DAOs Wanting To Shape the Future Can Look to the Past for Inspiration
As globally dispersed communities, DAOs have no choice but to rely on digital record-keeping. ‘That’s right’, you say, ‘that’s why DAOs vote onchain’. Well, yes … but while the ‘A’ in DAO stands for ‘autonomous’ — referring to the idea that decisions arising from votes are autonomously enacted by smart contracts — the reality is very different for many DAOs.
Even if all voting is recorded through the blockchain (and all actions are managed by smart contracts), we can’t ignore the fact that a vast amount of discussion and debate happens well before the vote. This crucial element of shared decision making usually takes place in an online — but offchain — forum platform, so looking at a DAO’s Snapshot instance will not tell the whole story of its governance history.
That is why the Optimism Collective’s work in creating and sharing The Collective DAO Archives: Governance Library is so valuable. Not only does this work collate the governance journeys of 20 key DAOs into one resource, it has also facilitated the synthesis of all that material into ten key takeaways.
I mentioned this “goldmine” in an earlier article about the Optimism Collective’s approach to governance. The research and synthesis was completed by Justine Humenansky for the Optimism Foundation, and it’s easy to see the application of the key learnings taking place through the Optimism Collective’s continual reflection cycles and bicameral structure (there are two voting houses with separate but shared concerns).
The brilliant part though, is that because the Optimism Collective is all about public goods, the Collective DAO Archives is open access (attribution is required), and is consistently being updated. This means that the entire community can share in the wisdom of 20 DAO lifetimes.
Distilling the Learning
The ten takeaways are the result of Justine’s reading of thousands of forum posts; together they create a must-read checklist for how to DAO effectively. I have further summarized them from the X thread for this article, but I highly recommend exploring them in full.
Takeaway #1: Voting
Match the decision-making model — the degrees of decentralization and delegation — to the type of decision being made.
Takeaway #2: Strategy
Create and implement prioritization frameworks early so that decisions are guided by strategy, even as further decentralization occurs.
Takeaway #3: Treasury
Create funding structures that are flexible and goal-oriented.
Takeaway #4: Accountability
Proposals and ideation are best rewarded once executed; establish a “do-ocracy” in the DAO to enable competition, speed, and experimentation.
Takeaway #5: Organizational
Define power structures rather than ignoring their existence. This is the way to keep them in check. [A bonus read is this article about this topic].
Takeaway #6: Contributors
Recognise the difference between elected representatives and volunteer contributors. Implement accountability and compensation structures accordingly.
Takeaway #7: Path to decentralization
If progressive decentralization is the goal, maintain transparency about the boundaries of control and the path forward.
Takeaway #8: Policy
Maintain transformability so that governance can be responsive and adaptive rather than reactive.
Takeaway #9: Tooling
Communication mechanisms that enable all contributors to provide and access feedback must be a priority.
Takeaway #10: Concerns
Conflict is inevitable and will not itself cause a DAO to fail. Legitimacy is the key factor which will influence success.
Mapping the Past To Illuminate the Future
The research findings shared by the Optimism Collective are very useful, but what’s even more useful is that the underlying dataset has also been collated and curated in a way that makes it accessible to all. This is gold-standard research practice, and it increases the potential impact of the efforts put towards the Archive.
Visitors to the Collective DAO Archives site (housed in Notion) can browse by category, DAO, or even proposal title, to find links to the original documentation. Although the Notion search functionality is disabled, a simple Ctrl/Cmd F search will achieve the same if there is a specific term or DAO you’re looking for.
Alternatively, those with an interest in a particular DAO’s governance timeline can access this via the Governance Timeline, which maps all of the proposals included in the Notion database into a month-by-month format. The final piece of good news is that this resource is not just a legacy snapshot of DAO history — it is actively maintained by the Optimism Foundation.
Shared History, Shared Vision
This combination of targeted discovery and browse-enabled serendipity creates a valuable — arguably essential — historical record which can help to inform DAOs of all types and sizes in the pursuit of decentralized excellence.
Study the past if you would define the future. — Confucius
The shared vision of the Optimism Collective, that “together, we will create the future of coordinated, collaborative cyberspace”, is brought one step closer to reality through the Collective DAO Archives.
Author and Designer Bio
trewkat is a writer, editor, and designer at BanklessDAO. She’s interested in learning about web3, with a particular focus on how best to communicate this knowledge to others.
Kornekt is a Writer, Staff Editor, and Content Manager at Bankless Publishing. Deeply fascinated about crypto, web3, and blockchain technology.
BanklessDAO is an education and media engine dedicated to helping individuals achieve financial independence.
This post does not contain financial advice, only educational information. By reading this article, you agree and affirm the above, as well as that you are not being solicited to make a financial decision, and that you in no way are receiving any fiduciary projection, promise, or tacit inference of your ability to achieve financial gains.
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