As I’m still living the high after having witnessed the “mother of all Maker Party’s”, The Mozilla Festival (MozFest), I thought it was due time to look back at the last four months and do a little deconstructing on what went on.
Four months ago I wrote this post describing my new position with the Mozilla Foundation running a campaign that encouraged web literacy and education around the world primarily (but not limited to) using the Webmaker tools. Now that we’ve reached the end of the three month sprint I can proudly say that we had almost 1700 events in well over 300 cities around the world (for comparison, last year’s campaign saw 700 events). We did all this with hundreds of partner organization and community members who were at the forefront of these events and leading the maker movement in their respective communities. This and more is displayed in this beautiful looking infographic that Chris Appleton designed:
At a quick glance, the success was clear. We doubled the number of events around the world that encouraged teaching and learning the web, we reached thousands of individuals who in some capacity increased their digital skill set, and we proved that Webmaker was a valuable tool to make something awesome, teach others and build online confidence. We were taking the people who were experiencing the web-olution and turning them from consumers to producers, albeit slowly. We worked off the premise that all it took was that introduction to editing your first image online, creating your first web page, or making your first meme to help you realize that you’re more in control of your participation in the world wide web. From there, we left it up to the individual to determine how deeply they would dive into the web. Some thought the tools were cool but we didn’t see them resurface after their first make, while others saw the possibilities and dove head first into the world of endless web development and content creation. In both cases we were successfully producing (web)makers.
Building our community of mentors
In my opinion the greatest success came from our community that represented a diverse mix of genders, ages, cultures, languages and backgrounds. Maker Party to me is about building a community (ahem, army) of individuals who are joined by a common purpose: to empower others to enrich their digital skills and in turn become better users and/or contributors of the web. Our community lives, breathes and succeeds at this. For the most part, they do this without my help but I’m sure glad they tell me their stories. For every email, event report, tweet, online post or blog they did we were there to listen, support and congratulate them. The ways in which these individuals enthusiastically help others make simple content, such as a meme, to harder tasks, such as coding a website, is truly inspiring. Supporting and celebrating these mentors while fostering a community where they could grow and learn together were among the biggest wins of the campaign. They might not classify themselves as it, but our community is filled with natural born teachers. The people who do good and don’t settle for hoping others do the same but rather work to encourage others to do good themselves. They are passionate about the web and using it to spread knowledge which drives their need to teach others how they can collectively build and use a better web together. This is the type of community that I’m proud to surround myself with. I tell their stories as if they are my own because I want people to understand who they are and the powerful way in which they are spreading the message around the world to the most unlikely of places or people. Instead of telling people how great our community is I let the stories speak for themselves. Here are a few of my favourites from the past months:
- Rahman visited an orphanage where he went to teach the children computer skills and upon pulling out his computer learned the children had never even seen a computer before. He vowed to go back and yes, he has visited again. You can read his story here.
- 8-month pregnant Cassie led a BabyMaker Party in Toronto where participants made their baby’s first website or their first baby website. Or even just a website for someone they love. They used Thimble to “remix” a baby website, along the way learning some basics of coding with HTML and CSS. I first learned that my friend Bonnie was pregnant after seeing this webpage she made at the event.
- The Mozilla Nigeria Community took part in the fun by planning a Maker Party in Bonny Island, Nigeria. The theme of the event was “Creating web solutions to real life problems” through Thimble. One of the young attendees made this page on how to avoid road accidents. Among the instructions is don’t drink and drive or use your mobile phone while driving.
- Meraj threw a Maker Party with a local Shepherd to create this page that informs the community of where the next sheep market will be and the cost to purchase a sheep in order to increase sales and decrease the confusion in the local villages. Upon further discussing the event with Meraj he told me this, “Amira, this is only one case where people face problems in going to Angadi and purchasing sheeps, like wise we have many problems in the rural areas where one can host maker parties to train, guide and help them in solving their problems using the Web.”
The value of Maker Party to those who want to teach the web
In a few months we learned that we could use making and events as an affective way of teaching among different demographics. Individuals used the kits we produced to teach the web or remixed or created their own new kits to customize how they wanted to teach their community. We learned that Kitchen Parties, where you have a small number of people hang out in the kitchen and do a couple small X-Ray Goggles or Thimble tasks, were widely popular because of the low cost to organize and plan but sense of success and fulfillment that followed. Hell, I even threw a Kitchen Party with my mom. Events came in all sizes and the Webmaker tools proved easy to adapt for both small and large audiences.
We recently ran a feedback survey to understand the community and what the motives were behind throwing events, how effectively we were supporting them, where we could improve and general thoughts for the 2014 campaign. My purpose for the study was to understand, learn and grow because that is the only way myself and Maker Party can continue to be better over the years. Here are some of my favourite answers to the first two questions of the survey that were asked in order to understand the value of Maker Party for the people who threw them.
When asked why they threw a party?
“To contribute my part to the thing I love the most “WEB” and to my country by creating awareness about digital literacy .”
“Because, I love the concept of webmaker project. I am not a hardcore coder, but I love to teach other. Webmaker is the best way for me.”
“I feel awesome as we have reached out to local community or students to help them know how to build something in the web. I felt the urge to spread more this learning and teach the word to more areas.”
“It was a feeling of achievement, even if minute, to have reached a group of youth and shared with them makings of the Internet and WWW. How we use and contribute to Internet and the WWW can profoundly effect national development in a geographically dispersed island nation like ours. To have contributed to the global efforts in creating and shaping the future, even in a tiny way, was extremely fulfilling.”
“I was excited about it, being a Web Developer from past 2 years and not able to share it with others was something I was missing. Maker Party gave me a way to share my knowledge and after the MP, I was astonished by the feedback and somewhere in my mind I said “Now that’s called Fun!””
Maker Party 2014
- The Maker Party global spread is magnificent but I would be lying if I said we were equally represented in all places of the world. I want to work with the under-represented areas of the map to establish the communities who might not have as strong of a presence, while also working with the existing communities to further their development.
- Improve the accessibility of the types of resources people can leverage for their event. Creating some sort of system where we can organize kits based on small/big groups, young/older ages, beginner/experienced levels, online/offline activities, etc. We have kits for every need but let’s make it easier for people to find ones that are most useful to their needs.
- We learn a lot about individual needs and the tools that help to teach the web at events. I would like to foster a more improved way in which we can be constantly growing from this never-ending pool of feedback and make even better tools that respond to these growing needs.
- Our mentors are inspiring individuals at every event they host. I want the attendees that come to their first workshop or learn a new skill to go forward and feel empowered enough to teach someone else their new skill. Sure this happens but my questions focus on how do we continue to encourage this, provide the right resources and track.
- Along the lines of above, how do current mentors train a new wave of mentors. Community members have increasingly expressed interest in a scalable version of a Train the Trainers program where they can provide the support and knowledge to those in their area that want to volunteer or run their own workshops but might lack the know how.
- Taking what motivates people to teach or learn the web and make sure that it is provided in the Maker Party package. We’ve collected a lot of this data in the last few months and I want to work on leveraging it for the future.
There are many people who have also contributed reflections from the 2013 Maker Party campaign. If you’re itching for more I would encourage you to read one of the below:
Or read Mark Surman’s blog focusing on the foundation for Maker Party and the hypothesis we first set out with. He also did this post on some of the Maker Party’s he visited and my personal favourite, a post on our community members who threw Maker Party’s.