Reflections on Proposal 63: Recommendations for ongoing stewardship of Hub governance

Introduction

Throughout the past six months, Hypha Worker Co-operative has been involved in the drafting, deliberation, and promotion of 6 out of 13 proposals (#65, #66, #69, #72, #74, #75). Of those 13 proposals, 9 have had discussion posts on the forum. We have participated in numerous public and private calls and conversations about the state of governance on the Hub and paid close attention to how deliberation and decision-making is taking shape in our network. In our previous post, we reported on our deliverables and projects following Proposal 63: Activate governance discussions on the Discourse forum using community pool funds. Here, we present our observations, recommendations, and vision for the ongoing stewardship of governance on the Hub.

What should the Hub’s governance stewards care about?

While governance on the Hub feels smoother than before, we observe a few persistent themes that will remain important for ongoing stewardship. These issues are deep, widespread, and constantly evolving – hence the need for conscious ongoing work to address them.

In six months we were able to make significant progress but everything in the ecosystem evolves at a rapid pace, including governance. Thus keeping up with new changes and making good long-term contributions to the space requires a continuous process.

Governance on the Hub is still inaccessible.

Information and tooling required to participate in both on-chain and off-chain governance processes are still missing, out of date, or hard to find. The process of creating and updating documentation is time-consuming and opaque for anyone not already deeply involved in governance.

Existing documentation on tooling and processes is scattered and hard to find, and it can be difficult to even confirm that a given tool exists (e.g., simple multisig management). We also simply lack the tools to help with common tasks in governance, such as proposal submission, adding deposits to existing proposals, and alerting for pre-chain proposal threads.

Without the scaffolding to help new participants engage in governance, we end up with valuable ideas that never make it past the “wishful thinking” stage (e.g., A tweet, forum post, or mention in a call) because the next steps to propose them are too opaque. Discussion on complex topics is throttled or limited to a few in-the-know people because the context required to understand a proposal is so high that newcomers who want to make proposals are judged or penalized for not following unspoken norms.

Governance on the Hub can feel adversarial.

Governance right now is largely an area where we see the same repeating figures expressing opinions, making proposals, and sitting on multisig committees. The tone of discussion on platforms such as Twitter result in the loudest voices controlling the narrative around complex topics that deserve nuanced attention.

With many parties voicing strong opinions, participating in governance can feel tense and unwelcoming. This phenomena is so well recognized that ‘DPS’ (Drama Per Second) has become a lighthearted initialism to point out moments when tensions are particularly high. It is true that the best ideas can only be born out of dialogue. But if community members refrain from participating in governance due to the tone of the debates, we risk losing out on new ideas and nurturing the next generation of political leaders in the ecosystem.

Governance lacks creativity.

The prevailing way that proposals show up on the Hub is for someone to propose a solution to a problem, for them to receive feedback on that idea, and have others vote on only that single solution. Due to this process we tend to fixate on one idea at a time before we have even defined the problem space, and that means we are bound to miss good alternative solutions.

Proposals also show up on-chain without ever having a public discussion period to explore alternatives or dig deeper into the problem at hand (e.g., Proposal #76 Require a minimum 5% commission for all validator nodes).

Other proposals have open discussion posts but do not seem to get much attention until they are on-chain and can no longer be changed. Often these proposals are context- and tech-heavy (e.g., Proposal #72 Bringing Liquid Staking and DeFi to the Cosmos Hub with Interchain Security) and critical questions are only asked and answered once there is no way to change the proposal.

Stewardship isn’t just a single kind of work.

We’ve been working on Hub governance as a primary focus in 2022, and one of the biggest internal takeaways is that there are many layers that make up ‘good governance’. Some are best seen from above – looking at the shape of the ecosystem and network as a whole, while others are best seen from the ground. Still other layers of work connect these two ideas and keep the entire governance system in sync.

In the ongoing stewardship of governance on the Hub, we have split the work into three categories. We believe that these categories make it easier to plan for the future, whether it is for hiring, budgeting, or simply figuring out what needs to happen next.

FOREST UNDERGROWTH TREE
Zeynep Sümer via Unsplash @will_myers via Unsplash @anniespratt via Unsplash
Viewed from above, a forest is an enormous, interconnected entity that can’t be broken down into smaller parts. The perspective is so wide that details are hard to see. Beneath the canopy there is undergrowth that connects each individual tree and creates a larger organism. From here you can connect the forest to the trees. From the ground, each tree becomes distinct and it is harder to keep track of the forest as a whole. Details are clearer but the big picture is lost.

Forest work: Guiding the work of governance

Forest work is future-oriented thinking and steering of the governance system. It takes the big picture into account without necessarily keeping track of details. It is often slow, thoughtful work that requires an enormous amount of context and awareness of the space.

People well-suited to forest work have probably been around for a long time and have insight into the social and technical network of involved people and projects. Maybe they have worked with other foundations, worked on similarly-sized governance projects, or have been active as a protocol politician before. Forest work does not happen every day, but it takes a lot of time and energy when it is needed.

Examples of forest work:

  • Defining the problem spaces in governance without immediately proposing solutions (such as through an RFP process).
  • Developing rules of engagement and processes (i.e., Theorizing and drafting proposals for the community to ratify governance behavior/processes).
  • Identifying and prioritizing key governance concerns on the Hub.

Tree work: Keeping the system going

Tree work is the day-to-day ongoing work that keeps the governance system flowing smoothly. It is about the nitty-gritty, on-the-ground tasks that are required to even have a forest in the first place! This labor is always needed, so it is important to have many people who are able to do it.

Skilled tree workers might be social media managers, community managers, and writers, who have experience with organizing, marketing and operations.

Examples of tree work:

  • Pushing forward proposals relating to new rules of engagement (i.e., Posting them to the forum, soliciting feedback, and promoting on Twitter).
  • Assisting new proposal makers through the process of producing thorough, well thought-out drafts and socializing them.
  • Encouraging validator participation in governance.
  • Being a governance watchdog, noticing when entities are engaging in behaviour not aligned with the Hub’s Rules of Engagement, and calling attention to them.
  • Ensuring that Cosmos Hub documentation is up to date and accurate.

Undergrowth work: Connecting the two perspectives

Undergrowth work is intermediary work, sometimes on a timeline of weeks or months, that bridges the gap between the big picture and daily work. It looks at how big ideas can be detailed and what kind of support would make the ongoing work easier.

People who know how to do undergrowth work likely have experience with both the ongoing work of keeping a system afloat and with longer-term planning and development. They may have experience working with a validator or node operator, or they are knowledgeable about code contributions and tooling.

Examples of undergrowth work:

  • Refining and gathering input on major theoretical ideas about governance.
  • Clarifying the governance implications of conversations about the Hub (e.g., Interchain security, liquid staking) for a less governance-aware audience.
  • Ensuring that accessible tooling exists for governance tasks on the Hub (e.g. Proposal alert systems, multisig builder, proposal maker, deposit contributions).
  • Soliciting or producing educational content on tooling and process.

The Hub Governance DAO.

To organize and facilitate the ongoing work we recommend, a DAO should be formed. With the launch of the Groups Module in the Rho release, we will be in a position to build this DAO on-chain. Governance is a tool for everyone on the Hub, and so a governance DAO should be accountable to all Hub stakeholders – token holders, core teams, validators, etc. The recently released Cosmos Hub vision document suggests the formation of councils. We recommend that the Governance DAO can exist as one such council.

Mission

We recommend that the Hub Governance DAO enrich governance deliberations by bringing diverse and balanced perspectives into the conversation, and make decision-making processes accessible and transparent to all. It would help stakeholders on the Hub share power and work together, including protecting minority voices and developing high value ideas into on-chain proposals. As stewards of good governance on the Cosmos Hub, the DAO would develop and refine proposals that the community can adopt as part of the Hub’s Rules of Engagement.

Membership

Individuals that make up the DAO will always bring their own perspectives. When acting independently, they may therefore act in non-neutral ways. As a whole, the DAO must show credible neutrality, which can be best ensured by having diversity in membership.

We have found that stewarding governance is a job that requires excellent writing and communicating skills, appreciation for process and detail, and a strong sense of empathy for others involved in the space. Naturally, stewards of Hub governance must also be aligned with the Hub in the long-term, not in it for the short-term payoff.

There are many ways to measure such qualities, such as:

  • Participation in the Cosmos Hub Forum: Discourse-assigned trust levels based on how long an account has been around and how regularly they contribute.
  • **Community recognition: **Enthusiastic and responsible governance participation tends to be noticed on the forum, Twitter, and various community calls. New members could be invited by existing members based on being known within the space.
  • Written application: Publishing a statement about what they want to contribute to the Hub governance system and how they are going to do it.

Examples of membership criteria from other governance teams are useful to see how other governance-focused groups are operating in the decentralized web space.

MakerDAO: GovAlpha Core Unit Team

  • You appreciate the value of doing good work for its own sake.
  • You are able to dedicate more than 8 hours a week to the role.
  • You are able to demonstrate general competence in your work activities.
  • You are comfortable taking initiative and self-directing.
  • You are comfortable having and expressing opinions.
  • You are comfortable changing your mind in the face of evidence.
  • You are able to explain why you are a good fit for working on the GovAlpha mandate.

Secret Network: SCRT Governance Committee

  • Be kind, respectful, display integrity, and objectivity.
  • Promote healthy and professional discussion.
  • Foster an inclusive and collaborative environment for all members.
  • Share governance-related content, knowledge, and resources with other members and the larger community to foster the use and adoption of Secret Network.
  • Contribute and/or lead Secret Network governance-focused projects, efforts, and initiatives in a manner that fits your skills, background, or experience and the respective project, effort, or initiative’s needs.
  • Encourage collaboration between committee members and Secret Network projects, efforts, and initiatives with governance content needs.
  • Give feedback constructively, empathetically, and respectfully; explain your reasoning behind suggested changes or improvements; and offer alternative approaches when possible.

Participation

One of the major challenges of our Hub governance work has been that there is so much context that it is overwhelming to participate in ‘forest’ conversations without having a strong background in ‘tree’ and ‘undergrowth’ work. Doing tree and undergrowth work is a great way to gain context and appreciation for the existing governance system and its pain points.

New members could be onboarded into the DAO by getting involved in tree or undergrowth work, then participate in forest work as they feel capable. An apprenticeship model could be used to teach people new skills and perspectives that they will need to succeed.

To keep a governance DAO active, members might be required to maintain their participation in governance calls and discussions, or be removed if they are not present for several consecutive discussions without explanation. Such participation agreements could be designed by the DAO itself, perhaps as a publicly-accessible internal code of conduct.

Transparency

The work of the governance DAO must be accessible and transparent. There are many different platforms that are active in governance discussions and having at least some presence on all of them is important. In our work, we have found that posting to the forum and circulating the information out into Discord, Twitter, email, and various community calls has been a great way to stay in touch with the community and be open about our work.

Other governance teams generally publish weekly reports and quarterly requests for funding. For example, the SCRT Governance Committee has weekly Discord calls, while MakerDAO’s GovAlpha Core Unit publishes reports on their community forum.

The internal governance practices of this DAO could also serve as a template for other DAOs and for the Hub itself, much like we have benefited from learning about how other DAOs and groups operate.

Funding

For the last six months, the tree work in Hub governance has largely been done by one person working four days/week. In the interest of redundancy, all of this critical operational work ought to be shared between at least two people so that the system can continue if someone needs a break or wants to take a vacation. This sort of work happens every day and expands to fill whatever time is available, since there is always more documentation to write and questions to answer.

Undergrowth and forest work generally do not need to happen every single day – thinking about the longer-term direction of governance on the Hub might take a full day every few weeks to sit down and synthesize some thoughts into writing.

Money allocated to funding this DAO should be enough to pay at least two people to work full-time on the day-to-day stewardship of good governance. Depending on how many other members need to be working full-time, part-time, or sporadically on other governance tasks, the budget will vary.

Closing

The process of governance lives and breathes with everyone who participates in it. While we’ve presented a vision for what a Hub Governance DAO might look like in the future, we are excited to see how it grows and takes shape with the perspective and input of everyone involved.

We have been proud to contribute to good governance on the Hub for the past six months. We look forward to continuing this work and seeing where it goes. As always – we’d love to collaborate! If you want to be involved in the stewardship of Hub governance, we’d love to hear from you in the comments or on socials:

  • Twitter: @CosmosGov
  • Email: project.cosmos@hypha.coop
4 Likes

Thanks for this Lexa and team. We fully support everything you’ve just put forward and would vote yes on funding it.

1 Like

I also fully support this initiative. The analysis of current hub governance is apt, the problems are expressed clearly and (I believe) accurately. Additionally the categorization of stewardship work is well-stated. While we still have a long way to go establishing healthy governance practice and culture, y’alls work with the hub has been a huge step in the right direction, and it is encouraging to see a conversation which further expands this effort.

When it comes time to write the proposal itself, it may be useful to further clarify the ask, particularly in regards to authorities and responsibilities of the members of the Hub Governance DAO (apologies! just realized that this is only meant as reflections on Proposal 68, and isn’t intended as a proposal quite yet, nevertheless). Perhaps this is a bit of a chicken and egg problem since we still lack an overall template for the ratification of working groups and councils. All the same, this may be an excellent opportunity to create such a template. I feel fairly confident that you were already thinking along the same lines, as stated here:

Using the same template outlined on Page 22 of the Vision document and translating your above post into that template, a rough proposal template for the governance DAO (hereby known as a council within the context of this proposal) could be as follows.

Please note that I’ve taken the liberty to write the proposal in a slightly-fictionalized way, which includes components that do not yet exist. However, I feel that by outlining this particular ideal, it also provides more insight into the building blocks of the template than a text document could accomplish:

  • Mandate: Steward the governance of the Cosmos Hub via:

Committee: Permissioned, self-determined in accordance with membership criteria outlined below:

  • Member Acceptance Criteria – members may be added to the Hub Governance DAO if they meet one or more of the following criteria and submit an application in accordance with the application process:
    • Active participation in Cosmos Hub governance as measured by Discourse trust level or other documented history of governance participation (such as tweets, telegram activity, etc.)
    • Nomination by existing members of the council
  • Member Removal Criteria – members may be removed from the Hub Governance DAO if 2/3 of sitting council members vote to remove said member. All Council Members removals should be published in accordance with Cosmos council transparency standards (need to be drafted). Some examples of reasons for removal may include:
    • Extended unexplained absence
    • Actions that violate the Hub Governance DAO code of conduct

Eligibility & Term Length: Acting members of the council commit to at least an X month term. All members of the governance DAO are subject to the removal standards outlined in the “Membership Removal Criteria” segment, outlined above.

Compensation: Compensation for the Hub Governance DAO is to occur on a quarterly basis via community pool spend proposals. Each community pool spend proposal will include the council members to be compensated, as well as their time commitment to the council. The quarterly budget takes into account the Hub’s Minimum Viable Salary standards outlined in XYZ proposal. Compensation within the Hub Governance DAO is decided via coordinape.

Return: The Hub Governance DAO provides public goods for the Cosmos Hub. Returns to the community pool will only occur if there is a reduction in the number of members to be compensated within the Hub Governance DAO.

Authorities: The Hub Governance DAO has the authority to:

  • Propose changes to the Cosmos Hub governance standards via the on-chain governance process
  • Propose governance templates for community pool spend proposals, council creation proposals, and text proposals
  • Propose official tooling solutions for Cosmos Hub governance
  • Publish governance documentation and guidance at governance.cosmos.network
  • Host the governance support chat at governance.cosmos.network/help
  • Publish governance education courses at tutorials.cosmos.network/governance
  • Raising and publishing governance alerts when governance behavior is not aligned with the Rules of Engagement
  • Publishing a governance newsletter which summarizes ongoing governance discussions
  • Working with Cosmos stakeholders to assess and resolve key governance concerns
  • Develop and host the Cosmos Assembly wiki, which maintains archives for all Cosmos Councils activities
  • Documenting validator voting history

Planning:
Governance Tools Planning

  • Product Specifications which include:
    • Problem Statement
    • Functionality Goals
    • End user goals
    • Expected Metrics
    • Success Criteria
    • User stories
    • Solution Designs

Success Metrics

  • OKRs
    • An increase in the amount of members on forum.cosmos.network
    • A decrease of Cosmos stakeholder DPS
    • Increased on-chain governance participation from both validators & delegators
    • An increase in the amount of comments on proposals in discussion period
    • An increase in the amount of long-form governance posts

Reporting (Transparency): The Hub Governance DAO will publish all meeting minutes and activities in a weekly report in their council wiki. Additionally, the council will synchronously share updates and have live conversations via the bi-weekly Cosmos Hub round-table meeting.


Anyway, that’s just a rough sketch! Also, I would like to add that the context of the original long form post is also crucial to any proposal submission. I hope this post may be helpful, and look forward to hearing others’ feedback. Thanks so much for the thought-provoking original post.

4 Likes

Great one, we support this!

Hello @lexa can community also form DAOs on Cosmos Chain in the future?
If yes then let me know the How ??