Defining Community at Gitcoin (Part 1) - Creating Shared Mental Models


Community has long been at the heart of Gitcoin’s operations and its success. That said, the term “community” is thrown around so often (especially in web3) that it has lost its meaning.

This post is meant to share some of the current thinking at the Ecosystem Collective as we strive to find better ways to engage Citizens in happenings at the DAO.

Before diving into the how, let’s take a step back and ensure we are operating from the same mental models of “community” so that Gitcoin’s strategies and tactics are a better match to who our community really is.

1. Community vs. Network

Though these words are used interchangeably, research shows that these different words have very different meanings:

Network: a web of interconnected personal relationships

  • relationships of trust are extendable, or as the saying goes: ‘my friend’s friend, is my friend’

Community: a group of individuals who share mutual concern for one another

Feature Network Community
Structure Loosely structured More tightly structured
Connections Weak ties, based on shared interests Strong ties, based on shared identity, purpose, or place
Purpose Primarily for sharing information or resources Primarily for belonging, support, and identity
Benefits Access to information, opportunities, and expertise Sense of belonging, support, and shared identity
Examples Professional network, online forum, social media group Religious congregation, neighborhood association, support group
Inclusivity Relatively open and easy to join May have membership requirements or qualifications

Most of Gitcoin’s ‘communities’ are actually networks.

Understanding this, we have two questions we can explore:

  1. How do we want to appropriately foster our networks (vs. our communities)?
  2. Where are actual communities present that Gitcoin might want to participate in or create from scratch?

These two questions help us explore: where and how do we want to focus our time and energy.

2. Community Engagement Methodology

We’re a fan of Orbit’s model to help us better contextualize the relationship between Gitcoin and individuals interacting with us (and with each other).

By modeling our community engagement strategy like this, we can communicate differently with individuals who are more/less engaged with Gitcoin while providing a clear path for individuals to deepen their relationship with us.

Each of Gitcoin’s sub-communities will have its own set of levels with defining characteristics.

3. Quality vs. Quantity

Generally we are finding a balance of optimizing our activities for two different results:

  • Deepening existing relationships
  • Inviting net new individuals into our ‘orbit’

All with the goal of growing the ecosystem and creating an upward spiral of momentum and positive output.

Both of these elements will count toward a “successful” community engagement initiative. Whether one is more important than the other will come down to the individual goals of each sub-community, and will likely fluctuate over time depending on the results we are seeing (ex: if we are seeing tons of new individuals, but few individuals truly stepping up as community leaders, we will aim to start focusing on the latter).

4. Principles of Belonging

Charles Vogl’s book Art of Community outlines seven principles that can be implemented in a growing or emerging community. These principles will help us define and grow our communities.

Boundary: The line between members and outsiders

Initiation: The activities that mark a new member

Rituals: The things we do that have meaning

Temple: A place set aside to find our community

Stories: What we share that allows others and ourselves to know our values

Symbols: The things that represent ideas that are important to us

Inner Rings: A path to growth as we participate

These principles are intended to act as a guide vs. doctrine.

The post above was meant to highlight some of the thinking that is happening at the Ecosystem Collective wrt community engagement and with the goal of creating more opportunities for Citizens to get involved at Gitcoin.

Here are some promtps that we’d love to hear from you about:

  • Related to the above, what do you think is spot on? What have we missed?
  • What do you think are the most major Gitcoin networks/communities we should be focusing our attention on?
  • What has Gitcoin done well in the past? Where have we missed opportunities?

I wanted to bump this in light of all the community round proposals coming through (which is awesome to see!!) bc I think it’s an foundational piece of the puzzle as we work to build out community engagement plans for the Ecosystem Collective :slight_smile:

I hope this gets eyes and that people are excited about this new direction.


Thanks for the write up @CoachJonathan I really like to Orbit framework to understand the scope of responsibilities as well as the upward spiral of momentum to generate positive outcomes.

  • I do wonder where the ‘skin-in-the-game’ dynamic fits in this framework? Maybe number of staked tokens should be a factor in determining community vs network as well as Orbit level within the community
  • Some major networks can be
    a. directly in the orbit such as folks applying for the community rounds or
    b. indirectly related to the mission such as folks building the tor network
  • The retroactive citizens rounds are a great way to foster community. However, there can be more retroactive rewards given to folks directly from the foundation/core for doing some important work such as helping with key partnerships. We can even put up large open source bounties for some of the critical work that needs to be done but which does not have a clear roadmap/framework such as ‘Get a city/town to fund public goods via allo’