1) Designing and Distributing Ownership
History reveals that many governance problems are downstream of the distribution of ownership. What type of incentive alignment is possible when different classes of stakeholders are owners? These talks look at different types of investor-owned, worker-owned, foundation-owned, supplier-owned, and producer-owned organizations and their relevance to crypto.
Camille Canon: Designing and Distributing Ownership - Constitutions and Rule Making
Camille Canon is the co-founder of Purpose (US), a hybrid for-/non-profit organization focused on developing and scaling alternative ownership and governance models.
In her lecture, she examines the objective of governance and what underpins its rules. Core aspects of a system’s design, like purpose, culture, power distribution, value distribution, and incentives, are what make systems fragile or create the need for more rules. The more misalignments there are, the more organizations rely on rules to navigate change.
Canon outlines guiding principles for how to think about systems design and presents recent case studies on Organically Grown Company, Firebrand, and Trust Neighborhoods. She follows this up with a few examples of when and why systems fail. The lecture concludes with best practices for thinking about constitutions and rules, with useful takeaways for DAO leaders.
Jillian Grennan: Governance, Boards, and Activist Investors
Jillian Grennan is a business and law professor at UC Davis. Her research focuses on intangible value creation and emphasizes the role informal and formal governance systems have in its creation. Her recent work examines how emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and decentralized finance applications are changing the nature of financial services and the future of work more broadly.
In her lecture, Grennan draws parallels between firms and DAOs to discuss what they can learn from each other. She begins by outlining how firms designate discrete areas of responsibility. She gets specific about board roles and responsibilities, and how they manage conflict. Grennan also discusses protections against activist investors, payout expectations, and voting rights.
Ultimately she poses a few questions for DAO leaders and concludes by summarizing a few takeaways on how DAOs can leverage insights from legacy processes.
Dana Brakman: Governance Rules and Regulatory Norms for Philanthropy
Dana Brakman has taught at Brooklyn Law School for over 20 years. She researches non-profit organizations, philanthropy, social enterprise, and sustainable investing. She is interested in situations where the boundaries between for profit and not for profit activity and charitable or commercial activity are blurred.
This lecture covers legal rules that apply to philanthropic orgs particularly around governance structures and the regulatory guardrails that get applied under the law.
To understand how these rules formed, Brakman takes us back to the turn of the 20th century, charting rising public concern over increasing concentration of power and wealth in philanthropic institutions. Public suspicion of elite philanthropy led to the 1969 Tax Reform act which lays the foundation for the current regulatory environment.
Brakman wraps up the lecture by discussing interesting alternative forms for DAO leaders to keep in mind for greater flexibility and control, like Philanthropy LLCs, Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs), and Commercial DAFs.
2) Decentralized Knowledge & Resource Management
In an environment of permissionless innovation and open source contribution, how do we collaboratively manage information and rights? These talks explore collaborative mechanisms and emergent community rules for managing multiple types of information and knowledge resources.
Sohyeon Hwang: Collaborative Information Strategies
Sohyeon Hwang is a doctoral student in the Media, Technology, and Society program at Northwestern University. Her research circles around complexity and heterogeneity in large-scale social computing systems.
Hwang uses various online communities, including subreddits and Wikipedia, to show how decentralized communities can engage in rule formation. She explains how structurelessness can be a death blow to decentralized communities and covers rule-making trends and processes from successful and failing communities online. She then explains how technology can be used to formalize social systems embedded at the community level, and the drawbacks of premature standardization.
This is immediately relevant to DAO participants looking for ways to engage their community and empower members while maintaining some semblance of emergence over the community’s lifecycle.
Pavel Kuchar: Governing Markets as Knowledge Commons
Pavel Kuchar is a Lecturer at the Dept. of Political Economy at King’s College London. Kuchar argues that it is fruitful for us to consider markets as a knowledge commons. Doing so unlocks novel ideas around how best to govern them. He outlines some key design principles for knowledge commons, including clearly defined boundaries, collective-choice arrangements, and more.
Kuchar then discusses a series of examples of knowledge commons in the real world, and how we can best apply these to the markets and organizations we are a part of.
Decentralized organizations are organizations of knowledge, and must learn to effectively manage themselves as a commons in order to empower members of the community to do their best work without encroaching on each other’s rights.
Michael Madison: Contemporary Governance Problems in Knowledge, Information, Data, and Law
Professor Michael Madison is Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. He is a Senior Scholar with the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security (Pitt Cyber). At Pitt Law, he is Faculty Director of the Future Law Project and a John E. Murray Faculty Scholar.
Madison’s lecture goes deep on the definitions of governance and the way that the law interacts with various governance systems as they pertain to technology, data, and information. “Knowledge commons” are discussed in depth, alongside groups governing themselves in online spaces and communities. “Data” is discussed as a specific subset of resources to be governed, and the distinction between public and private goods is made in this discussion.
This talk is an excellent summary of the knowledge commons literature for DAO leaders and operators looking to better understand how various aspects of a community’s actions and information should be governed and by which parties.
3) Community, Process, and Decision Making
These talks explore a variety of governance processes drawn from municipal, democratic, and cooperative contexts, where elected officials and delegated authorities must collaborate with community to reach outcomes in the best interest of the public.
Michael Menser: Community, Process, and Decision Making
Dr. Michael Menser teaches Philosophy, Urban Sustainability Studies, and Caribbean Studies at Brooklyn College and Earth and Environmental Sciences and Environmental Psychology at The Graduate Center, CUNY, is the Associate Director for Public Engagement at the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay and on the advisory board of the Center for the Study of Brooklyn. He is the founding Chair and President of the Board of the Participatory Budgeting Project and helped launch one of the first PB processes in NYC working with the residents of Flatbush Brooklyn.
“Democracy is not about having a voice, it’s about sharing power and authority.” Drawing on deep study and experience with NYC government and beyond, Menser explores the whys and hows of participatory democracy. He specifically touches on his work with participatory budgeting, an area of deep relevance to DAOs focused on capital allocation.
Keith Taylor: Values, Governance, and Corporate Form
Dr. Keith Taylor is a Professor of Cooperative Extension & Community Economic Development at UC Davis. He travels all over California to work with local communities on economic change.
In this lecture, Taylor examines how political ideologies shape ideas of social entrepreneurship and corporate form. He argues we are in a renaissance of corporate instrumentation and flexible capital. From here, Taylor outlines the historical evolution of the corporation and how political ideologies and policy environments shaped the possibility sp/ace of corporate structure. He demonstrates these principles with a detailed case study on the evolution of the US Electric Co-op Sector.
The presentation closes with a series of prompts for thinking through a new corporate entity.
Bartek Starodaj: Community Engagement Processes
Bartek Starodaj is the Director of Housing Initiatives for the City of Kingston, NY.
Starodaj’s talk is a contextualized summary of his work in Kingston, NY, where housing prices dramatically increased during the pandemic. Starodaj worked with local government officials to help solve the problem, and learned some key lessons about how local government functions, the relationship between elected officials and government staff, and more.
The talk clearly aligns with many of the challenges facing DAOs today. We can learn a lot from local government and Starodaj does a great job of highlighting some key lessons.
Eric Alston: Community, Process, and Decision Making
Eric Alston is Faculty Director of the Hernando de Soto Capital Markets Program in the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. His research centers on law, economics, and institutional analysis, with specific attention to the design and implementation of rights and constitutions.
Alston’s talk is divided into a series of distinct sections, first covering the purposes of governance itself. He then discusses governance as conflict, and explains why community values are key to the development of strong governance processes and norms within a community. Finally, he discusses various organizational forms and the pros and cons of their governance processes, getting specific as to what the tradeoffs may be for certain practices.
For DAO leaders, this is a great exploration of how disagreement and conflict can be used to build more productive communities, and how governance may vary depending on the goals of the community.
4) Designing for Credible Neutrality
What can DAOs learn from the history of liberalism? What role does governance play in the design of credibly neutral mechanisms? And how can we preserve both opinionated culture and neutrality in a governance system?
Laura K. Field: History of Liberal Neutrality
Laura K. Field holds a PhD in Government from the University of Texas at Austin (political theory and public law). She has held faculty positions at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, as well as at Georgetown and American Universities in DC. Her research has been published in the Journal of Politics, The Review of Politics, and Polity.
In this talk, Field goes deep on the roots of liberal neutrality and its rise to the forefront of Western – especially American – life. She begins by discussing various visions of “the good life” posed by ancient Greek philosophers, leading to Aristotle’s Politics which asserts that cities are simply a partnership in living well according to a broadly agreed upon vision of the good life. Field then discusses the beginnings of liberalism, from Bacon to Locke and beyond, and critiques of the current order of liberal neutrality.
The talk gets to the heart of many of the issues facing society at both the micro and macro level and their roots in theocracy and ancient philosophy. DAOs can learn much from how various organizations and societies of the past have chosen to reward specific perceptions of “goodness,” and how those perceptions dictate the function of the organization at large.
Kevin Vallier: Credible Neutrality: Philosophical Challenges
Kevin Vallier is an Associate Professor of Philosophy in BGSU’s philosophy department. He also direct BGSU’s program in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL).
Vallier begins by defining Credible Neutrality using two examples: Amazon and Twitter. Amazon has decided not to sell certain books based on self-imposed values. Twitter has decided to ban certain users for similar reasons. He then discusses the implications of exit and voice, and how each might be used in systems that lack credible neutrality. There is a brief discussion on DAOs and the broader tech ecosystem, and how governance tokens might increase the ability for users to use voice as opposed to being forced to exit systems they disagree with.
There is a lot of crypto discourse around credibly neutral systems, especially inspired by Vitalik’s writing. Vallier’s lecture provides a solid overview of the roots of credible neutrality in political philosophy and how builders and users in the crypto ecosystem can better understand and build systems that align with these values.
5) Organizational Design & People
How do we determine shared principles, processes, and rituals that sustain decentralized organizations? How do we design emergent organizational structures while maintaining guardrails for meaningful impact?
Sam Spurlin: Intelligent (Org) Design(ers) and the Evolution of DAOs
Sam Spurlin is a partner at The Ready: an organizational design consultancy with clients including the Federal Reserve and Sweetgreen.
Spurlin asks participants to apply evolutionary systems thinking to organizational design. He compares working on an organization to working on an operating system, and shares a tool called the “OS Canvas” that help organizations chart the assumptions baked into how they work.
The second half of the lecture focuses on what thoughtful DAO or org operators can do to influence the evolution of their organization in a positive way. Spurlin explores the many roles of an intelligent org designer and breaks them down into 6 types: the catalyst, the scaffolder, the cultivator, the connector, the reflector, and “being god”.
He closes by sharing tools and resources for applying these frameworks to your own organization or community.
Tanisi Pooran: Foundational Agreements
Tanisi Pooran is a Partner at The Ready and Equity & Liberation Education Specialist. They draw from experience in labor and trade politics, community organizing, and JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) in evolutionary and educational organizations.
The Ready is an organizational design consultancy that aims to realize more adaptive, equitable, meaningful, and human ways of working.
Their lecture focuses on The Ready’s path to creating foundational agreeements. Everything about the way The Ready works is captured in an agreement, which is documented and transparent to everyone. When people have a question, tension, or an issue, they make a proposal. Pooran talks through The Ready’s foundational beliefs and how they are governed, and the system adaptations that became necessary as their organization scaled.
Pooran encourages us to think about how we express values and honor principles in self-managed systems, especially as they grow.
Ida Benedetto: Ritual & Time Design for Decentralized Communities
Ida Benedetto (NOBL Collective) is an organizational design expert who researches the design of transformative social experiences. She has taught designing organizational culture at Stanford’s d.school and consulted with Pfizer, Microsoft, the Canadian Government, and more.
The lecture begins with an overview of a framework for experience design. Specifically, this session focuses on inflection moments, how people experience them, and how to better design those moments.
A “transformative social experience” involves real risk, active participation, social and interpersonal interaction, transformative potential. The potential outcomes of a transformative social experience are inexhaustible. Examples include sex parties, wilderness trips, and funerals.
Benedetto does a deep dive on 4 key design components for these experiences: risk, magic circle, structure, and transformation. For DAO leaders, this framework can apply to org design, governance, and designing community rituals.