Defining DAO Operators

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Erik Knobl
·Jun 27, 2022·

6 min read

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Most initiatives are an attempt to solve a problem. In the case of the proposal to define DAO operators, the issue was the lack of definition around our paid roles.

We had already crafted two initiatives for them, but we only specified how much we would pay and to whom. No roles, no KPIs.

The second initiative (P-14: Increase the May & June Short-Term Allocations for Retaining Core Staff Due to Market Changes) was already near the end of its term.

Crafting a third one was required.

Should we repeat our initial process for funding these roles? Perhaps it was time to start asking questions.

In this case, it began with a simple one: operators are good at everything they do for the DAO… but are those really the things the DAO needs from them?

It snowballed from there.

The thing with asking questions is that it always leads to more questions, all the way to the "5 Whys"-technique that many product managers use to understand a process fully. This describes the questions we found and the method for solving them.

Who Defines the Needs of the DAO?

The first discovery was that someone was needed to define the strategic goals of the DAO for it to hire someone. The usual response to that question, so far, has been "the core team," but perhaps it's time the DAO evolves from that place. Taking inspiration from the $CODE Rewards proposal, which has pitched the idea of the budget stewards as curators of the budget applications, we proposed to use this same model for the DAO operators proposal.

In this case, the core team anchors the stewards (duh!) and includes the five most voted members in the Early Contributors Initiative (yeah!).

This is a good step, but still not enough. Adding the stewards to the proposal meant a significant layer of complexity. Was that too much? Perhaps. But it was worth pitching and letting the community discuss it. After all, we could always go back to the base, "Let the core team decide." It turns out the community barely noticed that. Other issues turned out to be more critical.

How do We Appoint Stewards?

This follow-up question generated more feedback. The proposal had a defined timeline to deliver, and everyone was aware of this point and accepted the unilateral and arbitrary designation of the Stewards… for now.

Most comments on stewards mentioned they should be elected. Members also realized this position's importance for the DAO's future. It was clear the role needed more definition outside this initiative, other than two lines in two separate proposals.

We are already working on an improved, more complete stewards proposal, in an open process, accessible to all the community for feedback, happening in the #Budget-Stewards channel. We invite every member to participate.

How does the Hiring Process Work?

Now, the proposal put stewards in charge of defining what the DAO needs and gave them the power to hire someone.

How would they do that?

Once they decide an operator is necessary, they would call a majority vote of other stewards for approval to continue. If the vote is affirmative, they would craft the role, nominate three candidates, and let people vote.

Why should Stewards make nominations?

The rationale is that they are supposed to be members of the DAO with high visibility on many projects and guilds, and therefore, their suggestions would have great context.

In addition, they have proven their dedication to the community, and we can expect responsible nominations. Why three? This avoids the situation where everyone nominates only one candidate, and the process becomes a binary vote.

There was pushback here as well, with mainly three crucial suggestions:

Remove the restrictions on the number of nominations. Allow teams of two and three persons to be nominated to compete for one role. Open spaces for every member to suggest Steward nominations.

Together, these suggestions give great flexibility to the stewards when making their picks for the open roles.

What does the DAO Need?

Finally, the meat and potatoes!

Due to the agreed-upon timeline, this proposal had to deliver initial suggestions of the roles for the stewards to discuss. Therefore, we return to the initial question: what does the DAO need?

It turns out that D_D has a lot of specific requirements.

Since the guilds are defining most of those, the logical step was adding those tasks as operators' roles.

We quickly realized that was the wrong move and that those decisions should come from the guilds themselves. This was the main challenge to the initial draft. Guilds wanted to be part of this decision. Even more: They wanted to own the decision. So, we changed this part, and the guilds were empowered to nominate their own operators.

This modification, paired with the new rules for budget applications for $CODE caused shifts in the DAO we didn't foresee.

Previous to this, there were no significant differences between guilds and projects. Both could apply to $CODE budgets. Yeah, guilds were static structures, while projects were more dynamic, but that was it.

Now, with guilds having operators and KPIs to deliver upon, they can be platforms pushing for their own goals and have agendas on their own. They now have interests and agency.

The second change is that drafting each guild budget turned out to be a de facto election of its leadership, and members did it on each guild's own terms.

So far, we have failed to define the rules for elections. Now we have them; we just arrived at that point by a different path - and one we may want to reconsider for future seasons.

Final Adjustments

Open discussion of the proposal exposed it to excellent questions we didn't consider.

How do we fire an operator?

What's the best rate for rewards?

How do we hold operators accountable?

All the feedback helped improve the proposal; we need to test it and iterate on it. I want to emphasize: This proposal is not the final point of this conversation, just the start; it needs a continual loop of feedback and iteration.

Conclusions

The proposal, as it is, delivers its primary goal, which is to clarify how we hire and fire operators and their duties and obligations.

However, the process, together with the $CODE rewards proposal, has caused more significant effects on the overall DAO, like encouraging guilds to define their goals more clearly, and determine their leadership (the community guild and MBD guild will finally have a definition of their leadership again), new leaders rising, reinforcement of the importance of guilds, new guilds (operations and public goods), and creating a new position (stewards) that may eventually replace founders/core/ops as a supervisory group.

In a way, for me, it feels like its own impact changed the proposal. It started as a way to define operators separated from the overall DAO structure. Now, the operators are going to the guilds because of it.

On the other side, one of the weakest points is that it doesn't address the lack of diversity in our leadership positions. This is an enormous pain point of the DAO that we hope the complete proposal for Stewards will take into consideration.

I want to thank all the community members who provided feedback on this proposal, especially Colin4ward, for being a partner in this process.

I hope this effort will open the doors for more initiatives in the future from all members, building proposals in the open, discussing ideas, and shaping our DAO.

 
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