In the last few weeks of December 2021, a few friends and I decided we wanted to turn our co-owned Zed Run stable into a DAO, aka a Decentralized Autonomous Organization. With the primary goal of learning, there was no better way to understand the DAO landscape than to actually create one.
And so the journey began. I was moonlighting during the week and glued to my computer on the weekends. I searched “how to start a DAO” and “DAO tools” on Google, Twitter, and Reddit ad nauseam. It became clear after only a short while that it was much easier to talk about DAOs than it was to start one.
Going down the DAO rabbit-hole 🐇 felt like drinking from a firehose with fleeting moments of clarity followed by confusion. Eventually though things began to click.
After coming up for air, I realized I found myself continuously asking the same few questions:
Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of INCREDIBLE resources out there for starting a DAO. However, the issue, from my humble perspective, stems from there being a lack of a mental model and action-oriented framing.
Enter the DAO Planning Canvas.
As a serial entrepreneur and long-time Product Manager, I’ve often used mental models as a way to learn, understand, and plan. I would venture further to say that we as humans frequently use mental models to understand the world around us. A great example in our space right now is the frequent references to web2 paradigms to better understand web3. To me, what’s most interesting (and challenging) is that there are some web3 paradigms that can’t be explained through web2 analogies.
Take the Business Model Canvas (BMC) and Lean Canvas (LC) for example. Both have been effectively used for years to methodically evaluate business opportunities. The value of both tools is that they provide mental models with clear prompts to ensure individuals are asking the right questions prior to investing time and resources. In doing so it often uncovers risk, surfaces new opportunities, and sharpens the ax, so to speak.
However, when applying the BMC or LC to DAO planning they break down. The tools lack the fundamental concepts of a DAO, and therefore the right questions simply cannot be asked. This is what led me to leverage the previous mental models and apply them to the web3 space to create the DAO Planning Canvas (DPC).
Pulling from the Bankless Ultimate DAO Report and Nichanan Kesonpat’s incredible Medium post titled Organization Legos: The State of DAO Tooling, the DPC is built off of the amazing work of countless others in the web3 community.
So, let’s discuss how it’s different.
Where the Business Model Canvas and Lean Canvas often have 9 sections, the DAO Planning Canvas has 12. A few sections that lacked relevancy were removed, some section names were tweaked (e.g., Channels -→ Building Hype), and new DAO-specific sections were added; Mission, Community Planning, Community Experience, Treasury, Governance, Organizational Structure, and Content Management.
Here’s a closer look at the full list of sections with a tl;dr for the high-level intention of each.
Each section of the DPC has a unique purpose. But not every section will be applicable to every DAO. For example, a collectible-based DAO (think NFT) may care less about recurring revenue, whereas for an education DAO that may be a priority. Or, a DAO with a fully decentralized organizational structure may omit certain prompts around DAO leadership, whereas another may need a dedicated leadership team in place.
I will be the first to admit, the prompts are by no means exhaustive for each section. They are simply meant to point individuals in the right direction while they bring their DAO to life.
In the community-centric spirit of web3, I’ve published the DPC as a free and remix-friendly community project on Figma. Please feel free to duplicate it and make it your own!
If you do remix it, consider sharing it on Twitter and tagging me at @aaronbatcheldr! I’d love to see how it evolves.
The DAO Planning Canvas can be used both by a single individual or group of individuals. What’s most important is that the right questions are being asked and the team is able to action the findings.
To help those wanting to get started, I’ve provided a rough outline for an activity to complete the canvas.
It can take anywhere from an hour to multiple days to complete the canvas. It’s entirely dependent on the size, web3 baseline knowledge, and the depth of discussion within the group. Aim for quality, not quantity.
As of January 2022, the tool has only been lightly tested in the field. My full intention is to continue to iterate on it with the web3 community. With that in mind, I would love to hear your feedback! This is only a v1.0 and I’m positive it has glaring improvements I can’t yet see.
Feel free to hit me up on Twitter at @aaronbatcheldr to share your thoughts. I’d love to collaborate on the DAO Planning Canvas v2.0!
I’d like to give a shoutout to some of those who have provided incredible content to the web3 community which I leveraged for this project. Thank you all! 🙏