It’s a bit of a blur, but here’s what I think I learned…

Sue Smith
Sue Smith
Nov 11, 2015 · 4 min read
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Image by Paul Clarke via Flickr

I was delighted to facilitate a session at Mozilla Festival 2015 over the weekend. Last year I attended my first MozFest as a participant, so this was my first experience facilitating, along with my Hack Aye co-founder Jen Hunter. In the spirit of openness I’d like to use this post to figure out and document what I learned at MozFest 2015.

Second time around

My advice for anyone attending their first MozFest in future would be — pick your sessions then get fully immersed in each one (try and forget about the seven other sessions you thought about that are happening at the same time).

Facilitation and participation

At our session we started the process of developing a collaborative framework for planning activist campaigns using GitHub — you are more than welcome to contribute to or fork it! Hopefully this will be one of the many projects started at MozFest that continues to grow after it.

Being a learner

Leadership discomfort

Language and accessibility

  • We encourage people from non-technical backgrounds to use tech tools such as Etherpad and GitHub to plan arts and activist projects. During the Tech Strategies for Grassroots Advocacy session I realised I’ve been focusing on helping people learn to use the tools, rather than considering the possibility of creating new tools (or interfaces to existing tools) that are better suited to “non-technical” users.
  • One of the main barriers to using these tools is the tech language — but as I discovered during the Getting Down With GitHub session, there’s another (possibly bigger) barrier hiding behind it. Much of that language is tied to software-specific concepts that might not be translatable outside the tech context.

On the right track

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Image by Mozilla Festival via Flickr

A common risk in activist projects came up during the Serving Social Change session — telling people what their problem is instead of asking them. Many traditional activist organisations make this mistake and it’s compounded by the hierarchical structures that they work within. However, thanks largely to the Web, we are witnessing a new age of activist movements that are open and decentralised, with issues defined by the people they affect.

Learning and contribution

Mozilla leverages the power of community to build solutions and to create learning opportunities. Two pathways of engagement with Mozilla projects are as follows:

  • Contributing to the software using (intermediate/advanced) development skills you already have.
  • Learning basic development skills using tools like Thimble and Webmaker.

I wonder if these two pathways could be connected in some way — could contributing to the software be supported as part of a more comprehensive learning pathway? Wouldn’t that be an opportunity to build new layers into the learning experience as well as securing contributions from a wider section of the community?

Thoughts on any of the above welcome!

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