Reinventing Mozilla on Campus

Re-post from George Roter’s blog, “Reinventing Mozilla on Campus” .

Throughout history, University students, staff and professors have often shaped the leading edge of change and innovation. The history of the web is no different: the student-built Lynx browser was one of the first and Mosaic (Firefox’s distant ancestor!), pioneered by students and staff, opened the graphical web to millions.

I saw the impact that students and professors can make through my own experience at Engineers Without Borders Canada. Engineering students and professors on campuses across Canada and in Africa built remarkable ventures, reshaped curriculum, changed on-campus and government policy, and taught hundreds of thousands of young people about global development.

I fully believe in the potential of students, staff and professors on campuses around the world to have massive impact on Mozilla’s mission. As innovators, contributors and open web advocates. Engineers, scientists, lawyers, social scientists, economists and designers.

From what I know about my past experience and have heard in the past year working for Mozilla, our mission resonates tremendously with students and professors. The range of impact and involvement is considerable. Until now, we’ve only just scraped the surface of this potential.

We need to reinvent Mozilla on campus.

Our existing engagement on University campuses around the world is an assortment of largely disconnected programs and people. Firefox Student Ambassadors and Firefox Clubs. Mozilla Clubs. Code contribution by individual contributors. Maker Party. Mozilla Science Lab. Various professor and lab partnerships. Employee recruitment. Many of these are successful in their own right; there’s an opportunity learn from each of them, find connections, and imagine opportunity to scale their impact with a more coordinated approach.

Photo credit: Tanha Islam and Trisa Islam

The largest of these by student involvement, Firefox Student Ambassadors (FSAs) and Firefox Clubs, has been constrained by limited and variable employee support and a focus on marketing. Our student leaders have already been “hacking” this program to introduce advocacy, code contribution, support, localization, teaching and many other activities; official support for this has lagged.

Our team came into this year with a key hypothesis as part of our strategy: That we can supercharge participation with a reinvented campus program.

The Take Back the Web campus campaign focused on privacy and security has been our first effort to test this hypothesis. Already it’s showing great promise, with over 600 campus teams signed up (including hundreds of FSAs) to have impact in 3 areas. We’re focused on learning as much as we can from this campaign.

The campus campaign is a step toward reinvention. But I think it’s now time to take a step back to ask: What impact can we imagine with a coordinated effort on campuses around the world? What do students, staff and professors want and need to be involved with Mozilla’s mission? How might we evolve our existing programs? What programs and structures would we design, and how do they relate to one another? How can we invite people on campus to innovate with Mozilla?

These are the broad questions that will guide a process over the next 9 weeks. By July 15th we aim to have a clear articulation of the impact we can have, the programs we’ll invest in and how they relate to one another, and the opportunities for students, staff and professors to participate.

We’re hoping that this process of reinventing Mozilla on campus will be participatory, and we’re inviting many voices to contribute. Lucy Harris on the Participation Team will be stewarding this process and shaping the final options. Mark Surman, Mitchell Baker, Chris Lawrence, Katharina Borchert and I will be involved in making a final decision on the direction we take.

You can read more about the details of the process in this post, but let me summarize it and the opportunities you have to be involved:

Phase 1: Listening (May 16-27)

→ provide thoughts on existing programs and opportunities you see

Phase 2: Synthesis and options (May 27-June 10)

→ we’ll frame some tensions for you to weigh in on

→ we’ll shape a set of options for conversation during the London All Hands

Phase 3: Final input (June 10-24)

→ we’ll articulate a set of options for you to consider as we move forward, and will be diving deep into these and key questions during the Mozilla All Hands in London

Phase 4: Final Decision and Disseminate (June 24-July 15)

→ we’ll take all the input and decide on a direction for moving forward

Let me finish by reiterating the opportunity. University campuses are a hotbed of innovation and a locus for creating change. Mozilla can tap into this energy and catalyze involvement in unleashing the next wave of openness and opportunity in online life. Finally, our team is excited about helping to shape a direction we can take, and investing in a robust program of participation moving forward.

I’m excited for this journey of reinventing Mozilla on campus.