Fueling a movement
NOTE: This article was originally published here and has been cross-posted with the permission of the author.
Mozilla was born from the free and open source software movement. And, as a part of this larger movement, Mozilla helped make open mainstream. We toppled a monopoly, got the web back on an open track, and put open source software into the hands of hundreds of millions of people.
It’s time for us to do this again. Which brings me to this blog’s topic: where should Mozilla Foundation focus its effort over the next five years?
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know the answer we gave to this question back in June was ‘web literacy’. We dug deep into this thinking over the summer and early fall. As we did, we realized: we need to think more broadly. We need to champion web literacy, but we also need to champion privacy and tinkering and the health of the public internet. We need to fully embrace the movement of people who are trying to make open mainstream again, and add fuel to it. Building on a Mozilla strategy town hall talk I gave last week (see: video and slides), this post describes how we came to this conclusion and where we’re headed with our thinking.
Part of ‘digging deep’ into our strategy was taking another look at the world around us. We saw what we already knew: things are getting worse on the web. Monopolies. Silos. Surveillance. Fear. Insecurity. Public apathy. All are growing. However, we also noticed a flip side: there is a new wave of open afoot. Makers. Open data. Internet activism. Hackable connected devices. Open education. This new wave of open is gaining steam, even more so than we already knew.
This sparked our first big insight: Mozilla needs to actively engage on both sides. We need to tackle big challenges like monopolies and walled gardens, but we also need to add fuel and energy to the next wave of open. This is how we had an impact the first time around with Firefox. It’s what we need to do again.
As the Mozilla project overall, there are a number of things we should do to this end. We should build out from the base we already have with Firefox, reigniting our mojo as a populist challenger brand and developer platform. We should build our values and vision into areas like connected devices and online advertising, pushing ourselves to innovate until we find a new product beachhead. And, we should also back leaders and rally citizens to grow the movement of people who are building a digital world that is open, hackable and ours. As our colleagues at Mozilla Corporation drive on the first two fronts, the Mozilla Foundation can lead the way on the third.
Which brings us to the second place we explored over the summer: what we’ve achieved and built in the last five years. In 2010, we kicked off a new era for Mozilla Foundation with the Drumbeat Festival in Barcelona. At the time, we had half a dozen staff and $250k/year in outside revenue. Since then, we’ve grown to 80 staff, $12M/year in outside revenue and 5,000 active community leaders and contributors. We’ve rallied 1.7M supporters and brought in $40M in grants. More importantly: we have built a vibrant network of friends and allies who share our vision of the internet as a global public resource that belongs to all of us.
As we looked back, we had a second insight: we have built two very powerful new capabilities into Mozilla. They are:
1. A leadership network: Mozilla has gotten good at gathering and connecting people — from executives to young community leaders — who share our cause. We get people working on projects where they teach, organize and hack with peers, helping them learn about open source and become stronger leaders along the way. The now-annual Mozilla Festival in London provides a snapshot of this network in action.
2. An advocacy engine: we’ve become good at rallying activists and citizens to take action for the open internet. This includes everything from attending local ‘teach-ins’ to signing a petition to donating to our shared cause. Our grassroots Maker Party learning campaign and our mass mobilization around issues like net neutrality are examples of this in action.
If our aim is to fuel the movement that’s driving the next wave of open, these capabilities can be incredibly powerful. They give us a way to support and connect the leaders of that movement. And they give us a way to join in common cause with others in incredibly powerful ways.
In the end, this led us to a very simple strategy that the Mozilla Foundation team will focus on over the coming years:
1. Build and connect leaders (leadership network)
2. Rally citizens to our common cause (advocacy engine)
3. Fuel the movement (to drive the next wave of open)
This strategy is about doubling down on the strengths we’ve built, strengthening the leadership side and investing significantly more on the advocacy side. The Mozilla Foundation board and team have all expressed strong support for this approach. Over the coming week we’re taking this strategy into an operational planning phase that will wrap up in December.
One important note as we dive into detailed planning: it will be critical that we’re concrete and focused on what ‘hills’ we want to take. Web literacy is definitely one of them. Privacy, walled gardens and the economics of the public internet are also on the list. The final list needs to be short (less than five) and, ideally, aligned with where we are aiming Mozilla’s product and innovation efforts. One of our top tasks for 2016 will be to develop a research and thought leadership program across Mozilla that will set a very specific public agenda, defining which topics we will focus our efforts on.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know this is a significant evolution in our strategic thinking. We’ve broadened our focus from web literacy to fueling the movement of which we are part. Universal web literacy is still central to this — both as a challenge that leaders in our network will tackle and as a goal that our large scale advocacy will focus on. However, looking at the world around us, the capabilities we’ve developed and the work we already have in play, I believe this broader approach is the right one. It adds a powerful and focused prong to Mozilla’s efforts to build and protect the internet as a public resource. Which, in the end, is why we’re here.