Catalyzing Diverse Communities in India (2019 Strategy)

Hi Mozillians,

A few weeks ago I posted the 2019 update of the Mission Driven Mozillians project which reflected on how community-goals progressed in 2018 and what the driving community strategy will be for the rest of 2019. The goal of the mission driven mozillian’s project is to create a modern, unified way to attract and engage contributors who are passionate about the mission and want Mozilla to win. It drives all of our community strategy and if you aren’t familiar with it you can watch this video or read the wiki.

However I know that for some of our community members in India, there are still questions about how it is different than the strategy that was laid out in 2016 specifically for India. And how will 2019’s strategy help India’s communities succeed.

To answer all of these questions, George Roter (Director, Open Innovation Programs), Mrinalini Dayal (India Community Bridge) and I, Lucy Harris (Lead, Community Development) have written the following to create a clear articulation of the current strategy for India and how it is different from past strategies.

George - Reflections on 2016

In early 2016, Mozilla decided to move away from the Firefox OS project, which so galvanized Mozilla’s communities around the world. At the same time, the Participation Team that I was brought on to lead was charged with reinventing contribution for Mozilla’s future and reinvigorating Mozilla’s communities.

In this context, we immediately turned our attention to India as a part of the world with some of Mozilla’s largest and most active communities. I had personally heard from many Mozillians in India that people across the country had a tonne of energy, and at the same time were confused about the signals Mozilla was sending on how best to have impact.

And so I got on a plane; many many planes in fact! In late May 2016, I went on a whirlwind tour through 6 cities in 6 days, visiting communities in Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Delhi. I shared some ideas about where Mozilla was going and facilitated some sessions; but mainly, I listened. I listened to ideas Mozillians had for what they could contribute, and I also listened to people say over and over again that something wasn’t working quite between communities across India.

At the end of this trip I committed that we would refresh the opportunities available to contribute to Mozilla, which has resulted in and key contribution campaigns and challenges over the past couple of years. I also committed my own time to working with the communities in India on a substantial reset of Mozilla India.

We put together a 2 day meetup in Pune in early July with about 20 representatives of various communities across India. The job of this small group of representatives was to frame a bottom-up process for gathering proposals on a new organizing system for communities and contributors in India, which would be debated and ratified by a large gathering of 120+ contributors from across the country in August 2016.

The Mozilla India Meetup resulted in an agreed upon restructuring of the community. This was very much a reset of the original “one Mozilla India” vision that the communities grew from in the days of the large unifying project Firefox OS – while it respected individual sub-communities, the major idea was to have national level coordination. Our team invested in hiring an India-based community manager to support leaders in the community to put this into practice.

There was some initial burst of energy put into making this reset happen, and the communities seemed initially healthier.

Ultimately, though, after this large investment by a lot of people, most of them volunteers (not to mention significant funding), the reset hasn’t worked out the way it was planned. The new structure never picked up momentum and its potential has never been realized.

My own reflection is that we underestimated the power of the unifying force of projects like Firefox OS and Web Literacy, which had clear actions, requirements for coordination, and a sense of urgency. We have no consistent equivalent in today’s Mozilla.

In the absence of these large, unifying projects, the grand vision of a highly coordinated “one Mozilla India” is still attractive to some, but the practice of operationalizing it in a healthy way on a sustained basis is just very very hard.

Additionally, more recent communities and contributors research (including on diversity and inclusion topics) revealed that some groups in India do not primarily associate with “Mozilla India”, and some individuals feel systematically excluded by national-level structures. As such, they want the freedom to define their own identities and relationship to Mozilla, on their own terms.

Finally, Mozilla and the Community Development Team have started to think about communities around the world a bit differently – less so as representative of regions, and more about giving freedom to groups of people who want to organize around any kind of project, theme, geography, etc.

For all these reasons, we are shifting our approach to working with Mozilla’s communities in India. As someone said to me during that first trip to India in May 2016, “you can’t clear a mud-puddle by just adding more water.”

Mrinalini - A new approach

As Lucy describes in the 2019 update, our focus this year in India is to provide the structures, tools and guard rails to ensure those who participate with Mozilla represent Mozilla’s values while having the freedom, as George said, to “define their own identities and relationship to Mozilla, on their own terms”. We want to reflect and support the diversity of the many communities around Mozilla and make discovering, collaborating, and participating with Mozilla’s communities in India, easier and more fun than ever before.

So specifically - here is what will you see this year:

  • New ways to find and discover people and groups in India: The group pilot will continue to expand and improve until we have the tooling and processes to invite ALL community groups in India to officially register with Mozilla. This tool will make it easy for new and established contributors to discover and join active communities and find local events. It will be seamlessly connected to and will bring different kinds of groups together into the same tool including campus clubs, regional communities, and functional groups.
  • Simplified ways to find impactful contributions: Mozilla is getting more complicated, not-less, and figuring out where to contribute is difficult. In 2019 an even better Activate website will highlight the most impactful opportunities that are most in need of your contributions at any given moment. We’ll supplement this with an India-specific newsletter and community calls for groups, to provide a regional lens and updates.
  • Opinionated tools that reinforce our commitment to better human experiences: In 2019 you’ll see structures that are more opinionated about inclusivity, collaboration and impact. In order to represent Mozilla - groups and individuals will need to agree to uphold the Community Participation Guidelines and the leadership principles & practices. All of our systems and tools will reinforce these standards.

Lucy - Looking ahead

We’re so appreciative to both seasoned community members who have continued to contribute as Mozilla has grown and evolved as a project and an organization over the years, and to new contributors who are joining Mozilla now ready and excited to make a difference. I truly believe that this approach will make it easier for everyone to be successful and will bring us closer to realizing our vision of a healthy global community of Mission Driven Mozillians, bringing benefits for Mozilla’s mission that none of our “competitors” can match and serving the movement for an open and accessible web.

Thank you,

Lucy, George, & Mrinalini


Thank you for answering questions that have been raised.

It is wonderful that the realization that Mozilla has changed and contribution opportunities are more complicated has set in. In fact, this could very well be the reason that “one Mozilla India” has been not immensely successful. I’m not convinced that breaking down into smaller groups solves the issue. Yet, I congratulate you for the effort you’re putting in.

The question of “why reinvent the wheel by first dismantling Mozilla India and then create tools like India specific newsletter and tool for people to find communities?” remains unanswered. But I am sure there are some “insights” generated from the surveys that shows this works.

Like I mentioned in a previous thread, I can now comfortably sit and work for Mozilla, in isolation, alone, and in my own comfort zone. Thank you for providing the opportunity.