Western backgrounds as well as those who are ethnic minorities in the United States and other Western countries. Avenues that we will consider and plan for addressing diversity and inclusion include:
- Contracting with an individual or organization to consult on issues of racial bias and inequality within the Organization and its projects. Options for this will be researched by a dedicated Diversity Consultant Research Officer, appointed by the Board of Directors.
- Using the Organization’s current resources to address diversity by starting volunteer resource groups. The implementation of volunteer resource groups would be integrated into our current workflow, for example, by creating spaces for volunteers of different groups, who may suggest, advise, be consulted on, or provide information for OTW policies that may affect their experience within the OTW and its projects.
- Expanding our recruitment sources to diversify the set of candidates considered for our roles, such as by posting advertisements for OTW volunteer opportunities to non-OTW websites.
- Creating a more welcoming environment by continuing to develop the features to provide individual users with more control over their experiences, such as blocking, permanent-filtering, or other customization features. These features will preserve users’ freedom of expression on the Archive while enabling each individual to self-manage how they interact with content and users.
The OTW has observed and weathered many legal challenges in the landscape of transformative works, both in the form of new legislation that threatens to shift that landscape, and attacks under existing legislation. We anticipate that these legal challenges will continue into our future.
Though our Legal Advocacy is on the front lines of dealing with these challenges, they impact all parts of the organization when they necessitate shifts in our projects’ Terms of Service, revisions of our internal practices as a nonprofit organization, or other large-scale changes.
- Our sustainability efforts will ensure the continued capability of our strong Legal committee.
- Our future models for governance and staffing will ensure that our organization is agile and flexible, able to consistently adapt to the rapidly-changing landscape that we exist within.
Though the Archive of Our Own has strong name recognition in many fandom communities, the OTW itself is less well-known and our history, purpose, and structure are not widely understood. We often confront public relations challenges regarding misinformation within our main constituencies.
We will work to improve public relations by increasing transparency with both members and non-members about what the OTW is and does. This will positively impact our ability to share our message and mission with our key constituents, and will reduce complications in fundraising due to a lack of public clarity about the role of the OTW. Avenues that we will consider and plan for expanding and streamlining our public narrative include:
- Increasing exposure of the OTW’s goals and missions to constituents—fanwork creators, readers, donors, scholars, and the general public—via new formats. For instance, sharing the OTW’s history, purpose, structure and other related contents in infographics.
- Encouraging committees to explore the possibility of creating publicly-facing video content to explain the work that they do, and how it fits into the OTW as a whole. This could include tutorials, explainers, short news updates, and similar content, which may be more accessible to some users than our traditional text-centric communication approach.
- Remodeling our communication strategy to improve our transparency and increase the visibility of the OTW, and to ensure that we are communicating our mission and narrative effectively.