incentivizing effort from governance participants
0x7899
June 11th, 2022

There is a problem of low participation in governance votes. Some DAO’s offer POAPs to Snapshot voters to encourage more voters, but while this increases the number of participants it does not necessarily increase the number of useful participants. What we want is a way to get people to apply more effort into their voting decisions, thus increasing the likelihood of a better outcome.

From reading discord chats there are certainly those who’s priority becomes obtaining the voting POAPs, with the expectation that this may be linked to further rewards in the future. This is likely to mean that they vote without maximizing the consideration of the proposal to be assessed, if your goal is the potential reward for having an ‘I vote’ sticker then who/what you vote for holds little importance. It is plausible that a significant fraction of the extra voters that POAP rewards elicit would fit this category, effectively farming the Snapshot votes rather than focusing time on deciding which option to select.

This problem seems conceptually similar to the attempts to gatekeep free tokens from Coinbase or Airdrops like Optimism behind short quizzes. The reward leads to users sharing answers or clicking multiple choice options quickly at random rather than taking the time to learn about the topic being presented.

My idea is to this is to mesh a kind of retroactive public goods funding into voting. If you’re not sure what Retroactive Public Goods Funding is then go listen to Karl Floersch on GreenPill:


To integrate this into DAO voting, rather than reward everyone who participated in a vote, the effects of the decision would be evaluated retroactively and only voters who made beneficial choices would be rewarded:

Outcomes for voter
Outcomes for voter

This simple sounding tweak would encourage even those purely motivated by potential financial gain to try to pick the best outcome, rather than just any option, however there is an obvious issue of how to evaluate whether a proposal had positive outcomes or not.

As I see it the two options would be to either require proposal writers to set their own evaluation metric, or to have a group evaluating the objective outcome. The latter option could not be a general vote as people would most likely claim to believe the outcome matched the way they voted, therefore a separate electorate (in Optimism’s case this could possibly be the Citizen’s House) is probably necessary.

In the former method, a proposer would have an interesting balance of incentives when setting their evaluation metric for a proposal. They want the proposal to seem as inviting as possible and so would want to maximize their claimed outcomes, but the people voting for them only get the reward if the claim is met and so may be more likely to vote for proposals with more modest claims. This could lead to the proposers underpromising, thus making voters more likely to expect the rewards of the evaluation criteria being met.

Clearly this concept needs more development, but I believe this should be an area we consider experimenting with in the iterative process of Optimism governance. While I’ve initially considered this from the perspective of someone voting directly, it would be equally applicable to selection of delegates. If you delegate your vote to someone who makes bad decisions you won’t end up being rewarded as much as if you had delegated to someone who makes choices with better outcomes.

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