Mozfest Retreat and Participant Pathways

“We’re not in the middle of nowhere. We’re at the edge of nowhere.” — Jon Rogers

In the little Scottish fishing village of Anstruther, at the edge of nowhere, 40 community facilitators met to think about the future of Mozfest.

Now in its sixth year, Mozfest is a magical experience for you to grow as a leader by teaching your community how to read, write and participate on the web.

At this highly participatory and inclusive festival, we bring together networks and community leaders working towards universal web literacy to share practices, tools and experiences to better serve our communities and hone our facilitative craft.

The three days in Scotland explored what works at Mozfest, what we want to continue to nurture, and what we can do to make it more magical.

Here are some of the key decisions we made and the agenda we used to get there.


The purpose

Mozfest is a platform for:

  • universal web literacy
  • cultivating facilitative leadership
  • teaching it forward

Through your participation in Mozfest, you can grow your own skills while teaching others.

You will leave with a deeper understanding of web literacy and how you can incorporate it into your practice. You will be part of a network of fellow facilitative leaders around the world who share your interests, who challenge and inspire you, and who can’t wait to see you next year.


The participants

Learning from user experience and service design, we focused on who Mozfest is for. To get there, we developed participant personas.

This is an evolution from how we usually approach Mozfest. In the past, we identified the themes we wanted Mozfest to explore. Then we invited facilitators to propose sessions within those themes, and Space Wranglers would curate those sessions into a cohesive track.

Now we want to design the Mozfest program in a more participant-centric way.

That means we had to spend time understanding who comes to Mozfest and why. With each persona, we surfaced their needs and motivations, their trusted sources of information, and what Mozfest could do for them.


Here are templates and agenda for how we did this.


The pathways

Building on the participant personas, we then developed tailored pathways that would best serve those participants during Mozfest.

A pathway consists of:

  • a target participant persona — who this pathway is for.
  • a clear learning objective — what this persona will know or be able to do after Mozfest
  • a minimum of three experiences — what are the sessions or activities that guide the persona to the learning objective
  • a chart of the persona’s emotional journey — how are they feeling as they move through those experiences
  • a list of what’s needed to make those experiences happen — what tasks and roles are required for this pathway to succeed

Here’s more info on how we made the pathways.


But suffice it so say, it was illuminating to design the program from the participant’s perspective and thinking about what experiences at Mozfest would guide them towards their learning objective.

Using this framework, we want to evolve Mozfest to better articulate and facilitate a variety of participant learning pathways.

The program elements

Mozfest is a collection of participatory experiences.

As organizers, we set a framework for others to design and host these experiences. This builds on a set of learning principles as well as elements that can be combined to make the overall Mozfest program.

The main program elements are:

  • Session (an experience or activity)
  • Pathway (a series of sessions)
  • Space (a series of pathways)


The facilitative roles

Mozfest always had distributed, facilitative leadership in its DNA.

From the Space Wranglers to who curate entire spaces of on-going activity, to each session facilitator (there 500 session facilitators last year — that’s 1 in 5 Mozfest participants), and many roles beyond that, we see Mozfest as creating space for participants to lead and learn.

To realize the participant-centric, learning pathways outlined above, we discussed what roles are needed.

While the mechanics aren’t defined yet, we identified these programmatic roles. They map back to the program elements above.

  • Buddy (new role). This is someone who can greet new Mozfest participants, help to orient them, and be available as a mentor to help new participants make the most of the festival. Buddies could check in with each other at key moments in the festival, reviewing the agenda for the next day, reflecting on what’s been experienced so far, etc.
  • Facilitator This is someone who hosts a participatory session in service to those attending it. Facilitators frame the session goals, guide small group interactions, and ensure participants work productively and purposefully together.
  • Path Finder (new role) This is someone who identifies how sessions could link together to better guide participants to make the most of the event. They support facilitators and Space Wranglers to bridge session activities across floors, spaces, and themes.
  • Space Wrangler This is someone who curates a series of pathways into a larger theme or experience. They guide facilitators to make the most of their sessions and to connect them together in a meaningful way. They are responsible for the participatory health and vibrancy of a larger swath of sessions.

The Buddy and Path Finder role might converge. And we’ll want to ensure these roles can react and be valuable to the dynamic schedule of Mozfest. Meaning some of these roles might be prepped beforehand, and other parts are about having confidence and protocols for guiding participants in realtime at the event. Lots to explore!

And also note there are also lots of volunteer production roles that are essential to Mozfest, although those are developed in different conversations.


The place

Being in Anstruther really brought home the importance of place. How can we be better aware of, a part of, and contributing to the local communities our events are in?

Jon was an amazing host in this regard. I see that as a template for how Mozfest can open its doors more to London communities, and to fostering experiences that take you out of the venue and into the city.

There are a lot of incredible ideas here, but for documentation sake, here are the highlights about how we were connected to this specific, magical place during the Mozfest Retreat.


The future

Mozfest 2015 is just months away. This retreat was wonderful in informing how we can evolve the event and make space for more facilitative leaders.

A huge appreciation to everyone who participated in the conversation, who made the retreat happen, and who make Mozfest what it is. THANK YOU!


Comments (6)

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