Consumer Reports, Mozilla, Musings, Pitch Geek, Politics

Theory of Power

Ed. Note: I wrote this quickly just to get it all down. I’ll revisit this over time to clean it up, flesh it out. But you’ll get the point.


This article by Steven Teles and Mark Schmitt in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (the HBR of the non-profit world) does a great job summarizing some eternal truths in advocacy work.

  1. It’s nearly impossible to measure the success of your work;
  2. Because it’s nearly impossible to isolate and control for the impact of any one activity;
  3. And it doesn’t matter, anyway, because your opponent will adjust their tactics to make sure it won’t work again and everything depends on context.

The article is nearly a decade old, but it was just shared with me by a colleague. It reinforces my belief that advocacy programs should be thought of as machines that run, process, and adapt in real-time, rather than plans or strategies to be carried out. It also shares a lot of my ‘metrics are bullshit‘ rant, especially when it comes to betting on smart people vs. well-crafted plans. I also put a lot of this forward in a ‘funding open‘ presentation a number of years ago. Basically, it’s as though someone took everything I’ve learned and put it forward in an elegant and expanded treatise.

However, the main reason the article is resonating with me is because it highlights the critical distinction between a ‘theory of change’ and a ‘theory of power’, and the need for organizations to ground their work in the latter.

‘Theory of change’ has no set definition. So it’s likely that a lot of organizations already include a deep analysis of their power within that frame. (As an example, the opening summary of the Wikipedia article on Theories of Change nods to the role of power, but doesn’t mention the topic again, focusing, instead, on logic models of causality.) But I define them like this:

  • Theory of Change: How it’s going to work.
  • Theory of Power: Why it’s going to work.

Your theory of change should lay out what you’re going to do. Your theory of power should lay out why anyone will give a fuck. Too often, theories of change ignore the harsh realities and limitations of whether you are truly able to effect negative or positive consequences for your target. They focus on pressure points and levers vs. your capacity to actually apply the force required to win.

Combining these two things–the SSIR article on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, and the intangible and unpredictable nature of advocacy work–you arrive at a theory of power that looks like this. (And like all good models, it’s alliterative.)

Comprehensive: There is no way, in advance, of knowing whether you should run a grassroots campaign, write the perfect op-ed, train people in new approaches, write a PhD thesis, get on television, draft the perfect policy whitepaper, convene the key decision-makers, etc. So you have to do all of it. Every part needs to be addressed:

  1. Thought Leadership: An eloquent and charismatic leader needs to ply their TED talk skills in front of the right audiences.
  2. Journalism: The press has to keep the issue in the zeitgeist, define the terms, and build understanding of the issue.
  3. Policy: People with deep expertise have to craft the solution: the structural changes you’re trying to achieve.
  4. Political: Elected representatives have to understand how much the electorate cares and start making it part of their platforms.
  5. Grassroots: Activists with pitchforks need to maintain pressure and keep your target in the crosshairs
  6. Backroom: Skilled diplomats need to split the business community in half, aligning powerful companies against other powerful companies, negating their money and power.
  7. Socialization: Mainstream publications and personalities need to convince the population that your solution is fundamentally aligned with their core values and how the world should work.

Leaving any of these areas unchecked creates an escape route for your target. It’s like the old adage in sports: Offensive players only need to win one exchange. Defenders have to win every time. Your opponent needs only one chink in the armour in order to escape.

Coordinated: The scope of work required is (usually) beyond the grasp of any one organization. So the way to get better and stronger is to ensure all of the seven areas are working in coordination with each other. Coordination creates an exponential multiplier on the total power you can wield.

Constricting: I’m forcing this a bit to make the alliteration work, but the core of this is that you have to ramp up the pressure on your target over time. It’s not a marathon or a sprint. It’s a jujitsu fight. You need to slowly, methodically, and constantly ramp up the pressure across all seven battlefronts, leaving your target exhausted and spent, with nowhere to go and no more options.

Like the SSIR article states, this is a lot of work and, afterward, you may realize that 90% of it wasn’t required. Turns out that all you needed was a well-timed phone call from one person to their friend with a powerful job title. But you have no way of knowing that in advance. And focusing on a single strategy turns a well-crafted comprehensive approach into nothing more than a bet. The efficiency derives from optimizing for the minimum time to a guaranteed result, not the minimum time to a possible result. If you do it all in parallel, you’ll get there a lot faster. (This could be a post in itself.)

Mozilla

Me+Next

mozillaI’ve let my long-time friend and Executive Director, Mark Surman, know that April 10th will be my last day as an employee of Mozilla.

The last 5 years have been an amazing ride. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.

There are learning, fundraising, and advocacy programs where there weren’t before. We’re empowering hundreds of thousands of people to teach each other the web. We’ve built a $15M/y fundraising program from scratch. And we’ve helped Mozilla find its voice again, playing a lead role in the most significant grassroots policy victory in a generation and the largest ever in telecommunications: the battle for net neutrality.

I’m grateful to Mark and Mitchell Baker for the opportunity and trust to help build something great, to my colleagues for their focus and dedication, and to all of Mozilla for fighting the good fight.

While the 10th will be my last day as an employee, I’ll be around until the end of June as a consultant, helping with the transition of my portfolio to new leadership. I’ll announce my new home closer to that time.

For now, as always, once a Mozillian always a Mozillian.

Thanks again to all of you. I’m looking forward to seeing what we accomplish next.

Mozilla

Infographic: Contribution & Fundraising in 2014

2013 was an amazing year. Which is why I’m especially proud of what we accomplished in 2014.

We doubled our small dollar performance. We tripled our donor base. We met our target of 10,000 volunteer contributors. And we matched our exceptional grant performance.

We also launched our first, large-scale advocacy campaign, playing a key role in the Net Neutrality victory.

But best of all is that close to 100 Mozillians share the credit for pulling this off.

Here’s to 2015 and to Mozilla continuing to find its voice and identity as a dynamic non-profit.

A big thank you to everyone who volunteered, gave, and made it happen.

CLICK THE IMAGE TO MAKE IT LARGER

fundraising-infographic-2014

Mozilla

The Day After: Thoughtful, angry, and hopeful posts about Mozilla

The order they’re listed isn’t relevant. The posts are nuanced; I’ve just captured a small part. I encourage you to read them all and will keep adding throughout the day. And you can find more on Planet Mozilla.


“We fully support Mozilla, their mission, and trying to build back up the bridges that got torn down. We know many people are going to be upset by Eich stepping down, and some of them might send out a lot of hate. This has been a traumatic time for us, and we hope to never have to post anything about this again. We are software developers and we’d much rather spend our time building great software and helping people than being involved in a horrible mess like this.” – Hampton Catlin

“Our biggest problem is that the world does not know the story of Mozilla. Especially as a progressive at Mozilla, it was hard to watch as people who should know better pulled out the Chick-Fil-A playbook.” – Ben Moskowitz

“One of the parts that is hard about this situation for Mozilla is that we don’t know where to draw the line now. People are worried that this is now a slippery slope, or that anyone could be pushed out because of outside views. I think as a community we need to accept the truth that Brendan wasn’t a viable CEO and figure out where this leaves the lines.” – Kensie

“I’m a supporter of traditional marriage, and I work for Mozilla. … Many people who agree with me on this issue are very upset about what happened to Brendan Eich, our co-founder and, for two weeks, CEO of the Mozilla Corporation. … I am assured by sources I trust that Brendan decided to leave of his own accord – he was not forced out. My understanding is that the senior management of Mozilla (many of whom disagree with him on this issue) worked very hard to support him, even if I would not agree with all the actions they took in doing so. However, he eventually felt that it was impossible for him to focus on leading if he was spending all of his time dealing with the continued, relentless news and social media storm surrounding the donation he made. In other words, he wasn’t forced out from the inside – he was dragged out from the outside.” – Gervase Markham

“Brendan’s choice of what propositions and political parties to support do not match my personal choices and I’m sad when any restrictions affect only one group of people. But at the same time, in a democracy, people must be able to support and express their values. And hopefully, in the best of worlds, that leads to a good discussion and greater understanding.” – Robert Nyman

“Instead of addressing the issues at hand, he very clearly dodged them. I’m really not sure why and I’m at a loss to even speculate. Every one of my friends said that while they didn’t agree with his position, if he just apologized it could have been the end of it.” – TofuMatt

“On one hand, I disagree with Brendan’s personal views and think that his choice to step down is going to be ultimately good for us. … On the other hand, Brendan has always been a strong, (seemingly) just technical leader at Mozilla and I can’t help but feel that he was railroaded out, which isn’t right and also goes against what Mozilla stands for, in my eyes.” – Lizzilla

“Supporting Prop 8 is beyond the pale. But I don’t fully agree with the tactics that some of my friends have used in order to make that point. IMHO, rather than spending our energy attacking Brendan Eich and Firefox (which affected the entire Mozilla community) we should have devoted ourselves to supporting our friends within the Mozilla community as they grappled (many of them publicly) with the biggest crisis they’d ever encountered.” – Josh Levy

“Even as Brendan announced his departure, he provided next steps to advancing the mission by reaffirming Mozilla’s focus on users. The direction he provided could put the non-profit Mozilla as a users union leader to push back the bullying aspects of the Internet that prey on individuals (think of privacy policies or terms of services) and instead flip that around to be pro-user.” – edilee

“Wanted: New CEO for Mozilla. Qualifications: No history of being wrong, ever.” – Brandon Savage

“If we have to learn anything from the past 10 days, it is that we can only survive as a community if we interpret this mission only in its most narrow scope, where can and should find common ground. Attempting to read the Manifesto in the widest possible manner and presuming to find that all of our fellow Mozillians have done so in the same way is the road to failure as a group and a community. Our cultural differences are immense and things which we find self-evident can be unimaginable to other. We should group among the narrow set of goals that unites us, not among what divides us.” – Garf

What has Brendan done? Many things intrinsic to the open web; he helped shape technologies used by countless numbers of users, including to write and read this very post. Also, a hurtful and divisive thing based on a conviction now at odds with the law of the land, and at odds with my own conviction…” – aruner

“[Eich] did not understand that in order to be a CEO of a company, you have to renounce your heresy! There is only one permissible opinion at Mozilla, and all dissidents must be purged! Yep, that’s left-liberal tolerance in a nut-shell.” – Andrew Sullivan

“As a volunteer moderating the Facebook page, it was evident that we had many users complaining and very little supporters. Now that Brendan has resigned, everybody has all of a sudden come out from a shadow. Unexpectedly to say at the least, is that we’ve got users telling us that we were no longer protecting Freedom of speech and that rights are taken away. Where have these people been hiding?” – Andrew Truong

“It takes courage to face adversity in society, and that’s not a virtue I possess much of. Though I’ve come to value difference. Though at the same time, its important not to see valuing difference vs. valuing similarity as a dichotomy where you have to choose only one. We’re all similar in so many ways and sometimes, the difference is small.” – Chris Crews

“…what happened during the last days seems to be a negation of democracy. One should be able to express legal opinions without having to face a witch-hunt-like repression.” – Daniel Glazman

“Brendan Eich is one of the most inspiring humans that I have ever met. He is a true hero for many of us. He invented a programming language that is the heart and soul of the most open communications system the world has ever known… It’s important to remember that all heroes are also human. They struggle. And they often have flaws. Brendan’s biggest flaw, IMHO, was his inability to connect and empathize with people.” – Mark Surman

“If you tried, I don’t think you could engineer a situation that could throw the Mozilla community so thoroughly off-center. A lot of folks at Mozilla work here because we want to do what’s right. Doing the right thing can be hard, but overall we’re comfortable with taking on hardship to do the right thing.” – Dave Camp

“Follow the Mozilla mission on your own terms, because you know it’s the right thing to do. Do the right thing because it is the right thing.” – Ben Adida

“When the outrage was how a person with a different belief and – to me – very doubtful political action got made CEO people ganged up on Mozilla, my colleagues and friends and me how that could happen and how we can allow that. This was unfair.” – Christian Heilmann

“When suddenly the life my wife and I have built together seemed under any kind of threat, the monument of our public commitment to each other was the main thing to hold on to. Very often, critics of the notion of same-sex marriage seem to feel it can be reduced to something empty, as though symbolism carries no weight.  As though legal constructs around civil partnerships, common law marriages, tax codes, inheritance rights and so forth suffice.  All of that misses what’s important.” – Patrick Finch

“Because bringing diverse people with opposing views together, and asking them to fight for just what they agree on while looking past what they don’t, is how movements are built, and how they succeed. Period. Not how some of them succeed, it’s how all of them succeed.” – Ryan Merkley

“Soon, we were in the midst of a crisis, with the voices of reason so overwhelmed by outright nonsense that they couldn’t be heard. Several of us tried. We failed. Brendan, overwhelmed by the waves of negative press and outright hate mail he was getting, gave up and resigned. The mob won, and Mozilla lost its founding father.” – Sheppy

“One of the things that is most painful to me about this is the sheer volume of misinformation out there. We all know that people are wrong on the internet all the time. It is probably hopeless to fight that, but for the record, these are the facts as I understand them, along with my interpretation of those facts.” – David Flanagan

Mozilla

What’s Happening Inside Mozilla

Is not a conversation about inclusion. That was settled long ago. And Mozilla, unlike many organizations, treats our mission and our guidelines as sacred texts.

It’s also not a conversation about quality of life and the culture of the workplace. I’ll let my colleagues speak for themselves.

So if it’s not about the applied and the tangible, it’s about the symbolic and the intangible.

Our conversation is about rights.

Specifically, two rights: Equality and Free Speech. And which one this is.

The free speech argument is that we have no right to force anyone to think anything. We have no right to prevent people from pursuing their lives based on their beliefs. That what matters is their actions. And as long as they act in the best interests of the mission, as long as they don’t impose their beliefs on those around them, they are welcome.

The equality argument is that this isn’t a matter of speech. That believing that 1/n of us aren’t entitled to the same rights as the rest of us isn’t a ‘belief’. That the right to speech is only truly universal if everyone is equal, first.

Both sides are well represented inside Mozilla. Often by the same, conflicted people.

Our current situation is forcing us to choose between them.

And that sucks more than most of us can express in words. And we’re desperately trying to find a path forward that doesn’t wreck this beautiful thing we’ve built.

Mozilla

Mozilla Foundation’s CRM Plans

During our planning for 2014, a need that came up over and over again was for better data tracking across the board. This included managing our contributor targets, engagement funnels, campaigns, partners, etc.

We decided we needed a CRM. And ‘CRM’ quickly became a dumping ground for a huge wish list of features and unmet needs.

Since then, a small group has been working to figure out what we actually need, whether it’s the same thing that other Mozilla teams need, and which of us is going to do the work to put those systems in place.

Adam Lofting, Andrea Wood, and I have come up with a framework we’re going to pursue. It splits ‘CRM’ into three functions and proposes a path forward on each. We feel this represents the best use of our resources, lets us hit our priorities, and ensures that we continue to work under a ‘One Mozilla’ model.

1.) Partner Management

  • What this means: Traditional CRM features such as shared contact lists, joint documents, status updates, and communications management.
  • How we’d use it: To manage our relationships with Webmaker partners, BadgeKit adopters, and institutional funders.
  • The plan: Mozilla’s IT department is leading a CRM implementation to manage deal flow and other relationships behind the FFOS Marketplace and emerging content partners. The Foundation will adopt whatever system is put in place from that process. This is based on the assumptions that (i) ‘partner management’ is a fairly standardized process, (ii) the Foundation’s needs can be mapped onto whichever tool IT selects, and (iii) there are benefits to be had from working within the same framework as our colleagues in business development.

2.) Campaign Management

  • What this means: E-mail, small dollar fundraising, activism, standalone campaign web sites, event registration, and other outreach and engagement activities.
  • How we’d use it: To promote our events and programs, to manage registration for events, to run activism campaigns, and to anchor our small dollar fundraising.
  • The plan: The Foundation and Corporation engagement teams are working to combine budgets, gather requirements, and launch an RfP process to select a platform to run both programs. We already work together on the design and implementation of campaigns, and a shared technology platform will make that collaboration more efficient and avoid current, user-impacting issues resulting from multiple tools managing multiple e-mail lists.

3.) Contributor Management

  • What this means: Outreach, engagement, metrics, and recognition behind the Grow Mozilla goal of reaching 1 million contributors to our project.
  • How we’d use it: Metrics and analytics on engagement ladders, measuring contribution numbers, and rewarding and recognizing our contributors.
  • The plan: This is the area where we will probably have to build our own, Mozilla-wide solution. The People, Engagement, Business Intelligence, Foundation, and Open Badges teams are currently working together to figure out what that will entail. The solution will most likely involve some combination of program-specific engagement funnels, metrics and analysis through Project Baloo, and reward and recognition through Open Badges. More as it unfolds.

Does this sound right? Are there things missing? Please ask in the comments.

Mozilla, Pitch Geek

Infographic: Our 2013 Fundraising Success

2013 was Mozilla’s most successful fundraising year ever. We grew our core operating grants and more than doubled the size of our donations campaign.

This is a shared, project-wide accomplishment. More than 40 Mozillians from across the foundation, corporation, and community pulled together to make it happen. And I’m proud of what we accomplished.

We still have a long way to go. We’re overly dependent on a few key funders and there’s a big gap between our current revenue and our goal of matching Wikimedia’s fundraising program.

But 2013 was an indication that we’re on the right path, with the right team, and a mission our community loves.

Click to enlarge

mozilla-fundraising-infographic-web