First thing today: fasten your seat belt, this will be a long blog post filled with the most important lessons of 2015!
2015 was a different year for our communities and Reps. With the participation team and without the focus on Firefox OS product launches, the year was full of changes and experiments. We tried many things for the first time, including asking ourselves really hard questions, even questioning the very things that made us successful in the past. But that ride was really worth it, because we learned a lot that helped us shift our focus, identify new programs, and launch experiments around improving accountability, visibility and planning.
Lessons from 2015
Moving Away from an Event Focus
As the Reps program reached maturity, a key learning was that our processes tools are optimized for events and that this emphasis on events made supporting other initiatives harder.
As a result, in 2016 we will be prioritizing experimentation that leads us to success on our mission beyond events.
Emphasis on events also made council’s work very cumbersome and frustrating, as they struggled to evaluate event goals and outcomes in a way that felt effective and clear to everyone. As volunteers, this also meant council had almost no time for really important tasks the program needs to move forward. In 2016, council will change focus, and begin providing strategic guidance on a quarterly basis, which will help Reps understand priorities and focus their energy.
Growing Our Alumni Program
We also realized this year that we hadn’t been doing a great job keeping our former Reps, or Alumni, informed and involved in some capacity with our work. We have an amazing network of Alumni Reps whose experience and wisdom could help newer Reps,so we’ll be planning and offering new and meaningful ways for Alumni to stay involved in the future.
Accountability and Visibility
We discovered a big bug in terms of accountability: currently we have no process for regional communities to keep Reps accountable. Most Reps do a fantastic job supporting their communities, but when this is not the case, it’s difficult for the regional community to raise this, and when they do, it sometimes results in conflict. We still don’t have a perfect solution for this, but in 2016 we plan to experiment with solutions that can bring us closer to fixing this bug.
It’s hard to have an overview of what is going on in the Mozilla universe! With the Reps portal we know what Reps are doing, but with regional communities is difficult to have a centralized way to find out. We started some experiments to find fun ways for communities to let others know what they’re doing, it’s still early to say how successful this is, but with the community yearbook (example from Cuba) and the community timelines (Indonesian timeline) we hope to learn more. Also, we will experiment with new tools in 2016.
As a way to understand our communities better we also started a quarterly survey and dashboard to gain even more visibility over our biggest communities. This has helped us understand more how the communities are doing, their health, governance and their diversity. We want to start using this data for helping communities understand themselves better and work together in a better way.
A Focus on Planning
Planning was something we started thinking more seriously about in 2015, because in the past it mostly happened organically. Different groups planned different initiatives and communities were often uncoordinated. With the mid-term planning we started experimenting advance planning with some communities. A particularly interesting piece of work that the Indonesian community is doing around creating a financial planning role. All really exciting and we hope to see this take off next year.
We also started experimenting with 1:1 conversations with many Mozillians and we’re seeing that this focused support is helping Mozillians plan, think and act differently in their communities. We are still testing this, but so far the feedback has been great and we are learning a lot from all Mozillians too.
Two Success stories
Refreshing the Reps Call
The success of the Reps call refresh is an example of how much better we can get when Mozillans work together and experiment, iterate and find ways to always improve. The Reps call is especially close to my heart because it gives a space for many Reps and communities to showcase their work.
This year, a group of Reps led by Ioana and Konstantina started experimenting with many things to make the Reps call better and have more attendance and views. They experimented with the length, cutting it down to 30 min, the format, the sections and speakers and they even optimized the best time to send the invite and reminder!
Based on the results of these experiments the new call now shares a full agenda in advance, speakers sometimes wait some weeks to present because the call is full (we’re popular!) and we always take good notes, making the content available for everyone. We have also added 5 minute slots which are great because speakers now really try to make great use of their time and it has also encouraged many Reps and Mozillians to share what they’re working on and what they’ve learned.
Also, seeing all the faces from all around the world and Reps sharing their ideas and passion is a fantastic inspiration and a way to see the power of the Mozilla community in one call. We will keep on trying new things and we hope to make this call always better.
Identifying New Directions for the Reps program
For many, the Reps the program has reached a maturity point where there is a need for an evolution. The Council and the peers identified this back in March in Paris and since this time we have had many discussions, but the proposed changes seemed daunting and it felt like an impossible task to get the Reps to agree on them.
Towards the end of the year the Council decided it was time to change things in order to be ready for 2016. So they revisited all ideas, comments, discourse and mailing list threads and put together a proposal with the high level changes to the program. The result was a plan is to create working groups with Reps interested in shaping the future of the program and work on it next year. This process was difficult and our Peer Henrik Mitsch was a driving force behind it.
The reactions to the proposal have been very positive, we held a town hall during the Orlando work week and had a fantastic conversation, which I encourage everyone interested to watch. As I mentioned, only the broad strokes are clear and in 2016 we will work together making this a reality. The fact that this process received such positive and constructive feedback is testimony to the hard work of this Council and the Reps who want to take the program to the next level.
Looking Forward to 2016
With the changes to the Reps program, the new support for regional communities and the intention to work much more closer with the FSA program, we’re ready to welcome 2016 and accelerate the power of the Mozilla community. Apart from all the work we did this year in 2015 we’re bringing additional focus. I like to say that in 2015 Mozilla felt a bit like a buffet of left overs for volunteers, we had initiatives that had been going on for a while, but we weren’t focusing all our communities in one direction. In 2016 we will start focusing on two main initiatives around a privacy campaign on campuses and the experimentation around connected devices, and we are sure that that will help Reps, regional communities, FSA and all Mozillians to reach their full potential. 2016, here we come!