The Way of the DAO and a DAO for the Way

Emma-Jane MacKinnon-Lee
4 min readMay 18, 2021

As true in Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland as it is in modern late stage capitalist life;

It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!

Change without progress makes us all the more vulnerable to gatekeepers and other predators that are all too happy to exploit the illusion of gain. For those of us who are fluent in web3 and at ease in talking about Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) it can be really jarring to see the label “DAO” slapped on all sorts of things that are anything but. Decentralisation of capital, if even that much is sincere, isn’t enough. For a DAO to be real you also need decentralised governance, actions, coordination and motives.

But it’s not just enough to name the thing, we must also continuously check adherence to the integrity of the DAOs purpose. A commons cannot exist when its members ignore actions that are destructive to the commons. A DAO violates itself when it’s just another get rich quick scheme or capital shell game for gatekeepers.

If your token allocation table is structured for the explicit benefit of VCs, the internal team, and those purely entering for the exits, then it’s not open, it’s not a DAO, and, it’s certainly not an Open DAO.

I’m almost tempted to say that there is nothing wrong with a group of people getting together to make money through novel mechanisms for its own sake, but within the systems of the world that we live in today, that is no longer an ethical position to take. No more so than Elon continuing to play musical chairs footsie with Bitcoin and DOGE. If we are perpetuating the existing model when better is so clearly available now, then that is an intentionally harmful choice. To pretend that it is the better thing whilst it is just making money for its own sake with the old methods is even worse. This is the epitome of the Red Queen and her servants in the race. Maintaining a rigged system where to simply keep your position you have to run twice as fast.

What makes a real DAO? There is a tension inherent in that question because, in order to stay true to itself a DAO must be guided by a clear set of standards that supersede even openness to all {who can afford it}.

  1. First, to maintain the keystone standards, it’s the principles and values. To be a DAO they must truly exemplify the reasons why web3, decentralisation, DeFi, NFTs and the Metaverse exist: changing for the better the precarious reality lived by all who still need permission from some 3rd party for basic and vital choices in our lives. DAOs are a vehicle for radical personal freedom through dynamic collaboration. They are a realization mechanism for the generation of greater societal mobility for members and allies of their principles. This is an unavoidably political statement and profound insight into why this social technology is so transformative. DAOs offer a true revolution for the ways we can coordinate and what we are able to accomplish through dynamic participation, programmable incentives, open networks, and byzantine fault tolerant memory.
  2. Governance mechanisms must be progressively decentralized yet stewarded by those with vested responsibility, with clear methods to rise to greater levels of community recognition — again, beyond financial capital at stake. A DAO is not about pure majoritarian rule or a flat holacracy. Just as activity and contributions are dynamic, the weight of each member’s authority, responsibility and vote is also dynamic.
  3. A DAO must also maintain its own vitality through the surfacing of serendipitous connections and value exchange between members and adjacent ecosystems, where members gain in life thanks to the trust that grows between them through repeated interactions of surprising quality.. Discovery of meaningful signals matters, and actions by members within the DAO must match its principles and values. Every action members take must actively drive the DAO forward, far beyond the capital at stake. An incentivized co-op model, where who a DAO is made of, by, and for matters just as much as what it is about.
  4. How does one get in? Coordinated decentralisation doesn’t mean everyone who shows up to the arena gates gets in or a free for all royal rumble steal cage match. An effective ticketing system guarantees works for the benefit of the members and decentralisation overall. Just as encrypted time stamps do for blockchain. Proactive participation and skin in the game go beyond the ability to put capital at stake. Are the members engaging in actions aligned with the purpose of the DAO before they become members and is there some way to evaluate that?
  5. And finally, a real DAO must reinvest in public goods to ensure the routing of value to everything around it for lifting all boats. It’s not a charity; it’s a for-profit for-good for all model.

This is not a platonic ideal or a paean to some future dream. It’s a base realisation of what is both possible and required today to honestly walk the way of a DAO.

Hey! I’m Emma-Jane! I’m a 23 year old fashionaut amongst other things

I am the founder of DIGITALAX and a bunch of other stuff in web3. 😆

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