Diagramming DAOs #3: Bankless DAO
Alex Wagner
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"You Are Here" – The Sobol Blog
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June 16th, 2022

A special thanks to Greg Calderiso, who put in a substantial amount of time in researching this edition of Diagramming DAOs.

What Is Bankless DAO?

Search any online dictionary, and you’ll find that the term “bankless” means, simply, “without a bank”.

Bankless DAO was launched on May 4th, 2021–practically light years ago in Crypto Time. The DAO emerged from Bankless media, a media studio with the stated message of “helping the world go bankless”.

Bankless DAO describes itself as “the world’s first media and culture DAO for crypto”. The DAO exists to make crypto and Web 3 accessible to everyone globally. By teaching people how to participate in crypto, Bankless DAO seeks to empower people to be self-sovereign and to take control of their financial lives.

BD: “Before the DAO”

Bankless media was launched in 2019 by Ryan Sean Adams and David Hoffman. The company, also known as Bankless LLC, started in 2019 as a newsletter. A podcast and a Youtube channel were launched at different points in 2020.

Interestingly, until May 2022, Ryan and David had never met IRL. You might say this is an example of decentralized coordination at it’s finest!

Here’s a historic photo of the two founders meeting IRL for the first time, at the Permissionless conference in Miami, of which the Bankless media was a partner.

Note: Bankless DAO operates independently from Bankless LLC. As stated in this post, Bankless LLC/Bankless media functions as one of many participants in the Bankless DAO ecosystem.

Bankless DAO Origin Story

The “genesis proposal” for Bankless DAO was created by members of the Bankless community, to create a DAO built around the principles and vision put forth by Bankless media, which envision a freer, more transparent financial system that is accessible to all.

As previously stated, Bankless DAO launched on May 4th, 2021, and was announced via this Medium post. The smart contract for the BANK token, which the DAO uses for voting, coordination, and rewarding contributors, was submitted to Etherscan for verification on the same day.

Since its inception, Bankless DAO has served as a “coordination layer” for the participating media nodes and Web 3 projects incubated in the DAO that make up the DAO. The mission of Bankless DAO is to “help the world go bankless”, ie to liberate people across the world from dependence on banks, and the legacy financial system.

Participants in the DAO range from individuals acting on their own behalf, or larger entities with employees and resources. Other entities in the Bankless DAO include the International Media Nodes, The Rug, Fight Club, and others.

There are also numerous non-media-producing entities that have been incubated in the DAO, such as DAO Dash(DAO analytics), DAO Punks(an NFT project working to help people get jobs in Web 3), and Bankless Consulting.

Pinch/zoom/click to navigate Bankless DAO’s Sobol map. To go full-screen, click here.

As you can see, the Bankless DAO universe is vast. There are 20,000+ users in the Discord server. The DAO has spawned numerous sub-DAOs and currently has 20+ nodes in the International Media Nodes Guild, with each running a translation project to translate Bankless DAO materials into a given countries main languages.

In addition to translating Bankless DAO communications for international audiences, the IMN does stuff like this:

We daresay that Bankless DAO has accomplished more than be covered in a single Mirror post.

In focusing on the operations and governance processes of Bankless DAO, we sought to answer the following questions:

  • General – How does work get done at Bankless DAO? How does the DAO coordinate work and align contributors to project where they can meaningfully contribute?
  • Contributor Lifecycle – How do contributors find their way in the DAO? How do they go from 0 > 1, i.e. from onboarding to making meaningful contributions to projects, and getting paid for their work?
  • Team Lifecycle – How are teams, workstreams, and guilds formed and funded? How do subDAOs form in the DAO? How are teams “sunset” or otherwise archived in the DAO?
  • Governance – How does voting and consensus happen?
  • Tokenomics – What are the tokenomics of the BANK token, and how do they relate to coordinating work and goals in the DAO?

But first, why did we choose to diagram the operations and governance processes at Bankless DAO?

Sobol <> Bankless DAO

We chose Bankless DAO for our third Diagramming DAOs post because Sobol has been a partner to Bankless DAO for roughly six months at this point.

Sobol co-founder Bryan Peters joined Bankless DAO in Season 0 and has contributed to Ops, Design, and Bounty Board Guild. Alex Wagner, who runs community and content at Sobol, has been a BANK holder since August 2021, and contributed to Writer’s Guild projects before joining Sobol.

In November 2021, Bryan worked with the Operations Guild to have Bankless DAO use Sobol. In the interest of operational efficiency, Bankless DAO needed a dynamic map showing Guilds, projects, and roles and so there was a natural fit there.

On November 9th, 2021, the #cartography channel was created in the Bankless DAO server. In this channel, the Bankless DAO “Cartography team” worked to increase the adoption of Sobol in the DAO, as well as testing different solutions to provide utility to the DAO using Sobol.

Additionally, Sobol’s partnership with Bankless DAO has not only given us valuable product feedback, and expanded the Sobol network to additional DAOs that now use Sobol–it’s also where we met many of our S0 and S1 Sobol Community Contributor Team members!

@brianl, 0xJustice, Ray.Bankless, @Okachu, and @Rowan were all early Bankless DAO #cartography team contributors. In Season 4 at Bankless, @Rowan is the #cartography team Coordinator.

Bankless DAO is, without a doubt, one of the DAOs we’ve worked with most closely at Sobol. Our knowledge of Bankless DAO governance, operations, and processes comes from daily participation in the DAO, for over a year if you count Bryan’s involvement prior to Bankless DAO adopting Sobol as a tool for the DAO.

With that out of the way, let’s jump into diagramming the Contributor Lifecycle at Bankless DAO.

Contributor Lifecycle

Note the two stages in the Contributor Lifecycle: New Joiner, and Active DAO Contributor.
Note the two stages in the Contributor Lifecycle: New Joiner, and Active DAO Contributor.

The Contributor Lifecycle, as we’ve been defining it in this series, begins when a person joins a DAO’s Discord server.

In the case of Bankless DAO, we’ve divided the Contributor Lifecycle into two phases: New Joiner, and Active DAO Contributor.

The New Joiner phase(often commonly referred to as “onboarding”)starts at that point, and lasts until they make their “first meaningful contribution”. This first meaningful contribution could be a bounty or joining a Guild team or Project team.

Once they’ve done that, they enter the Active Contributor Phase, in which the contributor is considered an active DAO member. Here, the DAO member is contributing to one or more projects in the DAO, and, ideally, is exercising their voting rights during Snapshot proposals. As we’ve defined it, the Active Contributor Phase ends when the DAO member leaves the DAO.

Leaving the DAO can happen in two ways.

One, the DAO member decides they need to sell their BANK token for additional liquidity. Bankless DAO contributors are paid for their work in BANK tokens, and do regularly exchange bank for stablecoins, which can be exchanged for fiat currency on sites like Coinbase.

Without 35k BANK in their wallet, Bankless DAO members lose access to the majority of the server and must either ask for a guest pass in one of the “Welcome channels” or purchase 35k BANK again.

In the second scenario, they may simply go dormant after a while and stop contributing to DAO projects. These users will usually retain their BANK tokens, and occasionally participate in DAO chatter or voice calls.

In describing the typical Contributor Lifecycle, we are speaking generally, and to the scope of what the Contributor Lifecycle covers. However, as Bankless DAO is one of the oldest and most established DAOs in the space, it is safe to assume that the DAO has had some impact in these typical patterns found in DAOs.

New Member Onboarding

This is a more granular dive into how onboarding at Bankless DAO works. Feel free to skip to the “Bounties” or “Team Lifecycle” sections.

Buy the BANK, take the ride 🎢
Buy the BANK, take the ride 🎢

As you know, joining Bankless DAO begins with joining the server.

The Bankless DAO server then prompts you to “complete your first quest”, via an automated sequence. At the time of this writing the “First Quest” sequence is offline, but you can read the proposal from July 2021 here.

As you can see, “FIRST QUEST” is also a channel category in the server. This is also where you verify your identity and your Bankless token holdings to gain access to the server.

Holders of 35,000 BANK tokens are given “Level 1” access, which is what most DAO members have in the server. As an aside, members with an established history of sustained and meaningful contribution to the DAO typically have a "Level 2" role tag.

The Level 1 role tag allows DAO members to see the majority of the server channels, join teams and Guilds, and participate in Bankless DAO Snapshot votes. At the time of this article being published, the BANK token is trading for ~$0.02. It currently costs ~$700 to join Bankless DAO as a standard member, if you were to buy the tokens outright.

If you do not have 35,000 BANK, and do not plan to buy that many BANK tokens, you can ask for a “guest pass”. A guest pass gives you access to the server for two weeks and be continually renewed, as long as you are contributing to a Bankless DAO project. To ask for a guest pass, simply pop into the #get-involved channel and ask in the channel to be given one.

The next steps in onboarding are to go to #role-select and select a role. This is where a newcomer signals their interest in joining particular Guilds

This role selection typically opens access to the corresponding Guild/Project channels in Discord. From there, the newcomer would introduce themselves in the appropriate general chat for the Guild/Project and check the calendar to attend meetings for the Guild/Project of interest.

To help new members get oriented, and connected to Guilds and Projects, there are also weekly onboarding calls such as “Office Hours” and “Watercooler Chat” to help new members to the DAO find their way.

New Bankless DAO members can also check the DAO’s Sobol map to get oriented and find their way in the DAO. Often Guilds/Projects will have either a lead or talent coordinator role identified in the Circles view–sometimes both. Newcomers can reach out to these leads via Discord dm with any questions about how to get involved in a Guild or a Project.

All in all, it takes some persistence and patience to find your way in Bankless DAO–and they are one of the better beginner-friendly DAOs out there! This is typical of most, if not all DAOs, especially larger ones.

Attending voice calls(both general DAO voice calls and guild-specific ones) and dm’ing talent coordinators in the DAO are the best ways for contributors to find their footing in Bankless DAO.

Bounties in Bankless DAO

Screencap from the Bankless DAO bounties bot.
Screencap from the Bankless DAO bounties bot.

As you can see, some bounties can be claimed by anyone, and some bounties must be claimed by those who are members of certain Guilds, such as AV Guild, Design Guild, or Developer’s Guild in the image above.

Once the new member completes their bounty or has been contributing to a project for, say, two weeks to a month, the new member will likely be able to take on more responsibility in the Guild/team. Often members will move into new roles at the change of the Season(every three months).

A Note on Going from “New Guy” to “Trusted Member of the Team”

There are no hard and fast rules for when a new member can contribute more of their time, as much of Bankless DAO operates on human-to-human trust. Often DAO members must be nominated to project or Guild lead roles. Each Guild has its own structure and operations processes.

As with onboarding, the best way to become a regular contributor(or even a team lead or Guild lead), is to show up every week, contribute, and make friends in the DAO. Taking on basic administrative tasks such as taking notes on voice chat calls, updating project tracking in Notion, and facilitating inter-team, or inter-Guild communication are all ways that new members can make an impact. Proposal writing is another activity in which new members can demonstrate their “stick-to-it-veness” and their thinking ability.

Team Lifecycle

Teams at Bankless DAO start with two things: an exciting idea, and a squad.
Teams at Bankless DAO start with two things: an exciting idea, and a squad.

In Bankless DAO, there are two main types of teams: Guilds, and Projects.

The term "squad" is typically used for identifying those involved in a given project. We use the term “teams” as a catchall covering Guilds, Projects, Squads, and teams within Guilds.

There are also Sub-DAOs, which are “subsidiary DAOs” of Bankless DAO. Each Sub-DAO started as a Project in Bankless DAO, and eventually grew to the point where it needed to spin out its own server, and possibly its own governance, ops, and treasury. You do not need to be a Bankless DAO member to be a part of a Bankless sub-DAO.

Guilds

Guilds are labor pools within the DAO that organize specialist skillsets into a single collection of channels in the server. Creating a Guild allows DAO members to group together and offers the community direct access to a source of skilled labor.

Guilds function over the long term and are typically formed due to a need or initiative. Projects on the other hand, typically serve a short, or otherwise time-limited purpose.

Examples of some Guilds include:

See here for a full list of active Guilds.

You can also go to the “What are Guilds and how do I join?” wiki page to learn more.

Projects

As stated above, Projects often operate independently of a Guild. They are often launched in a Guild, but not always.

Here's a screenshot with a partial list of Bankless DAO projects, as of January 2022. As you can see, Bankless DAO members can opt-in to Project via emoji react, similar how they are able to use #role-select to join Guilds.

Once you opt-in to a Project via emoji-react, you should be able to its corresponding channels. From there you can start attending weekly voice chats, and you can find a way to get involved!

Governance

Governance makes the DAO go 'round.
Governance makes the DAO go 'round.

To understand how governance works at Bankless DAO, the best place to start is to look at the DAOisms in the Wiki.

What are DAOisms, you ask?

DAOisms are essentially basic operating principles for navigating and acting in the DAO.

This includes best practices for how to bring ideas to life within Bankless DAO, as well as understanding “contributor designation”(guest pass vs. Level 1 vs. Level 2), and staying aligned with teammates and stakeholders in the DAO.

Crucial to the formation of these DAOisms are two of Bankless DAO’s core governance principles: “progressive governance” and “hardening governance”.

Progressive governance means that, for each step in the process (from idea to funded Project or Guild) an idea should generate increased consensus–i.e. from a smaller group of people, to a larger group. For instance, an idea may begin with a pitch or a proposal from a small team. As the idea gains greater support in the DAO, it gains momentum and greater validation–thus being more likely to make it to a Snapshot vote, and/or receive funding.

Hardening governance means starting from soft consensus like pitching an idea or generating a Sesh poll, to increasingly formal governance methods, such as posting a complete proposal in the Bankless DAO governance forum, to launching a Snapshot vote to record the results of the proposal vote to the blockchain.

The most ambitious proposals typically will need to go through most “hardened” governances processes, for instance, when funding is involved.

As you can see from the diagram, typically only proposals that ask for funding need to go to a vote in Snapshot.

If you’re curious, you can check out Bankless DAO’s governance template proposal here.

What Other DAOs Can Learn from Bankless DAO

A lot, frankly.

Bankless DAO is one of the originators of the second wave of DAOs, and has spawned countless projects and sub-DAOs, not to mention onboarding tens of thousands of people to crypto(a conservative estimate).

So what’s the biggest thing that other DAOs can learn from Bankless DAO?

If you can, find Product-Market Fit before you launch your DAO.

As stated in the beginning of this piece, Bankless DAO emerged from the Bankless Media community. When the DAO was first launched, Bankless already had thousands of subscribers to their email newsletter and Youtube channel, along with the diverse revenue streams that come from building a successful content machine.

Bankless as a publication attracted folks that were very passionate about Web 3 and DAOs. These folks helped the DAO get to its feet, and shaped the governance and culture of the DAO.

Basically, you have a chain of events like this:

Bankless publications grow to thousands of subscribers in 2020 > Genesis team gets excited and creates DAO > 16,000+ people join the server > Bankless DAO is still going strong after 4 seasons

Without the preexisting audience, traction, and clarity of vision that Bankless Media provided, Bankless DAO may very well not exist.

Going Deeper

You can view the complete Whimsical instance with all of the diagrams from this piece here.

To go deeper down the rabbit hole with regard to Bankless DAO, we’d recommend starting with the Wiki, and then delving into the DAO’s Snapshot profile to have a look at the major decisions that have been made in the DAO since it began.

If you really want to do some DAO forensics, you can hop into their Discourse forums.

For staying up to date with Bankless DAO, you can check out their home page, follow them on Twitter at @banklessDAO, and–of course–join their Discord server :)

To learn more about what we are doing at Sobol, you can join our server here, and you can follow us on Twitter at @teamSobol.

Special thanks to Sobol Contributor Team Member @Rowan_n0, and to Sobol co-founder @bPetes for their feedback on this piece.

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