Governance for better futures - insights from conversation #2: 'DAO 2 DAO Co-operation'

SuperBenefit DAO is convening a series of conversations to explore how the nature of governance is evolving and its role in accelerating transitions to better futures. We’re specifically interested in how web3 technologies are enabling new thinking and ways of doing, and their potential to combine with existing practices, perspectives, and wisdom.

The first conversation we hosted was on ‘meta-governance’ - a summary of which you can find here. In this second conversation, the focus turned to what we’re seeing and learning from ‘DAO2DAO cooperation’.

The contributors

Our reflection on the conversation

Listening to this conversation reinforced the categorical differences between DAOs and the conventional organisational structures that dominate the modern economy and the landscapes of our daily lives.

Companies, charities, and public sector entities, alike, have exoskeletons and hard-wired functions that determine how and why they cooperate with each other, and also how they interact with people - which is usually, essentially, transactional in nature.

Conversely, the edges of DAOs are blurred, dynamic, and porous. In many respects, DAOs have no boundaries and are only held together by the gravity of their members’ interests, agreements, and beliefs at any point in time. They are organic, fluid, and, essentially, human (DAO = Decentralised Autonomous Organisation Organism). This is also why many of them will flourish and then fall apart.

It follows that while tools and tokens may provide the interstitial fluid within and between these organisms, the human aspects of purpose, identity, and values are more likely to determine both the success and sustainability of any inter-organism cooperation. So, although technology has enabled DAOs to emerge, it may well be the nature of the relational ties and infrastructures that enables them to evolve and thrive.

How this relates to the interplay between digital spaces and physical contexts may also be an area ripe for further exploration (might digital technologies enhance, and be enhanced by, networks and systems with existing social capital?). Indeed, this is an inquiry likely to feature in our next and final conversation of the series - ‘New and Old’.

The discussion

The text below is an attempt to capture key themes and insights from the discussion. While we have attributed points of emphasis, our summary may miss the nuance provided by the contributors and doesn't do justice to the depth of overall conversation. As a result, we encourage you to listen to a recording of the session here.

What does DAO2DAO mean to you?

  • @chaserchapman:
    • From a transactional POV - mergers, acquisitions, and services
    • More broadly - anyway DAOs engage with each other
  • @jaesmail 
    • A general term for specific interactions, often in the context of tokens
    • But the topic invites exploration of the unique interactions that DAOs can have with each other
  • @Lewwwk:
    • Provision of the tooling infrastructure that DAOs need
    • Disruptive potential in the murky boundaries around and between DAOs
    • How do we be proactive to leverage those experimental spaces to intentionally better drive futures?
  • @yeoro:
    • Essentially, the proto-space where we’re learning how decentralised groups and networks interact with each other
  • @stefdelev:
    • The dynamics of DAOs lean towards collaboration
    • Enables us to explore how we create networks and ecosystems of communities versus siloed structures and systems

What are the principles for proactive cooperation

  • @yeoro
    • If we step back and look at the larger picture, we all inhabit the same ecosystems and economies
    • So cooperation is basically about developing the tools and infrastructures to make this connectivity work better and more productively
  • @Lewwwk
    • We are going through another cycle and there seems to be a sense that we’re more intentionally experimenting with tools to fundamentally change the patterns we find in society
    • What does it mean to be proactive at this moment and instill the values we want into the new systems we’re building? How can DAOs be doing this work in a more assertive way?
  • @chaserchapman
    • There a few different ways to think about DAO2DAO, the transactional aspects are just the foundations, the exciting part comes with what we layer on top and thinking about  anything DAO2DAO as potential ‘allyship’
    • How can we collaborate and sustain this? Token swaps enable collaboration but they aren’t sufficient in themselves
    • Interesting human dynamics to explore, how do you foster feelings of allyship between networks and groups?
  • @Lewwwk:
    • I love this, what does it look like to support that human element?
    • Do we explicitly create more spaces and support for this? Feels like there is an opportunity to build allyship within the wider ecosystem so we are enabled to be intentional and proactive in creating the futures we want.
    • What does it mean to put this into practice?
  • @jaesmail:
    • When you have a more meaningful connection you see more robust collaboration around projects
  • @stefdelev
    • Interesting to look at the ‘mafia form’ of DAOs (e.g., Seed Club, MetaCartel) - these communities have a strong sense of identity and individuals who have deep relationships with one another - these are really important facilitators of cooperation
  • @Lewwwk:
    • Interesting to see how full networks and ecosystems are interacting with each other.
    • Celo is an example of an emerging ecosystem that has a focused orientation but a lot  of diversity around that shared interest
    • Placing a new DAO in these existing networks is like placing a new plant in a forest - it’s able to draw on shared soil and nutrients.
    • The idea of ecosystem first - a fertile network can help other projects grow. Makes me think of how we build the tooling to reinforce these ecosystems and the growth of the connections between these ecosystems?

How far can token swaps take us?

  • Stefdelev
    • There’s always a negotiation process - what does this DAO’s approach to collaboration look like? How does it benefit all those involved?
    • Cooperation needs to be as optimal as possible for both communities
    • Values are important but so are the practical aspects of any potential partnership
  • @yeoro:
    • Are token swaps as we are using them now creating smaller pods between DAOs who collaborate in their own ways?
  • @chaserchapman
    • Token swaps are such a big question mark - surprising how much energy goes into meta-governance? Does it feel like there is a priority to do something more with it?
  • @stefdelev:
    • Governance focuses on the contributor - how to connect wider dots between large networks and communities?
  • @jaesmail:
    • There is a very real chance that the relationships between these communities now is at the extent of where they can be, and that’s okay
  • @Lewwwk:
    • On the flipside, swaps can act as signal or beacon - can sparks something unexpected

DAO2DAO cooperation vs. competition and the future of work?

  • @chaserchapman
    • Interesting to compare DAOs and the gig economy - both have individuals as the atomic unit of work
    • DAOs offer the same freedom but in the context of a community, and the knowledge economy demands more than individual people
    • The aim of Orca Pods - offer freedom, fluidity and collaboration within DAO2DAO relationships
  • @chaserchapman
    • Competition playing out in different ways
    • In an idealist version people don’t compete (‘neighbours not competitors’) but how this plays out in reality will be dependent on the market. How will DAOs offering similar products really interact?
    • Changing labour conditions and markets might impact human-level alignment
  • @stefdelev
    • Beyond rhetoric, the dynamics of DAOs change the nature of competition
    • People are working and contributing to multiple DAOs, sometimes ones that are competing with each other
    • You can compete but be more aware and not try to wipe each other out - ‘If I win, you win; if I lose, you lose’
    • Contributions in one DAO can also be helpful to another - being active in different DAOs can be a multiplier to both - different to how traditional workplaces think
    • As the influx of people into DAOs continues, it will be important that people don’t just enter what already exists, there needs to be constant creation of new DAOs and sub-DAOs
  • @yeoro
    • Organic structure of DAOs is a key enabler of innovation, productivity, and adaptation
    • Atomic units of DAOs can naturally evolve into larger and faster networks without becoming monolithic and rigid entities
    • Competition will have different dimensions, including values - what is it that draws and keeps people together?

How can DAO2DAO networks create learning systems?

  • @yeoro
    • Two facilitators - information flows and the capacity for organic reshaping
    • How does information flow across the network and enable network intelligence to grow with it?
    • As energy forms around ideas and activities that are important, their shape evolves and they become more prevalent in the DAO. This also shapes new information flows
  • @chaserchapman
    • Organisational honesty has to proceed the sharing of learning
    • Regardless of the strength of a community, if you are not willing to be honest with yourselves and others on what isn’t working then we will not get far on shared learnings as you may be sharing make-believes. Honesty validates learning
  • @Lewwwk
    • Wave of people coming in and working across multiple DAOs - this can create mass pollination
    • How do we encourage people to join more DAOs  and grow the potential to weave relationships, knowledge, and interests

What does collaborative defiance mean and how DAOs can enable it?

  • @stefdelev 
    • The idea is based on shifting paradigms and pushing back on what exists
    • It’s a political move - you can’t really get away from it
  • @Lewwwk:
    • Would love to see more at this moment
    • What can we do to make defiance less reactive and more proactive? Feels like there is a window to be explicit about what we want to create
    • A lot of focus on funding public goods in novel ways - e.g., voluntary carbon markets
  • @yeoro:
    • There is a standard challenge in the impact/social innovation space - how do you keep that mission/values alignment when things change in size and capital has its effect?
    • We need governance mechanisms to retain alignment around mission when scaling happens.
    • How can individuals and smaller groups command access to treasuries to follow emergent energies without getting constrained by bureaucracy (or a majority)?
  • @chaserchapman:
    • Models where you can ‘rage quit’ your funds from the treasury, but an extreme measure
    • There is a lot of potential functionality that can be used to change controls around treasuries, but this comes with tradeoffs that a lot of DAOs aren’t willing to make, but that may be an area for further change

Coming up…

If this caught your interest, join us for the next conversations. On June 30, 6.30-7.30 PM (EST), the conversation will explore: ‘New and old - what can Web3 learn from and contribute to existing governance perspectives and practices?’. Set a Twitter reminder here.

You may also be interested in…

Some other governance discovery being undertaken by @SuperBenefitDAO:

Summary produced by: @AlexHannant and @TarynLucas6

Image credit: Nick Pitsas, CSIRO

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