ira_gladkova ([personal profile] ira_gladkova) wrote 2012-07-10 04:35 am (UTC)

There is definitely more communication happening, and I'm thrilled to see so many groups and projects wanting to share their progress and doings. I know it's a lot of work for Comms, and the work you do in getting everything scheduled, ready, and up is invaluable: it feels like there's been a very significant cultural change towards making this a real priority, and I really have no words for how grateful and excited I am that that is so. Cultural change in an org is incredibly hard, and that this is happening is thrilling.

I do stand by my statement about still being scared, though. [personal profile] sanders pretty much covered it, so I refer you there for the basic gist — but would it be me if I didn't feel the need to write at least twice as many words about it?

So again, we're in a transitional phase right now when it comes to transparency, and it's probably the most fraught time — for both us and for our audience. We are finally talking more, but a major reason people wanted us to talk more was because they were fed up with not seeing the issues — the problems — they were concerned about as stakeholders represented in the things we said and did as an org. The sort of communication we're doing right now is all to the good, but to a lot of the people who are most invested in hearing from us, it can feel a lot like missing the point.

In a way, then, the new status quo — the fluctuating, the developing, the earned by teeth and nails and grit status quo — has us in a tighter spot than before. The hard work already done, and constantly being done, to be more open, write more posts, check in more, has given people more hope that we can be a better, more open, more transparent org. But at the same time, I think folks in the audience can't help feeling "well if they have all the time/energy to talk about X, why can't they spend some of that energy talking about Y?" The old excuse — we don't have enough people/people-hours, we're only human, etc. — seems to have fallen away (even though it hasn't — a LOT of our improvement has at least as much to do with existing people working harder than ever to be better, as with an influx of brand new, fresh, energetic people shaking things up, and even then there are still not enough resources to cover what we need and we are all exhausted). Here we are, talking: clearly we can do it, so there's no excuse left to not talk about problems, right?

Of course, it's far from that simple internally — but our audience has no way of knowing that, no reason to expect anything different. Because we do still over-focus on the positive, we are still afraid of unhappiness, of publicly being less than \o/

There are reasons, not the least of which is that we really really really want to acknowledge and respect the work our people have put into the org, and having a bunch of posts saying "yep, things be fucked" has, well, a lot of potential to be discouraging. To put it mildly. Now, I know one common refrain from the audience here goes something like "You present yourself as a professional nonprofit organization; if your people can't handle that their work might sometimes be subpar or poorly received, what are they even doing there? That's so unprofessional." And hey, that's true. But it's also true that we are, have always been, a fandom project, and if I could make a shot at understatement of the week here for a moment: "fandom project" and "professional nonprofit project" do not always get along as ideas.

In fannish projects, positivity and encouragement are key to keeping the thing going — as I've said before, I think of the OTW itself as a fanwork, a big giant WIP of a fanwork, and just like other fans producing fanwork, we need our kudos, our comments of "this is great, keep going!", the constant encouragement of our betas and friends.

But we are also a professional org, a nonprofit, and if I can extend the analogy, concrit has its place, as do creator notes acknowledging issues with the work. One of the big goals we wanted to work towards this year, and something we've talked about as a Board, is reconciling these two identities. It's a tough road, but I think absolutely one of the things that will help us get there is talking about how these identities interact and where our problems are, how bumpy the transition is.

And before I wrap up, I have to admit complicity in this overall, too. I'm trying to be frank, to say "yes, here is a problem", and to talk through the process of getting it fixed. I'm hoping that talking through my personal pitfalls will help. But I'm scared too; I'm here trying to navigate the same thin line as everyone else in the org, especially everyone doing outward-facing work, and I'm not very good at it (see image in post, heh). But I hope that showing a three-dimensional view, including the frustrations and problems, will help people understand us.

In the end, I think that's what it's all about. We need a three-dimensional picture of the org, not just in terms of covering various angles and projects, but also in terms of presenting us as the equivalent of a complete person, real and whole: someone who can listen and be reasoned and interacted with. Right now we kind of project an image of nearly pathological positivity, and that, in a lot of ways, can feel even harder to talk to than a blank wall of silence. And it can feel insulting to our audience, too, putting them on the same two-dimensional level, like incomplete people who cannot handle some honesty and bad news. I'm not saying that's our intent — of course not; I'm in here myself trying to find the sweet spot with all my might along with a lot of very smart, passionate, dedicated people — but I want to at least acknowledge that this is what it can feel like to our audience; this is one reason people get angry. Besides being poor transparency practice, it can feel downright insulting.

So! As with pretty much everything in this post, there's been a lot of work put in, and in this arena, Comms has upped the ante to a thrilling and awesome degree. The fact that Comms is so active right now is why people are demanding more, expecting more. It a really hard place to be — even without all the problems, managing the public face of a complex organization is a huge, tough job. The pressure to be positive is understandable and difficult to navigate. It's just that there's also a long way to go, and we're sitting in an extremely awkward place right now. So I guess... let's talk about it?

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