This is our third installment in a series reflecting on Mozilla’s Tech + Society Fellowship, a program which launched in October 2020. The program embeds technologists from the global majority within local civil society organizations, in order to bridge two worlds that have traditionally been siloed.
In our first installment, we shared our reflections on breaking down those silos. In our second installment, we discussed movement and power complexities. In the last piece of this series, we’re reflecting on learning and what sustainability means as we look to the future.
Over the course of our fellowship work, we have learned that civil society and social justice organizations in the global majority are adaptive. They persevere in the face of a global pandemic, dwindling resources and consistent socio-political challenges. Some of the host organizations have utilized fellows’ expertise to strengthen their digital communication and access to alternative online fundraising platforms. But adaptiveness and resourcefulness aren’t always enough. It was crucial that organizations also be supported by Mozilla with consistent, sustained allyship and collaboration beyond just project-based financial support.
It's crucial that organizations be supported by Mozilla with consistent, sustained allyship and collaboration.
That’s where integrated learning came in.
Our focus on integrating learning is illustrated in the ways fellows work alongside their host organizations. For example:
- Reem Almasri is enhancing Fabrayer Network’s digital resilience. Reem is also raising awareness among journalists in the MENA region on the interplay between the changing nature of internet infrastructure and content production and distribution
- Jessica Chemali at Legal Agenda is creating a parliament observatory in Lebanon to advance rule of law and activate civic participation online and accountability for good governance matters
- Julie Ricard’s work with EQUIS seeks to enhance their organizational capacity in ‘data feminism’ and facilitate women’s access to justice and gender equality
- Brian Obilo’s expertise on cyber security is supporting Katiba Institute’s digital strategy
- Amarela’s work is building the capacity of FASE on digital care culture as well as developing a toolkit that informs resourcing digital work in the context of social justice institutions in Brazil
Sustained impact requires sustained support
In the first year of the fellowship we contemplated what sustained impact looks like. We determined that sustained impact requires sustained support, and so we adapted our sustainability strategy to include three elements:
- An accompaniment strategy. Both fellows and host organizations need additional support to enhance their capacities to effectively engage. As such, we collaborated with a consultant from a global digital network to facilitate context-relevant, long-term, and consistent peer support. This support was based on a curriculum created from a participatory process.
- Creating opportunities for sharing and learning. In recognition of the various expertise held by the fellows, we created opportunities for fellows to engage in peer-to-peer learning and skills sharing. As a result, most of the fellows have played a lead role in the conceptualisation and design of a digital strategy. They have also participated in workshops and trainings for both the host organization staff as well as members of the communities the host organizations serve.
- Providing more resources. We allocated additional resources to a sustainability strategy co-created by the fellows and their respective host organizations, to serve as follow-up support once the fellowship concludes.
Ultimately, in this fellowship, judging success is straightforward. It looks like social justice organizations empowered to identify and address harmful and unethical digital and technological practices. But while judging success may be straightforward, achieving it is not. Success requires proactive and collaborative organization. It requires effective and nuanced resourcing. And it requires centering a cohort of global majority-located technologists invested in and empowered to fuel a movement for internet health.
For further reading: SSIR | How Public Interest Technologists Power Human Rights in the Global South