The Trusted Seed of Commons Stack

Establishing Healthy Initialization Conditions for DAO Ecosystems

Jeff Emmett
Commons Stack
Published in
7 min readNov 18, 2019


Co-authored by Griff Green, edited by Kris Decoodt

Note: This article was originally published on the Giveth blog on August 7 ’19, you can find this here.

Update: This legacy article reflects the base nutrients upon which we have grown our Trusted Seed. To visualize how its branches are fully extending, you may refer to our newer article on Activating the Trusted Seed.


To get involved, all you need to do is apply to join the Trusted Seed. 🌱 In the near term, you can earn reputation in the Trusted Seed by contributing time or funds to the build of the Commons Stack. 🌿 In the medium term, you will be able to participate in decision making in the Commons Stack, and be invited to join in the community launch of various Commons efforts! 🌳

Early experiments in DAO ecosystems have shown us that thoughtful and informed decision making by a dedicated community is required for the success of these networks. For this reason the Commons Stack is implementing the Trusted Seed: a curated list of reputable & experienced community members who are aligned with our mission of creating sustainable funding for public goods, specifically token engineering research, open source software and, eventually, all kinds of nonprofit causes.

Members of the Trusted Seed put skin in the game by contributing to the Commons Stack, entitling them to CSTK tokens which denote their reputation in the Trusted Seed. They will use their expertise to help steward new forms of sustainably funded Commons ecosystems, especially in the period immediately following their launch. Members of the Commons Stack Trusted Seed will be invited to participate in the Hatch Phases of our various Field Test Commons, to guide these communities towards success in establishing value and bringing this new cooperative economic paradigm to maturity.

The Trusted Seed enables a future of regenerative Commons ecosystems by helping steward them while they find stability in established practices of decentralized collaboration and value creation.

The Importance of a Trusted Seed

When designing cryptoeconomic networks, we must consider more than just the technical parts (e.g. well-documented code & audited smart contracts), and account for the cultural aspects as well (e.g. aligned participants & thoughtful processes). The initial conditions for both must be taken very seriously, and the Trusted Seed is a key cultural initialization tool for blockchain networks, as evidenced by the many projects researching how best to approach their design.

Imagine what would have happened to Bitcoin if Satoshi had cared more about profits than the underlying value of the Bitcoin network. If they had cashed out in 2011, where would the cryptocurrency community be? All successful blockchain networks have been propelled by a group of people that care more about building a useful network than taking profits. Satoshi is the benevolent whale of Bitcoin, just as the Ethereum Foundation and other early ether holders are for Ethereum. These trusted groups were needed while these networks were young and small; however, now that both Ethereum and Bitcoin have reached a sufficient level of decentralization and proven their value, they would still survive even if Satoshi liquidated his bitcoin, or Vitalik went rogue.

Chaos theory tells us that small differences in initial conditions can massively change the outcomes of complex systems. This means it is very important for us to manage the initial conditions of our Commons ecosystems. By ensuring early participants are more interested in long term shared value creation, we can prevent these networks from being exploited by opportunistic actors who would engage in short term profit extraction.

For these reasons, we are establishing the Commons Stack Trusted Seed: a group of trusted community members that hold the non-transferable CSTK token, representing their reputation within the Commons Stack. The members of the Trusted Seed are offering more than just contributions to the Commons Stack — they form a reputable network of trusted actors with skin in the game who can lend their wisdom and expertise to make good decisions in the early stages of a Commons’ governance.

The Trusted Seed is an optional cultural component that can be utilized as an initialization tool in any Commons launched using the Commons Stack library.

An Initialization Tool for the Commons

Initial conditions need to be managed very carefully when using Token Bonding Curves. The Commons Stack will be developing the Augmented Bonding Curve (ABC) to create continuous funding for the production and maintenance of public goods.

The Hatch phase is a community crowdfund to initialize a Commons’ funding pool and a collateral pool. More info on this in our components overview.

Without appropriate protections in place, the launch of an Augmented Bonding Curve (which we call the “Hatch Phase” of the ABC), could attract profit-seeking speculators. The Trusted Seed aligns incentives to make sure that early participants care about the underlying value of the Commons. They are incentivized to promote the long term value of the network and are at risk of losing their reputation and membership in the event of extractive profit-seeking behavior. The goal of a Commons is not to make speculators wealthy; a Commons’ purpose is to realign incentives to encourage people to behave in ways that support and maintain a public good without depending on unreliable donations or government intervention.

Members of the Trusted Seed will be invited to participate in the Hatch Phases of multiple Commons. We benefit greatly from having a consistent group of users to help us continually improve on the system throughout our iterative development process, and we hope they will also build on this experience by creating their own Commons using the Commons Stack library. The Commons Stack is dedicated to being radically open-source, so when communities choose to launch their own Commons, they are in no way required to use our Trusted Seed. However, they would likely benefit from doing so, as these decentralized governance specialists may supplement their community’s existing knowledge base in helpful ways.

With the Commons Stack components, we want to enable the creation of circular, regenerative economies that promote co-ownership and shared governance of co-produced value. We believe this will usher in a new form of cooperativism that is baked into the economic fabric of our communities. It is our firm belief that the Trusted Seed is a vital tool to allow the Commons Stack to succeed in this mission.

The Trusted Seed is an optional cultural component that can be utilized as an initialization tool in any Commons launched using the future Commons Stack library.

The Legal Roots of the Commons

We are currently accepting applications to become a member of the Commons Stack Association and our Trusted Seed. The Commons Stack Association is a legal entity based in Switzerland, which protects contributing members from being considered part of a general partnership (under Swiss law & related legal frameworks). Our intent is to use crypto-native governance tools to the maximum extent possible and rely on existing legal forms to the minimum extent feasible.

To be part of the Trusted Seed, Commons Stack members can support the creation of the Commons Stack components with their time or funds. Contributions are recognized by the Commons Stack Association with the issuance of CSTK tokens, a non-transferrable MiniMe token that serves as a digital receipt of your contribution and represents the reputation you hold in the Trusted Seed. CSTK tokens will be required to participate in the Hatch Phase of the Token Engineering Commons. It is important to note that CSTK tokens denote reputation in the Commons Stack, and are not attached to a bonding curve, unlike the tokens for any individual Commons which are only able to be minted and burned using an Augmented Bonding Curve.

The Commons Stack Association is responsible for curating the Trusted Seed to maintain its value as a component. There is a chance that members of the Trusted Seed could behave in ways that may cause the community to lose its trust in them, and in these extreme circumstances, the Commons Stack Association has the ability to engage graduated sanctions, the most severe of which would be the burning of CSTK tokens. Any action of this kind will be carried out with maximum transparency and community consultation. Given the fragility of these systems at this early developmental stage, we cannot afford to give up this crucial discretionary layer of human decision making.

Until we have matured our methods of decentralized collaboration, the Trusted Seed acts as a guardrail for these young ecosystems, protecting them against malicious behavior. The Commons Stack Association ensures the health of the Trusted Seed, which in turn ensures a healthy initial state for any Commons that chooses to use it.

The Trusted Seed will sprout into a robust Commons ecosystem like a tree; its roots taking inputs in the form of community contributions, its fruits producing beneficial outputs like open-source code. As this infrastructure spreads, we hope to see ‘forests’ of Commons ecosystems interacting with each other in regenerative ecological economic patterns.

Planting the Seed for Future Collaboration

After the open sourcing of cadCAD, the Trusted Seed will be the second initialization tool released by the Commons Stack. This list of trusted Commons Stack members will be available to any future DAO-ecosystem, whether or not its community chooses to use other pieces of the Commons Stack infrastructure. We hope to assemble a group of reputable and experienced community members who will bring valuable experience to any DAO’s decision making processes.

Upon being accepted into the Trusted Seed, you will be added to the Trusted Seed Telegram group and receive regular Commons Stack project updates via monthly calls. You will also have the opportunity to signal your preference as to which communities should launch each successive Field Test Commons as we complete the phases of our iterative development roadmap.

Join us and follow along as we continue to explore the many social and technical fields that intersect over this fascinating topic of the future of human collaboration!

Become a Part of the Trusted Seed 🌱

👉Apply here👈 and help us create a new way to fund public goods and open source projects. The fundraise for Iteration 1: Augmented Bonding Curve will be starting soon, so you can expect to hear back shortly!

Special thanks to Michael Zargham, CleanApp, and Adam Reese for ideas, edits and review! 🙏



Jeff Emmett
Commons Stack

All Things Decent/ralised. Researching the biggest ideas that will move the needle on human progress. The @CommonsStack, UBI & mindfulness are some faves.