Maker Party 2014: What it’s like to partner with 300 organizations

Maker Party – our annual campaign to teach the web – is in full swing and (without any doubt) kicking some serious butt.

Having reached the halfway point of the campaign, I’ve taken some time to truly appreciate the work our team has been doing and the results we’re seeing. On Friday, I was proud to tell the world that….

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As of August 15th we have 485 people taking a stand for web literacy by throwing 1796 events during the campaign. These events are happening all over the world, in 360 cities and they are teaching critical skills to approximately 75,500 people who are attending the events. In fact, those numbers are not just the same as the Maker Party totals from the three months last year but in some cases they are far above and even close to double compared to 2013.

So what’s happened? Well, we’re more organized and clear on what our objectives are this year. We’ve been more engaging with our audiences and have a large team who’s energy has been focused on developing marketing plans that speak to our target. Most importantly, the community is growing. We’re seeing locations like New Zealand pop-up for the time and areas such as India thrive as they have placed nearly 200 events on the map. Our community is getting stronger and faster which I like to credit to the abundant of resources that are available for their use and our work on creating clearer paths for those that want to learn how to teach the web.

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Another differentiating area for this year’s campaign is our partner program. Close to 300 organizations around the world have agreed to either run events to teach web literacy during Maker Party as an event partner or encourage others in their network to help teach during Maker Party as a promotional partner. Though I’ve run many campaigns and programs in the past, I have yet to work with a group of partners that is as large as it is diverse. These organizations range in size, locations, audiences, focus and types. While some own their own maker spaces and are throwing numerous events a week to teach individuals in their community, we also have organizations who are far from the technology space and are looking at ways they can do new and innovate programs with their audience. The common thread with all of our partners is their understanding of web literacy and the importance it has in our future as creators, mappers and leaders of the internet (and greater society). Yes, they know the web is a powerful tool and they believe that we need to equip people everywhere with the skills they need to understand it and become better for it. Maker Party is not only a place for them to take a stand and join our web literacy movement, but a place where those that have these values already embedded into their mission can showcase and celebrate what they have been doing in the field.

As wonderful as it is to see organizations eagerly sign-up to be partners this year, we quickly realized that managing, engaging and tracking 300 partners is no easy task. Given the rarity of this particular partner group in a campaign like this at Mozilla, there is no doubt that we are (and will) learn a lot along the way. I’ve been asked recently to account for what we’ve been able to see as we currently reach-out and connect with each partner to conduct mid-campaign check ins. I’ve accounted for some of the trends and lessons I’ve learned, as well as those from others who are helping manage our partners, but I’m aware that the learning will only continue to grow in the coming weeks as we continue our calls and get deeper with the people we are working with.

The Greats:

  • Needless to say, I have to state the obvious fact that we have 300 organizations excited to signup and join our movement during Maker Party. The organizations are still trickling in as people find ways to participate and celebrate in their communities.
  • We have a lot of partners who are finding ways to integrate their curriculum or use our tools to develop new ones during Maker Party. A recent event report from events partner, Computer 4 Kids, recounted their Maker Party where they used Webmaker tools to create lesson plans that were taught to team members at the event and could be remixed by teachers who wanted to use similar outlines in the future. People are creating lasting material.
  • Relationships and participation from smaller, local organizations running events on the ground, such as CoderDojo NYC and Netsquared Kenya, have trickled into bigger projects with their larger networks, CoderDojo and Netsquared (TechSoup). This let’s us reach a larger, more concentrated audience and create materials that can be adapted/shared within the network.
  • We’re seeing individuals and organizations already eager to continue the party by creating connected learning hubs in their local cities and further growing the movement. We’re already excited to start planning the growth of Hive Learning Networks in cities such as New Zealand, Boston, Mombasa and Barcelona.
  • Having recently launched new badges, we’re hearing that partners appreciate and value having their mentors, teachers, speakers, volunteers and staff receive badges for the skills they share. This also makes it easier for us to see, track and congratulate these unsung hero’s that are on the ground working to spread the web literacy movement.

The Challenges:

  • If you’ve ever created a free-event invite online, you know that when it comes to the actual event you can expect to see no more than 50% of the people who clicked attending. While it’s easy to sign-up, it’s not always easy to show-up. Though they love the idea of Maker Party and being involved, we’ve seen an inevitable drop (roughly 20-30%) in organizations who are on the ground running events, sharing content and getting involved.
  • In an ideal world, people would tell you how they participated, promoted or shared in your campaign. If having them complete the agreements of their partnership isn’t the problem, finding out what they did often is. How do you possibly capture and track what 300 organizations are sharing about your project? Asides from constantly nudging, scrolling through tweets and searching blog posts we haven’t yet found an effective way to combat this problem but it’s a solution we desperately need as I know we are loosing valuable data and content in the mix.
  • Mass emails, no matter how beneficial they are to the receiving party, are just not as effective. For the most part, partners want and need 1-on-1 attention. Especially when language barriers exists and there is a need for translated resources or communication.
  • We have a dedicated team working on getting press for the campaign, events and partners during Maker Party but being able to capture event information in time and for as many partners as we have is no easy task.
  • In places where our Webmaker pedagogy (connected learning, remix culture, etc) is still very unknown, interactions with event organizers tends to require very high time investment from our side. We know there is large value in training teams on how to run effective events to teach the web, which is easier said than done, but we don’t have the ability to offer this on an individual basis for all partners.
  • I’m often faced with partners who are running multiple events throughout the campaign but instead of aligning their current events, workshops, or classes as Maker Party events, they feel they need to run an additional event. Though this isn’t actually a problem, I know running events takes time and effort so I would love organizations to realize how their current offerings can or do fit within the breakdown of web literacy. Having been aware of  this problem for awhile and constantly work at adjusting communications to reflect a more open approach, I still have yet to hit the hammer on the nail and make this intuitive.
  • Being able to organically spread our community through the channels, tools and resources our partners are putting out is also hard for us to facilitate and track. It’s a big question as to how do we not only spotlight what our partners are doing but also drive people locally (or even globally) to participate with them? Especially to a community where there are already many asks out and ways they can participate.

The Opportunities:

  • With summer coming to an end in many countries around the world, we are seeing the attention of organizations being diverted back to organizing curriculum for their September programs. For the second half of Maker Party we have many libraries, after-school programs, schools, maker labs and others getting ready to host their events and within that there exists an opportunity to shape what those look like now, as well as in the future.
  • Though there is much diversity and spread among our partners, they can be segmented into groups and then given specific calls-t0-action, training or ideas that are customized for them. We saw this succeed when we identified the large number of libraries and public spaces we had signed up for the 2014 campaign and started curating applicable resources to make their experience better.
  • We’re slowly breaking away from the assumption that Maker Party events have to cater to hundreds of attendees, which can seem threatening to those that want to throw events. Communicating, encouraging, and showcasing events by partners that come in all sizes leaves room for organizations who are just getting their feet wet to jump in. Though, evidence shows that this is still an area we need to work on and break through for the likes that don’t realize that their smaller weekly hacks count as Maker Party events too.
  • As badging becomes more prevalent in our system, finding ways to communicate and engage with event mentors, speakers, teachers and volunteers who receive badges are needed. Making sure people collect their badges, integrate them across platforms and share them will be the next places we look at improving.

Having done my own mid-campaign check in, as well as conducting them with out partners, I’m excited to see what the second half of the campaign looks like. We’ve conquered 2013, we’re close to reaching our goals for 2014 and everything else from here on in is how do we get better for the people, organizations and communities who are engaging or making or celebrating with us. It’s an exciting time indeed.

A stellar picture by one of our Maker Party partners tweeted on August 15, 2014.
A stellar picture by one of our Maker Party partners tweeted on August 15, 2014.

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