Does the DAO need a Decentralization Essential Intent?

I have heard some feedback that GitcoinDAO needs to focus further on decentralization. That because of its roots as a company, that it is too susceptable to fall back into corporate modes of action and needs to decondition from that mode of thinking. That it needs to prepare itself for a future as a full ProtocolDAO.

If this is important to a wide cross-section of stakeholders in the DAO, I would like to encourage the DAO to come up with an essential intent around decentralization.

Doing so would get these conversations out in the open, help the DAO align on what aspects of its operations are important to decentralize and on what time preference + help me adjust my GTC voting delegations to fall in line with the essential intent.

If the DAO wants decentralization, the DAO should define it and ratify it as an essential intent. This will let everyone know what the guardrails are.

A few prompts:

  1. What is the purpose of decentralization?
  2. What layers of decentralization matter?
    • Decentralization of governance power?
    • Decentralization of computation?
    • Decentralization of development?
    • Decentralization of economics (if any)?
    • Decentralization of stress?
    • Decentralization of accountability?
  3. What are your expectations of GTC holders?
    • I have tried to be transparent about my delegations and encouraged others to as well. I have also publicly stated that I intend for no one steward to be above 10% of my delegations once Grants 2 launches. [link].
    • What are your special expectations for large holders of GTC like ppl who got a large retro airdrop, people who have contributed for years like myself, other co-founders, and Consensys/Paradigm? How might those parties engage in a fair, transparent, + positive sum way in DAO governance?
  4. What are your expectations of (formerly Gitcoin Holdings)?
  5. What is the role of CSDO over time? How could workstreams be further decentralized over time?
  6. On what time frame can/should various aspects of decentralization happen? Grants 2 is scheduled to rollout over the next several quarters, but what about other vectors of decentralization?
  7. How is the governance system evolving at GitcoinDAO? How does it compare to other governance structures that are evolving in the ecosystem?

Special thanks to @kevin.olsen @lthrift @DisruptionJoe @annika @krrisis @Pop for stimulating this post with their feedback, debates, thoughts, and ideas over the last several quarters. And thanks @kyle for stimulating these conversations in your own way.

  1. IMO, Decentralization is the process of delegating decision-making to the highest-context subgroups.
    I would love to see workstreams, and teams within workstreams, viewed as subdaos and subsubdaos with ground-up decision making capability and responsibility.
    I was a full time contributor (product/devrel and community relations) in a DAO that embodied subdao decision making really well. Folks belonging to other subdaos were invited to ask questions/participate in open forum convo and ultimate trust was with the designated team for that specialty topic.

  2. Power, computation, development, economics, stress, and accountability are intertwined. Perhaps defining each subdao could be done by defining: 1. Essential functions (deliverables), 2. Explicit and Implicit Powers, 3. Fiscal Responsibilities

  3. GTC holdings should be completely decoupled from governance. Snapshot voting can be used. Voting eligibility and weight are defined by role. The people actively involved in governance are the people aboard the ship. Voting happens at the sub-dao level and dao-wide level (when appropriate, but likely to be exceeding rare if subdaos prove effective).

  4. We should view as a partner rather than a part of our org and manage it as such

  5. There should be a plan to phase out the CSDO gradually. 2 years or less would be ideal.

  6. Subdaos should be outlined immediately.
    I move that we take a DAO-wide break from the quarterly round in the fall to sort our stuff out. If we don’t make time for it, it will never happen. Emergency in-person offsite for all full time contributors.

  7. I’m not sure it is evolving, yet, which is why this thread exists.


I highly appreciate this conversation being sparked here. Thank you.

I think your question zero gets to the more important point. I don’t know that decentralization should be an essential intent. I think the outcomes we are looking for, which we believe decentralization can provide, should be the essential intent.

I think what we are referring to most of the time when we say “decentralization” is better described as “political decentralization”. This particular decentralization is about avoiding capture of the power system via corruption, collusion, or other means.

I think a system based on subidiarity and parpolity would best align to Gitcoin values.

Each of these specific components might follow these principles as guidelines.

To not sway votes if they don’t take the time to gain the context needed. I think the token holders should be more boundary setting than budget setting. This is high-level, but I have been a proponent of using quadratic weighted staking for governance decisions with a high rate of resource delivery (payments) that can be easily and dynamically adjusted.

I would love to see GitcoinDAO spinning off orgs in which it retains governance rights and upside. I’d like to see these orgs built out as fair launches to those who participate in building them.

If we followed principles of subsidiarity, there should be a role for leaders of workstreams to align. The issue now is that leadership within workstreams is not emergent. It doesn’t follow the parpolity principle.

I think workstreams should be encouraged to succeed at their objectives and spin out fair-launched service DAOs which capitalize on their expertise and digital public infrastructure. A key here is that they spin out the efforts.

Example: FDD could spin out a sybil detection dao with builds digital public infrastructure for detecting sybil users, but FDD should not spin out itself.

This should have been started already imho! (not saying this example, but the concept)

Personally I would like to see the DAO articulate how it will preference the views of highly passionate and competent contrarians over mediocre & unengaged participants.

How will we define the governance rights of different stakeholder groups to find the best ideas, quickly validate, and properly fund the bets we do choose to take?

I guess a more important thing to consider is why hasn’t anyone else posted about this? Do they simply not care enough to engage, or are they concerned about backlash for speaking truth to power?* How might we build in checks to continually monitor to ensure we don’t end up in this situation?

  • Referring to this reference to people providing feedback, but also noticing the dissonance in that the post had to come from you. Why didn’t anyone else come here to get the conversation started?
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I think its interesting to connect the topic of DAO decentralization to the recent Greenpill podcast about the metacrisis I did with Daniel Schmatenberger.

TLDR - The metacrisis is the game theoretic tendancy for systems of humans to tend towards (1) coordination failure. Those who try to coordinate around fixing those coordination failures will tend to (2) centralize control around their coordination. This is the meta-crisis - the tendancy to cycle between coordination failure & centralized control.

In the episode, Daniel says that there is a need for a “third attractor” - basically finding a way to do decentralized coordination.

Here is this idea laid out visually>

Here’s how I think about it with respect to a DAO such as Gitcoin.

By using blockchain-based protocols as the DAO’s underlying assurance mechanism, the DAO can codify organizational governance through code and not purely documented principles that rely on humans to coordinate around. In doing so, we foster greater trust between parties by minimizing trust in people and maximizing trust in technology. (the third attractor)

But before the Grants 2.0 protocols have launched, there is both a risk of centralization (bc the centralized monolith is still being used) and of coordination failure (because coordination is needed to make the protocols successful, and if the protocols are not successful, then the DAO doesnt fully achieve its purpose).

Once the Grants 2.0 protocols have launched + achieved product market fit, then much less coordination is needed in the DAO, so there is much less centralization risk.

Because the protocols will be trustless, they could move the coordination in the DAO from socialware to trustware.

  1. Socialware - Mechanisms that create assurances through human relationships, incurring a high social coordination cost.
  2. Trustware - Mechanisms that create assurances through technology, incurring a low social coordination cost.

Once the DAO is completely run on trustware, then it has achieved the “third attractor” of decentralized coordination.

My 002 wei.