Exploring volunteer-run community spaces
By William on Saturday, August 2 2014, 14:38 - Permalink
As a follow-up to my blog post last month, I wanted to introduce the second component of the Community Building partnership I’ve been shepherding with WPR. This component focuses on Mozilla Community Spaces ie. work spaces that are 100% managed by Mozilla volunteers and funded by WPR.
Since I joined Mozilla, a bit more than 6 years ago, I’ve traveled to more than 50 countries to meet and work with dozens of Mozilla communities and hundreds upon hundreds of passionate contributors. If there is one recurrent topic brought up by Mozillians during my trips, it’s the importance of face-to-face interaction and collaboration. While we Mozillians love hacking, sharing, chatting, debating together remotely online (ie. the power of the web in all its splendor!), we also love being together and seeing each other’s faces. And this goes beyond natural social interaction (ie. hanging out with people who share a common passion and interests). As awesome as IRC, email or video conferencing may be, the virtual cross-pollination of ideas has its limits. There is real tangible value in spending time working on a project together, brainstorming, discussing and debating, all under the same roof. That’s why events at Mozilla have always been so important. Historically, events have been, for many Mozillians, the only opportunity they had to meet their fellow Mozillians in person. And to be sure, one of the big rationales of launching the Mozilla Reps programs was precisely to enable more Mozillians to organize more events in more places around the world. Since the launch of the Mozilla Reps program, there has been a surge in the number of Mozilla happening in more than 80 countries. Predictably, this increase in the number of events has resulted in not only the growth and consolidation of existing Mozilla communities, but also in the birth of new ones.
And it's precisely because Mozilla’s most established communities have grown so much and that the concentration of contributors in a given city is such that having a dedicated physical work space appears to be the logical next step to sustain this growth. Having a dedicated work space Mozillians can run on their own is much more practical, productive and cost efficient than running weekly community events to meet in a rented venue. Last but not least, those Mozillians in countries where broadband is still a rare and expensive commodity (eg. Kenya) can greatly benefit from working from a well-connected space. It is clear, community spaces can help more Mozillians do more, together.
And this is where the Community Space initiative comes in. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been gathering feedback from different communities who have expressed a strong interest in having a community space to work from. I’ve also gathered lots of feedback and ideas as to how these community spaces could be run by volunteers while being funded by WPR. This led Rob Middleton (Director of WPR) and I to kick off several “pilots” around the world over the next 12 months, specifically in Athens, Bogota, Bangalore, Madrid, Manila, Nairobi and Taipei.
The selection criteria for these pilot cities include: - level of interest expressed by community - level of the community's preparedeness to manage a space - located in a strategic market for Firefox OS
These pilots will, hopefully, help us test out different sizes of spaces, gather important learnings and best practices to enable us to eventually roll-out a global community space initiative next year, which will support *all* communities who wish to run their own community spaces.
For more details on the initiative, make sure to peruse through the official wiki page which I'll be updating regularly: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Contribute/WPR/Community_Space_Initiative
In the next few months, I’ll be sharing regular progress reports for each space on this blog and also on the Grow Mozilla calls. Feedback and ideas are, as always, more than welcome. These pilots will be critical in the planning and design of the official community space initiative next year.
The first pilot we’re running is with the Taiwanese community in Taipei, which officially inaugurated its community space a few weeks ago. This will be the focus of my next blog post. Stay tuned!