Rebecca Alley @ the 2015 European Games | Photo credit: Anna Koivu.
Recently, FBI sat for an extensive interview with Rebecca Alley, the Executive Director of the International Quidditch Organization. Read on for goodies about infrastructure, international surveys, and World Cup.
Face Beat It: Chris Daw stepping down from his position is a pretty big deal, and it seemed to come out of nowhere. Can you shed some light on why he chose to leave now?
Rebecca Alley: As we said in the initial announcement, he’s chosen to leave for personal reasons. I don’t think it’s fair for me to disclose what those are, and it’s not my place to do so. I’m sorry I can’t give you anything more than that.
FBI: Okay, well we were hoping you could offer us some insight into Daw’s time at the IQA. What are some of his achievements? While some of the more informed members of the quidditch community understood what Daw/the Chair did, it’s been more of a mystery for many others. Can you elaborate on just what the Chair’s responsibilities are?
RA: The Chair is like the keeper: they have the same responsibility as the rest of the Trustees—or quaffle carriers, to keep the metaphor going—with a few bonus powers in certain situations. In the case of the Chair, they are responsible for setting the meeting agenda, ensuring the meeting runs smoothly and all rules set forth for the operation of Board meetings are followed, and that the Trustees are enacting their duties beyond reproach. They also generally act as the voice of the Board for external communication so that the Board can speak with a consistent unified voice.
FBI: What are some of the projects Daw was most invested in?
RA: Chris spent a lot of his time advocating in international sport for quidditch, which he hoped to get into an upcoming Commonwealth Games as an exhibition sport. Internally, he was working to ensure the IQA would be able to meet the requirements to become an internationally recognized sports organization; this included work with Nicholas Oughtibridge and Brian Gallaway to comply with Sport Accord regulations in our constitution, organizational structure, and incorporation.
FBI: So what comes next? How will the new Chair be appointed, and when is that expected to happen?
RA: The Chair is agreed upon by the other members of the Board. Due to the small size of our Board, following the appointment of new Trustees they have chosen to come to decisions by consensus and only use a vote when there is no clear consensus. This is how both the Chair and the Deputy Chair will be chosen, with the Deputy Chair acting as the Chair if the Chair is unable to fill their duties for any reason. A new Chair and Deputy Chair have been selected and will be announced soon.
FBI: How did you select the new Trustees?
RA: New Trustees are voted in annually by the member nations of the IQA, in accordance with the Trustee’s role as the representatives of the members. As we grow, the Board will be even more important to manage risks, ensure responsibility of the IQA, and to come to decisions and do work that can then be presented to the members for approval by vote. Interested individuals may put their names forth in advance of the Annual General Meeting (AGM), where members may vote for up to three or four new Trustees depending on the year. Four Trustees were appointed at the 2016 AGM, so only three will be appointed at the 2017 AGM.
FBI: What do you have in mind for the development of the organization moving forward? Do you have any plans for changing the organization’s infrastructure?
RA: How long do I have! I have so many ideas and have been getting even more by reading the responses from the community survey.
Speaking to infrastructure, our first operational challenge is to come up with a more formal structure for the operational side of the organization. As it represents a large decision that is in the members’ best interest to get right, the Board must review and approve my draft of the organizational departments and positions before new volunteers are brought on board. I’ve got a draft completed now (stick taps to Howard Ting, Human Resources Manager extraordinaire for all his help and expertise) and am actually in the process of papering it for the Board, so keep an eye out in the next month or two for departmental leadership positions to be open—Howard and I will be selecting those volunteers first to help shape their departments.
There is pretty widespread confusion about who does what in the IQA, and that is something that needs to be fixed—along with implementing more official structure, we need to communicate it. One of the common comments in the community survey is that nobody knows who to contact with questions. And while I appreciate the love, “Contact Bex Alley for whatever” is not anywhere near ideal, at least from my end! By having our infrastructure clear and well laid out, I hope to define roles and departments, as well as make it comprehensible for anyone looking to volunteer from anywhere in the world.
I would also like to enable prospective volunteers to be easily able to find their niche once we have our departmental mandates defined. I know as well as anyone that it’s far easier to apply for a simple, well-defined role that will only take a few hours per week, than for a nebulous role with a questionable supervisor (by which I mean you question who is your supervisor) and a giant plus or minus sign in front of the hours per week.
Moving forward, some of the things our (very excellent, hypothetical, future) volunteers will be doing include: continually talking with the communities to figure out what they need from our departments (research), creating and distributing specific member resources once we know what the community needs (two areas I personally am passionate about are injury prevention and gender recognition and equality but we will be looking at all areas members are asking for!), expanding into new countries and regions, and running regular continental and global events. Priorities will be developed based on our community and NGB surveys, and what resources (human and otherwise) we have available to us.
What does all of this mean for the average community member? We need you to reach our potential. Seriously. Although members of the IQA are the NGBs, without individual community members we are at a loss. You have the talent and the passion and the drive and the ideas, all of which are so incredibly valuable. I hope you, too, see the value in all of those things and can contribute to the IQA in the future, even if it’s just sending an email with some ideas to the appropriate person!
FBI: What do you plan on doing with the results of that community survey that was circulating a couple of weeks ago?
RA: I’ve currently got the results (n=305) organized by both length of time playing (0-1 year, n=96; 2-3 years, n=132; 4+ years, n=73; 4 respondents did not indicate length of time playing), and by NGB. Those are the initial divisions of the data set for two reasons: when I skimmed the data for the first time, there were some pretty striking differences based on length of time playing, and I simply want to know how geography/region affects interaction or desired interaction with the IQA so we can make sure we’re serving all regions well.
The multiple choice questions are easy to analyze—bless Google Sheets—but I’ve printed out all the written answers and will read through them in the coming weeks. Luke Nickholds, one of the Trustees, and I will do a basic thematic analysis for the long answer questions and record the frequency of descriptive words for the IQA. We hope to pull out overall trends, as well as to see what differences in attitude and belief exist in different parts of the world and how people’s opinions differ based on how long they’ve been in the sport. Lots of data was collected, so if other trends start to become apparent you’ll find out about those too!
Once all that’s done, a couple of other IQA volunteers will look over it before we publish the results along with some FAQs. I’ve already read some really great ideas that I’ll be considering implementing, and I can’t wait to see how we can do better. We hope to have it done and published in April. I know that’s a fairly long time but I would much rather have it done right than quickly, and I hope you can all agree with that.
FBI: Can you share some of the more entertaining/off-topic responses from the survey?
RA: I’ll start by saying that, no, we cannot use one (or even two) owls to contact the community. Seriously, a shocking number of people want real life Owl Post. That’s just not practical. I’m not even sure how I’d communicate with my colleagues and with community members… I feel like owls might freeze trying to get to my house in the winter. Except Hedwig, but Wikipedia tells me that a snowy owl once flew about 600kms out into the Atlantic Ocean, found a ship to land on, then died. So, not ideal for communication across oceans either. (Yes, I looked up winter habits and flight ranges of owls to complete this answer.)
There was also an offer of a local liqueur for an in-person meeting with a volunteer from the IQA* (we unfortunately do not take bribes), and we were told that we should have a tinder account for external communication. I know I’ll probably be dashing some hopes here, but no, we won’t have a tinder account.
*I am 98% sure this offer was a joke; it made me laugh so I hope it will at least make you smile! .
FBI: What’s the plan to keep the sport growing in countries with “developing programs” or where quidditch is very new or struggling? Developing programs in new countries is great and important work.
RA: I could not agree with you more about how important it is for us to grow the sport in new countries. That is truly one of the biggest things that is unique about the IQA—we’re in a perfect position to help develop new communities and expand quidditch into new countries and regions. I don’t want to tie myself to anything specific here until we have a membership department, but some ideas I have include making documents that are pretty explicit step by step guides for things like building equipment, recruiting in different environments, etc.; finding regional expansion staff who know the local cultures and languages; and just being open to contact from new people who are interested in the sport.
I think the development efforts will ultimately end up looking different in every country, though, and if we do try to apply a cookie-cutter approach I’m pretty confident it won’t work. Each place has its own cultural values, ideas about sport, and interactions between school/institutions and sports programs, although there may be similarities within regions. Quite a lot of the expansion effort will depend on the individual on the ground in the new country, as well. Working with a local university student will be different than working with an exchange student, and both will be different than working with a non-student trying to grow quidditch with community teams. It will be important for us to have a flexible and knowledgeable membership department who can help these newer and developing NGBs to get their feet under them.
FBI: How will the IQA combat stagnation in “founding” countries for the sport (like the UK and the US)? Any suggestions?
RA: I think this is going to be a challenge for us, although I don’t know if stagnation is the right word. In the case of many more developed NGBs, they’re simply reaching a point where team development is slower as more and more places already have programs in place! In terms of team development and growth within a region, I think the experienced NGBs understand how to continue their own internal development. However, it will be important to continue to provide these members with value—international competition is good but is only one service. I hope to work with NGBs who feel they may be receiving fewer services from the IQA to find areas that we can help, and then work to fill those gaps.
FBI: I know European Games is keeping the IQA busy right now, but have you begun to think at all about the next World Cup?
RA: Yes. It’s coming up so much faster than most people expect.
FBI: Oh, goodie. So, any thoughts on expected newly established teams who would be in attendance?
RA: I’m not sure about newly established, but I hope that we’ll see more Asian and South American teams at the next World Cup. They’re out there, and there’s a lot of potential for growth in those regions as well beyond just the teams that exist! The last few years have shown us that within three years, quidditch can absolutely explode in a region (looking at you, Europe). I’m hoping that a strong membership department and concerted development effort can pay off and help NGBs who have traditionally felt isolated from the IQA feel more included. And, like nearly everyone else in quidditch I think it’d be great if John and the Ugandans can finally make it to a tournament (along with any and all other African teams). We all see his enthusiastic and optimistic facebook posts and the effort he’s putting into development in Africa; I know I’m not the only one who’d love to meet him in person.
FBI: Will the IQA be looking for alternate tournament structures for the event?
RA: I think this is a great question for our Gameplay department, once it exists.
FBI: Gotcha. Any plans for alternate IQA-run tournaments amongst international teams or club teams?
RA: We’re looking into annual continental championships à la European Games for all the continents. I don’t think efforts into 2017 games started quite early enough, but look for 2019 continental championships in the years between World Cups. The formats for these may change depending on the region: in some areas, regional teams may make more sense to either level the playing field between powerhouse nations and smaller nations, or to increase the number of teams if it’s an area with only a few larger countries.
I think this is a great question to ask our Events Department in a few months though.
FBI: Are there any plans for making international travel less cost-prohibitive for players and officials?
RA: I know what people sacrifice both with their time and money to make our events happen, and how much we ask of people. I definitely do want to make international travel less cost-prohibitive for our tournament organizers as soon as we can, and we will be looking into more perks and rewards for our volunteers. Our people dedicate such huge portions of their lives to quidditch and it’s only fair that we show a bit of love back. However, making travel less cost-prohibitive for national teams (players) is in the remit of NGBs.
FBI: Will it be in a new country and follow the precedent of the past three Global Games/World Cups?
RA: We will be looking into formalizing guidelines for the movement of World Cup, but I am hoping it will be in a new country. We’ve seen such huge local and regional developmental impact in the past from the Summer Games in 2012, Global Games in 2014, and World Cup in 2016. The membership in Germany has nearly doubled following the most recent World Cup. The 2018 World Cup would absolutely be able to galvanize a new country or region. But we can only do as much as our bids allow us to. If you, community member, want World Cup in your own country, put together a bid once the guidelines come out this year!
FBI: Thanks for hanging out and letting us badger you for a bit, Rebecca!
RA: Thanks, guys!