Participation Lab Notes: Participation Champions

This year, during the 2016 planning process, an exciting opportunity arose to impact goals around participation across the organization. Chris Beard announced “invite participation” as one of the five top-line guiding principles for 2016 and each team was asked to show a clear connection from one of the top-line principles to their team’s goals for the year.

In order to capitalize on this momentum, the Participation Team formed a group called the Participation Champions to help improve the quality and maximize the impact of teams’ “invite participation” initiatives as they were being built.

Invite Participation Top-Line Guidance:    

  • Empowering people and building community to invent, shape and defend the Internet is core to who we are, and critical to the success of our mission.
  • Participation is key to our ability to have impact at scale. It is both an end and a means. We need it in our work and on the Internet more broadly to achieve and sustain positive change.
  • We must design participation into our products, innovation activities, and efforts to promote our cause.

The key asks for initiatives tied to “invite participation” were: 

  1. Ensure that we are designing for participation.
  2. Find and rally allies, leaders and supporters to our cause, and support their work.
  3. Identify and invest in opportunities to pilot radical and modern participation

The Process

As each team began drafting their 2016 plans and identifying initiatives for the first half of the year, the Participation Team formed a group of 21 staff members from across 11 different teams all who work directly and regularly with contributors. This group of Participation Champions met regularly with the purpose of reviewing the 2016 plans with a focus on “invite participation” to help identify opportunities and adjustments to plans that would increase their capacity to empower people and build community around Mozilla’s mission.

Our process was, first, to collectively review each “invite participation” initiative, specifically considering how it could be strengthened and identifying concerns or missed opportunities. After the collective review, each functional and supporting team was delegated to a different Participation Champion who looked deeply at that team’s goals, and made specific suggestions for strengthening participation in that area. These suggestions were based on both the feedback from the collective review and a more in-depth look at the overarching goals.

We decided that each Participation Champion would communicate those suggestions and feedback directly to the team owner and/or the planning point person. At the end of the quarter we came together assess the impact of our approach, to share what we learned and identify suggestions for future reviews.

The Outcome

Based on the final discussion we concluded that while we didn’t have an immediate and dramatic effect on the plans themselves, this exercise helped drive more conversations about participation, and added accountability to many team’s who hadn’t realized that people would be reading or reviewing their “invite participation” plans.

At the end of this process we had three pairs of findings and suggestions that we will attempt to implement and incorporate into the next strategic planning process:

  • Finding: Teams were willing to talk about increasing participation in their work but reluctant to change the label of initiative to “invite participation”.
  • Suggestion: Change the way the drop-down menus are structured in the planning spreadsheets so that it’s easier for teams to choose multiple top-line guidances. Find ways to emphasize the importance of hitting on multiple top-line guidances instead of just one.
  • Finding: Some parts of the process were uncomfortable because team’s weren’t expecting or ready to have a conversation about their initiatives.
  • Suggestion: Re-think the one-on-one conversation approach for the next planning process and have this kind of review surfaced formally at the start of the planning process so teams are more open/expecting it.
  • Finding: It was difficult to convey a crisp incentive for why teams should care about participation or incorporate it into their plans.
  • Suggestions: Model the potential of participation through “bright light” projects and help individual teams identify their needs that could be met by participation. Additionally, work with managers find ways to tie a team’s success in participation to points, deliverables, or other rewards.

We believe that these planning processes are an excellent opportunity to strengthen participation at Mozilla. Therefore in 6 months we’ll be reconvening the Participation Champions, and based on our experience this round, we’ll spend some time thinking about how we can help move participation forward in the next round of planning! If you’re interested in joining please let me know at lucy@mozilla.com.