What Makes a Pathway at Mozilla?

jhalperin

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The Mozilla Community Building Pathways working group aimed high at last December’s meetup. As a group, we came up with a lot of big ideas to drive the community and organization forward, and are now doing the work to provide continued growth opportunities to enhance the experience of current and future Mozillians.

The pathways group concentrates not only on finding new pathways for contributors, but also in documenting, recognizing, and improving the continued involvement of Mozillians across the globe.

The “What Makes a Healthy Pathway?” document condenses the work that we did as a group in December as well as draws on the knowledge and expertise of experienced community builders like Larissa Shapiro and Madalena Ana, who compiled the document. The “What Makes a Healthy Pathway” document can serve as a checklist or flowchart for Mozillians building communities: finding opportunities is easier when you know where to look.

As we see it, there are three types of pathways: functional area pathways, regional pathways, and product specific areas or lenses. The functional area pathways are what sites like the contribute page target; they are organized around a specific competency or team at Mozilla, like documentation or coding. Regional pathways can be another great way to locate and motivate contributors. For example, the localization community in Salt Lake City held localization sprints for their community. These sprints brought people of different competencies together to learn together. Similarly, hosting a Maker Party or HIVE event can help your community can bring together local Mozillians and strengthen ties. Localization of resources is also a key part of pathways and helps ensure that the web is available to everyone. Finding accessible solutions for your community is essential to building pathways.

The next step in your pathway is defining a minimal viable contribution. This can mean anything from “Submitted a Bug Report” to “documented an event.” This first contribution is an important step of the process, and it’s important to build a reasonable contribution that can lead to another fluidly and logically for your contributors. For this reason, it is also important to build in some automation to your tools—holding every volunteer’s hand at the very beginning can be taxing and overwork teams with seemingly little payoff. In addition, you want to track contributors through the onboarding process, but be aware of their needs and sensitivities. For example, while some Mozillians like to be helped through all steps of the process, others enjoy being left alone. One example where this has worked well is in Webmaker, where new volunteers onboard by creating a “make” or attending an event. These contributions bring the contributor into the community and help them learn and grow as volunteers.

Similarly, understanding the contributor lifecycle, from pre-work to sustaining, can help you build a core and excited group of contributors. This means having enough hands and systems to help you through the community building process. It also helps you recognize contributors at all stages, whether they are simply ready to contribute or already a superstar Mozillian. One way that other teams have dealt with recognition is “beginning with the end in mind.” What are you looking for from volunteers? Where can they help? What competencies are you looking for, and what are you open to expanding?

Though beginning with the end in mind is a definite goal of community building, this is still Mozilla, so we remain open minded and excited about all potential contributions and acts of kindness within our community. Pathways are the scaffolding that keeps our community driving and flourishing. The great beauty of Mozilla pathways is their humanity; contributors come to us because they believe in our mission, and supporting our community is part of our code. If you want to learn more about Community Building at Mozilla, please visit our wiki!

2 responses

  1. Janet Swisher wrote on :

    Great post, Jennie! One quibble: You have a link you labeled “Contributor Lifecycle”. That name seems misleading, since I would expect that to refer to stages of involvement that a contributor goes through. I would describe the framework that you linked to a “pathway maturity model”, since it describes increasing sophistication in nurturing a pathway.

  2. Jennie Rose Halperin wrote on ::

    Thanks for the feedback, Janet! That’s a really good point… The contributor lifecycle is an historic name that we were using to describe the document, but you’re right: As it evolved it’s probably best to rename it to better reflect what it’s trying to accomplish! I’ll definitely keep that in mind going forward.