Kate and Livia’s exit notes on Genesis Alpha DAO
This is a parting download of thoughts on the Genesis experiment. Kate’s section is a summary of a few thoughts and feelings on the experiment and a brief explanation of some of the reasons she decided to leave (note: like in any life decision there are always more factors). Livia’s section is a more applied breakdown to major components of Genesis Alpha that need improvement.
- Final reflections on my involvement in the Genesis Alpha experiment
In the DAO-verse, to me it seems that often we are conflating governance and collaboration. When Francesca and I first got involved with DAOs, we were doubtful if good collaboration (i.e. the act of working together to produce something) was possible in a system designed for trustlessness. We were open to the possibility that not knowing and trusting others well was not necessary for carrying out governance around making high level organizational policy decisions, but we thought that attempts at collaboration without trust would produce weaker outcomes.
People arriving at the Genesis experiment were betting on trustlessness or weak ties between actors and relying on ‘onchain governance’ as per the ‘killer feature’ of DAOs. This often translated to pseudo identity or anonymity and lack of a real face, manipulation and bits and pieces of ego fighting: some of which can be legitimate actions, although not necessarily in a community that needs to collaborate to build stuff and get to much needed clarity about what we were doing and why.
Collaboration was and is desperately needed in Genesis and DAOs in general because the infrastructure and tooling has not been built yet to facilitate the much desired ‘on chain governance’. So people arriving in Genesis found a bunch of people building semi strong ties. Some of this was due to mine and Livia’s facilitation approach, which defaulted in trying to build connection and trust due to our bias that producing things via working together is collaboration not governance and we need strong ties to get through the multifaceted complexities that arise when working together.
Eventually Genesis started to become a community: people were mostly kind to each other and responsive to attempts by members to get needs met. We created strong bonds (mostly in the community calls), and trust was being built… but we were in a confusing liminal zone, we were a DAO that technically should have been steering towards weak ties and hard governance but in actuality operating from this position of semi-strong ties. This caused conflict when sub sections of the community decided it was time to play according to weak ties, and prioritise their needs over the needs of the whole (perhaps normal behaviour in a large DAO and in the crypto space per se).
The theory and study of governance is the establishment and emergence of rules, processes and norms that form and maintain organizations, institutions and governments. Most theories and practises of governance align with assuming people will be motivated by rational choice and that rational choice is always selfish - ie the tradition of classical economics (ie domination over partnership). For me this is summed up in the following quote:
‘There are two strong and opposed patterns in the human world right now: partnership vs domination. Being strategic means, constantly wherever you are, trying to strengthen one, and disrupt the other… Industrial growth society vs life sustaining society (Macy); takers vs leavers (Quinn); strong father versus nurturing parents (Lakoff); colonial vs Indigenous, extractive vs regenerative, etc. You know it when you see it/experience it. The two patterns permeate everything. Your marriage. Your staff meeting. International climate policy. Questions of presidential power and legitimacy… Is the world made up of objects trying to overpower one another in endless competition, or is the world not a pile at all but a web of relationship, with stability and security to be found relationally?’ Dr. Elizabeth Sawin @bethsawin
- Reasons for leaving
Attempting to build strong ties for deep collaboration was the opposite of the design of Genesis DAO and the outcomes wanted by DAOstack. That, combined with a feeling that experiments in governance in the DAOspace mostly feel like new iterations of domination based governance rather than partnership were both part of my decision to quit my role as Ecosystem Lead at DAOstack and co-facilitator of Genesis DAO. I also was taking on DAO design work that I didn’t feel experienced enough for (as seen and experienced in the design of Genesis 1.0.).
The perception and feeling that DAOstack could just overrule what had been decided in Genesis was always strong, this, combined with the divide between the workers on retainer (Ecosystem team) and the proposal workers created an environment where work on ‘governance’ of Genesis itself became stuck.
Gradually Genesis moved towards a docracy with strong proposals, but we had strong constraints at hand such as:
- Newness to participatory communities/DAOs of many participants
- Hangover of hierarchical/centralized organizing resulting in complaining not doing
- Complexity of collaborating in remote, distributed, online communities that never meet (mentioned above)
- Trolls, lack of self awareness
- Lack of crypto/blockchain experience in facilitation team
- Lack of predefined mission and vision and purpose
- Complexity and missing functionality and features of Alchemy
- Criticism of proposals was mostly taken personally
- Unclear communication processes of DAOstack itself ‘Organizations design systems that mirror their own communication structure’ e.g Conway’s Law
- Divide between paid workers and proposal workers
- Polarisation between factions
All in all though, Genesis did some good things. For me the highlights were a lot of interesting and productive conversations about DAOs, governance, pseudo-identity, and how ‘to be’ in the face of multiple impeding human crises, additionally:
- DOrg became a DAO within the DAO and showed amazing leadership and capability of ‘stewarding’
- Some inspiring people joined the community and contributed to the discourse and proposal making
- Some very cool proposals were passed
- Communication and listening patterns became outstanding
- Lots of research in use cases
- New DAOs were launched from inside the Genesis community
- We got to a clearer idea about how Genesis 1.0 could be designed after deep experimentation
- Restart with invitation only and clearer application system for membership
- Be clear about the intention to be fully ‘trusting’ or ‘trustless’
- Facilitation team focuses on better documentation and experimentation with automated onboarding
Accountability - Livia
Accountability measures should be part of the protocol to increase credibility and enhance the autonomy of the DAO.
As Kate mentioned above the tension between trust and trustlessness need to be taken in consideration. If DAOs are willing to scale, a very structured mix of both concepts should co-exist. The accountability layer will differentiate the protocol from traditional systems. People will have more room to collaborate and build a deeper trust in each other. The weight of making sure everyone is responsible for their own actions will be out of the relationship shoulders, opening space for meaningful bonds in a shorter period of time.
Right now, we are basing our decisions on trust, even though we are using a technology that was built to be trustless. The lack of accountability measures turns passed proposals into “promises” and requires the community to become vigilant of one another. This environment favors bureaucracy and disincentivizes experimentation. Newcomers have to gain the trust of reputation holders and learn about the codes created by the community to protect the common treasure. Older community members that hold the trust of the collective and learned how to propose by the rules are incentivized to play safe and continuously propose things that will grant them more resources and reputation.
This proposal passed 5 months ago, with 5.55% rep for it and cost 2k SAI. The job was never delivered and the proposer ceased contact with the team. Other cases happened in the past but they were flagged and successfully solved by the ATF. - Although better than nothing, the task force reach was also limited by trust. There is no way the funds could be turned back to the DAO if the person hasn’t voluntarily done so.
A few months ago, I suggested that proposals could have two budget buckets, one for the extremely necessary amount of resources to start the project. And 2 the total amount. An escrow mechanism would lock most of the resources and the reputation and would only release upon approved delivery. A second tab only for deliveries approval would be necessary. It could be a fast pace voting system where only the people who voted or staked for the proposal in the first place could participate. Incentives could be similar to HC. This is just an example of many possible solutions that could be brainstormed to reach the thinner layer of complexity possible.
Transparency (of information) - Livia
Part of the confusion from the community was not knowing what is confidential and what is supposed to be openly communicated. There was a lack of clarity even for the ecosystem team regarding the community role. We wanted more open source developers, but we didn’t provide a clear roadmap to guide them. The relationship with dOrg and other key devs was never fully transparent to the community and there was always a feeling of “some people can use the back door”.
Many community members joined because they had a DAO idea they were willing to pursue, but we failed to give them sustained support. BizDev guidelines accessible to all would have been key to empower agents autonomy to the first steps of a DAO. Finally, the leadership team held a big off-chain reputation. Whenever a controversial proposal would come, DAOstack tended to vote as a block, providing little background information about what is supporting their decision. Community members expressed their frustration in multiple situations and many long term contributors became inactive.
In conclusion, transparency of information would increase autonomy, trust and adoption, and it would provide structure for more informed decisions and reduced complexity.
Collective Intelligence - Livia
Proper research of the user experience and behavioral patterns of the community and broader ecosystem plus open communication about the research results could potentially activate and harness the collective intelligence for the development of the project. It seems unnatural to spend large sums on experimental products when the user impact is not being taken in full consideration.
If intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, the collective version needs communication and coordination of actions to manifest. In such large groups with scarce attention, information has to be synthesized and referenced so no one gets lost.
The working groups stirred by the ecosystem team combined with the community calls and DAOtalk posts were being effective ways of collaborating. Smaller and safer environments are important to make people feel comfortable to speak their truth and achieve deeper insights and calls for action.
The knowledge coming from ecosystem experiences as well as from the community in general lacked the attention of the leadership team. It seems like the levels of collective intelligence achieved were constantly being disposed of or considered unimportant.
Instances like the refinement of the GEN locking scheme and the direction for Genesis 1.0 for example could have been big opportunities to engage with experts in the field and bring excitement to the community. People respond well when they feel needed, heard and seen. Perhaps brilliant tokenomics and systems design could have arised from collective processes combined with transparency of information.