Building Stronger Fellowships and Awards

Hanan Elmasu

By Hanan Elmasu | Jan. 22, 2021 | Fellowships & Awards

Mozilla’s Fellowships and Awards team is reflecting on 2020, with the goal of strengthening our program and community in 2021


To say that 2020 has been a year is an understatement. It is no easy feat to reflect on the past 12 months and make sense of it in the context of our personal and professional lives. But it’s what I’ve been trying to do in earnest since I joined Mozilla last August as Director of Fellowships and Awards in the middle of a global pandemic.

At the beginning of my journey to Mozilla, I was excited to be coming into a space that was all about the intersections of the internet and our lives. It felt like a natural progression of my past work of searching out the spaces between technology and human rights, seizing opportunities and confronting the risks inherent in that marriage.

Tasked with the responsibility of enhancing the impact of a healthy internet on the communities I most care about, I found myself in this unprecedented year where a healthy internet and our personal health have intersected in unimaginable ways. A year in which we have struggled to keep our communities safe from an invisible enemy that has challenged our way of life on so many levels. That has made it difficult for many to ignore the unsustainability of the inequalities and biases that form the foundations of our society.

As the examples of the harms of an unhealthy internet increase daily, I've been reflective using three strategies to put everything in perspective and think about 2021: Pause. Rewind. Fast forward. (I make no apology for seeing the world through the eyes of creating a cassette mixtape, no matter how much it dates me!)

Pausing to make sure I’m moving in the right direction and prioritising what’s important. Rewinding to honour the past for what it is, good and bad, and learning from both.

Fast forwarding to imagine a future where our work is stronger, more resilient and more effective.

We paused last year to meet the extraordinary moment we found ourselves in by extending our 2020 cohort of fellows for another year. It was important for us all to keep our fellows close as we adjusted to the new reality we were facing. We recruited a cohort of Tech and Society Fellows towards the end of 2020 who are now developing some exciting plans that will take us well into 2021.

Right about now, the Fellowships and Awards team would be gearing up to announce the opening of applications for 2021 Mozilla fellowships. Instead, for the first half of 2021, we’ll be rewinding and reflecting, undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of our fellowships and awards program, focusing our energy on renewing our focus and strategy. Instead of a winter cohort of Mozilla fellows, expect our call to come out this spring as we take this time to reflect on the amazing work our global community of fellows and awardees have brought to the world over the last five years.

We’ll be rewinding and reflecting, undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of our fellowships and awards program.

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We would love to have you contribute to our mixtape playlist and be part of our evaluative process. You - whether you’re a past fellow or awardee, a past applicant, partner organization, or a hopeful future program participant - are critical to this process. What do you think have been the biggest Fellowship and Awards strengths and challenges? How can we improve?

We invite you to complete this 5-10 minute survey by 15 February to let us know what you think.

Your input will tell us what questions this evaluation should answer and help us understand the broader Mozilla community’s awareness of and familiarity with Mozilla’s mission and the Fellowships & Awards programme. We’ll be sharing more as the evaluation progresses and presenting the results later this year when it's completed.

I am so looking forward to pressing play on the soundtrack that comes out of this process!