From Wrangling Sheep to Wrangling Sponsors

Jesse Ward

Von Jesse Ward | 22. Oktober 2020 | Mozilla Festival

The West Still Lives On—At Least Digitally—in MozFest

Growing up in Idaho, the internet was not at the forefront of my childhood experience. I lived in the outdoors steeped in Western tradition. If you told the twelve year old version of me that he would work in front of a computer every day to create a healthier internet, he would have raised an eyebrow. After all, I was a kid who mutton-busted in the rodeo, broke ice for the sheep in winter, rode horses in the Rocky Mountains, and rafted down whitewater that was (figuratively and literally) above my head. Yet, to my surprise, MozFest helped re-awaken the Cowboy in me.

My first MozFest was full of adventure and just the right amount of chaos, not unlike a rodeo. I wandered around Ravensbourne in London until I would stumble upon a workshop that changed the way I thought about tech. Everywhere around me were digital adventurers, entrepreneurs, and people fighting against the odds. The West as I knew it was dying; but in MozFest, I found a new frontier full of possibilities.

“Wrangling” Sponsors During My Second MozFest

After my first MozFest, my mind was brimming with ideas for how we could engage more sponsors in a meaningful way. When I joined Mozilla, I knew I would be tasked with fundraising for MozFest, but it wasn’t until I experienced the festival firsthand that I truly understood why it was so important.

Among the many things I find endearing about MozFest is that we use the term “Wrangler” to describe all the amazing Volunteers who organize the Spaces at the festival. In cowboy country, a wrangler was a ranch hand who rounded up the animals. I wrangled sheep and now I was “wrangling” sponsors. Neither is easy, but both leave you feeling rewarded.

Person with long hair in black shirt speaking with two other people, all facing each other, at MozFest. Jesse Ward (left) speaking with two other Mozilla Staff at MozFest 2018.

MozFest Is Keeping the Dream of the Internet Alive

I see many parallels between the West and the state of the internet today. Maybe I couldn’t save the family farm or the buckaroo from corporate farming conglomerates, but MozFest can help save the internet from a similar fate. You’ll be hard pressed to find much left of Cowboy culture in the West, but at MozFest, you’ll find the innovative and scrappy culture that inspired the internet alive and well. MozFest is for the dreamers, the little guys, the outlaws—the people who stand up to the monopolies that claim the internet as their own territory.

When we bring in sponsors, we aren’t just supporting the festival financially. We are creating allies. For some, this may be their first step in an awakening, and for others, it is a reflection of their deep connectivity with Mozilla’s values. Regardless, each sponsor is joining the movement for a better internet and AI future.

Person in black shirt and jeans holding up MozFest book, with festival sponsor's logos on a banner in the background. Sponsorship Recognition at MozFest in 2019

As someone who took the Cowboy culture of my youth for granted only to wake up one day to realize it was gone, I won’t make that mistake again. An open, decentralized internet that uplifts all of humanity is worth fighting to preserve. Wrangling sponsors for MozFest has given this boy from Idaho a chance at not letting something else I value slip away.

Up Next

As we move to Amsterdam and go virtual, we are presented with new challenges for sponsorship, but also new opportunities for creative collaboration. If you are interested in sponsorship or want to help make introductions, please contact me at jessew@mozillafoundation.org.

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Jesse works on Mozilla’s Partnerships and Fundraising team where he focuses on growing the Guardian Giving (for individual donors) and MozFest sponsorship program.

MozFest is part art, tech and society convening, part maker festival, and the premiere gathering for activists in diverse global movements fighting for a more humane digital world. To learn more, visit www.mozillafestival.org.

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