As it is a trending topic at my Mozilla channels lately and with the Whistler Workweek buzzing with ‘going into space’, I thought it is just so timely to express my thoughts on participation. Participation-wise, here’s what I think we should really put a spotlight on: our young contributors. Okay I may be biased because I am with the Firefox Student Ambassadors team (LOL), but I’ve been actively involved with it for a reason. I believe that helping our young contributors grow with Mozilla is a way of investing on the organization’s future. I strongly believe that taking actions now to engage and develop them as the next leaders is a way of securing the opportunities that may come up in the future.
Empowering the youth as they are obviously ‘the world’s future’ may sound cliche, but I think by this time generations have proven that indeed, to have a more proactive and involved citizens you must nurture them when they’re young, during the time that they are still a sponge absorbing everything and still forming their own values. Same goes for Mozilla. I believe that by sharing our mission, the relevance of what we do and providing them opportunities to do something, we can have long-term contributors, who not just help improve the organization but also pass on what they have learned from their rich experiences with Mozilla.
Perhaps the Mozilla Philippines Community is one of those communities who witnessed the power of empowered young people. Most of our volunteers are either still students or young professionals. We have witnessed great transformations from being a shy volunteer to assuming a big sister/ brother role as a facilitator of our FSA Leaders Camp. We have Reps who started as Student Reps/ FSAs and come to think of it, I was a student when I joined the Reps program. Mozilla fascinated me years back and now I have set the Mozilla values as my own.
Alright great, exploring the youth’s potential looks like a promising strategy, now what?
I think we have two problems though, young people tend to be shy… and underrated. In some places it might be the seniority culture and for some, maybe we’re just not inclusive for them.
It is now our responsibility as the (errrr) older people of this community to assess if we are really trying to include participation on what we do, specifically with the generation younger than us. Do we activate the potential of our community members in what we do? Or do we just do things to get work done? Do we really acknowledge the fact that as a community with a diverse set of members, people have varying needs to fully participate? Do we give time (and some patience) guiding people as they start their Mozilla journey? Do we provide opportunities based on what our community members are capable of doing? Do we show enough support and encouragement?
These questions are the things that bug me when I think about participation at Mozilla. Are we youth-friendly enough?
Of course as a ~*passionate*~ Mozillian I tried to find answers to rest my case. To not sound too biased, let me just say that the FSA program is one of the answers that I have been looking for. Thousands of young people who are very motivated to leave their mark + a very dynamic team of creative thinkers who experienced the impact of the youth first-hand = a program that addresses youth participation head on. From support, training, activities, up to recognition, all of the things we do revolve around the profile of students, their needs and interests. I realized that this is the perfect way for me to give back to the community who nurtured me with skills, knowledge and experience.
I really believe that taking steps as what the FSA program does is one of the biggest steps to improve participation, as this addresses the inclusion in our community with a diverse age range. I’m not so sure how to address this to adults as it’s like requesting to babysit the younger generation (yeah actually, maybe), but I think if we want to go to space, we should nurture those who we will be with us by then, now.
(note to non-Mozillians: going to space is a metaphor)
I really look forward to the things that will come up from the things we realize as we make the community more participatory and inclusive. I think this is an extension of what was discussed in Whistler regarding ‘dating our users’. How about we ‘date’ the volunteers?
I think I could use this random brainfart to kick-off my series of blog posts to tell stories of what the FSA team does to engage Mozilla’s young people.
Oh, if you are interested to contribute to the Firefox Student Ambassadors program feel free to contact TJ Lee, the FSA Community Manager at tilee [at] mozilla.com. You can also check out this link for information on the FSA Regional Ambassador Leads. And oh! I blogged about our FSA Leaders Camp 2015 here and here.