Program Support

Oct. 4, 2021
Simply Secure

Written by Simply Secure

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This section highlights how program participants experienced the support structures of the F&A program. It relies primarily on interviews with alumni.


Quick Facts

  • 61.3% of fellow and awardee alumni survey respondents cited connections with other fellows and alumni as critical program support that aided their work.
  • 35.5% cited mentorship and media connections as critical program support.
  • 27.4% cited professional development as critical program support.



Program Support sep.jpg



Funding recipients reported varied experiences with the support structures of the F&A programs.

  • Many participants reported very positive experiences with the structure of the program: They had clear check-ins with their program officer, timelines for conferences and engagements were clear, and meetings with the cohort felt frequent and useful.
  • Interviewees noted that the differing characteristics of funding recipients is a central tension in program design. Some were “go-getters” and some needed or would have liked more support.

    • This may be partially due to “personality” but also was flagged by some recipients, especially those from the Global South, as cultural/privilege-based. Not everyone felt that it’s natural to cold-call, network, etc. (especially in a culturally unfamiliar, and/or US/Euro-centric context) which was seen as a fundamental aspect of the program that many missed out on.
    • Some staff acknowledged that the program is best suited for people who like to collaborate and go after opportunities.

  • Funding recipients, especially ones from different disciplinary backgrounds, noted that there was a significant learning curve at the beginning of their funding period to get acquainted with the culture of Mozilla’s ecosystem (vocabulary, norms, concepts). Some felt like they began as an “outsider” and needed to be intentionally brought in.
  • When Mozilla has co-run programs with other foundations or institutions, participants generally reported that at best, Mozilla’s presence wasn’t felt as strongly, and at worst, they didn’t feel that they had Mozilla’s support (Examples: OpenNews, Tech + Society, OpenDOTT)
  • A few funding recipients spoke about their negative experiences navigating issues around harassment within the Mozilla support infrastructure.

“It didn't feel like Mozilla was really working toward a ‘healthy’ internet community.”

Fellow, 2019


  • Fellows who attempted to seek support around harassment or interpersonal discrimination within their program or at Mozilla events expressed that they didn’t know whether their complaints even reached Mozilla, due to overlapping bureaucracy and systems with other funders and hosts of the programs.

  • Alumni spoke about particular sources of support they would've liked to have access to:

    • Help and structures for outreach and networking (not having to rely on cold-calling).
    • More support transitioning out of funding/during sunsetting of funding period. For example, a post-fellowship plan that is built in from the very beginning — where do you want to be in a year and if this is a bridge where do you want to be at the end of the bridge?
    • More structured mentorship opportunities (to give and receive support) built into the program (from staff and other/past fellows).
    • More structure to increase accessibility of resources:

“There should be an assessment right in the beginning to figure out where people need support. Do they understand US Taxes? Do they have health problems, anxiety or depression? Do they have any local support? Do they know anybody in the entire country? We don't have the same health insurance system in the UK. I didn't understand how it worked. I was trying to work, and it wasn't working.”

Fellow, 2016

    • More intensive onboarding/introduction to Mozilla culture / Mozilla’s ecosystem.
    • More regular and structured interaction with staff.
    • More time to get to know the cohort (Some noted it would be helpful to know who is in your cohort before the program starts to enable connections and collaborations to be made as soon as possible).

“I realized, as we were getting to know each other, that they're freaking brilliant fellows, like, they're quite the intimidating cohort, you know, because you're new, and you want to impress Mozilla, and then you realize that, okay, the expertise is here [in the cohort]... there's a lot of intelligence in this group. And I wanted more of that, in the introduction. I wanted to hear everyone's story. I want to know how everyone came to this. I wanted to know what everyone's thinking about...because the internet is very personal to me. It's not a career...it saved my life.”

Fellow, 2020


    • More professional development and skill sharing (including sharing expertise on fundraising, other skills from the MoFo staff; technical skill session from MoCo staff, and connecting/learning from the broader Mozilla network.)
    • Mental health/ emotional support.
    • Harassment/ legal/ HR support.

Opportunity

There is a huge potential to harness the resources and expertise of program alumni and organizations as mentors, which is of interest to the broader network of stakeholders and current participants.

Opportunity

Additional types of support will help to improve participant experience, and provide a spectrum of support for their varying, individual needs. Some of this support may come from not just the F&A program officers, but the greater Foundation team, or other stakeholders such as funders or alumni. Examples of the type of support that participants requested include: More and consistent communications/media support.