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Telescope pointed at an OTW logo made of stars with the words 'Spotlight on Strategic Planning'

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.

Mission Statement

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.

Strategic Vision

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:

Priorities:

  • AO3 Development
  • Internal Sustainability
  • Governance Development
  • Paid Staff
  • External Communication
  • Diversification of Fundraising

Challenges:

  • Siloing
  • 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.

Priorities

Visioning discussions within the OTW have determined our six priorities for the next three years.

AO3 Development
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.

Internal Sustainability
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.

Governance Development
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.

Paid Staff
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.

External Communication
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.

Diversify Fundraising
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.

Challenges

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.

Siloing
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.

Diversifying Spaces
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.

Legal Challenges
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.

Public Narrative
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.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Published:
2021-04-19 17:09:03 UTC
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Kate Sanders, who volunteers as a staffer for the Strategic Planning Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

I have volunteered for several years with the Strategic Planning Committee. Our work has been to synthesize the needs of the OTW as best possible into the first strategic plan to guide some internal improvements, then to help implement the goals from that plan by working with committees across the OTW, and now to draft a second strategic plan to continue setting goals for the OTW to aspire to and achieve collectively.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

As a volunteer, I will have a to-do (or a few) assigned during the week to accomplish and our meeting each Saturday. These to-dos could be simple updates to wiki pages or drafting goals or somewhere in-between.

What made you decide to volunteer?

I have been an avid reader of fanfic since college, and several years back, I found myself between school and jobs, needing an outlet for my time and wanting to give back to the fanfic community I lurked in. I applied for the Strategic Planning Committee and found both people and a mission that I have enjoyed supporting since.

What has been your biggest challenge doing work for the OTW?

Perhaps a challenge for me has been remembering that everyone volunteers differently: people have different amounts of time to contribute, varied interests and commitments, different ways of participating especially in a chat-based medium, etc. It is wonderful that so much is accomplished with everyone contributing in different ways.

What fannish things do you like to do?

While I enjoy perusing Transformative Works and Cultures, my first and deepest love is burying my nose in a wide swath of fanfics on AO3. I read whatever appeals to me and the well never runs dry. I truly appreciate all the wonderful authors out there!


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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2017-12-15 16:33:43 UTC
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Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Mandy Gooch, who volunteers for the Strategic Planning Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

As a Strategic Planning (SP) committee member, I am involved in helping to grow and develop the OTW as an organization through implementation of its strategic planning goals. We do this work so that the OTW can keep focused on particular things we want to have happen in the future, and so that we'll have the guidelines and tools we need to help that happen.

Some of the ways we'll do this is to make sure volunteers understand their roles and how to do them, to make sure our board and the leaders of our committees can hand their roles on to others when they need to change their positions or move on, and to make it as easy and clear as possible to do the different tasks that the OTW, as a non-profit, needs to do to be accountable to its users and supporters. My committee doesn't come up with these plans so much as it helps all the different parts of the OTW come up with them. We help them decide what's truly important for both their committee and the OTW as a whole, and then help make sure that progress is getting made by all parts of the organization since some groups are farther along in some details than others. Because Strategic Planning's mission is about the future, we work most closely with the Board and the chairs of the OTW committees who will guide us there, and help them think about what's coming when they're usually busy dealing with today's problems.

I am also a Tag Wrangling volunteer, which is where I get to dabble in the fandom side of things a bit more. It's a lot of fun and is a way that I can be more connected to fandom without actually creating fanworks. It's also a really great way to find new authors in AO3, which is fantastic on the one hand...and also dangerous on the other since my To Read list keeps growing and growing!

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

I typically put in a few hours each week for Strategic Planning -- between 3 to 5 hours depending on what is happening in the committee. I usually meet for two hours each week with everyone in the committee to keep up-to-date on our current projects and discuss future goals. Right now SP Staffers are very involved in the implementation of the Strategic Plan. This involves at least two SP committee members signing up to be implementation monitors during a month; we call ourselves ImpMons (yep, just like the Digimon). As an ImpMon I am usually communicating with other committees about upcoming goals, tracking their progress, assisting committees in understanding a goal or meeting a deadline, and updating Board about the OTW's overall progress. ImpMons also host Open Office Hours for our staff/volunteers to attend each month in our internal chat channel. It is a great way for committees to learn more about upcoming or current goals and to get feedback.

Outside of ImpMon duties, my week may include meetings for projects the Strategic Planning committee might be working on -- we have to meet the goals of the Strategic Plan, too, so we work on our committee's goals at the same time as monitoring implementation. It might sound like a lot of meetings, but honestly it flies by since the work is rewarding and my other Strategic Planning staff are so much fun to work with on projects!

I also try to fit in a few hours each week for wrangling tags in my fandoms and working on a wrangling project for MCU.

January will mark the one-year anniversary of the Strategic Plan. What will that mean for the OTW?

I think it means we've hit a great milestone and made some real strides into completing our Strategic Plan. I'm so excited to see our one year mark coming up! The OTW is moving forward and growing even stronger as an organization and this is thanks to all of the hard work every committee has put into completing their goals.

I honestly have to say that when I first started in the Strategic Planning committee about 2.5 years ago, I was pretty intimidated when thinking about the implementation process for this plan. However, that was newbie!me being nervous. Working with everyone on this has been a great adventure and I've learned so much about strategic planning, volunteering, and working in an international organization. Everyone here is so dedicated and passionate about what they do in the OTW and it is really inspiring to see that level of commitment! Personally, I think reaching one year has been a great time to reflect on where we were, where we are, and where we are going. I am very glad I can take part in all of this.

What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

Meeting new people and learning more about what everyone does in the OTW. It takes me a little while to open up in a group and I think volunteering for the OTW has really helped me grow in that area. I've made some great friends in my time here. It's also really interesting to learn about each committee and how they contribute to the organization. Strategic Planning has a very different process compared to, say, Tag Wrangling or Systems. Every committee contributes a lot to the functionality of the OTW and understanding how everyone works together has not only been important as an SP volunteer, but also as someone who appreciates and strives for collaboration.

What fannish things do you like to do?

I read a lot of fanfiction in my spare time and years ago I used to write a little here and there. Unfortunately, I don't have the time or motivation to write fanfiction right now, so I consume a lot to make up for it. I also enjoy conventions and cosplay. Creating costumes has been a passion since I was a kid and I really enjoy making a costume and interacting with other fans at conventions.


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

The Organization for Transformative Works is the non-profit parent organization of multiple projects including Archive of Our Own, Fanlore, Open Doors, Transformative Works and Cultures, and OTW Legal Advocacy. We are a fan run, entirely donor-supported organization staffed by volunteers. Find out more about us on our website.

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Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on strategic planning

The Strategic Planning Committee and the OTW Board of Directors would like to announce that revisions to the OTW Strategic Plan are complete. In January 2016, the newly-elected Board undertook a process to ensure that the plan was in line with the organization's top priorities and resources. As a result, the plan has been streamlined to better fit the current needs of the organization.

Strategic Planning would like to extend our thanks to the OTW's staffers, volunteers, donors, supporters, users, and broader community for their patience and engagement. The support of our community continues to make it possible for this organization to achieve our mission and to serve fans and fandom.

Implementation of the plan will begin January 2017. Strategic Planning has prepared an implementation support plan to outline the ways that our committee and the OTW are committed to the success of this plan.

We invite the public to peruse the Strategic Plan Visual Timeline or the text-only version of the plan below to learn about the future of the OTW and its projects. We have also provided definitions of common OTW terms used in the plan.

Themes

Each goal of the plan fits within a larger theme goal. The themes are indicated at the end of each goal description.

Stronger Infrastructure - The OTW needs better technology, tools, processes, procedures, and documentation. (Infrastructure)

Stronger and More Efficient Board - A strong, democratic, and efficient board will positively impact the entire organization. (Board)

Increased Volunteer Engagement, Retention, and Development - The OTW must build skills and experience in creating a stronger OTW-wide community. (Development)

Expand Fundraising and Financial Capacity - The OTW requires funds to operate and grow, thus it must expand fundraising capacity. (Fundraising/Financial)

Grow and Support Existing Projects - Each committee needs a clear understanding of their part in fulfilling the mission of the OTW. (Projects)

6-Month Goals

Document OTW-wide chair/lead position and expectations: Committee & workgroup chairs/leads work with the Board to draft a document which describes the organization-wide expectations for chairs and leads. (Infrastructure)

Purview and roles documentation: The Board drafts, approves, and internally publishes documents clarifying how the Board functions, in actuality as opposed to ideally. (Board)

Preliminary purview statements: Committees/workgroups draft a statement, outlining their purview within the OTW including potential gaps or overlap between them and other teams. (Infrastructure)

Improved Board/Committee communication: The Board implements flexible, clear, and structurally supported systems for staying in communication with committees and workgroups. (Board)

9-Month Goals

Document team-specific chair/lead position descriptions: Using the OTW-wide document outlining the roles and expectations of chairs and leads, all committees & workgroups draft their own document, adapted and elaborated for their specific leadership model. (Infrastructure)

12-Month Goals

Recruitment plan: Committees/workgroups document recruitment needs, training plans, timelines, etc for new staff (and volunteers if applicable). (Development)

Internal wiki pages for everyday and essential processes: Committee/workgroup creates and posts internal wiki pages that document their regular processes and procedures. (Infrastructure)

Committee/Workgroup and OTW-wide budgets: Finance has completed an update to the current OTW budget, and created an OTW-wide budget for the upcoming year. (Fundraising/Financial)

Overhaul Finance structure: OTW has completed a thorough review of its financial structure and made changes where needed. (Fundraising/Financial)

Coalitions guidelines: Legal has made available on the internal wiki a guide to the OTW's current coalitions with other organizations and procedures for Legal to manage the creation of new coalitions and joint projects. (Projects)

18-Month Goals

Chair/Lead Basic Training: Basic training procedures have been developed and implemented for fundamental skills that all committee chairs and workgroup leads require to be effective at their positions. (Development)

24-Month Goals

Committee/Workgroup roadmaps: All committees/workgroups have developed a roadmap describing their priorities and setting specific objectives for the future, including potential new projects they may wish to undertake. (Infrastructure)

Research governance options: The OTW's Board has reviewed research into the field of operations and governance of nonprofits, and assessed the needs regarding revisions to the OTW's governance structure. (Board)

Clarify and establish procedures to deal with personnel conflict: Procedures for dealing with personnel conflict have been drafted and approved. (Development)

Set guidelines for reserves: The OTW has set guidelines for reserves. (Fundraising/Financial)

Set guidelines for annual fundraising goals: The OTW has set guidelines for amounts for annual fundraising goals. (Fundraising/Financial)

Goals and/or accomplishments for each project: Each OTW project has a plan identifying objectives and goals for the next 3 years. (Projects)

30-Month Goals

Training plan for Board in place: A training process is available that can be utilized by all newly-elected Board directors. (Board)

Complete chair/lead training plan: The OTW has a complete chair/lead training plan that covers OTW-specific skills as well as more general leadership and management skills, including leading meetings, delegating tasks, conducting staff training, engaging new volunteers, etc. (Development)

36-Month Goals

Organization handbook: There is a handbook (likely located on the internal wiki) that can be handed to every staffer and volunteer, which includes basic information on the OTW that every staffer or volunteer needs to know, e.g. background on each committee/workgroup and basic how-tos for the organization’s tools. (Infrastructure)

Board succession plan: There is a Board succession plan in place that ensures that existing Board directors/officers feel their knowledge and responsibilities are securely preserved and new Board directors/officers feel supported and informed in their training and transition process. (Board)

New operations model plan: the OTW has developed a plan for revising the governance structure of the organization. (Board)

Review and consider options for org-wide annual/quarterly meetings: The OTW has explored the possibility of holding organization-wide meetings. (Development)

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