Empowering volunteers and communities by longer term planning

Last year Mozilla went through a rigorous planning process for 2015, the Participation 2015 Strategic Plan came out of this process. The plan was open for feedback and that way we structured the year according to a plan that had a three year vision.

When the Reps Council and Peers met in Paris in March, one of the topics that emerged as being of crucial importance for communities was exactly that: how to change the way that we currently approach our goals and aspirations by changing the way we plan. Planning is inevitable for getting projects off the ground and working together. It has always been present in our local and regional communities and in any individual initiative, but until now we haven’t been very intentional in making it explicit or in providing a framework for it.

During the last months the participation team in collaboration with local communities has been working on a framework for mid-term planning that is being tested with 3 communities right now, these communities are Indonesia, Germany and Mexico. The idea behind this framework is to help communities:

  1. craft a vision for themselves as a community and the impact they want to have
  2. choose and define their goals
  3. set measurable objectives
  4. draft roadmaps

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We have seen this approach being used in many organizations around the world and we are testing it right now with our communities to understand how it fits within our culture and to understand what it might unlock. Our working hypothesis is that this planning framework will help us plan thinking holistically about community development and community impact. And that this will unlock great potential:

  • by crafting a vision we will be able to see how all different initiatives relate to one another, specially the relationship between a healthy developing community and the impact that it can have
  • we will be able to be more ambitious, not only in terms of how big our initiatives are, but the type of impact that we have. Helping us to start exploring more the road of open innovation
  • through earlier planning we’ll be able to achieve better outcomes, which will lead to more impact
  • We will be building community and personal development into the planning process, thus making sure that we keep on investing in Mozillians

The approach is not only to set a framework but to accompany communities during the planning process, providing guidance when needed but also getting feedback about the process and how it can work in the Mozilla environment. The two main documents for planning are the Regional Community Planning Guide and the Planning for Impact presentation with the framework for choosing community goals.

I will be diving into both of documents in my next blog post, as well as into the support system we’ll be offering to communities that want to use this planning framework. This is just the first draft, so please let me know your thoughts, feedback and ideas!

Impact teams: a new approach for functional impact at Reps

When the new participation plan was forming one of the first questions was: how can the Reps program enable more and deeper participation in Mozilla? We know that Reps are empowering local and regional communities and have been playing an important role in various project like Firefox OS launches, but there wasn’t an organized and more importantly scalable way to provide support to functional teams at Mozilla. The early attempts of the program to help connect volunteers with functional areas were the Special Interest Groups (SIG). Although in some cases and for some periods of time the SIGs worked very well and were impactful, they wasn’t sustainable in the long run. We couldn’t provide a structure that ensured mutual benefit and commitment.

With the renewed focus on participation we’re trying to think differently about the way that Reps can connect to functional teams, align with their goals and participate in every part of Mozilla. And this is where the “Impact teams” come in. Instead of forming loose interest groups, we want to form teams that work well together and are defined by the impact they are having, as well as excited by future opportunity to not only have deeper participation but personal growth as part of a dedicated team where colleagues include project staff.

The 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 opportunities for volunteers that have direct impact on project goals, but at the same time we make sure that the volunteers will benefit from participating, widening their skills, learning new ones.

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These teams will crystallize through the work on concrete projects, generating immediate impact for the team, but also furthering the skills of volunteers. That will allow the impact team to take on bigger challenges with time: both volunteers and functional teams will learn to collaborate and volunteers with new skills will be able to take the lead and mentor others.

We’re of course at the beginning and many questions are still open. How can we organize this in an agile way? How can we make this scalable? Will the scope of the role of Reps change if they are more integrated in functional activities? How can we make sure that all Mozillians, Reps and non Reps are part of the teams? Will we have functional mentors? And we think the only way to answer those questions is to start trying. That’s why we’re talking to different functional areas, trying to find new participation opportunities that provide value for volunteers. We want to learn by doing, being agile and adjusting as we learn.

The impact teams are therefore not set in stone, we’re working with different teams, trying loose structures and specially putting our energy into making this really beneficial for both functional teams and volunteers. Currently we are working to the Marketplace team, the Firefox OS Market research team and the developer relations team. And we’ll be soon reaching out to Mozillians and Reps who have a track record in those areas to ask them to help us build these impact teams.

We’re just at the beginning of a lot of pilots, tests, prototypes. But we’re excited to start moving fast and learn! We have plenty of work to do and many questions to answer, join us in shaping these new impact teams. Specially help us now how your participation at Mozilla can benefit your life, make you grow, learn, develop yourself. Emma Irwin is working on making education a centerpiece of participation, but do you have any other ideas? Share them with us!

Expanding the scope of the Mozilla Reps program

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This story started in 2011. A group of passionate Mozillians created the Reps program, their goal was to empower Mozilla volunteers all around the world to support the Mozilla mission. They provided visibility to the work of volunteers, created process to have access to resources and a better way to communicate within the community and with staff. It was the Reps themselves, especially the Council and the mentors who shaped this program. Now, counting 457 Reps, the program has evolved to be a powerful platform for community building where leaders from all around the world can emerge.

The Reps program proved to be very successful in building healthy local and regional communities. It also provided a structured connection to Mozilla functional activities when the work is inherently regional, for example with the Firefox OS launches. But as Mozilla grew and became more professional it was harder for volunteers to participate in the global nature of the project: volunteers could run local and regional activities much more easily, but participating in projects aimed at global impact became increasingly difficult.

Now fast Forward to 2015: We have a new participation 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 to have value both for Mozilla and for the individual volunteers. And that means that we will empower many more volunteers to take the lead and participate much more deeply in Mozilla to have both local and global impact.

And here is where Reps come in. Our challenge is to make Mozilla much more participatory again, to partner with functional areas and take the lead. To make this successful in the long run we will work on new participation and leadership pathways connecting with functional teams. And we will work on the things that matter the most and make a difference. These pathways will of course provide more opportunities for personal and collective development as well as new leadership opportunities for Mozillians and Reps.

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How will this be different from the past? We used to have “Special Interest Groups”, loose groups with an interest in a functional area, but not too many concrete projects or learning opportunities. We want to build on what was working there but shift to “Impact teams”: teams of staff and volunteers who will work hand in hand and where volunteers will be able to get real value out of their participation and will have a clear leadership pathway.

This new approach brings of course a whole new set of challenges: we’ll need to rethink the way we organize the Reps program, the way we empower Reps, mentors and Council and the way we do things in general. Education will be a fundamental part of this. We will need to work all together, Council, Mentors and Reps, to make this happen. And although it will be a lot of hard work I couldn’t be more excited for the changes coming: we’ll be investing so much energy and resources in empowering volunteers and offering new avenues for personal development while having a tangible impact bringing the Mozilla mission forward. I think 2015 will be a great year for Mozilla and the Reps program, join us in shaping this third era of Mozilla and writing the next chapter of the Mozilla Reps history.