Let me preface these thoughts with some shocking information: I’d never been to sleepaway camp before this!
For this reason, I HAD to join DAO Camp. I first heard about DAO Camp – a diverse group of 70 DAO founders, builders, core contributors, and investors – on Twitter. Intrigued, I inserted myself in as many Twitter conversations about DAO camp as I could, and eventually snagged a coveted “interview” and invitation to attend.
The trip promised to thrust me out of my comfort zone, but I welcomed this discomfort as a part of the discovery process. What drove me? I was curious as to why we were all still here in a bear market, committing ourselves to building decentralized organizations when many voices already publicly proclaimed that DAOs have issues.
At around 6:15 p.m, the shuttle arrived to Camp Champions in Marble Falls, TX and I was immediately met with nostalgia for a life I’d seen only on tv:
A family style welcome dinner, a torch lighting ceremony, terrifying torrential rainstorm, and a soaked group therapy session later, DAO camp had officially kicked off. By nightfall, as we all shivered semi-soaked around a fire pit, we abandoned any dream that this weekend would be warm. We settled into what felt like an apt metaphor for it all.
I thought back to the permaculture lessons of DAO survival from our Decent retreat in the freezing temperatures of Crested Butte, CO in January. Huddled around yet another fire in the freezing cold, I set out to learn why I kept opting-in to these experiences.
Why do I love DAOs this much?
What was clear by bedtime on the first night was that despite the current bear market and the many challenges facing decentralized organizations, everyone at camp was passionate about continuing to build and innovate.
Whether we were working on governance, protocol development, community experience, or something else we were all united by a desire to create a more transparent, equitable, and decentralized future.
Another thing that became clear was that I should have made my bed during daylight hours.
Camp is making your bed by cell phone flashlight in the pitch black.
I developed the mantra “Camp is…” to remind myself to lean into the discomfort of the experience.
Camp is not having enough blankets for 30 degree nights.
Camp is showing up in Texas with swimsuits but being met with sweater weather.
Camp is high storm winds attacking the structural integrity of our cabins all night.
DAY 2 & DAY 3
Camp is missing breakfast.
Camp is thinking your whole cabin slept in… but it was just you and everyone else got dressed quietly and left you.
I was hungry, but not deterred. I set out for the day with a specific goal in mind: to engage with other DAO campers and learn from their experiences and insights. I wanted to understand what motivated us to dedicate our lives and this weekend to decentralized organizations.
When I arrived at our first day of full programming, I knew I was in the right place. We started with a spectrum game. On one end of the town hall space was a sign that read “AGREE” and on the complete opposite end of the space was a sign that read “DISAGREE”. The rules were simple: the hosts would read a statement about DAOs and each individual would find a spot in the room along the spectrum of AGREE or DISAGREE that most accurately reflected his or her views on the statement. Our only other instructions were to make a mental note of who was on the opposite end of the room, and who we found ourselves surprised to be next to. Then, the game began:
“DAOs should comply with regulators, AGREE or DISAGREE?”
“DAOs are commodifying communities and this is a good thing, AGREE or DISAGREE?”
“True DAOs are tokenized, AGREE or DISAGREE?”
“Decentralized leadership is not possible, AGREE or DISAGREE?''
Madness ensued as we ran around the room defending our own preconceived notions. In the end, we chose the four most polarizing statements and formed breakout groups, matching believers with disbelievers. We passionately debated and defended our views and by the end, most campers reported shifting their views along the spectrum after talking with their peers.
In fact, knowledge-sharing and the need for collaboration quickly became the key themes that emerged at camp and as the programming went on, we leaned into them more in practice than in theory.
The spirit of collaboration peaked once we kicked off the official DAO Olympics. We competed on four 12-person teams in games that tested our bodies, minds and camp spirit. My team, donned in red, named itself Sybil Resistance with the slogan “Bots are people too!” And while I did not immediately get this reference, I figured I could easily represent the spirit of our movement on the Sybil Resistance Spirit Quad, a subteam created to represent us in the camp spirit challenges.
Due to a severe misunderstanding of what “tests of spirit” meant (again, never been to camp), I agreed to represent my team in a live 5-minute song and dance performance summarizing the past year in the crypto industry. Needless to say, we lost this category and luckily no one will ever see the videos.
JUST LIKE THAT, IT WAS OVER
Before attending DAO Camp, I had a burning desire to understand what it was about the DAO model that made it so compelling to me and so many others. I wanted to investigate what was worth preserving about this model, what made it unique, and what it could teach us about building more decentralized, equitable, and resilient systems.
Through workshops, discussions, and informal conversations with other campers, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the DAO model and its potential for transforming our existing systems, but also a deeper understanding of why we were all still here: community and friendships. By day three I made the joke that one day we would all drop the Web3 pretense and just join traveling communes together. What we all had in common is that the mission itself gave us purpose. We were passionate about equitable voices via governance models, about equitable ownership via token models, about ethical leadership via accountability models, and about bringing excellence to the execution of these models because we actually cared about each other.
This shared drumbeat calling us all together is what drives us to keep building and iterating, even in the face of market volatility and regulatory uncertainty. We aren’t naive hippies, we understand that the road ahead will not be easy, but we are committed to working together to overcome these obstacles and create a better future.
Camp is community IRL.
Camp is relying on your fellow campers for survival.
Camp is the group over the individual.
My experience at DAO Camp was a reminder of the incredible potential of decentralized organizations and the importance of working together to achieve our goals. By collaborating and staying focused on our shared vision, we can continue to build and innovate, even in challenging times.
I can’t wait until next year!