A Consultation on Mozilla Academy with Shuttleworth Fellows

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One of the very first opportunities made available to me as I started my engagement at Mozilla Foundation was to attend a consultation that was being conducted by Mark Surman with current fellows and alumni of the Shuttleworth Foundation. Mark Surman is the Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation and was awarded one of the first Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowships. The Shuttleworth Foundation identifies individuals with innovative ideas, gives them a fellowship grant, and multiplies the money they put into their own project by a factor of ten or more. The foundation believes in working towards an “open source” world, applying the ethos, processes and licences of the free and open source software (FOSS) world to areas outside of software, specifically to enable social change.

The consultation was primarily used as a medium to obtain feedback from the Shuttleworth fellows on the Mozilla “Academy” vision, that envelopes the products and programs of the Mozilla Learning plan. Mark conducted two sessions, each with a different sub-set of fellows that were present at the venue.

First Session

The first 60-minute session started with Mark taking the first 10 minutes to explain the vision of Mozilla Academy using pre-prepared flipcharts. The fellows asked some clarifying questions that provided them enough context and background to dive into an exercise to tease out some of the personas who might engage with the Mozilla “Academy”. To help classify the personas more distinctly, the participants were asked to group personas under two headings, individuals like themselves (grouped under “Wield”), and the constituents they work with (grouped under “Teach”). They were asked to also think about how all these personas would engage across the three dimensions of learning with regards to web literacy as defined by the vision – “Read”, “Write”, and “Participate”.

Some personas generated by the Shuttleworth Fellows

Some personas generated by the Shuttleworth Fellows

One of the significant takeaways that the group had after this exercise was recognizing that the users who may just be coming online for the first time with a smartphone may not have the same experience of the web as we do. They may not have access to localized content, which could limit their use of the web, e.g. using their smartphone only to tap into a social network of friends. This would prevent them from deriving all the benefits and growth opportunities we enjoy on the web.

The fellows were also able to provide feedback on certain parts of the vision and its means of communication. By asking clarifying questions as well as explicitly stating difficulties in understanding certain aspects of the vision, the fellows were able to help highlight parts of the vision that needed to be clarified further before it could be effectively communicated to the world.

The session allowed us an opportunity to reflect on the exercise conducted and think about ways to get rich feedback from a larger and more diverse audience in the future. It also made us think about how we could improve upon the questions we needed to ask in such consultations to generate high quality input and insights from the participants.

Second Session

The second 30-minute session started with Mark re-iterating the Mozilla “Academy” vision for the second group of fellows. This session allowed Mark to obtain a more general feedback on some of the insights from the prior session, and around how the vision was defined and communicated to the group.

The discussion among the participants of this group were focused more on the communication of the vision and the value it would provide to the personas developed in the prior session. There were numerous observations put forward by the fellows regarding the name for this idea. The fellows argued that “Academy” does not capture the ideology of the vision of global web literacy. Mozilla “University” was argued to be a better name if Mozilla was looking to foster and encourage inbound queries of collaboration from organizations that believed in the same vision of the world.

During these discussions, Mark recognized that highlighting value proposition of this idea for specific personas through use cases helped communicate the vision more clearly, and made the fellows want to participate and contribute to bringing this vision to reality.

Afterthought

As I observed these discussions and recorded the insights that were generated by the participants, I recognized the importance of clarity of communication. The sessions were very beneficial in identifying that a gap existed between what Mozilla wanted to communicate to the world, and what others understood of the vision being put forward. Secondly, the consultation provided ample ideas on how to bridge this gap between the idea and the message behind the vision being communicated by the Mozilla Foundation.

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