Archive for June, 2016

Expanding Mozilla’s Boards

June 14th, 2016

This post was originally published on the Mozilla Blog.

In a post earlier this month, I mentioned the importance of building a network of people who can help us identify and recruit potential Board level contributors and senior advisors. We are also currently working to expand both the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation Boards.

The role of a Mozilla Board member

I’ve written a few posts about the role of the Board of Directors at Mozilla.

At Mozilla, we invite our Board members to be more involved with management, employees and volunteers than is generally the case. It’s not that common for Board members to have unstructured contacts with individuals or even sometimes the management team. The conventional thinking is that these types of relationships make it hard for the CEO to do his or her job. We feel differently. We have open flows of information in multiple channels. Part of building the world we want is to have built transparency and shared understandings.

We also prefer a reasonably extended “get to know each other” period for our Board members. Sometimes I hear people speak poorly of extended process, but I feel it’s very important for Mozilla.  Mozilla is an unusual organization. We’re a technology powerhouse with a broad Internet openness and empowerment mission at its core. We feel like a product organization to those from the nonprofit world; we feel like a non-profit organization to those from the Internet industry.

It’s important that our Board members understand the full breadth of Mozilla’s mission. It’s important that Mozilla Foundation Board members understand why we build consumer products, why it happens in the subsidiary and why they cannot micro-manage this work. It is equally important that Mozilla Corporation Board members understand why we engage in the open Internet activities of the Mozilla Foundation and why we seek to develop complementary programs and shared goals.

I want all our Board members to understand that “empowering people” encompasses “user communities” but is much broader for Mozilla. Mozilla should be a resource for the set of people who care about the open Internet. We want people to look to Mozilla because we are such an excellent resource for openness online, not because we hope to “leverage our community” to do something that benefits us.

These sort of distinctions can be rather abstract in practice. So knowing someone well enough to be comfortable about these takes a while. We have a couple of ways of doing this. First, we have extensive discussions with a wide range of people. Board candidates will meet the existing Board members, members of the management team, individual contributors and volunteers. We’ve been piloting ways to work with potential Board candidates in some way. We’ve done that with Cathy Davidson, Ronaldo Lemos, Katharina Borchert and Karim Lakhani. We’re not sure we’ll be able to do it with everyone, and we don’t see it as a requirement. We do see this as a good way to get to know how someone thinks and works within the framework of the Mozilla mission. It helps us feel comfortable including someone at this senior level of stewardship.

What does a Mozilla Board member look like

Job descriptions often get long and wordy. We have those too but, for the search of new Board members, we’ve tried something else this time: a visual role description.

Board member job description for Mozilla Foundation

Board member job description for Mozilla Corporation

Board member job description for Mozilla Foundation

Board member job description for Mozilla Foundation

Here is a short explanation of how to read these visuals:

  • The horizontal lines speaks to things that every Board member should have. For instance, to be a Board member, you have to care about the mission and you have to have some cultural sense of Mozilla, etc. They are a set of things that are important for each and every candidate. In addition, there is a set of things that are important for the Board as a whole. For instance, we could put international experience in there or whether the candidate is a public spokesperson. We want some of that but it is not necessary that every Board member has that.
  • In the vertical green columns, we have the particular skills and expertise that we are looking for at this point.
  • We would expect the horizontal lines not to change too much over time and the vertical lines to change depending on who joins the Board and who leaves.

I invite you to look at these documents and provide input on them. If you have candidates that you believe would be good Board members, send them to the mailing list. We will use real discretion with the names you send us.

We’ll also be designing a process for how to broaden participation in the process beyond other Board members. We want to take advantage of the awareness and the cluefulness of the organization. That will be part of a future update.

Update August 2, 2016

Both the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation Board Candidate Profiles have been updated. Cultural Fit has been updated to ‘Values Match’.

MoCo Board Candidate Profile

MoFo Board Candidate Profile


Joi Ito changes role and starts new “Practicing Open” project with Mozilla Foundation

June 9th, 2016

Since the Mozilla Foundation was founded in 2003, we’ve grown remarkably – from impact to the size of our staff and global community. We’re indebted to the people whose passion and creativity made this possible, people like Joi Ito.

Joi is a long-time friend of Mozilla. He’s a technologist, a thinker, an activist and an entrepreneur. He’s been a Mozilla Foundation board member for many years. He’s also Director of the MIT Media Lab and was very recently appointed Professor of the Practice by MIT.

As Joi has become more deeply involved with the Media Lab over the past few years, we’ve come to understand that his most important future contributions are, rather than as a Board member, to spur innovative activities that advance the goals of both the Mozilla Foundation and the Media Lab.

The first such project and collaboration between Mozilla and the Media Lab, is an “Open Leadership Camp” for senior executives in the nonprofit and public sectors.

The seeds of this idea have been germinating for a while. Joi and I have had an ongoing discussion about how people build open, participatory, web-like organizations for a year or so now. The NetGain consortium led by Ford, Mozilla and a number of foundations, has shown the pressing need for deeper Internet knowledge in the nonprofit and public sectors. Also, Mozilla’s nascent Leadership Network has been working on how to provide innovative ways for leaders in the more publicly-minded tech space to learn new skills. All these things felt like the perfect storm for a collaborative project on open leadership and to work with other groups already active in this area.

The project we have in mind is simple:

  1. Bring together a set of experienced leaders from ‘open organizations’ and major non-profit and public sector organizations.
  2. Get them working on practical projects that involve weaving open techniques into their organizations.
  3. Document and share the learning as we go.

Topics we’ll cover include everything from design thinking (think: sticky notes) to working in the open (think: github) to the future of open technologies (think: blockchain). The initial camp will run at MIT in early 2017, with Joi and myself as the hosts. Our hope is that a curriculum and method can grow from there to seed similar camps within public-interest leadership programs in many other places.

I’m intensely grateful for Joi’s impact. We’ve been lucky to have him involved with Mozilla and the open Internet. We’re lucky to have him at the Media Lab and I’m looking forward to our upcoming work together.

Chairing Mozilla’s Board

June 1st, 2016

Building a Network of People

In a previous post, I gave an overview of the five general areas I focus on in my role as Founder and Executive Chair of Mozilla. The first of the five areas is the traditional “Chair of the Board” role. Here I’ll give a bit of detail about one initiative I’m currently working on in this area.

In the overview post, I gave the following description of this part of my role:

I work on mission focus, governance, development and operation of the Board and the selection, support and evaluation of the most senior executives. […]Less traditionally, this portion of my role includes an ongoing activity I call “weaving all aspects of Mozilla into a whole.” Mozilla is an organizationally complex mixture of communities, legal entities and programs. Unifying this into “one Mozilla” is important.”

My current focus chairing the Board is on building a network of people who can help us identify and recruit potential Board level contributors and senior advisors. I view this as a multi-year development program. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Mozilla is an unusual organization and it takes a while to understand us.
  2. We intend to increase diversity across a number of axis, from gender to geography.

A conscious effort to expand the set of people who interact with and from whom Board level candidates might come is critical. So while we are looking to expand each of the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation Boards in 2016, the goal here is much longer-term and broader.

This work is also part of the development of the Mozilla Leadership Network (MLN), a new initiative being developed by the Mozilla Foundation team. The idea underpinning the Mozilla Leadership Network is that Mozilla is most effective when many people feel connected to us and feel Mozilla gives extra impact to their actions on behalf of an open Internet. The MLN seeks to provide these connection points. We hope the MLN will include a wide range of people, from students figuring out their path in life to accomplished professionals and recognized thought leaders.

Both Mozilla and I have a long history of connecting with individual contributors and with local and regional communities. This year I’ve added this additional focus on senior advisors and potential Board level contributors. This is an ongoing process. So far I’ve had three or four brainstorming sessions focused on expanding the network of people we might want to get to know. From this point, we do some information gathering to get to know more about people we now have pointers to. Then we start to get to know people, to see (a) who has a good feel for the open Internet, Mozilla, or the kinds of initiatives we’re focused on; and (b) who has both interest and time to engage with Mozilla more.

I’ve had detailed conversations with nine of the people we’ve identified, sometimes multiple times and hours. Of these, approximately 75% are women and two third are located outside the US, representing our interest in increasing our diversity along multiple axis.

These conversations are not about “do you want to be a board member?”. They are pretty detailed explorations of a person’s sense of the Open Internet, Mozilla’s role, our initiatives, challenges and opportunities. The conversations are invitations to engage with Mozilla at any level and explorations of how appealing our current initiatives might be.

In the next week or so I’ll do a follow up post about the Board search in particular.

The Mozilla communities are part of what I love most about Mozilla. I remain deeply involved with our current communities through the work of the Participation team. This new focus broadens the possibilities. The number of people who look to Mozilla to help build an Internet that is open and accessible is both motivating and inspiring.

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