A perspective on resource efficiency in Aragon and the Flock program
Thanks @lkngtn for making room for interesting discussions. Sorry in advance for the (too) long post. It can be moved here or a standalone thread if you wish.
It looks this thread, as well as these (1,2,3) are all related in that they express a rising fear within the community that Aragon is on the path to burning all of its resources before it can meet its market.
Before I start disussing concrete strategies (budgeting, unbundling, reporting…) that would address this primary concern, I would like to take a step back and try to frame the underlying need each of us have in Aragon: Becoming more resource efficient while sticking to the principles of the Manifesto
Main actionable areas for Aragon/Flock to become resource efficient
I assume that being resource efficient is a big worry for all organizations. When it comes to Aragon I feel (as @lkngtn pointed out) there are several important areas to consider:
- A culture of oppenness and criticism
- Clear and transparent accountability
- Efficient collaboration
- Governance practices that fit the above, and not the opposit
- Policies and processes implementing the above
Note: Because Flock burns most of Aragon’s resources I will go through these with the Flock program in mind. I will try my best to share some knowledge I’ve acquired, working relatively close to Flock teams.
A culture of oppenness and criticism
Wether on calls or on the forum, most (not all, as pointed out by @stellarmagnet) community members feel confident to debate and participate in shaping up ideas. I think that preserving a safe space for everyone to speak -especially in times of crisis- will be mendatory if the community wants to be able to point out inefficiences.
In order for everyone to feel confortable and participate, providing context is crucial. I feel that we often forget that, and haven’t worked enough on implementing tools and practices that make up for asymetries of information. When it comes to this conversation, even some close community members may lack context to participate. Here I’ll try to be inclusive and provide some context to everyone.
This feels especially crucial in the current state of Aragon, where most of the information and context lies in the Flock program, which is in turn pretty siloed in teams.
Debating openly is something the Aragon community is pretty good at doing. But my experience and discussions with Flock teams showed me that it is increasingly challenging to create a common ground for discussions as we grow.
This first point may seem abstract, but in a very generic way, the culture of communicating freely is imho the best way to debunk inefficies and create new value. By creating a safe space for discussion and data about context, only great insights can output.
Clear accountability through transparency
It can be tricky to create accountability in most organizations, but I feel that things are much easier in our space where the code we ship and things we write are just a few clicks away. And I couldn’t think of anything more powerful than transparency to generate accountability.
Information is available in repositories or forum posts, it is just matter of shaping it up, and delivering it in the right place to the right audience.
Currently in the Flock program, each team issues transparency reports (1,2,3) as they see fit. It seems easy for the network and ANT holders to ask for a specific kind of report and frequency it wants to feel that teams are accountable.
We also have roadmaps that are approved by ANT holders, and updated over time by some mechanism (for now still the AA approving). We can agree on some process that seems legit to all. We have the tools to implement complex governance schemes using Agent.
I feel we’re one step away of being able to properly leverage things to generate accountability. The main problem I see is that we don’t have the habit or resources to pay attention what other teams are doing.
In the end, this ends up creating costly frictions for the organization. I personally believe that solving this attention problem by changing our habits and enhancing the way information is presented would help a lot.
Flock in its current state is a several months old program. And it is still quite conter-intuitive for teams to include what other teams are doing or may do as part of their plan. This is a demanding process and requires a special state of mind.
I feel that we have to agree on what we can expect from each other at different levels so this becomes a certitude in a very uncertain space.
My personal conviction is that there are two paths forward:
- One is to create a cryptoeconomic system of individual teams contributing to the project as standalone units and sorted through competition.
- Another is create a single complex organization where collaboration has a cost but teams work altogether.
Each approach has pros and cons and some mix of both approaches is probably optimal. But we’ll have to adapt our culture, accountability tools, collaboration practices and governance to support this approach.
To illustrate: in the curent state of things, would Flock teams feel confortable having network level coordinators and repo maintainers? would they feel confortable delegating part of their workforce to Working Groups? Whether it is the case or not would be higly influenced by how teams are incentivized, how they are made accountable and under what conditions they are elected.
Governance that take all these into account
The governance rules we adopt are the tip of the iceberg and a reflection of the our assumptions and values.
If we believe that ANT holders are prone to making good decisions, let’s:
- Foster a debate culture to create actionnable information for ANVs, around topics such as budget for example.
- Have teams provide clear and concise reports
- Let ANT holders decide on roadmaps so collaboration can happen frictionlessly
But reality seems to be less obvious. As pointed out in some other threads, ANT holders do not always make great decisions. Aslo, very few people pay attention to reports and track team’s progresses. Roadmaps have to be changed multiple times a year so teams can keep working.
I don’t know the portion of ANT holders who vote and are not contributors to Aragon. However it seems very hard for anyone not actively involved in Aragon to make an advised decision on resource allocation.
So in the end, the current governance setting is either the wrong one, or has a long way to go before it becomes efficient in allocating resources. How and where do we account for this?
Policies and processes to implement all the above
Finally, policies and processes are very useful to implement an intention. The Flock program has a bunch of policies and arbitrary budget limits or timelines. My experience with these is that they can be tricky to deal with because you always have exceptional situations in this space.
In our case implementing a budget is a valid option to act as safeguards for spendings. Moreover, it is also possible to unbundle proposals and monitor team deliverables more granularly through some network entity. But in our context and pushing my interpretation to the extreme, here is what it would mean to me:
- We are not able to generate the right information and communicate it
- The community cannot debate and come to the right conclusions
- We think giving freedom to teams lowers their ability to deliver
- ANT holders cannot make the right choices allocating resources
This is a very personal vision and a weakly held, strong opinion. I just feel that we have so much room for improvement withing all the dimensions above, using very concrete strategies. Lessening freedom and flexibility bears a risk of rushing us into a suboptimal situation. I’d rather try other solutions first.
Final thoughts and short term emergency
From my personal experience all Flock teams are working at maximum capacity all the time. We’re still in an early stage and most contributors are so passionate about Aragon that they give their absolute best. I doubt any long term improvement would really come out of solely implementing hard policies.
In the short and medium term a quick overview of what I’d like to push:
- keep taking risks to create the future of DAOs (CRDAO, CFDAO 2.0, Nest…)
- do better working as a network of teams (for example using coordinators and catalysts)
- improve information flows in the whole organization and fight information asymmetry (reporting, auditing, fact checking…)
- be careful with spendings, the current burn is high and it cannot keep growing that quickly (transparency.aragon.org, budget forecasts…)
- But if we have to budget and control, let’s do it with great care and evaluate the implications it has on culture, accountability and collaboration
In Aragon’s history lots of resources and efforts were spent on the product, but probably much fewer on the organization itself. Building an org is already hard in a traditional setting (say a startup). It probably deserves ten times as much attention and resources in our decentralized setting.