BanklessDAO
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BanklessDAO

7 Takeaways After 1 Month of Contributing to a DAO

Thoughts from the trenches of decentralized governance.

A screenshot of the Coordinape map for the Writer’s Guild in Epoch 2. Circles with profile pictures are connected to other circles with small gray lines.
The Writer’s Guild passing around rewards at the most recent Coordinape round.

I joined the BanklessDAO as a writer at the end of August 2021. Seeking a way to contribute some of my free time to the crypto space in a meaningful way, I knew a DAO would be a great place to start. There’s no application process and no barriers to entry (due to the gloriousness of the BanklessDAO guest pass), just a quick onramp into an organization with the same interests as me: working toward trustless, permissionless systems for our economy, our organizations, and our communities. Now, after one month of contributing, I’ve developed a lot of opinions on and thoughts about DAOs.

These are my views on some great things that DAOs offer, as well as some hurdles they need to solve to continue progressing. And, of course, what surprised me!

1. Community passion is real

Imagine a room full of all the people who used to be the de facto leaders of their group projects in high school. That’s what working for a DAO feels like: people step up, pull their weight, and put their hands up for big projects. I’ve seen projects get snapped up in seconds when they’re posted in the Discord channels, and tokenized gifts of appreciation come flying after a great piece of work is shipped. I’m really impressed by the hunger for work and feedback; everyone is trying to get things done and get better while doing it.

I believe this hunger for work and passion for leading are positive symptoms of crypto-lovers who aren’t in it for the speculation, but are in it for the values. People who see the power of trustless systems and cryptographic truth are so energized by the pure philosophy behind them that they want to work on everything they can to get the world one measly step closer to decentralization. And, since DAOs are voluntary operations where most members aren’t full-time and are committing their extra time to it, they’ve gotta be pretty passionate to stick around.

The economic stake that members have in their DAO is another massive reason the passion is so strong. Because token holders benefit when the token goes up in value, they are going to work harder to make that happen. The same kind of incentives don’t exist at traditional companies, where you’re getting paid a set salary. Crypto isn’t a zero sum game, either—someone doesn’t have to lose for another to win. Everyone can win together.

A tweet from Coopahtroopa that reads, “Constantly reminded of how lucky I am to be part of such a loving community. Crypto is positive sum and we all win together.”
Tweet from Coopahtroopa.

2. Member support is second to none

I truly felt welcomed with open arms when I joined the DAO. And I’ve heard other new members say the same, which makes me realize how welcoming the DAO atmosphere is. The fact that people who only know each other by their Discord names can band together to create amazing communities and products is pretty insane.

In all the legacy companies I’ve worked in, I’ve never felt the empathy and support I feel from other DAO members. And because of that passion, I believe more innovative, world-altering products will come out of DAOs than out of legacy companies. Having shared goals and responsibilities means that everyone wants to lift each other up, pooling their talents. With a creative, open platform where everyone is supportive to try new things, the sky’s the limit.

A tweet from Chase Chapman that reads, “Networks are more resilient than hierarchical structures. This is why DAOs will weather a lot more storms than traditional startups. In a constantly changing environment, DAOs with the most network-like structure win.”
It’s harder to take down a whole network than a single person. Tweet from Chase Chapman.

3. Finding work — and ways to get paid — is easier than I expected

In a world where companies have five rounds of interviews and many businesses don’t even respond to applications sent to their inbox, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy finding work in a DAO is. And not just work, paid work. For anyone building their portfolio, whether it’s in writing or designing or marketing or coding, a DAO is where you should start. There’s always so much going on, and if you attend just about any meeting in the DAO, you can find a project that’s looking for more support and labor.

At first, I thought I’d have to do a lot of unpaid work before getting paid in the governance token. But no! I was getting rewards as soon as I started working. I was pretty amazed by this: I’d just joined, yet my wallet was already filling up. A large majority of work is compensated in BanklessDAO, and that’s a pretty amazing thing. No unpaid internships here. While all DAOs operate differently, and it’s hard to say how much you’d make in any given DAO, I do know that BanklessDAO pays.

A tweet from Chase Chapman that reads, “The largest impact of DAOs long-term will be open access to opportunity. DAOs enable anyone anywhere to be paid fairly for the value they create. This will change the lives of so many people.”
Preach, Chase!

4. Coordination can be hard

Many (possibly most) individuals in DAOs do not work in them full-time. I contribute between 6–10 hours a week to the BanklessDAO, depending on the projects I’m working on. Some members contribute 30 hours and some contribute 2 hours, and anything is a valid, beneficial time commitment! This means that many of us are scrolling Discord on our breaks from our normie jobs (or when we’re not on break…. let’s be honest) or doing work on evenings and weekends. This means everyone is available at different times and responds at different speeds. Working asynchronously is great until a big decision needs to be made or work is getting behind.

And on top of that, there are time zones. Language barriers. Overworking and burnout. This all makes coordination difficult, because everyone is working asynchronously, and sometimes it’s hard to get caught up after a flurry of messages was sent while you were asleep. Having synced voice meetings is really helpful, but they’re difficult to organize with work and time zones and family obligations. All in all, coordinating isn’t easy.

But I believe that DAOs will continue to find ways around coordination hurdles. There are ways to coordinate globally without hiring a slew of middle managers, like smaller meetings that serve separate time zones and detailed meeting notes and audio recordings to keep the team on the same page. But I do worry that many DAOs will turn to more traditional, corporate structures to tackle these coordination barriers.

A tweet from Jake Chervinsky that reads, “DAOs are only exciting to the degree they differ from traditional business forms. Many DAOs are totally unique, but some are adopting standard corporate structures for efficiency gains. Beware: the more a DAO looks like a corporation, the more likely it’ll be treated that way.”
I wonder if the coordination issues will spur DAOs to adopt corporate structure. Jake Chervinksy certainly does, too.

5. Setting up processes and making decisions sometimes takes a while

This can be a good thing, because it shows the decentralized nature of DAOs. Instead of processes being set up and decisions being made by a single individual or a C-suite, nearly everything is voted on by the community. This is one of my favorite qualities of DAOs and is the primary reason I joined one in the first place. While most legacy companies are structured more closely to medieval feudalism, complete with kings and lords and territories and poor communication, DAOs are true, pure democracy with an aspect of meritocracy—working harder means you get higher voting power.

Some of the bigger issues, such as seasonal budgets (DAO-speak for “quarterly budgets”), are voted on by the entire token-holding group. But smaller issues, such as the salary for a new position within a guild, are voted on ad hoc by guild members in their respective discord channels. All this voting means there’s a lot of discussion and debate before anything can go up to vote. And some of the more complex or contentious issues may take weeks to work out before any votes are cast. This comes with many benefits, such as members getting to dissect exactly what the issues are, debating them in Discord channels, and reaching a better decision. Quick decisions often mean one person is making the decision. Multi-faceted views are essential for progress.

It also means there needs to be people writing proposals and coming up with what exactly we need to vote on in the first place. Which transitions into my next point.

6. Individual action is absolutely necessary for progress

When I joined a DAO, I didn’t realize how important it would be for individuals to take initiative to step up to the plate and go to bat with little direction from other DAO members. Without action-oriented, goal-driven individuals (I’m trying to not sound like a LinkedIn job description, I swear) the DAO won’t make progress. Amidst the deluge of big-picture DAO content online, it’s hard to zoom in on the day-to-day. DAOs rely on people stepping up and saying, “Hey, I’m here to work, and I’ll do X.” They also rely on people saying, “I think we need to vote on X.” Voting and operating with un-siloed thinking are essential to DAO philosophy, but without humans taking them up, there is no DAO to be had.

And, on top of that, without humans truly believing in the decentralized philosophy and using that to fuel their shared vision, the DAO could just turn into a normal company. Just like democracy in many countries can be (and is often) challenged, crypto-native and trustless values are constantly challenged in the DAO sphere. Someone could start making decisions on their own for the sake of speed. Someone else in another corner of a DAO could make a different decision on the same topic and take things in a new direction (Can you fork a DAO?). Or someone could bribe someone else for their votes. Or they could sell their voting power to a representative. Individual action and support of the decentralized ethos is absolutely essential to holding up DAO values and contributing to DAO progress.

Technology cannot operate without humans building, challenging, maintaining, and cultivating it. Humans are the glue. DAOs don’t just spin up out of a MacBook and exist instantaneously as a Discord server forever. Because without the human layer, there is just a smart contract sitting there doing nothing.

A tweet from Brian Flynn that reads: “there are three kinds of builders in crypto. 1. those who want to launch new PFP projects and get rich. 2. those who want to build products that impact millions. 3. those who want to build products that impact millions while achieving decentralization.”
A commitment to decentralization is absolutely necessary for DAO progress. Tweet from Brian Flynn.

7. We need better tools to collaborate

There are tons of DAO tools out there: Snapshot for voting, POAP for proof of attendance, Coordinape and Collab.land for incentives and rewards, and Discord for collaborating. But we need a DAO Google Drive! We need a DAO calendar! We need a DAO Zoom! There isn’t a good way to work on documents without resorting to using our Gmail accounts. While this might not be an issue in a traditional organization, in the crypto world where anonymity is celebrated and privacy is paramount, Google is a temporary, but not perfect, solution.

I’m sure more DAO collaboration tools will continue to pop up as DAOs gain in popularity. And I’m putting my stake in the ground on DAO Google Drive (or even just Docs. We can live with just DAO Docs.) as the next big DAO coordination tool.

A tweet from Brian Flynn that reads: “we need to stop limiting our thinking that gnosis safe + snapshot + discord are the best way to do DAOs. there’s definitely a better way, and we shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with new solutions.” Tess Rinearson responded, “I was definitely surprised when I started learning about DAO tooling and realized that most DAOs are built like no-code apps.”
Better coordination tools are possible! Just ask Brian and Tess!

In conclusion: DAOs have many upsides, but there’s a lot of growth needed for wider adoption

Well, that might have been the most obvious conclusion about a crypto project ever. But. What’s important to grab and hold onto is that DAOs have so much going for them that we shouldn’t give up just because coordination can be tricky. Or because we still need to rely on those group-project-leader-types to get s*** done. Or because coin voting kinda sucks and isn’t the best way for DAOs to implement democratic rule. We have gained too much to go back now.

DAOs are going to make—and, honestly, have already made—the world a better place. And I don’t say that lightly: I really mean it. Our world will be more inclusive, more open to new opinions and ideas, and more interconnected on a micro level than it’s ever been before. We just need to keep moving forward with our DAO philosophy strapped to our belts and our crypto-isn’t-just-about-speculation beliefs strong in our hearts. We’ll get there, I know it.

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