A Multi-DAO Contributor Shares Everything on DAOs
I interview Saf of Gitcoin and Dream DAO also previously with Protein and Bankless DAO on how DAOs operate
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are a new way of organizing people. DAOs are defined as internet native communities that come together around a common purpose. They are distributed teams with democratic governance and autonomous workflows powered by smart contracts on the blockchain.
There is a lot of talk around what DAOs are and how they function. Everyone has a different view. To get to the truth of the matter on DAOs I interviewed Saf a multi- DAO contributor. Saf is a full-time contributor at Gitcoin DAO and a volunteer with Dream DAO. He previously held roles at Bankless and Protein DAO.
How did you get into DAOs?
It was around May 2021, I started looking into web3 projects. I started with the big projects like Ethereum and Polygon and started degen investing into them. I read about Ethereum and what it does. I was learning about the technology that I was investing in. It just opened my eyes to a whole new world that I was really excited about all of a sudden. It showed me the potential that it had.
I think what got me most excited is the potential it had for solving coordination problems.
I've always been a people oriented person. I saw Ethereum and other blockchain technologies to be a very exciting technology that's helping solve coordination problems.
For the first 4-5months that I was in this space I was just reading, learning and lurking on Discords. Not really plugging in, just absorbing a lot of information. And then in November last year I actually started.
The first DAO I started contributing to was Bankless DAO. They're a media DAO.
I've always had an interest in writing even though I had no prior experience. Bankless has a writers guild and that's what I joined. I started writing articles for them. It was just super exciting to me because with no professional background in writing, I was able to write articles that were well received and I also got paid for them.
There's not a lot of opportunities like that in web2 where you can just show up as yourself.
At the DAOs there’s no kind of job description. It's like here's the DAO, this is the kind of stuff that we're doing. You plug in wherever you want, wherever your interests and your skills lie. And you really get to hone in on what your niche is. I spent so much of those first few months in DAOs just figuring out what I enjoy doing.
So I was writing for a little bit and that gave me a lot of energy but then I also want to be somewhere that aligns with my values.
In traditional web2 you would have to quit a job then go through the interview process. That's like super high friction. In web3, I could just be like, okay, I like part of this, but I don't like this particular thing about this organization. How about I do the same thing in this different organization and I just got to really fine-tune my interests and skills.
And it was just a really good self-discovery journey as well. So yes I started at Bankless DAO then I found some more value aligned DAOs. The first of which was Dream DAO.
Dream DAO is an amazing Impact DAO that trains and funds Gen Z civic innovators. I got involved with Dream DAO and through them I met a bunch of really cool people. I then ended up in Protein DAO.
In Protein DAO I was on the core team. Protein is a social impact web3 project. I helped run their accelerator program for a few months.
Now I'm full time in Gitcoin.
Gitcoin I think is like the most prolific regen web3 project. We help build and fund digital public goods.
What’s your role at Gitcoin DAO?
I do People Operations at Gitcoin. That basically entails doing HR related and community management stuff. I'm super excited about this space.
I quit my steady stable job at a university to go full time crypto and at a not so great time in the market. So obviously I really believe in it and I see a bright future for it.
You said you worked with Bankless initially and you got paid. Do DAOs pay in their token or in fiat?
It’s different for every DAO. Protein pays in USDC but Bankless pays in BANK token. At Gitcoin I get my salary in GTC. At Dream DAO I’m a volunteer so I don’t get paid anything.
What can you do with the BANK tokens? Do you get any rights over Bankless media, like in terms of having a say in matters. How does the token help?
Bankless is a governance token like a lot of other DAO governance tokens. So basically it represents ownership in the organization, like you can basically vote using your BANK tokens for the different proposals and stuff. I'm not super familiar with how Bankless governance works. I left before I really dived into that.
What does your typical day look like?
I plan my days at the beginning of the week. I write down what I need to get done for each DAO. Gitcoin is my full-time job.
With Dream DAO I love what they're doing. I play a champion role there where you're kind of mentoring bright Gen Z students. It's pretty hands-off for the most part. I occasionally check in and make sure that things are happening and give people a nudge. If anyone has any questions I answer them. So that doesn't take too much of my time, maybe like 5-10 hours a week with Dream DAO.
With Gitcoin because the work is so self directed you really have to plan your day well. At Gitcoin we use OKRs to plan for the work that needs to get done over the course of a season. A season is equivalent to a quarter.
At Gitcoin my work involves looking at the KPIs and to develop initiatives to meet those KPIs and then work on them with the People Ops team. A typical day can be quite varied. Like right now for the moment I'm working on a compensation framework. So it's a lot of research and writing. I spend a lot of the day writing out what this compensation framework for Gitcoin might look like. At the same time I'm also doing some community management stuff.
I like to split my days between what I'm going to do before and after lunch. Often when there is community stuff to do I try to focus on the comp stuff before lunch and then after lunch I switch my focus to community management.
It's required a lot of learning and iterating on my part to figure out how to do DAO work effectively. I don't think I'm still amazing at it. I think everyone kind of struggles with it. There's like constant attention pulls in all sorts of directions just because there's so much to do. It's very self-directed.
What are the various tools that are being used for team collaboration? Is it all on Discord or do you also use email?
We use Discord for communication primarily.
People don't use email very much. It's kind of seen as a web2, formal construct.
We use Google Calendar for planning and meetings. For documentation we use Notion - it's like a prettier version of Google Docs and has more functionality. We use Miro for collaboration. Miro is a tool we use frequently in all the DAOs that I'm part of. It's a digital whiteboard that allows people to collaborate effectively.
I'm just curious how often do you check in with each other? Like, do you have face-to-face meetings every day or once a week or a month?
At Dream DAO we don't have too many meetings. We mostly work asynchronously. There are meetings throughout the week but they're not mandatory to attend. They're usually hangouts and “learning together” sessions. They're not necessarily like work meetings.
At Gitcoin we have once a week, weekly workstream updates. This is where everyone, all the core contributors of the DAO, gets together and share updates from their own workstream.
Workstream is what we call our departments.
So there's that weekly workstream meeting. And I also have a one-on-one every week with the People Ops team and also with the community experience team because I'm also doing some community management.
So there are quite a few meetings throughout the week. For me, most of my meetings are concentrated on Wednesday and Thursday. Like Thursdays for example are full of meetings. So I can't get much else done other than meetings. But I think it's intentionally designed. So for example Mondays and Fridays, I don't have any meetings so I can just focus on deep work.
How does your work get recognized at different DAOs?
Protein and Gitcoin DAO are both established mature projects. For both of those organizations I get paid a salary and that's one way of recognition.
Dream DAO is completely volunteer work. We're hoping to add compensation as we get greater funding but so far it's entirely volunteer-based. I don't get paid for what I do at Dream DAO. Members express their appreciation through 🌮, where if someone does something that you appreciate you give them virtual tacos on Discord and there's a leaderboard of tacos.
So it's a fun way and I genuinely appreciate getting 🌮. It makes me feel good. Shows me that I'm doing things that are appreciated and valuable. That's kind of how we compensate or reward people in Dream DAO for now.
At Gitcoin we get paid. We also at the weekly workstream meetings express gratitudes towards different people.
I feel like the work is its own reward. In the sense that the work you're doing has a pretty big impact on these DAOs. And these DAOs have an impact on the world. So to me the work itself feels very rewarding.
Are DAOs leaderless or is there a leader?
That's a great question.
DAOs are purported as these kind of leaderless, flat organizations, and that's not always true, and it's not always a good thing to have an organization that's completely flat.
At Dream DAO our founder Gary Sheng was our de facto leader. He recently stepped down from his position to pursue another project. But Gary was kind of doing a lot of the direction setting.
A leader isn't the same as a boss. So there's definitely leaders in DAOs but no one really feels like they're my boss.
A leader is basically to provide a sense of accountability. Like they're kind of nudging you towards the OKRs at Gitcoin. They'll provide the resources and support when you need it. They'll generally make sure that the work stream or the DAO is headed in the direction that it needs to head and course correct.
It doesn't feel hierarchical.
What I'm learning through working at DAOs is it's possible to have leaders - people who take ownership and take responsibility for leading something while at the same time not letting it become a rigid hierarchy. That's kind of the structures of the current DAOs I'm in.
What does voting look like in the DAOs you are working at? DAOs are supposed to be democratic in their decision-making. And also does every matter come up for voting or is it only the top level matters?
It depends on the DAO. Each DAO has a slightly different governance style.
At Dream DAO we vote on a lot of things. Basically any change that needs to be made goes up to vote. I've expressed a few times that I think we like overdo it. Sometimes I think a lot of things that don't need to be voted on come up for voting and that slows down work and adds friction. But it's very democratic which obviously has its own merit.
Where as at Gitcoin the voting is very high level
Every quarter the DAO votes on budgets for each work stream. Work streams are like different departments. So each department every quarter will prepare a budget for what they need to get done for the next quarter. They will obviously create a compelling case for why their work is necessary, how much funding it needs etc etc. And then the DAO votes to approve those budgets or not.
Then these often lead to very lively discussions. Like just this past season we had one work stream that in the steward's opinion was asking too much money. And there were several rounds of negotiations and that work stream ended up cutting their proposed budget by I think almost 50% by the end of it.
Like those governance decisions can get quite lively.
So voting takes place for quarterly budgets and then after that it's basically the work stream contributors meeting and doing whatever it takes to reach the OKRs that were promised for the budget. There's no kind of unnecessary friction after that point.
Are they different voting styles used in the DAOs you are associated with? What platforms do you use to vote on decisions?
At Dream DAO we use NFTs as our voting token. In Dream DAO it's one person, one vote. It doesn't matter if you have like 10 NFTs it does not give you 10 votes. We use Snapshot for our voting at Dream DAO.
Gitcoin has a much more complex governance process because we're a mature DAO and have a lot more resources than Dream DAO. At Gitcoin we use delegated voting.
Delegated voting basically means that not every member of the community or every token holder has the time or the resources to participate actively in governance.
The governance tasks involve reading all the different kinds of governance proposals, being active in the governance forum and being very aware and on top of the matters.
What we do at Gitcoin is we delegate our tokens to someone in the community who is active and responsible and has expressed interest in participating actively in governance. We delegate our tokens to them.
Stewards are the people who are designated as these voting delegates.
We use steward health - kind of like report cards that basically gives you an overview of all the different kinds of stewards that we have.
The steward health cards will tell you how often is this person voting? Like, are they living up to their promise of being an active participant in governance. If the person you've delegated tokens to isn't participating then you can un-delegate your tokens and delegate them to someone else.
Also if they're not voting the way that you want them to, then you can delegate your tokens to someone else.
At Gitcoin in terms of tooling we have soft voting which is off-chain that uses Snapshot. That's kind of like where the initial vote happens. For workstream budget proposals “first approve vote” will happen on Snapshot. And then once the Snapshot vote is approved we'll do another vote on Tally which is like an on-chain voting tool.
The Tally vote is the autonomous part of the Gitcoin DAO where if the vote on tally passes then funds will flow from the Gitcoin DAO multisig to the work streams multisig autonomously.
I have a question about Dream DAO. You said 1 person 1 NFT 1 vote. So they issue NFTs to members. Can people then flip the NFTs? Like is it transferable?
NFTs are transferable. People can purchase NFTs on the OpenSea or mint NFTs. Yes they are transferable.
If I buy Dream DAO NFT on OpenSea then do I get to vote and have a say in their matters?
Absolutely. If you mint an NFT or if you buy one on the secondhand market that'll give you one vote in Dream DAO governance.
My next question is about safety. How do you stay safe online? What kind of measures do you take personally and as a DAO?
I don't do a lot of degen trading and that shields me from the crypto scams, and also that's where they generally tend to originate.
Scams are a huge problem in crypto and I try to stay safe by not clicking on any links that I don't recognize.
I don't participate in any centralized DeFi protocols which I'm super grateful for now, like with the stuff happening with Celsius. I haven't put any of my money in anything that's centralized and is subject to being locked up.
I obviously store my seed phrase somewhere safe and make sure not to share it with anyone.
For the DAO treasury management we use Gnosis multisig wallet. And that basically means for someone to take funds out of that it needs a signature from multiple people. We have like seven signatories and at least four of them have to sign to move funds out of the treasury.
So basically someone would have to hack four different people's computers which is quite unlikely and have them sign a transaction at the same time.
Do you have any advice for people who'd like to contribute to DAOs? Like what kind of mindset should they enter with? Especially since lots of people are coming from traditional organizations and are used to traditional working styles and DAOs are so radically different.
The biggest thing in this space is you really need to be very outspoken, very proactive and very self-directed to go anywhere in this space. There's often no direction and there's very little structure or organization in DAOs.
The people who thrive and do the best are the people who show up at a Discord and spend some time observing what's going on.
Like identify a need that the community has whether it's in their product or how the community is run or whether it's in governance or any other area that interests you. Just like proactively post and say, “Hey, I notice this thing needs to get done. I'm just gonna do it” Like you don't even ask - Hey, can I do it? It's like, I've done it.
And you do that with smaller things and that builds trust with the community and then people will start giving you more and more tasks and give you greater responsibility.
That's literally how I joined all the DAOs that I'm in right now in by just posting on the Discord and saying, "Hey, I love what you're all doing. I did this thing for free because you know I care about what you're doing.” And then people are like, oh, wow, well, thanks for doing this. And here's other stuff that needs to get done in this similar area.
So you just have to be really proactive, really outspoken.
You can't really be a shy person in a DAO right now. Not that there's anything wrong with being shy but like the way the space is structured right now you just have to be very comfortable with putting yourself out there.
It's very entrepreneurial, right? Nobody is telling you to finish this but you got to take the responsibility and finish it on time. Right? It's a different mindset you approach DAOs with. Do you have room for experimentation? Like can you run a side project that might greatly help the DAO?
There's room for experimentation within the OKRs for the season. Like within my own workstream for example with the compensation framework there's no set box that I need to fit that compensation in. So I can dream up a bunch of different things and experiment and propose them to my work stream and see if they're up for experimenting with them.
I’m creating that from scratch. So there's that type of flexibility. But outside of your OKRs I think the way that DAO work is structured, I don't think anyone will mind if you're doing something that's valuable to the DAO and it's not necessarily in your job description.
In fact, that's very appreciated and that'll give you greater recognition or clout in the DAO if you are creating things that are valuable.
So this just leads me to my next question. Do you have job descriptions? And do you get promoted? How does it work at Gitcoin since it's a mature organization and must be having processes in place?
Gitcoin the organization has been around since 2017. But the DAO is just a year old. So while we have good structures and processes in place from the past like from our centralized company which ran like any other tech company, the DAO itself and the whole decentralization part of it is only about a year old.
We're learning as we go. And that's a really good question, that's basically what I'm working on with this comp framework. It is giving people opportunities to level up.
Currently, we do have job descriptions at Gitcoin but honestly those job descriptions are super loose
Like for myself I definitely like the job description part I was hired for but it's not what I'm spending most of my time doing these days.
My role has just evolved and I've only been here over two months. We have role descriptions or job descriptions when we're hiring, but once that person is in, that really evolves on what that person's interests are and how they align with the needs of the DAO.
Great. Are there any promotions? Do you move up the ladder?
There are no promotions at the moment and that's something that we would like to get better at is to have some sort of a leveling matrix or like a leveling framework that gives people the opportunity to level up when they want to.
But for the moment there's no promotions. But what you can do obviously is take on more responsibility and if you feel like you're doing more work you can ask for a higher salary during the next budget round.
DAOs are not hierarchical, you don't necessarily ask your boss.
It's like you talk to your workstream leader about it. And if they find that this is obviously something that's important and valuable to the DAO then they'll ask for funding for it from the stewards in the next budget round. And if that gets approved then you get a higher salary.
So even promotions themselves are very self-directed if that makes sense.
Yes it does. Thank you so much Saf. You've shared a lot of information on how DAOs operate and are different from traditional organizations.
I 💯 agree they are different. I'm also living it every single day with my DAO studying Impact DAOs and we are building it up from scratch. ♦️
🎙 Saf was interviewed on June 21st, 2022 as part of the Impact DAOs research project. This is what he said about our project👇
I love the work you're doing with writing the book on Impact DAOs. I think there's definitely a need for aggregating all of this knowledge and a lot of the data that's kind of building around Impact DAOs.
This post is part of a series on the Impact DAOs Research + Book project. This project is by a collective of folks in web3 + impact + media. The team members on Twitter are @tranimal, @katerinabohlec, @Abeers123, @Poplinecreation, @crystaldstreet, @0xSardius, @karanth_harsha, @actThreeCC, @0xSiddhearta, @Value_Strat, @zaldarren, @astrocruz_s, @ashisharora27 + Kim on LI
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.