A bridge between learning and advocacy

How do we bring together learning and advocacy? I wanted to start this conversation by giving example of campaigns I’ve worked on in the past.

Case Study 1: How much do you know about Iran quiz


This campaign happened at Berim.org (which means let’s go in Farsi and whose mission was to support Iranian social innovators.) We were running a campaign to avoid war with Iran. What we found was that we were getting a lot of emails from our members who were confusing Iran with other groups or countries around the world. For example our members would write to us and say they wouldn’t take action anymore until women in Iran were allowed to drive. It was a clear case of misinformation as women in Saudi Arabia are restricted from driving not women in Iran.


Our goal was to be able to shatter misinformation about Iran in a way that was fun and that didn’t make our members – 90% of whom were not from an Iranian background -defensive.

The result:

As a result we launched a 10 question buzzfeed style quiz titled ‘how much do you know about Iran?’ We sent the quiz to our email list of 70,000+ people. The quiz was taken about 20,000 times and had a completion rate that was close to 90%. After the success of the quiz in our network it came to the notice of Upworthy who shared the quiz and then it reached over 100,000 people.

The majority of people got about 50% of the questions in the quiz right. This was intentional as we wanted our members to be challenged and realize that some of their assumptions were wrong. Our assumption was that doing so in the format of a fun quiz would be less confronting and more likely to sink in that doing it through a ‘mythbusting checklist.’ The feedback we received from members tended to indicate we were right:

Great!  Offerings like this which let us see the people and culture and humanity of Iran are the way.  Thanks! – Pat

Sara, very nice introduction to Iran. It’s a good way to begin the process to break down barriers.  -Dan

Great quiz…I missed two.  Sent it on to about 30 other folks. – Bob

The quiz was a great way to stimulate my thinking about Iran and correcting my misconceptions and adding to my knowledge about its products, way of life, historical events, etc.  Would love to see more.  – Sondra

How does this related to our work at Mozilla?

I wanted to use this case study to illustrate one tactic to use online organizing to educate people at scale. Right now we’re only conceptualizing the advocacy list as a way to mobilize people around legislative action – but in order to really build relationships and deep connections we can’t just ask people to take action we need to think about how we can serve our community.

That’s why I think it would be great for us to come together and create some learning goals for our list. For example – after a year of being on the list do we want people to be able to be able to articulate what net neutrality is? Do we want to know 5 things they can do to secure their privacy?

While the strategy and benchmarks is something we need to develop together – here are some tactical ideas to help illustrate the potential of this collaboration:

-Sending people a list of fun facts/anecdotes that relate to the open web that they can talk about with their families during thanksgiving

-Creating a list of gift ideas that will help people learn more about the open web during the holiday season.

– Running a campaign to ask people to make privacy a new year’s resolution and creating small things they can do each week to realize that resolution.


Using scale to build community

I am GetUp. For years now those words have represented the potential for connection and community an advocacy organization can strive for to me. Here’s why:  

GetUp is a multi-issue advocacy organization based in Australia. They use online organizing as on of their main ways of mobilizing communities to create change. I worked there for four years. In my second year working there – I got to the office to find a dismissive article had been written about us in a prominent news outlet calling our members astroturf.

Before the staff could get into the swing of figuring out messaging – we saw the comments. Hundreds of members of our community had already shared their stories in the comments page. They had written things like: “I’m a single mother, I am GetUp.” The members felt so much ownership over the organization that there was no need for staff to respond – our members had already discredited the article in a powerful and organic way.

How does this relate to campaigns at Mozilla? I think that our organization has huge potential for scale but also even more potential for growth in deep connections and building community. There are a lot of different models for this type of community organizing out there, but the three resources I find myself turning to repeatedly are:

-Rules for Radicals – Saul Alinsky

-Marshall Ganz – Personal Narrative training

-Rick Warren – Purpose Driven Church

I’ll be writing separate blog posts about Rules for Radicals and Marshall Ganz’s personal narrative training – for this post i’m focusing on Rick Warren’s work.

There is a great summary of the Purpose Driven Church’s lessons that apply to community organizing. I’ll be drawing on that model to try to define where I believe the Mozilla network is, and how we can not only build our scale but measure and ensure we’re investing in our community and that people are progressing through various leadership stages.

Rick Warren defines five stages of community building:

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 10.38.20 AM
These stages are defined as:


Your starting point, the hottest prospects

People who say: “That organization”


Everyone who shows up – believers and non – believers.

People who say: “This organization.”


Official members of the organization.

People who say: “Our Organization”


They act, they donate, they are invested in helping others learn. However they’re not involved in volunteer coordination.


Without these people the organization would be at a standstill.

The question is – if we applied this frame to Mozilla how would we define where people sat in the various stages? I’m going to do my best to outline what I think – I want to note though that these are only initial thoughts and I would very much like the feedback of people who have the benefit of many more years at Mozilla then I have.

Our community is:  

  • People who use the browser
  • People who have an interest in the internet – be it for personal or business use

Our crowd is:

  • People who signed petitions or signed up to our mailing list
  • People who like us on Facebook or Twitter

Our Congregation is:

  • Mozilla reps
  • People who are on Mozillians.org
  • One off donors
  • People who have taken more than two actions online

Our Committed are:

  • Mozilla reps
  • People who run events – ie maker parties/privacy trainings
  • People who have taken more than 5 actions online
  • Monthly donors

Our core are:

  • Staff
  • Super Volunteers

How do we move people from one stage to the other?

Here are my initial thoughts about how we move people from one stage to the other at Mozilla.

Step 1: From the Community to the Crowd

We do this by running legislative campaigns (through net neutrality/data retention etc) and also through cultural campaigns (ie: Privacy challenges/etc)

Step 2: From the Crowd to the Congregation

By providing the crowd with ways to take more action. For example, make phone calls to representatives, take part in events and make one off donations.

Step 3: From the Congregation to the Committed

Ask people to take leadership roles for example: move from attending events to organizing events, running trainings. Also providing people with the opportunity to become monthly donors.

Step 4: From the Committed to the Crowd

People take on defined leadership roles with clear responsibilities and management on other volunteers. For example Mozilla Reps.

Some thoughts, observations and questions

With this definition – stage 1 and 2 (ie moving people from being a crowd to a congregation) seem to fall into the role of the advocacy team. While step 3 and 4 seem to be divided between Participation, Maker parties and the advocacy team that has a focus on leadership development.

I think it would be useful to approach our discussions around leadership development holistically on this point – to consider how we engage people and then move them through the ladder in order to highlight and leverage the different areas of expertise that we already have.

I also think it would be great if we could set clear goals for the number of people we want to engage at each step. This means knowing how many people we want to engage at each level and also how many people we’re aiming to transition into a deeper level every year. Having clear goals and the ability to measure those numbers will help us test our organizing assumptions and also identify if a particular layer is providing challenges or performing incredibly well.

When it comes to organizing, especially online organizing it’s easy to be focused on either scale or depth – but by creating a holistic plan to encompass both I think we can create a pretty incredible community.

How we pick campaigns

A few weeks ago I started as Mozilla’s Global digital grassroots campaign manager. I work with the policy team to mobilize the grassroots and strategize around campaigns all over the world that will help keep the web free and open.

I’m in the process of prioritizing campaigns for the next six months. Here’s a snapshot of what I look for when it comes to a campaign:

  • By getting involved can we make a real impact?
  • Do we already have community members in this location?
  • Do we have networks that can help us connect to the on the ground situation?
  • Is this an issue our community members have highlighted or care deeply about?

A key challenge with this process that I want to name upfront is that myself and much of the policy team are based in the US. In a lot of ways it’s easier to run campaigns and understand political context that are similar to that of the US and where there are no language barriers. We are taking steps to rectify this – the Policy team is hiring outside the US and on the advocacy side we’re scoping the possibility of hiring campaigners outside the US as well.

That said, one of my priorities is ensuring that as a global campaign manager – we run truly global campaigns. This means being humble, admitting we don’t have all the answers and relying on the help and direction of community members, coalition members and local leaders.

Already, I’ve been blown away by the passion and knowledge of our community. I’ve been talking to community members and partners in India and have learned so much from their insights and am incorporating their perspectives into our strategies. I think by broadening our focus we can also broaden our opportunities and significantly increase the impact we are having.

At the moment the way we find out about and assess campaigns is quite top down. One challenge that we’re trying to untangle is this:

How do we allow more people to weigh in with campaign suggestions without leading to disappointment and unrealistic expectations?

After all we don’t have unlimited resources and we won’t be able to make an impact in every situation. How do we tap into the passion and knowledge of the Mozilla community while at the same time not setting them up for disappointment?

Let me know if you have campaign ideas, thoughts or comments – would love more heads and the benefit of other’s experiences on this.