Embracing the Change: Open Source Communities During the Pandemic

Mozilla’s network of contributors continues to play an essential role in helping to make the internet better for everyone.

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla, the open-source nonprofit organization behind Firefox, has always understood the value of community and what it can bring to the organization and mission. Maintaining a network of collaborative groups and contributors continues to play an essential role in helping Mozilla make the internet better. Mozilla can engage with new and existing users through these advocates, working directly alongside leading contributors and learning from and listening to their feedback. This relationship and exchange of value continues today and supports a structure built by a community of thousands all over the world.

10 Years of Mozilla Reps

This past summer marked the 10th anniversary of the Mozilla Reps program (ReMo)—and with it a decade of campaigns, activations and community growth. Over the years, the program has helped activate local and regional communities across continents and over 50 countries, tested Mozilla products and launches before they were released to the public, and collaborated on some of Mozilla’s biggest projects. In addition, the Reps have proven to be a guiding resource. They offer dedicated mentorship for new and old contributors alike, often being the first volunteers to know about contribution opportunities for Mozilla. One of the oldest community programs at Mozilla, the Reps are also one of the most passionate—giving their extra time to educate, empower and mobilize others to support Mozilla’s mission and expand the impact of the open-source ecosystem.

Mobilizing an Open Source Community Through a Pandemic

When the pandemic started, it became difficult to mobilize contributors across regions. As a result, Mozilla was pressured to pivot to a new communication model fast and find ways to continue supporting and providing resources to contributors. After transitioning to a hybrid-communication model, Reps were encouraged to create online events through virtual spaces like Zoom and Hubs to rally contributors around campaigns and support regional outreach opportunities. Resources were also sent to regional leaders. In addition, Mozilla chose to keep several community-managed spaces accessible—sponsored by the Mozilla Corporation to create a local ecosystem of collaboration with other like-minded communities. These spaces help promote Mozilla and other open source technologies – even if large-scale events couldn’t take place.

Most surprising, while other nonprofit organizations were being stripped of volunteers, Mozilla didn’t lose a single Rep. During the last 8 months, there was an increase of 5% in the number of Reps internationally, with most Reps averaging at least 6 years in the program.

Mitigating Challenges to Create a Rewarding Ecosystem

The tech industry is a fast-paced environment that constantly changes. Maintaining an open-source ecosystem isn’t always easy, but co-creating with global communities through change and challenges can be extremely rewarding.

Contributors are passionate and opinionated about open-source projects and their work. Ensuring that contributors feel validated and valued can be challenging but is extremely important to fostering a healthy community with regular and long-standing contributors. In addition, setting up expectations and providing effective feedback and issue management resources can ensure managers are surfacing the most prevalent issues and finding solutions.

Creating the proper channels and resources to enable contributions can also be difficult, but we can co-build products that matter to us when we can find efficiencies. For example, we rallied our community to test the new changes in Firefox 89 over 3 weeks. As a result, the community managed to file over 100 bugs via a system created to report issues without the need for Bugzilla accounts. There are many other examples of campaigns that showcase the strength of the community and how connected they are to Mozilla’s work and mission. Open source contributors work together to see projects grow and thrive, and Mozilla’s contributors are altruistic people that want to make the internet a better place.


Konstantina Papadea is a senior program manager overseeing global community engagement and operations at Mozilla. In the past 8 years, Konstantina has helped build and maintain a vibrant community program, engaging thousands of volunteers in impactful solution-oriented campaigns bringing community growth for product communities while ensuring meaningful value exchange for contributors.