Participant Experience

Oct. 4, 2021
Simply Secure

Written by Simply Secure

Back to Insights + Findings


This section highlights the experiences of program participants and alumni with various F&A program streams over the evaluation period. It relies primarily on interviews with alumni.

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The strengths and challenges regarding F&A program structure highlighted by participants were
largely consistent across program tracks, types, and models.

  • While this evaluation was encouraged to answer the question: “How does the impact of the program vary across fellowship models (hosted, non-hosted) and/or tracks? Across types of awards?” – the scope wasn’t large enough to provide a representative sample of participants from the various tracks and years to answer that question with fair and complete data.
  • Despite this limitation, what became clear during data collection, and what is ultimately more useful from an evaluative perspective, is that participants from various programs largely had more similarities in their reflections (both positive and negative) than differences.
  • The strongest findings relating to impact, program structure, program support, and operations, came from participants across programs – unless explicitly noted. Many also came from a variety of years (and we have noted where Mozilla has taken action, indicating a known historical issue). This finding indicates that F&A programs have more in common than the team currently acknowledges, and that the streams ultimately offer similar experiences to funding recipients.
  • The siloing of program management enables staff to stratify issues in the F&As broadly by program type, and thus, program officer, when in reality most of these challenges and strengths are shared.


Opportunity

The commonalities between program tracks and types encourage Mozilla to approach the F&A program as a more unified, cohesive set of offerings. These findings indicate that siloing is not only preventing staff from being able to share resources, but it is also creating unnecessary divisions in how the team can reflect upon and evaluate the programs. These commonalities make a strong case for more unified high-level strategy as well as more unified program support responses.



Table 6: High-level findings across programs

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Although funding is the most significant benefit for recipients, they also widely cited traveling, presenting, access to additional resources, and networking as impactful aspects of their program experience.

  • Recipients benefited most from the time and money to work on projects full-time. For many, it wouldn’t have been possible to pursue this work otherwise.
  • Awardees noted that concrete, technical, project-based funding was very impactful, and had a perception that Mozilla seemed to be moving away from that model of funding.
  • Awardees from NSF WINS noted that it was difficult not to have a budget for the project; the money was awarded after. This made the competition inaccessible for people with full-time jobs or without other funding sources. NOTE: This structure was changed for the Awards Challenges after NSF WINS.
  • Funding and resources for things like travel (for conferences, networking) and project-specific support (such as hardware, additional team members, etc.) were among the best aspects of recipients’ program experience.
  • Conferences, generally, were cited as excellent opportunities, with special emphasis on MozFest as being a particularly impactful experience for networking and exposure. Many emphasized that unstructured, spontaneous time has wrought the most important connections.
  • Community and network-building were fundamental assets of the program for all recipients. Especially for fellowships, a strong sense of cohort camaraderie was fostered almost unilaterally across programs.


Opportunity

This evaluation found the enthusiasm from F&A recipients for travel and in-person convenings –whether at conferences or with their cohorts– to be extremely strong. The Foundation has an opportunity to take advantage of this knowledge by investing in alternatives to in-person convenings during the pandemic and emphasizing in-person events and opportunities when it is safe to do so.

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Funding recipients generally had a very positive experience in the program and feel supported by F&A staff.


  • Many recipients found their experience “life changing.”
  • Most recipients cited overwhelmingly positive experiences with F&A staff, and staff generally loved working with funding recipients.
  • Generally stronger connections with Mozilla were seen when recipients were based in one of the Mozilla cities (Mountain View, Toronto, Berlin, etc.) and were therefore able to engage more with Mozilla in person. That being said, participants also reported feeling that Mozilla Corporation employees had no awareness of fellows or their work.
  • Some recipients felt that adjacent to their project, they had access and confidence through their Mozilla fellowship or award to do non-directly project-related activities, like writing op-eds, that they never would have done before and that amplified their impact and profile.

Opportunity

Post-COVID, the Foundation could prioritize placing certain fellows near Mozilla offices and/or facilitating relationships with MoCo as part of the program’s offerings.