The site needs to change to be successful.
Remembering that success usually requires constant change is difficult, regardless of who you are. However, I think Mods & The Company both forget this quite often, but in different contexts. When they do, the larger group of all site users are the ones who lose.
This is a recurring problem dating back years. I'm going to call out two rather specific examples. However, I hope that folks can read past the minutia of these two anecdotes, and use them simply to add a parable of sorts to think about the bigger problem.
Disclaimer: I'm former Staff, and best friends with a former Mod. I'm quite familiar with both roles. However, I'm writing this response as a long-time contributor to DBA.
When The Company resists change: Addressing feedback.
Part of the company's role is to ensure that this site is successful beyond the lives and usage of the current user base. In a site that is "community driven" this means both curating changes that originate in the community, and also sparking additional changes that can ensure that future health. Sometimes those changes are big shifts. Sometimes they won't be popular with current users, but are still necessary for ensuring future health.
Whether I think about the current strike, "the Monica thing," or any of the times when there's been a controversy, I see shades of this in the company's behavior.
Rather than looking at either of those, let's look at the recent proposal for a Prompt Design site. (I'm selecting this because I have zero knowledge about this proposal from my time as Staff, so I can be genuine in my perspective as user.)
The change in process for this new site proposal is presented as a change to streamline and speed up the process. However, the process change seems to be an edict with no desire for feedback on the process change. The proposal has been poorly received on Meta. As of now, it has a net vote count of -335, nearly a hundred comments, and a large number of answer responses with many comments on those. The negative feedback is both on the merits of whether the site should exist, and regarding the unilateral change in process.
The process change is being described by the company as an "experiment," with no other response to community feedback. I'm not aware of any information that has been made available on what constitutes a success or failure with this experiment. This effectively boxes out the ability for anyone to give feedback on the new process on its merits, and on target to help the changes be successful.
Every change will have people who don't like it. That's a fundamental part of change. Sometimes, as part of the Company's duty to the site's future, they might need to make changes that are extremely unpopular. However, the Company crosses the line between the "duty to shepherd unpopular change" with "unilateral action" and an "unwillingness to address feedback."
Listening to and addressing feedback is even more important for unpopular changes than on a change that is well received. The insistence of digging in their heels that this is "just a one time experiment" provides no reassurance that the community can provide feedback at some point. It actually does the opposite--it gives the appearance that our opinion doesn't matter. In the context of a different relationship, there may be enough trust to overcome that perception--however the level of trust between the company, mods, and engaged users doesn't allow that.
When The Mods resist change: Belonging, Diversity, and Inclusion.
StackOverflow.com is notorious for being overwhelmingly male and "tech bro-y". The data is fairly conclusive that the problem of increasing the size, diversity, and future health of the site tracks rather parallel to the tech industry as a whole. However, the site lags behind the industry in improving the situation. If the site can't fix this problem, it can't (and shouldn't!) survive long term.
I don't expect moderators (both elected mods and invested users who perform moderation activities, like myself) to be experts on the topics of diversity & belonging. We're tech experts first, and community building is, at best, a hobby.
This is an area where the Company should be leading changes, explaining why, and helping to teach folks to be more compassionate and more welcoming. In the global society, social change is often led by unpopular actions by courts, legislature, and executive action by governments.
Regardless of how well the Company has executed on their stated goal of making the site more welcoming, I haven't seen a particularly meaningful change in behavior on the site. A lot of behavior on the site is simply unfriendly.
You'll notice that even though I was a Staff Engineer at the company, my rep on the main SO site is quite low. I don't feel welcome on that site. I generally only participate in Cooking and DBA, because I find them more welcoming & friendly.
"Getting the right answer" and upholding existing norms and rules are held to higher importance then being friendly & welcoming. Mods play a critical role in making the site friendlier. In order to be a tolerant, friendly, and welcoming site, there needs to be a stronger stance against intolerance, unfriendliness, and unwelcoming behavior.
Put simply, there should be no tolerance for intolerance. Unwelcoming folks should not be welcome here.
If you're reading this and feel targeted, or if you're thinking I'm spewing liberal woke propaganda, or even if you feel like it's someone else's problem to fix, then I'd challenge you to consider this:
if your own behavior and feedback to change goes against the Company's goal to make the site more welcoming, then your feedback should be ignored because the status quo is unwelcoming.