The Essentials of Openness

By Chad Sansing | Aug. 6, 2019 | Open Leadership & Events

Attention, curiosity, and care

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Photo by Stocksnap, used under a Pixabay license

In a few short weeks, the Open Leadership & Events team at the Mozilla Foundation will launch OLX, our train-the-trainers program for community-run open leadership courses. You can read more about OLX here. Our goal is to raise up multiple community-run Open Leaders (OL) programs with diverse audiences to serve as entry-points into the internet health movement.

To help us deliver effective, relevant training, we’ve been interviewing and collaborating with colleagues and community members interested in program design and curriculum development. We interviewed over 30 stakeholders — including OL graduates, fellows, and staff — to figure out:

  • What they need from a curriculum meant to help them build their own programs.
  • How we can help build relationships between them as allies in the internet health movement.

After that, we drafted an outline of our curriculum and shared it for feedback from community members interested in contributing to OLX; 8 contributors returned to join us in that work.

Next, we’ll begin developing our weekly agendas and materials for the course in another round of co-design and community feedback. By September, we’ll be ready to pilot OLX thanks to the contributions of AI and internet health champions dedicated to open leadership and movement-building at the local level in specific disciplines, languages, and places.

The entire process has reminded me of what I consider to be the essentials — and essential questions — of openness:

  • Attention: How can I show up to support other contributors and build trust with them by acknowledging and responding to their contributions in a timely way? How can my actions assure them that someone is always waiting at the end of the contribution rainbow with thanks and appreciation for them and their work?
  • Curiosity: How can I practice a deeply appreciative form of learning that welcomes new and divergent perspectives? How can I help myself recognize and embrace new and better ways forward, rather than get stuck in an argumentative or defensive mindset?
  • Care: How can I show care for everyone who wants to collaborate on the project by being present and responsive across multiple contribution channels? How can I help us all navigate the constraints of time and competing priorities to make sure that everyone knows there’s a way to help and that it’s totally okay if any of us simply cannot right now?

These essential building blocks show up across all kinds of interdependent dimensions of openness. They contribute to accessibility, inclusion, recognition, and safety which are the real engines of openness — the things that make people want to participate in an open project or community. Contribution guidelines, decision-making processes, and platforms are nothing without the people who embrace, sustain, and benefit from them together.

Attention, curiosity, and care: to me, these are the essentials of openness. I’m looking forward to learning more about them in OLX.

What do you think is most essential to openness? Please share your ideas and comment below! Curious about how to get involved with open leadership and the internet health movement? Visit us online and check out MozFest 2019 in London from 21 October to 27 October 2019.