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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