Collective drafting: ☂️ The Umbrella Proposal - Fostering an all-weather DAO

Primer: Bad weather can come up in every DAO :cloud_with_rain:

:muscle: Undoubtedly, the social layer is the most powerful DAO coordination layer.

:sunny: If people have strong trust relationships and are happy with their working environment, the sense of community is strong, which makes the community very resilient.
A prominent example was set by the Steem community, who collectively coordinated a hard-fork to prevent centralization by a hostile takeover by Tron founder Justin Sun.
Healthy communities can withstand all kinds of bad weather.

:cloud_with_lightning_and_rain: However, if the social layer is damaged and people are not trusting each other or are unhappy with their working environment, even the best tech and algorithms cannot help.
Minor conflicts can grow into large ones and block people from coordinating, working efficiently, or worse, making them leave the DAO.

Conflicts between persons or groups occur naturally - like bad weather :cloud_with_snow:.
They affect all kinds of organizations, where they cause strong emotions or reactions and are often related to

  • scarcity of resources,
  • division of functions and tasks,
  • power relations, or
  • the role of the organization.

Especially in leaderless and organically growing organizations that we strive to become, the points mentioned above are often unclear or constantly shifting.
Instead of stigmatizing conflicts or pretending that they are not there, we should allocate time and resources to actively care about and solve them so that everyone feels well and likes spending time here .

:rainbow: This will help us to ‘Govern Better, Together’ and is the aim of the following proposal draft.

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:open_umbrella: Fostering an all-weather AN DAO :sunny::cloud_with_lightning_and_rain:

The Umbrella proposal aims to foster a cultural build to protect us from bad weather.

What are important parts of this cultural build?

  • communication culture
  • conflict culture
  • error culture

All of this is implicitly contained in our Community Guidelines.

This proposal suggests measures to

  • :mag_right: formulate this culture explicitly
  • :muscle: strengthen this culture and sense of community
  • :building_construction: establish a mediation guild to resolve conflicts and foster the culture

to help us to withstand bad weather :umbrella: and grow a strong and diverse community :seedling: :soon: :deciduous_tree:.
This will create a more productive/constructive working environment, being more enjoyable and efficient.

Everyone (DAO members, Ambassadors, Aragon team members) should have a say in establishing this culture so that it becomes legitimate and binding.
Accordingly, this is an open proposal and @everyone is invited to discuss and apply changes to it. Likewise, everyone has to agree on living it. This does not mean that it becomes permanent. We can reflect upon the cultural build and improve it over time.

In this draft, we can think about three measures.

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1. Defining our culture:

  • raise awareness for those topics
  • have an open and informed discussion around what the community sees as a good communication, error, and conflict culture
  • embed the results into our onboarding documents (GitBook)

How could this look like? (the goal is that we draft these bullet points together):

Communication Culture:

  • pay more attention to our tone and phrasing
    • express things more factual, balanced, relative
    • avoid superlatives, exaggerations
  • become good at listening and allocate more time for this
  • give & accept constructive criticism
  • communicate more openly

Conflict Culture:

  • Conflicts are something natural to happen and we can transform and learn from them.
  • Transforming conflicts strengthens the trust between the parties involved.
  • We want to proactively engage in conflicts (talk about it, don’t keep it bottled up and let frustration grow).
  • Be self-critical with our perspective/behaviour.

Error Culture:

  • Mistakes are not only normal and unavoidable, they are also important, e.g., in the creation or innovation process.
  • Admitting them is strong and should happen as soon as possible.
  • We should foster a culture, where we can talk openly about errors and learn from their causes.
  • Try to change the causing issues so that it is unlikely to happen again
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2. Strengthening the culture

  • provide (mandatory?) basic training and reading material for everyone
    • explains the mindset w.r.t communication, errors, and conflicts
    • part of the onboarding GitBook
  • offer (voluntary) extensive training for team members and core contributors (Ambassadors)
    • offering of POAP badges for training participation
    • being trained in conflict resolution could be a valuable qualification that increases the chance to be elected into roles with high responsibility (e.g., committees)

These materials and trainings should

  • be short and problem oriented,
  • use an universal language (not too academic or esoteric),
  • be practical and provide action items for specific situations
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3. Installing preventative/restorative measures: The Umbrella Team

  • creation of an umbrella team trained in fostering the cultural build and solving ‘conflicts’ of any kind.
    • a team of listeners and mediators acting as the first point of contact to anonymously solve problems and issues of all kinds
    • initially guided by GravityDAO (a conflict resolution DAO)
    • mid-term, they could facilitate mediator trainings and workshops for the AN DAO themselves or care about other important community topics (such as diversity, equality)
    • long-term, they could offer help to other (Aragon) DAO communities or complement other Aragon products such as Aragon court.
  • helps moderating and settling conflicts (low escalation stage before court)
  • community work (along with community managers) on creating a good working environment / sense of community

When to contact the Umbrella Team?

  • I am frustrated because of X.
  • My opinion on X is not heard and this frustrates me.
  • Person A is doing X and this negatively impacts me while doing Y.
  • I can’t work together with Person A because X happened.

How could a mediation process look like?

The healthiest way to resolve conflicts is for the parties involved to talk directly to each other.
People can behave naturally, it can even be heated if both parties can stand this. If they feel better afterwards and the issue is solved, that’s perfect. However, with careful, non-violent communication there is a much higher chance of success.

However, the above requires a trust relationship between the parties and that is not always given or can be damaged. In this situation, a restorative mediation process should be started by ideally both parties, less ideally one of them, or least ideally, by a third observer.

  1. Talk to the involved parties in private.
    • listen to them and let them vent off steam
    • signal to them that their problem and feelings are understood
    • let them know how the group feels about the conflict
    • identify the root cause of the conflict
  2. Moderate a discussion between the party.
    • help them understand each other and their needs
    • let them talk with each other (the moderator only facilitates and is on an equal footing)
    • discuss possible solutions and write down an action plan
  3. Follow Up
    • see if action plan was successful or if more steps/measure are required
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Follow-Up to the Drafting Phase & Required Resources

If there is positive feedback in this sense-making phase, this will be turned into a financial proposal and will enter the standard AGP process. The required resources and timelines for the execution will be listed. The resources expected to execute the proposal are comparatively small because

  • this is largely a community effort
  • no code or special infrastructure is needed
  • GravityDAO (a spin-off of the TEC solely dedicated to train people in these cultural competences and mediation practices) offered to help us with their expertise to realize the measures
    • preparing training basic and extensive training material
    • providing mediators as a service and training our own mediators
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I like everything in this series of posts. I strongly recommend to continue the work and present a financial proposal. It could become a virtuous example in the DAO space and be beneficial for Aragon’s mission.

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Agree with @eaglelex. Please let me know how I can assist with this initiative.

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I agree with both @eaglelex and @Shawncubbedge and love the idea of the initiative. I think it has internal benefits for us AND furthermore completely correlates with fostering the creation of DAO’s and something we want to focus on which is also help them become sustainable long term projects.

Not as important, but looking far down the road this could be a feature we offer with active/newly created DAO’s. But again, not the immediate focus.

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Thank you for generating a long-term impact with this proposal!

This initiative will be able to channel and pinpoint the importance of reflection, the importance of sharing emotional state in this uncertain space.

The beautiful challenge is to engage all the layers of the existing communities in the training.

This project is crucial because it will unfold the reality about working in one DAO takes time and effort. By focussing on these aspects, members needs to interact and share consistency, real presence.

I am open and fully interested to support you and get involved with it.

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Sorry for the late contribution…

All of the issues mentioned sound like symptoms of systemic dysfunction, rather than substantive issues themselves. It might be useful to take a Lean manufacturing approach, which treats everything as an engineering problem. For example, not having a functioning communications system creates frustration, but the answer is to design better comms, not waste resources treating the frustration. I would guess that 99% of issues could be dealt with in this way. This, in itself, is very powerful in converting a culture of blame into a culture of dispassionate problem-solving. The first step would be to identify and quantify the value that the system is trying to create, and then trace how that value flows through the system. If the value output doesn’t correlate with the input, then there’s a leak that needs fixing.

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Sorry for my late answer, I just saw your response.
Can you help me to understand how a better communication system would look like and could help to prevent conflict related to

  • scarcity of resources,
  • division of functions and tasks,
  • power relations, or
  • the role of the organization.

I don’t believe that conflict is a symptom of systemic dysfunction, but that it is human nature.
Conflicts happen in every interpersonal relationship between people, and one can even be in conflict with oneself and be unmotivated or unkind as a result. I don’t see how technical systems can prevent this from happening.
I also think that cultural awareness and improvements, which the proposal aims to facilitate, are not a waste of resources. Many DAO communities are much further with this than we are (DAO Resolutionaries: Conflict Resolution for DAOs - YouTube) and pretty successful with it.

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Thanks Michael, I guess it boils down to two points. First, the problems that you’ve described - scarcity of resources, division of functions etc - are nothing to do with human nature, they’re all systemic issues that can and should be solved. Dwelling on natural emotional reactions to them at the expense of the problems themselves seems to miss the point, which leads to #2:

‘Waste of resources’ might be a bit strong, but there’s a significant opportunity cost to initiatives like this. For example, 8 people in a meeting for an hour is an entire day’s work. It’s legitimate to question the production value of that time, especially when systemic problems need work.

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I am not saying that we should not work on systemic problems. However, it is hardly possible to avoid conflicts. I can’t think of a single community in which this has ever succeeded. Can you think of an example?

Even in the hypothetical case that resources, functions, and tasks can be objectively optimally distributed, then human traits and emotions (jealousy, ego, envy, antipathy, unrequited love, etc.) can still lead to conflicts and move the system out of this optimum.
To give a classic example: A young person joins a team, an older person fears being replaced and hinders the younger person.
Nobody is perfect, and we are far from being rational machines. You can think of it as the temperature/kinetic energy/Brownian motion of a physical system that we constantly have to deal with.

Interpersonal relationships and trust form the foundation for our collective decision-making processes and are extremely complex, highly dimensional and dynamic systems/functions.
Instead of trying to constantly adjust an organization to a supposed global optimum in this function (which also poses significant work), cultural improvements try to raise the minima of this function and lower the overall temperature of this system.

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