Participation at Mozilla is a personal journey, no story  the same, no path identical and while motivations may be similar at times,  what sustains and rewards our participation is unique. Knowing this, it feels slightly ridiculous to use the visual of a ladder to model the richness of opportunity and value/risk of ‘every step’.  The impression that there is a single starting point, a single end and a predictable series of rigid steps between seems contrary to the journey.

Yet… the ‘ladder’ to me has always seemed like the perfect way to visualize the potential of ‘starting’.  Even more importantly, I think ladders help people visualize how finishing a single step leads to greater things: greater impact, depth of learning and personal growth among other things.

After numerous conversations (inside and outside Mozilla) on this topic, I’ve come to realize that focus should be more on the rung or ‘step’, and not on building a rigid project-focused connection between them. In the spirit of our virtuous circle, I believe that being thoughtful  and deliberate about step design, lends to the emergence of personalized learning  and participating pathways. “Cowpaths of participation”.

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In designing steps, we  also need to consider that not everyone needs to jump to a next thing, and that specializations and ‘depth’ exists in opportunities as well.  Here’s template I’m using to build participation steps right now:

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* Realize I need to add ‘mentorship available’ as well.

This model (or an evolution of it) if adopted could provide a way for contributors to traverse between projects and grow valuable skillsets and experience for life with increasing impact to Mozilla’s mission.  For example, as a result of participating in the Marketpulse project I find my ‘place’ in User Research, I can also look for steps across the project in need of that skill, or offering ways to specialize even further.  A Python developer perhaps,  can look for QA ‘steps’  after realizing the most enjoyable part of one project ladder was actually the QA process.

I  created a set of Participation Personas to help me visualize the people we’re engaging, and what their  unique perspectives, opportunities and risks are.  I’m building these on the ‘side of my desk’ so only Lurking Lucinda has a full bio at the moment, but you can see all profiles in this document (feel free to add comments).

I believe all of this thinking, and design have helped me build a compelling and engaging ladder for  Marketpulse, where one of our goals is to sustain project-connection through learning opportunities.

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In reality though, while this can help us design for single projects – really well,  to actually support personalized ladders we need adoption across the project.  At some point we just need to get together on standards that help us scale participation – a “Participation Standard” .

Last year I spent a lot of time working with a number of other open projects, trying to solve for a lot of these same participation challenges present in Mozilla.   And so,  I also dream of that something like this can empowers other projects in a similar way: where  personalized learning and participating pathways can extend between Mozilla and other projects with missions people care about.  Perhaps this is something Mark can consider in thinking for the ‘Building a Mozilla Academy‘.

Towards a Participation Standard
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