What is a Mozilla Fellow?

Over the past few months, we’ve been working to better define who a “Mozilla Fellow” is and what they bring to communities we care about.

The Fellowships are part of a bigger strategy around leadership development and learning that we’re calling “Mozilla Learning”. The focus: grow a network of  leaders furthering web literacy in communities we care about. You can read more about how that’s taken shape in these posts (1, 2, 3). We’re also digging into what read, write, and participate mean for research specifically. Drop us a note if you’d like to help.

We’ve made big strides towards honing our focus on what the value add is for Mozilla Fellows, and I wanted to take a moment to share some of that thinking.

Defining a “Mozilla Fellow”

A “Mozilla Fellow” has a number of commonalities, regardless of whether we’re talking about news, advocacy or science.

Some of the bigger questions that have arisen have been around the who and the why – what type of person we’re looking for, and really, what’s in it for them. Here’s version .01 of what we’ve landed on.

An ideal Mozilla Fellow is …

  • Someone doing interesting, exciting things on the web who wants to explore and contribute to communities of practice we care about.
  • Someone who is invested in the future of the open web and wants to collaborate and work in the open to support their community of practice and the web overall.
  • Someone who is eager to document their work and processes and share it within their community of practice and beyond. (Or “pay it forward”.)

And what’s the opportunity?

  • Work on challenging, interesting projects that have impact.
  • Explore a community of practice and deepen your skills by working with this community.
  • Collaborate with like-minded people in your community of practice, Mozilla, and beyond.
  • Share the research, code, and insights from your fellowship to support the work of your community on the open web.
  • Develop your role as a leader within this community and create strong networks to continue your work.

Working to Further Web Literacy

When we talk about “Web Literacy”, we are looking for people who in one way or another are helping others to read, write and participate on the web. That could be teaching and mentoring others on how to share and make use of data, an open source project in the newsroom that helps journalists, or a digital campaign to help your local community understand their rights on the web. It’s a big umbrella which takes on different forms depending on the community – be it youth and makers, researchers, activists, or technologists.

We often speak about “working open” and open source as a core practice and value here at Mozilla, but we’ve learned that it’s not always clear what that means in practice.

To help with this, we’re pulling together a set of norms and protocols for open source for Fellows and contributors to help unpack open collaboration, facilitation, engaging with contributors, and building community. This is designed to be applicable whether you’re working on a software project, designing learning resources or working to spin up a community event.

You can read more about this work here or check out the current status and get involved here. We’d love your thoughts.

A Shared “Fellows” Experience

A key component of the Mozilla Fellowship work is access to a network of like-minded people who believe in the open web. This year, we’ll have four live cohort of fellows working in newsrooms such as the New York Times and Vox, civil society organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, developer fellows working with Mozilla on technical skills and scientists working within research institutions. They’re all united by a common set of principles, values and supports (outlined above), working to catalyze change within their community and organization.

That’s a powerful and diverse network of open web advocates, and we want to ensure we look at ways of working across our programs, share experiences and learn from one another.

To help with that, the Fellows will be coming together at this year’s Mozilla Festival to meet for the first time. We’ll be using the Festival as a way to explore how we can build ties among cohorts, regardless of their programmatic focus or background.


It’s clear that the Fellowships provide an opportunity to support emerging leaders and incentivize participation within our communities. And work like what’s outlined above provide a “north star” to align our programs and surface areas we can work together.

What’s less clear – and what we’ll be working on over the next few months – are ways to support those Fellows after their Fellowship ends, and keep them engaged with the community. What would a Mozilla Fellow alumni network look like, for example?

What common supports are needed and how can we systematize the Fellowship process across programs to make the program more efficient, Foundation wide?

We’re also exploring ways to quantify a Fellows experience so we can better assess, reflect and adapt our programs as necessary year-to-year.

In the next few months, we’ll be pulling together some of the groundwork to dig into those questions. We’ve begun work on use cases to better understand the Fellows experiences of the OpenNews program (the longest running and original Fellows program at Mozilla), and will continue to share out our work as that evolves.

Care to get involved? Share your thoughts and comments here on the post, jump in to the “Working Open” guide or drop us an email.

And if you’re a researcher, a reminder that the call for applications for the Mozilla Fellowship for Science closes August 14, 2015. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of the inaugural class!

Many thanks to a number of colleagues for their help with this work, especially Dan Sinker and Erika Owens (OpenNews), Melissa Romaine (Open Web Fellows), Diane Tate and Ali Spivak (MDN), the Science Lab team, Jeff Severns-Guntzel and Mark Surman, Ben Moskowitz, Chris Lawrence and Bhuvan Shrivastava from Mozilla.