Diagramming DAOs #1: Gitcoin
Alex Wagner
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"You Are Here" – The Sobol Blog
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April 7th, 2022

Introducing: Diagramming DAOs

“Diagramming DAOs #1” is the first in a series of posts we plan to publish, where we will profile a particular DAO's governance and operations flows. For our first post in this series, we chose to diagram the governance and ops flows of GitcoinDAO.

As self-proclaimed “DAO Ops nerds” at Sobol, we are creating these posts as a public good for people to learn about the topics of DAO operations and DAO governance. We are hoping that by “mapping” the governance and ops flows in successful DAOs, that we can provide examples of the best patterns and processes being used by DAOs today.

We plan to publish two pieces per month in this series. As we publish more pieces, we will synthesize what we’ve learned in a report.

How Best to “Diagram a DAO”?

This series spun out of a conversation between Alex Wagner(community and content at Sobol) and Bryan Peters(one of Sobol’s co-founders). We noticed that most of what happens in DAOs is text-based. Sometimes when scrolling through a DAO’s Discord server or forum, the text can seem endless.

Because crypto has its roots in academia and open source software, text is the default medium of communication. Text is great for theory, process, discussion, critique, and communicating complex technical instructions. The internet itself is a giant edifice constructed of abstractions represented by text and math(itself represented best by text), at least under the hood.

As the Good Book says, "In the beginning, there was The Word."
As the Good Book says, "In the beginning, there was The Word."

If you want to learn more about how the use of text as a technology has shaped human thinking and perception, Erik Davis’ book, TechGnosis, explores this in-depth.

The use of text has granted us technologies like accounting, books, libraries, computation, and complex financial systems.

Textual literacy is a superpower, as well as a great responsibility.

How Do DAOs Work? – Showing vs. Telling

In this series, we also wanted to explore the question, “How do DAOs work?”. Rather than telling you, in this series we seek to show you.

It’s our belief that visual tools such as diagrams and maps can communicate the structure and accountabilities of an organization much more powerfully than a white paper, forum post, or a slide deck.

At Sobol, we’ve invested five years in building a tool that gives organizations a visual layer, to help them run flatter, more productive, more transparent organizations. From our experience working with both enterprise orgs and DAOs, it’s our prediction that this kind of organization represents the future of work.

We believe that one of the next evolutions of the DAO space is that of the visual. Organizations need to embrace a design mentality to more effectively communicate their processes to their members and contributors.

From an optimistic perspective, we see text as the primordial soup from which greater, more transparent, and more visually-driven organizations can emerge.

As one example of a “visually-driven organization”(and shameless self-plug), Bankless DAO uses Sobol to make their DAO more open, accessible, and accountable.

Contributors, Workstreams, and Governance

When we speak of “diagramming a DAO’s governance and operations flows”, we mean creating flow charts to illustrate the flows for these three categories defined in the header.

Here’s an embed of the diagrams we created in diagramming publicly-known processes and flows in GitcoinDAO.

Click the plus sign in the bottom-right corner(‘+’) of the embed, to mouse around and navigate the map.

In this series, we start at the “individual level” (the contributor) and end by examining “the whole” (governance):

  1. Contributor Lifecycle (from onboarding to actively contributing in a DAO)
  2. Team Lifecycle (in GitcoinDAO, they use the term “workstream”; from proposing an idea for a workstream to an active workstream)
  3. Governance Flows (how consensus happens in the DAO)

Another aspect of the act of “diagramming a DAO”, is making sense of existing maps, diagrams, and process-related graphics found on public pages in the DAO. These artifacts help us more effectively diagram the processes in the DAO, and can be found in: the DAO’s forums, Discord server, Snapshot votes, Notion pages, and so on.

The amount of content created by any DAO is vast. While we can’t read every recent proposal on governance and workstreams for each DAO we explore, we did our best to represent the flows in Gitcoin governance/ops as faithfully as we could.

Our goal was to provide an overview of what a new, would-be contributor might experience as they join and navigate the DAO. We hope that this informal study of governance and operations flows within each particular DAO we examine here, is beneficial not only to those looking to join and work in DAOs, but to DAOs themselves.

In simpler terms, with these posts we attempt to hold a mirror up to the DAO space, one DAO at a time.

For the diagramming of each DAO, we’re using Whimsical, a diagramming tool that provides a canvas to create collaborative diagrams. For this piece, you can view the complete map here.

What Is GitcoinDAO?

Gitcoin is the original “public goods” DAO.

Their stated mission is to “build and fund digital public goods”. Based around a philosophy that open source software is an underfunded and underutilized public good, Gitcoin is a “community of builders and creators that are building protocols for open web ecosystems”.

At the time of this post, Gitcoin claims to have funded $57.5m worth of open source projects, with 312,000 developers, and 2,410 projects. You can read more about their mission here.

The Gitcoin project launched in 2017. In May, 2021 they dropped an ERC-20 governance token, named–you guessed it–Gitcoin($GTC) and GitcoinDAO was formed. Both GitcoinDAO and $GTC provide a way to decentralize certain functions from the “Gitcoin core” team. You can read this 10-minute primer to learn more about GitcoinDAO.

Part One: Gitcoin’s Contributor Lifecycle

The Contributor Lifecycle at GitcoinDAO.
The Contributor Lifecycle at GitcoinDAO.

We can see that GitcoinDAO provides three pathways for those looking to get involved with Gitcoin or Gitcoin-related projects:

  1. Products
  2. A jobs page
  3. Applying to be a contributor in GitcoinDAO

Products includes a bounty board (where Web 3 projects can create bounties, mostly for devs), hackathons, quests (Gitcoin’s learn-to-earn platform, currently in alpha), and Kernel (a Web3 accelerator). Interested parties can also apply to open roles at Gitcoin via the “Jobs” link in the footer of the homepage.

As this series is called “Diagramming DAOs”, we’re focus on the third pathway, which is how to become a contributor in GitcoinDAO, alternatively titled “the contributor lifecycle” in this series.

At Gitcoin, the contributor lifecycle is relatively simple. There are two user journeys for new members seeking to contribute to the DAO:

One, they find the Discord first. The new member joins the Gitcoin Discord server, asks questions, and is advised to go to the GitcoinDAO homepage to fill out the contributor application, and self-onboard via this “Learn About the DAO” onboarding resources doc.

Two, they apply to be a contributor first. The new member finds their way to becoming a contributor via the Gitcoin homepage via the “What’s Possible” drop-down menu in the site navigation. They click the “DAO” link and are taken to the GitcoinDAO homepage. There, they find the contributor application, onboarding docs, and Discord link.

Both paths are similar, and lead to the same onboarding funnel. Eventually, the contributor ends up in the Discord, and must go through a self-directed onboarding process to become a contributor.

Once the new member has become a contributor, they will be able to see work channels in the server, and to participate by joining voice calls and text-based discussions.

As we can see from the diagram, to become a contributor in the DAO, a new GitcoinDAO member must:

  • Join the Gitcoin Discord server and attain the Discord role for “DAO Contributor”
  • Fill out the new contributor application on the GitcoinDAO homepage
  • Onboard themselves by reading the “Learn About the DAO” doc and spending time perusing the Gitcoin governance forum.
  • Attending a biweekly community call and expressing interest to join an existing workstream or propose activating a new workstream.

Also, in some workstreams, a new member can book a call with a Talent Coordinator to help expedite the onboarding process.

All in all, this is a relatively straightforward process, and reiterates our notion that the best way to get involved in any DAO is to “crash meetings”!

For instance, in GitcoinDAO, once the contributor has been onboarded, the way that they get involved is by joining a workstream call and communicating that they like to pick up a task or join a particular team or project.

Chase Chapman’s take:

We discussed this topic recently, in a community call titled, “How to Find Paid Work in DAOs”. Here's a link to the recording.

Part Two: Gitcoin’s Team Lifecycle

In GitcoinDAO, the term “workstream” is used to describe a team, or a team of teams, that own a specific function of a DAO. In the diagram below, you can see current active workstreams in GitcoinDAO on the right.

GitcoinDAO's workstream lifecycle.
GitcoinDAO's workstream lifecycle.

Here’s a brief description of each workstream.

  • Moonshot Collective is the DAO rapid prototyping workstream.
  • Public Goods is focused on our mission of funding public goods.
  • Fraud Detection & Defense is in charge of preventing fraud on Gitcoin Grants.
  • Decentralize-gitcoin is the mechanism through which Gitcoin is progressively decentralizing.
  • Memes, Merch, & Marketing is the DAO marketing division.
  • dCompass is building a DAO-native orientation tool.

You can view these workstream pages via the GitcoinDAO home page, here.

Below, we have two “Workstream Lifecycle” diagrams from GitcoinDAO, from a post that explains the DAO’s governance processes.

Credit: Simona Pop (@sim_pop on Twitter)
Credit: Simona Pop (@sim_pop on Twitter)
Credit: Simona Pop (@sim_pop on Twitter)
Credit: Simona Pop (@sim_pop on Twitter)

As we can see from this graphics above, workstreams at Gitcoin begin as a “Potential Workstream”. If the workstream proposal is voted on and accepted, the Potential Workstream becomes an “Active Workstream”.

Workstreams are evaluated each season to decide whether the workstream remains active or gets archived. We’ll walk through this process in the next section in greater detail.

The Journey of a Workstream Proposal

Activating a workstream in GitcoinDAO begins with posting a new proposal in the “Proposal Discussion” section of the Gitcoin forum. To generate a proposal, a Contributor must use this proposal template.

It’s best to get feedback and gauge enthusiasm before you begin writing your proposal in earnest. When it comes to proposal writing in DAOs generally, it’s a good idea to run your a sketch of your idea by other DAO members by creating a short pitch and dropping it in Discord or by mentioning it on a voice call.

PRO TIP: When it comes to proposal writing, context is everything. Long-time DAO members can provide the insight and clarity for your proposal to address the DAOs needs and how you intend to provide a solution. By getting feedback from DAO members, you significantly increase the chances that your proposal will make it to a vote, and achieve the votes necessary to be accepted by the DAO.

Often, workstream proposals take the form of a “budget request”. An approved budget request proposal equals a funded workstream. In GitcoinDAO’s case, an allotment of Gitcoin($GTC) is disbursed once a proposal has been voted on in Tally or Snapshot.

$GTC is Gitcoin’s governance token. It was launched in May 2021 by the DAO as both a governance token, and as a way to pay contributors and fund workstreams.

From Gitcoin’s “GitcoinDAO Primer” page:

The Gitcoin DAO treasury supports the resourcing of Workstream operations and special initiatives upon approval by our Stewards. Workstreams use the GTC allocated to them to compensate DAO contributors.

To sustain a workstream from one season to the next, a workstream must submit a budget proposal before the beginning of each season, also called a “Renewal Proposal”. If the budget proposal request is rejected, the workstream is archived.

Alternatively, a workstream may be archived if it has “achieved its mandate”(see under Governance Processes in this forum post), meaning that it has accomplished what it initially set out to do.

Once the proposal has completed the proposal discussion phase, it then goes to a vote. There are only two outcomes for a given proposal: accepted, or rejected. If a proposal is voted down(ie “rejected”), it can be re-written and submitted again, as we can see from the Workstream Lifecycle diagram, above.

Part Three: Gitcoin’s Governance Flows

Governance flows in Gitcoin are made up of those in defined roles (Steward, Delegate, Contributor), participating in codified governance processes (discussions, proposals, and workstreams).

We’ll give a high-level overview here. The diagram below shows how those in GitcoinDAO roles participate in governance processes.

GitcoinDAO basic governance flow.
GitcoinDAO basic governance flow.

Roles in GitcoinDAO

There are three roles in GitcoinDAO that participate in (and shape governance of) the DAO: Contributors, Delegators, and Stewards.

These roles are not mutually exclusive, but in terms of governance, Stewards are the most powerful of the three roles, in that they represent the voting power of Delegators. Delegators are simply Contributors whom have chosed to delegate their voting power to Stewards.

Here’s a breakdown.

Contributors are community members who “dedicate their time, talent, and expertise to a workstream, helping it achieve its goals”.

Delegators delegate voting power from the GTC that they hold, and Stewards participate in DAO-wide votes and wield this delegated voting power.

Stewards are responsible for representing the interests of the community in the DAO.

Governance Processes in GitcoinDAO

We can assume that Gitcoin uses two processes for consensus because, for proposals that require funding, greater diligence must be taken. Additionally, using Tally allows for more autonomous execution (i.e. putting the 'A' in DAO) because Tally will run an on-chain transaction automatically for a vote that passes a hard consensus check.

More is at stake when funds are potentially moving, and so GitcoinDAO’s wisely chooses to host voting on first Snapshot, then Tally.

From looking at GitcoinDAO’s Tally page, we can see that, in Season 13, their current season, workstream funding goes through the “hard consensus” flow.

What Other DAOs Can Learn from Gitcoin

With regard to governance and operations processes, we believe that other DAOs can benefit from examining GitcoinDAO’s:

  • Clear, navigable onboarding process (see diagram)
  • Diligent, methodical, discussion-driven proposal process (outlined here)
  • Bifurcated process for hard and soft consensus, based on whether funds are moving (see forum post)

Conclusion

GitcoinDAO has obviously spent a lot of time thinking about governance and operations–thirteen seasons worth, to be exact.

As they continue to innovate here, we expect they will come up with new and creative ways to handle Contributor and Workstream lifecycles, as well as governance processes in the DAO.

Check out their proposal discussion forum to learn more.

Interested in Sobol for your DAO?

Dm us at @teamSobol, or drop into our Discord server.

Credits

Author: Alex Wagner

Editor: Bryan Peters

Diagrams: Alex Wagner, Bryan Peters, Simona Pop(Gitcoin Diagrams)

Resources

Gitcoin pages:

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