Today, we are launching the findings of an evaluation that looked at the impact of five years of fellowships and awards programs.

It’s a big day for us. It marks a two year journey of reflection and learning around our programming and growth for our team, beginning in November 2019 when J. Bob Alotta joined Mozilla Foundation as VP of Global Programs. Bob embarked on a process with the team to assess and understand the impact of our work, and a year later recruited me as Director of the Fellowships and Awards program to take forward that process. In November 2020, we commissioned Simply Secure to evaluate our work over the past five years. We also paused most of our programs while we did so. We wanted to have a body of evidence and insights from which to learn how we have impacted the ecosystem and improve our programs.

We thought the evaluation process would be done within a couple of months, but unsurprisingly for the times we are living through, it took nearly a year of workshopping, reflecting and growing. As we publish this incredible body of work, we’d also like to invite you to share in that learning process and be part of the amazing partnerships that it took to get to this point.

We are so grateful for the collaborative spirit with which Simply Secure carried out this evaluation, and the scores of individuals, past fellows and awardees, and partners who took part in this process. We are grateful to Kenrya Rankin and Ayana Byrd for working with us to build an impact narrative that digs deeper into the origins of our work and the footprint it has left. This work would have been difficult to do without the trust and partnership of the Ford Foundation, whose generous support allowed us to carry out this evaluation. We learned so much about how our programs have impacted and helped to create a healthier internet, how our community has grown, and where we can do things differently.

The evaluation is rich with insights and recommendations. It assesses the individual, organisational and movement impacts of our fellowships and awards, and analyzes the experiences of fellows and awardees during and after their funding.

The evaluation found that our program furthered our internet health and overall theory of change by investing in research, writing, art, and code that explores the role of the internet within our ecosystem and the world. It also surfaced some of the challenges in implementation and identified opportunities for improvement around four main areas: strategy, participant experience, data collection and operations. And it emphasized the need to collaborate around impact measurements, not only as an organisation but as a field of practice. We know that some of the impacts of our fellowships and awards programs are often seen and felt a few years after their funding ends -- we need better frameworks for capturing that.

We knew that in addition to the positive impact the program has had, there were also operational gaps, which the evaluation highlighted with more specific detail. We’re already tackling some of these gaps, including building an accompaniment strategy that ensures support through the life of our programs and beyond. We’re designing and resourcing an alumni program to provide support and connections post fellowships and awards. We’re expanding our team to include more technical expertise and building our communications to help tell the story of our work in different ways and in more places. We’re updating our strategy to ensure our values are reflected in all of our decision making, and thinking about how we can support learning across our field to work more collaboratively for greater impact and to partner across different movements.

We’ve already put what we’ve learned into practice in our current recruitment for Senior Fellows. Senior Fellows work alongside Mozilla staff on projects that benefit the internet health movement, and more specifically our work towards trustworthy AI, while working on individual projects that are important to them and the field. For this recruitment, we incorporated some critical feedback on how our fellowships are run. We created a job description for the first time for Senior Fellow recruitment to remove the opacity that existed in previous recruitment and opened up the process. The fellowship focus areas are directly linked to our own impact goals for greater clarity of how these roles are aligned with our own strategic goals. The role descriptions were created through a collaborative process across Mozilla teams and with current and former fellows. We’re inviting applicants to suggest timelines for their fellowships. And our Senior Fellows will be part of a cohort, working together towards similar goals and learning from each other's experiences.

We’ll be announcing more opportunities and changes that reflect this learning over the next few months. In the meantime, we welcome any thoughts you have on the evaluation as you read through it. Our work is in no way done. Over the next year we’ll continue to experiment, learn and iterate. We will explore different ways to get feedback on all of our work, but in the meantime, you can email us with your own reflections at [email protected].