(This is Part I in a two-part series)
Mark asks in his blog post: How can we help m(b)illions more people understand how the web works and how to wield it?
Before joining Mozilla I worked with organizations like Change.org, Habitat for Humanity, and CREDO. Though none of them are quite like Mozilla, these organizations provide useful context for understanding how Mozilla’s change-making work is typical (or isn’t). I tend to view Mozilla’s work through a movement-builder’s lens.
As we look at how Mozilla can impact web literacy in the next 1 – 3 years I wanted to explore what we’ve discovered doing digital issue advocacy at Mozilla, and how that might shape our planning. I think at this moment we have an opportunity to leverage Mozilla’s unique strengths — including our incredible community + building email capacity + investing in great content will help many more m(b)illions become web citizens (more details in a follow-up post here).
How is Mozilla similar to other movements for change in the world?
In a few fundamental ways, we’ve learned that Mozilla is like many other global grassroots movements.
Our movement is as diverse as the people who use the web. Like with any issue movement, people discover Mozilla’s campaigns in lots of different contexts and their investment may vary. (My colleague Sara Haghdoosti wrote a great post about how we might think about these levels of engagement.)
Our issues are in the mainstream. Mozilla’s issues are now in the mainstream. We can thank whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, data breaches by major retailers and credit card companies, and government surveillance overreach for an upswell in concern and interest. There’s never been such high demand for clarity and practical insight from so much of the global public on issues previously relegated to the “geeks.”
Mozilla needs allies. Working in coalition is vital — just as it has been, for example, for the climate movement. We’ve connected with dozens of organizations on our priority issues — from Electronic Frontier Foundation on net neutrality to Digitale Gesellschaft on German data retention to savetheinternet.in on net neutrality in India.
The organizations caring about the web around the world are legion, and together we are much stronger than if we stand alone.
We grapple with scalability, logistics, and infrastructure challenges. Every global organization is tackling how to build, facilitate, and manage grassroots community at scale — and localization is but one of the challenges. Should we build a centralized, top-down campaign structure? Or should we build an infrastructure that gives tools for organizing to people around the world? How can we use software like Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) to reach the right people at the right moment? How do we localize campaigns quickly when a crucial moment hits? These are tough logistical challenges that face any movement building organization today. Mozilla is no different.
What makes Mozilla unique?
After a few years of digital advocacy, we also know more about what makes Mozilla unique compared with other movements — and how our “unicorn-ness” helps us win campaigns for the web:
- Mozilla is both a company that builds products and a non-profit organization with a user-centric mission. Our products, such as Firefox, compete in a global marketplace. Very few nonprofits or NGOs can wield a big stick in a major consumer market in the same way Mozilla can. We can shape markets, and we can shape policy.
- Mozilla relies on policy experts to establish a strategic roadmap and theory of change. Mozilla is growing its team of policy experts around the world to help navigate the complexities of net policy.
- Our community was here all along. Most movements spend a lot of time and resources building grassroots communities from scratch. Mozilla has been building community since its inception. Tens of thousands of people around the world are already connected to us — before we ever began serious grassroots organizing. This is a giant leg-up that most organizations would envy.
- We campaign in the open. We are champions of open source, and we work in the open. Decision-making, policy strategies and campaigns are going to be in the open as much as possible. Open source builds stronger products — I believe it also builds better movements. Few organizations have a Manifesto that compels them to work “in the open.”
What will Mozilla’s next era of impact look like?
Read the next blog (Part II here)