The falling apart of a political movement

This was first published in the DAOStack telegram channel and Pat suggested I’d start a forum topic. So here it is.

Re the Holographic consensus: maybe I can contribute to the discussion.

I was part of a political movement that aimed to make decisions democratically with input from all activists, which at times was hundreds of people. The movement was very successful in one elections cycle (municipal) then less so in the 2nd cycle, although still finished strong with 10% of the council members.

A few months later it fell apart because of internal tensions that boiled down to a vote whether to join the mayor’s coalition, or not. Could we have avoided the split if we made decisions with DAOStack? I’ll describe the situation.

  1. Influencer #1, the most powerful, wanted a vote of Yes.

  2. Influencer #2, who was previously #1 and now vastly diminished wanted a vote of No.

  3. The movement’s administration was under the power of #1.

  4. The leadership committee, responsible for daily decisions, was split almost evenly. In a vote within the committee we (I was one of the influencers around #3 to #10. Each of us had somewhat similar power) decided No.

  5. Influencer #1 then moved to a vote within the larger body of members – about 350 people. It seemed almost inevitable that he’d have a majority there, in no small part because his admin had the final word on the list of eligible voters.

  6. Now comes a fascinating twist. Influencer #2 had a secondary interest that lead him to try and convince people to abandon the voting process, thus ensuring a Yes vote, and then declaring the process invalid and claiming that his part of the movement is the real movement.

  7. Some of influencers #3 to #10, myself included, worked to stop this strategy. We wanted to fight for a No vote and keep the movement together.

  8. The vote was a strong Yes, with about 60:40 split.

  9. Influencer #1 consolidated power, putting more of his people into the deciding committee.

  10. Most of the No voters left the movement. It acted on the Yes decision. Influencer #1 gained significant rewards (money, probably others.) But the movement itself was hollowed out. Influencer #1 became the de facto one man ruler.

Could something like the DAOStack prevent this process?

Certainly we could have gained more resistance to the destructive process if we set up the movement with these rules:

1. A set of Founding Principles that cannot be changed without a super majority. Let’s say 75% of the voters.

2. Changing a founding principle requires a supermajority.

So for a decision that is as important as joining a coalition lead by an opponent the movement would have needed the supermajority and the vote would have been a No.

Would we have stayed together, given a No? Would influencer #1 had accepted the decision? I think he would have.

Cool. But we don’t need the blockchain to achieve this. We could have set it up correctly on a piece of paper and advertised it on our website.

Now let’s see if staking money, or reputation, would have stopped influencer #2 from his strategy of avoiding the voting process. (Step 6 above.)

He worked to discredit the vote without actually coming out with it in the open. If staking was the system of expressing an opinion, he would have had to put some currency into a No vote, and would have been disincentivized to operate against a No vote.

Which is really great. We could have pushed him to stake more than he’d want too, by matching his stake and advertising to everyone that influencer #1 is not really on the No side, because he’s not staking more than us while actually having more resources to stake.

Another advantage of the DAO seem to be that the list of eligible voters would have been more transparent, rather than on one excel file on one desktop of one person.

Transparency in this case is not a bullet proof solution, but it would have made things better. Our eligibility to vote was based on proof of work (not blockchain type proof of work, simply attending meetings, and other actions) with everyone believing everyone else. So the eligible voters list could still be manipulated but it would have required a longer, more involved process to put false names into it.

Another thing to note: significant stakes are often going to be outside of the DAO system. In our case money and political power.

Conclusion: the DAO doesn’t solve all issues but it can help. If we ever try this again it’d be worth considering.

A medium article with some more information and thoughts.