Building an Impact DAO: What I Learned in 6 Months
60 lessons from building a high performing Impact DAO Media
In May of 2022, I founded a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) to study and document the world of Impact DAOs. This led to the creation of the book, The Definitive Guide to Impact DAOs and the launch of a podcast called All About Impact DAOs.
In short six months, our DAO achieved a great deal. We built the research infrastructure, identified the most mature Impact DAOs, crowdfunded twice on Gitcoin, and conducted one-on-one interviews with 30 builders. Our Discord community grew to include 150 members, with more than 25 actively contributing to the project. Our culture was that of a startup DAO, characterized by a high level of energy, experimentation, and forward momentum.
Here are 60 top learnings I gained from building Impact DAO Media from the ground up. A monthly log of my raw learnings as the DAO progressed from the start to the completion of the project.
DAOs do need a leader initially that galvanizes the team and sets the course. But once the initial work’s done new leaders emerge.
Assess member skill sets to see where one can be most effective. Also get to know them, have conversations this is the best way to form relationships.
Category and channel creation on Discord should be planned. You can start of organically but as work grows create / merge channels to suit the current work-flow. Each category is like a department with sub-channels.
Onboarding is important. Show new folks the way around on Discord and be available to answer.
With our project I feel like we are a movie crew - different folks with relevant skill sets have come together to create a beautiful movie (write a book) together.
Always remember to stay humble
Make effort to engage folks on the sidelines in your Discord
Once you promote your work and people learn about it you’ll start finding alignment, others wanting to join in.
Be on Discord everyday even if it's just for 20 mins.
Shine the light on all active contributors - promote them, give them credit internally and on social media.
Define workstreams and list out all micro tasks
Roles will become clearer as you move along. Specifically seek out contributors for those roles
State the obvious - it's not always obvious.
Get to know your folks, DM for check-in
Define values, in case anyone deviates it's a good reminder
Let people lead and trust them for it. Train and enable them to be permissionless
Keep pushing forward whether you are left with 5, 2 or 1 contributor. You go to run the show, your constant progress will inspire people to rejoin or new ones to join
It was a great idea to have people apply to participate in the DAO since you can screen them and get to know their work in advance.
It was great to offer learning and non monetary tokens as an incentive to join since that attracted people with right values / outlook.
It was awesome to watch @frogmonkee.eth talk on DAOs and delegation on DAY2 of our DAO. My biggest takeaway from the talk was decision making fatigue that contributors face and the need for smaller groups to work on tasks. After DAY 2 of watching this video I aligned everything for this and it has worked like magic in terms of constantly moving forward at speed.
You need more coordination initially and less later once work is defined, clearly communicated and owned by team members. Trust the team to deliver with occasional check-ins
Have fun, take enough breaks. As a collaborative project everyone owns different pieces and that’s the beauty of co-creating
DAOs are a 24hr organization because of the distributed nature of people. Once roles are defined and tasks are clear people come and check-in their own time zone.
To stay on top of DAO activities it’s best to check-in Discord every day for 15mins or else one will miss tons of convos and may feel overwhelmed. Or like our DAO member BonzoB!3 (on Discord) who has committed to help but can only do one day a week shows up every time on that day goes through all channels, comments, does the work and shows up next week on that day to stay on top and contribute.
DAOs need self driven folks with entrepreneurial mindset who seek solutions rather than problems.
Somebody in the DAO needs to do top level planning, pre-empting issues, next steps, keep removing blockers and propelling the team forward. It could be one person or a core team.
Keep moving forward and showing progress is the key to keep the team energized and attract new contributors
28. DAOs don’t need to be tool heavy. Keep it simple
You don’t have to have all the answers on Day 1, not all processes defined on Day 1. You don’t need to be perfect on Day 1. Just get started and keep building. You’ll learn, you’ll iterate, you’ll add and evolve.
Our scrappy DAO is starting to professionalize. We are putting incentive structures, delivery deadlines for micro tasks and in the process of setting up a multi-sig.
Money is a great enabler but also brings new dynamics into play. Try to minimize the toxicity that money can bring.
Value folks with passion and desire to learn above all.
On Discord try to keep the noise low and signal high. For minor collabs with teammates open a DM channel or start a thread.
Don’t form hard opinions early. Thoroughly explore and understand the topic and have an opinion but never too hard as the landscape keeps evolving.
The best way to eliminate toxicity is to define values and have open participatory discussions around budget so you have the consensus early on. Anybody who deviates can be reminded of the values and the budget.
Make your DAO permissionless, enable them with great documentation and training to operate freely in alignment with the mission.
Make every member feel included even the ones who are not yet active but have shown interest, keep pulling them in the convo and give them credits on social.
Make everyone the spokesperson by providing good documentation and media training if necessary.
Operate with the spirit of largeness, in alignment with the web3 values of transparency, inclusivity and fairness.
The collective expertise and intrinsic motivation DAOs bring is unbeatable.
Stay true to the mission. Review every decision from the mission lens, is it going to help fulfill the mission. Very important to find partners that align with both mission and values.
42. A realization on what DAOs really are
Sense the vibe of your team even if they are not saying anything openly. Be very aware of their feelings and views and bring up those topics for open discussions.
Dangers of hyper financialization in terms of putting a $ value for every task. Be aware, find a balance and continue to attract contributors that are driven by passion and purpose first.
Patience is a quality I need to develop. In an interview with Ben of Gitcoin DAO he mentioned patience as being an important quality in a DAO setting. As distributed teams we need to at-least have a 24-36hrs turnaround time before jumping in to either doing the task yourself or making decisions.
Seek out folks with very specific skills sets as the job requirements gets clearer.
Work with folks that are driven by passion first than money. You can never fail when you have a team of genuinely passionate people.
Onboarding should be a human experience and not driven by bots.
It’s okay to slow down, lift your head up and socialize. Attend events, form relationships with the larger community. I attended my very first web3 event, Eth Toronto.
Learned a great deal about voting in DAOs. I had a pushback in our DAO for not voting enough and hence not being DAO enough. We had a month-long deliberation and vote on two most important DAO matters - DAOs to be included in the study and the budget. Rest everything else discussed in discord. That incident led me to investigate DAOs and their fascination for voting.
Pods > Workstreams. Pods, small groups of 4-5 people allows for clear responsibilities and efficient coordination. By this time we moved to a pod model with multiple pods set-up which were essentially Discord group chat. Our book writing pod was set-up on Twitter group chat as the members preferred Twitter over Discord.
Have payment policies in place (e.g. how often, invoicing, scope of work, terms of release)
Set-up a pod just to review bounty work. We never did any reviews and this is one of my big learnings as I ended up redoing most of the work we paid to get done.
Automate task management and payments. We didn’t, we tried using Dework but it didn’t work for us and so we ended up doing all accounting manually on a spreadsheet. Have a strong intent to embrace the tech tools in your DAO. The efficiency it brings is unbeatable.
Have a budget and stick to it for fair allocation. It also helps deal with hard money conversations. Also keep emotions out. If one thing I’d like to be smart contract enabled is the budget for emotionless fair auto disbursement of funds
Avoid being a central point of coordination. I ended up being one (as the only full time contributor) and it left me exhausted.
DAO knowledge management super essential. Take time to document everything that’s happened in your DAO and everything you are working on. Have a visual map to guide newcomers.
Leaders eat last. Take care of your contributors first.
Strive for a team that’s driven by mission first. Do a culture reset if needed, start all over again if needed. That’s the beauty of DAOs
How to start a DAO? Our story
The tweet that launched Impact DAO Media
About 15 people responded to the initial call for contributors. We launched the DAO on a Zoom call and had an after party in Discord.
Meet you in the New Year 🎉