Stefen, what the hell is a proto-DAO? Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
During the DAO boom (2021) we saw a lot of groups come together around a specific objective and proclaim themselves as DAOs.
This eventually sparked many conversations around what is and isn't a DAO - one important quality being that there must be an actual on-chain deployment for a community to be truly considered a DAO, which of course is key for on-chain governance and treasury structures.
Because of this, (and the bear market of course!), there is much more focus on building actual DAOs in a way that is sustainable and effective. This was the evolution that the space needed, and it's been excellent to see DAOs and DAO tools focusing on establishing this future.
Seeing the excitement and fun exhibited by people contributing to treeDAO, helped me to remember something:
The reason why people kept forming random groups and calling them DAOs, was simply because it was fun and exciting. People want to be a part of something new and exciting, and I think it would be a mistake to lose that element of play.
This is where proto-DAOs come in. A proto-DAO is the middle-point between a loose community, and a full fledged DAO. Let's dive into this a bit more.
The biggest complaints I remember hearing weren’t that these fledgling groups formed in the first place, but that they formed without any plans to become real DAOs™. They weren't there to eventually deploy on-chain and build in governance, they were kinda just...there, using the name of DAO in vain, as it were.
Regardless, I believe we need more communities organizing overall (yes, even just to have fun!), and I think doubling down on the proto-DAO designation can serve an important purpose - it can be a perfect start for a community that isn't ready to be a DAO yet, but does want to slowly become one.
Don't want to start off with a token or a treasury? Want to form a community but aren't ready to commit to a governance system? Not sure if the community is even strong enough to become a DAO? Make it a proto-DAO. Contribute now, figure the rest out later.
Given that they’re a midpoint, proto-DAOs should still operate with building blocks in mind. To me this looks like:
having a community that coalesces around a particular goal or action
having the contributions from that community be recorded in a way that everyone within the community can see and keep track of
#1 is how most organizations start anyway (bringing in people who care about a specific goal, and working together towards that goal), but #2 is also important: when the community does become a DAO, having the contributions recorded can open the door to things like retroactive funding as well as governance that can be built on top of those contributions, unlocking whole new types of community interactions.
It also allows you to follow how the community has operated and the types of work that the community has done over time - which creates more trust and understanding between members, better decision making within the community, and better coordination of the community’s goals and operations.
In other words, it helps the community to build out its ‘lore’ in real time.
And if your community eventually decides not to take the leap to becoming a full DAO, having an early record of the contributions means you can always return later and build on top of what was already done.
Proto-DAOs may not be full DAOs, but they’re still very powerful and we should support them. Whatever we call them, whatever they call themselves, let’s spend more time bringing people together and helping them to organize into communities.