Many of you may have heard about a US pilot program for students called: The Open Source Student Network. This is post is designed to give some additional context and background about what this pilot is, and how it came to be.
In 2016, Mozilla’s Open Innovation team asked a big question: What would a program look like that builds on Mozilla’s roots by supporting university and college students who were contributing to open source projects?
Mozilla was born out of the open source and free software movement and believe it is a critical component of maintaining the free and open web. We also believe that students are uniquely positioned to make a difference and that by bringing together and supporting local groups who care about open source and the open internet we can meaningfully advance this mission.
That’s why in 2016, we started working on a program that could support clubs on university and college campuses who were focused on creating and contributing to open source: Mozilla Campus Clubs.
By Spring 2017, we already had 180 active Clubs, primarily in Asia, running a wide variety of activities related to the open web. However only a small number of those clubs were regularly contributing to open source projects and very few clubs were active in the United States.
We realized this was an opportunity to test a more focused regional approach to empowering and connecting clubs with a discrete focus on making technical contributions to open source projects.
A Pilot Program in the United States
The development of the United States (US) pilot program began by conducting extensive research with students to better understand the current state of open source on University and College Campuses in the US. Our goal was to get a better understanding of what Mozilla could do to support students who are actively engaged in open source.
From the research we discovered that on US campuses there is a high level of interest around open source but also a knowledge gap, and a pressing need for well-supported, networked, informal structures. We also discovered that many students were already running clubs related to this work, and were keen to find a way to connect with new projects, professional mentors, and other students.
Excited by these findings we decided to move into the second stage of our plan and initiated a pilot with a small number of top student leaders. These students were nominated by professors from universities across the country based on their leadership capabilities, passion and entrepreneurial attitude.
With twenty students identified, we worked virtually with them over the summer and also organized an in person meeting just before the start of the school year to develop their skills as leaders and connect them to each other.
Now as the US school year has begun we’re designing a program around these clubs and working to develop the resources, tools, and infrastructure that Mozilla will need to support these students as the program expands in the coming months.
A Global Perspective
In the meantime we’re continuing to support the work of our non-US student clubs through the Campus Clubs program and working on running this same process of research, pilot, launch in other regions. We are currently wrapping up a research study, focused on understand the feasibility of a similar open-source contribution focused program in India.