Mozilla Participation Plan (draft)

January 26, 2015 § 18 Comments

Mozilla needs a more creative and radical approach to participation in order to succeed. That is clear. And, I think, pretty widely agreed upon across Mozilla at this stage. What’s less clear: what practical steps do we take to supercharge participation at Mozilla? And what does this more creative and radical approach to participation look like in the everyday work and lives of people involved Mozilla?

Mozilla and participation

This post outlines what we’ve done to begin answering these questions and, importantly, it’s a call to action for your involvement. So read on.

Over the past two months, we’ve written a first draft Mozilla Participation Plan. This plan is focused on increasing the impact of participation efforts already underway across Mozilla and on building new methods for involving people in Mozilla’s mission. It also calls for the creation of new infrastructure and ways of working that will help Mozilla scale its participation efforts. Importantly, this plan is meant to amplify, accelerate and complement the many great community-driven initiatives that already exist at Mozilla (e.g. SuMo, MDN, Webmaker, community marketing, etc.) — it’s not a replacement for any of these efforts.

At the core of the plan is the assumption that we need to build a virtuous circle between 1) participation that helps our products and programs succeed and 2) people getting value from participating in Mozilla. Something like this:

Virtuous circle of participation

This is a key point for me: we have to simultaneously pay attention to the value participation brings to our core work and to the value that participating provides to our community. Over the last couple of years, many of our efforts have looked at just one side or the other of this circle. We can only succeed if we’re constantly looking in both directions.

With this in mind, the first steps we will take in 2015 include: 1) investing in the ReMo platform and the success of our regional communities and 2) better connecting our volunteer communities to the goals and needs of product teams. At the same time, we will: 3) start a Task Force, with broad involvement from the community, to identify and test new approaches to participation for Mozilla.

Participation Plan

The belief is that these activities will inject the energy needed to strengthen the virtuous circle reasonably quickly. We’ll know we’re succeeding if a) participation activities are helping teams across Mozilla measurably advance product and program goals and b) volunteers are getting more value out of their participation out of Mozilla. These are key metrics we’re looking at for 2015.

Over the longer run, there are bigger ambitions: an approach to participation that is at once massive and diverse, local and global. There will be many more people working effectively and creatively on Mozilla activities than we can imagine today, without the need for centralized control. This will result in a different and better, more diverse and resilient Mozilla — an organization that can consistently have massive positive impact on the web and on people’s lives over the long haul.

Making this happen means involvement and creativity from people across Mozilla and our community. However, a core team is needed to drive this work. In order to get things rolling, we are creating a small set of dedicated Participation Teams:

  1. A newly formed Community Development Team that will focus on strengthening ReMo and tying regional communities into the work of product and program groups.
  2. A participation ‘task force’ that will drive a broad conversation and set of experiments on what new approaches could look like.
  3. And, eventually, a Participation Systems Team will build out new infrastructure and business processes that support these new approaches across the organization.

For the time being, these teams will report to Mitchell and me. We will likely create an executive level position later in the year to lead these teams.

As you’ll see in the plan itself, we’re taking very practical and action oriented steps, while also focusing on and experimenting with longer-term questions. The Community Development Team is working on initiatives that are concrete and can have impact soon. But overall we’re just at the beginning of figuring out ‘radical participation’.

This means there is still a great deal of scope for you to get involved — the plans  are still evolving and your insights will improve our process and the plan. We’ll come out with information soon on more structured ways to engage with what we’re calling the ‘task force’. In the meantime, we strongly encourage your ideas right away on ways the participation teams could be working with products and programs. Just comment here on this post or reach out to Mitchell or me.

PS. I promised a follow up on my What is radical participation? post, drawing on comments people made. This is not that. Follow up post on that topic still coming.

§ 18 Responses to Mozilla Participation Plan (draft)

  • Albert says:

    Reblogged this on sonofbluerobot.

  • Some Mozillian says:

    Yay for writing a participation plan in private without soliciting the community’s feedback along the way!

  • msurman says:

    Hey some Mozillan: there is still a ton to be written here — including a whole strategy for where we go next. I’d love to get you involved.

  • Someone who wants to get involved says:

    Hi there,

    I’ve seen you talking @Mozilla Weekly Project Meeting.
    I was looking for some entry point to get involved and found which needs me to choose between programmer and web developer…

    First: I would like to see what kind of things I could contribute with my Java/JavaScript/… skills and then choose what type of involvement I can add. I have no overview over mozilla applications, mozilla teams and what has the most need for manpower.

    I would like to see: where is the strongest need for developers, look at the code and say: ok, I understand the topic and code and I can contribute something. I could fix some bugs and make pull requests or help to implement some new features.

    Such projects would need some good architecture and coding guidelines, and very good description about what is planned and what benefit it has for whom (there need to be some need first I guess).

    I haven’t found anything like that. Maybe if you could provide some link.

    BTW: I have seen, but there was no explanation. What is webmaker? The text in “our mission” is very inexpressive. I would expect it to tell me really concrete, what it is about.

    (after clicking some links I think I found out what’s the purpose: teaching people web-development to get them gain more web/internet/openness knowledge. But I’m still unsure.)



  • Jean says:

    There is a little-known revolution going on across the US. In October of 2013 the FCC opened a window for low power FM radio stations. In the last year over 1600 organizations have been granted construction permits. A station can get on the air for about $10,000. Snake Nation Press has 103.5 on the dial. We sit right in the middle of Valdosta, GA, which has a population of 50,000. Hyper-local, with approximately a 3.5 mile radius, the possibilities are amazing.
    Perhaps the old and the new can come together in some shape or form. It would be interesting how Mozilla might support this movement.

  • Following on from original thread:

    Only so many folks can work ‘in’ Mozilla. The browser as a vehicle of community empowerment is obviously very motivating/important. Putting the energy of many people ‘into’ the Mozilla entity for this purpose is very motivating/important.

    I stated that it may now be time to put Mozilla into ‘indie relationships’, to ‘reverse the flow’ of empowerment.

    In regards to your question on what that means…

    The integrity of entities is an internal-external consideration. For many people, one of the primary motivations for participating in collaborative community empowerment endeavors is the independence that is made possible by such effort. Volunteering is the root of self-empowerment.

    An asset development strategy requires that this dichotomy of internal-external structure be explicit. A non-profit corporation with a public benefit mission does not change this internal-external structure… add for-profit holdings and the additional complexity that arrives, and all that we see is more of the same internal-external control issues…even if “public benefit” is a primary driver of strategy.

    Conversely, indie relationships imply a different structure of empowerment. The integrity of one, the opportunity of each to empower self and neighbor, the strategic diversity that exists at the edge of a network loosely coupled by a commitment to the self-possession and social empowerment of… [enter public benefit mission].

    To date, most all of Mozilla’s efforts ask people to put energy ‘into’ an entity, so that value can be drawn out by the community in various useful ways.

    At the same time… an indie movement that seeks to empower the edge participants directly, as Individual people, is most definitely of interest to many. When I look at the relationships that happen at this nexus, I generally see people seeking greater opportunity, and often I see entities trying to service that by creating ‘FREE’ transactions.

    FREE is not always a good thing for opportunity development. There is some nuance involved. But, the complexity of interacting with that nuance is not something that entities do a good job of. The separation caused by centralization of resources, control of procedures, branding, etc is directly confrontational to the independence of the people at the edges.

    If instead of asking people to “Join the Mozilla cause”… “donate to the Mozilla entity”… Mozilla were to empower the people and entities circling it independently by reversing the flow of support… what would be possible?

    Sean is involved in ‘VRM’ development efforts at Mozilla… this reversal of flow is a core principle of those efforts. To date, no one has figured out how that happens. I can not think of a single organization that can make a larger impact by figuring it out than Mozilla.

    In the spirit of the Webmaker project… or more broadly the ‘Maker Movement’… the goal is not to create better customers of opportunity. The goal is to create a new type of opportunity structure… one that is capable of being engaged with independently, as makers… as people… as self-possessed engines of opportunity.

    Whether we are going into schools, into our neighborhood homes, into small businesses, into enterprises of all sizes… it is the way that this happens that matters… not the places… not the vendors that get credit.. not the entities with control. If an organization is truly creating public benefit, then this will come back from the edge in exponential quantities. But in order for that to happen…control must be released, opportunity must be distributed externally in fungible ways.

    Otherwise it just starts to look like competition… no matter that we are friends in the cause. A competitive model only has limited ‘winners’.

  • […] ” At the core of the plan is the assumption that we need to build a virtuous circle between 1) participation that helps our products and programs succeed and 2) people getting value from participating in Mozilla. ”    – Mark Surman […]

  • […] Group Call.  I wrote about our vision for Community Education as core to the virtuous circle in Mark Surman’s vision  , and how the strength and leadership of the Mozilla Reps  will act as a launching pad for […]

  • […] instigators and I consider them my part-time bosses. Mark recently wrote about his thoughts on the Participation plan, which provides more depth to the concept of the virtuous circle of impact both in our volunteer […]

  • […] in activities across the board, our local communities have impact on our products and mission. Mark Surman’s recent post outlined the formation and goals of the new Participation team. The key point is that we want to […]

  • […] plan that aims to bring back the balance and revive the participatory nature of Mozilla. Mark Surman’s blog post is a great read: we don’t only want to enable more participation but we want this participation […]

  • […] committed to building a more radical approach to participation over the next three years. And, more specifically, we ultimately want to get to a place where we have more Mozilla activities […]

  • […] idea of these new impact teams is to make sure that the virtuous circle of mutual benefit is created. This means that we will work with functional teams to ensure that we find participation […]

  • […] January, Mitchell and Mark along with the Participation Team laid out a Participation Plan for Mozilla that articulated an ambitious vision for participation in […]

  • […] context: we laid out a 2015 plan that included a number of first steps toward more radical participation at Mozilla. The immediate […]

  • […] We aim to offer increased participation opportunities across our activities—to enable more people to know more, do more, and do better in online life.  Recently we’ve renewed our focus on embedding participation even more deeply into Mozilla.  Mark Surman and I have each committed to a deeper ongoing involvement in the participatory aspects of Mozilla.  We’ve also asked George Roter to lead a 6 month experimentation phase of testing activities that make participation more impactful on our mission and more rewarding for contributors.  Mark wrote about this here. […]

  • […] to more insightful prototyping and execution of participation goals, and in the spirit of the virtuous circle : amplifying impact on contributor success and sense of value, and project […]

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