Hi all! We’ve had some excellent conversations about the current state and future of the NEAR community during the last few weeks. One of the most powerful takeaways for me was that we don’t really have a cohesive vision for what community is and what we can accomplish together to build it. I’d love to craft one.
I think it’s best to start from the high level and then zoom in, since the “How” doesn’t matter until you’ve defined the “Why”, “Who” and “What”.
Why → Who → What → How
I’ll lay out how I see each of these things below. I hope we can rally around them as a more specific way to guide ourselves going forward as we figure out the next evolution of the community.
People gather in communities because they are given a sense of belonging, purpose and value from interacting with other people. NEAR doesn’t only provide new tools for building apps but it also gives a million reasons for people to gather and learn, create, discuss, ideate, and otherwise work together to create a future where people control their money, their data and their power of governance.
NEAR has a massively big vision and that vision is a multiplayer effort, not a single-player one.
Because apps are built and used by real people, the energy created by having a highly engaged community feeds literally every other part of the puzzle which makes this vision possible. Community is valuable to the vision and the vision is valuable to community members at every step:
- Acquisition - cool communities attract new people to join the ecosystem for the first time
- Activation - active communities give people ways to try out different parts of the ecosystem and to help build it together
- Retention - engaged communities keep people playing and building within this ecosystem by giving them a sense of belonging
- Referral - excited communities expand because members bring in their friends to play too
So a great community helps drive the NEAR vision forward and provides tons of value to its members along the way – win/win.
The soft, squishy goal of our community is pretty straightforward. I’d phrase it like this:
We want a large and engaged community of people who are excited about either the NEAR platform or the projects and organizations powered by it.
It’s really about people and the excitement they feel, which comes from giving them a sense of belonging and a way to engage.
How do we make this more specific and measurable?
The Education team has the “thousand teachers → million makers → billion users” initiative, which says that, to reach 1 billion users (our 5-year goal at NEARCon 2021), we need to have a million “makers” (devs, product people, designers, etc) and that requires 1000 teachers who each teach 1000 makers on average. This is a pretty simple elegant framework. Even if it’s not 100% accurate, it’s easy to remember and directionally correct so it helps keep everyone aligned.
We can do the same for our Community.
Specifically, we know that our overall Community is successful if we can bring many of those billion users into specific communities where they interact with other users. This requires reaching for scale by building a large number of really energetic, inclusive communities. To get there, let’s set a single clear milestone: 1 Million Members, who come from 1 Thousand Communities of, on average, 1000 members each… all on-chain.
Then the goal becomes more specific:
The overall NEAR community should include a million on-chain members across a thousand on-chain communities.
In the broadest possible sense, anyone who engages with other people around the NEAR platform or any projects and tech around it can be considered part of its “community”.
There is a spectrum of community members from the lurkers who just read Discord or social posts to the highly engaged leaders who actively support their projects and communities. Many of these people would self-identify as a member of those communities and many would not.
In order to define something specific, measurable and impactful, let’s specifically define community members for this goal as on-chain community members who are linked to a community that has also been identified on-chain.
This means the members who are counted must have a NEAR account and they have taken a step to link themselves to a community that is defined on-chain. The community doesn’t need to be about NEAR… it’s ok if it just uses the NEAR technology to identify itself on-chain. By keeping the definition on-chain, it helps to scope our efforts to communities powered by NEAR tooling and who are most likely to engage with other parts of the ecosystem because of it.
To be clear, that doesn’t mean the community has to be a DAO or force every member of its telegram to be linked on-chain… the community simply needs to identify itself on-chain somehow and allow members to link to it on-chain.
Zooming out, reaching 1,000,000 members in 1,000 communities requires building a series of communities that are discoverable, inclusive and valuable to their members. Today, we have something like +/-200 organized communities (including guilds) with on the order of maybe 10,000 members and about the same number of DAOs and their members. So we have to scale by 1-2 orders of magnitude (and do so on-chain).
This is effectively a marketplace problem – you need supply of communities and demand for them from prospective members plus a way to link the two through discoverability.
On the member side, it means it should be button-push easy to convert users of NEAR apps (especially wallets) to find and join communities that are relevant to them. There need to be easy directories to find communities when users are looking for them and they need to be discoverable in the regular flow a user has through other apps as well.
What if every member of Facebook Groups (or just Meetup.com) had a NEAR account and every group was defined on-chain? We can do this in a decentralized way.
On the Community side, it means creating simple, easy ways to define and plug in new communities into this flow of members and give leaders clear toolkits for interacting with members.
I specifically didn’t want to use the term “Guilds” because I think it’s become more confusing than necessary (though I do like it). All Guilds are, at their core, Communities first. Many just happen to also do other stuff. I suggest we focus our energy on discussing on-chain communities and pull away from the confusing term “Guilds” for most purposes.
I also specifically don’t want to focus on DAOs here because a DAO is just an organizational framework for creating an on-chain governance or co-op system. They’re useful for powering funding vehicles but aren’t required to make this work. You can have great communities without touching DAOs.
Funding is similar, because I think there can be great communities created without any funding at all. Funding activities, whether for simple things like pizza at a meetup or complex things like launching multi-prong marketing initiatives, should mostly be treated separately from the core community effort via separate vehicles.
More on all of this in the future.
“Great,” you say, “but how do we actually pull this off?”
I’m glad you asked
I just wanted to lay out the vision before diving into the details so it’s clear what we’re trying to accomplish. To avoid muddying the waters, I’ll focus on the ops and funding issues (which are each pretty major) in a future post. It’ll focus on how to support communities with a scalable framework for easy creation, onboarding and growth. I’ll also cover the less vanilla side of funding in a separate post since that links more closely to what the Funding and Grants efforts from the NF are doing.
I’m happy to hear thoughts around this post, though it’s not really a working proposal or anything. I just hope it resonates and helps bring our meta-community of leaders together around a single goal.