NEAR Community Fund - Vision, Strategy and Governance

Following up on last week’s post [NEAR Community Fund: The Vision of Community-Driven DAOs]. Here is the first version of an evolving document on the Community Fund. We hope this document helps us keep you informed and allow us to consider your say in what and how we develop our Ecosystem.

We’d love your feedback and insight into how we can make this as clear, transparent, and pragmatic as possible.

0. Background

With a fully decentralized NEAR Ecosystem in mind, the NEAR Foundation’s long-term goal has always been to make itself redundant. To realize this goal, the NEAR team has been actively working on the foundation’s goals to facilitate decentralization and establish a Funding Platform that serves as a springboard for the entire NEAR Ecosystem. One aspect of this work is the Community Fund, managed by the NEAR Community Team, but designed to be as simple and easy to use by any member of the community.

This post will cover some of the reasons for the Community Fund and what it’s trying to achieve before describing how it works. We hope this will get everyone on the same page so we can distribute funds effectively as a community. This proposal is designed to strike a balance between a desire to be agile and move quickly creating a safe, and supportive ecosystem for everyone to take part in.

The Community Fund is a pool of $NEAR available to Ecosystem participants who submit proposals to an official governance structure. It was initially capitalized after the 2020 token sale with 1.5M USD and 1.5M $NEAR (details available here).

Allocations are intended to fund early-stage projects looking to turn ideas into actions, drive adoption of NEAR-powered apps, and reward Guilds and Contributors offering their skills and experience to help ecosystem projects achieve product-market fit.

We launched it in a private section of the forum in November 2020, and it became public in February 2021. Since then, we started using NEAR’s simplified DAO platform, namely Sputnik DAO, governed by the NEAR Community Team.

1. Vision

Our vision is an empowered Ecosystem-First Community and Culture that facilitates building on NEAR. This vision can only be realized with active contributors that foster trust and become known for building trust.

As a guiding principle, the ‘NEAR Community Fund’ is designed to empower Guilds and Contributors to achieve their goals by supporting initiatives that emerge to help develop and grow the NEAR Ecosystem.

In phase one of this fund, we created the Community Council, whose role was to review and allocate funds from the Community Fund).

Initially, this was a decision-making body that sat outside the community, but our goal was always for it to be an on-chain council that used DAOs to oversee the transparent distribution of rewards and payouts to Ecosystem Development Contributors.

These initial steps led to the creation of the CommunitySquadDAO - whose purpose was to ensure transparent governance for funds allocations.

  • Allow the Community Council to transition to an on-chain voting process.
  • Include the Community team.
  • Include the Marketing team.
  • Learn best practices for governance
  • Learn how to best review proposals
  • Clearly Communicate with our community the opportunities

Here is a link to view all on-chain proposals to that “Community Squad” DAO.

Overall Results: NEAR Community Fund Proposals

2. Objectives

The main goal of the NEAR Community Fund is to drive adoption of NEAR. We intend to leverage open-source contributions to reward contributors (especially builders) for sustainable development and growth of the NEAR ecosystem.

The current objections and KPIs are:

  • Make funds available to valued Contributors that add value to the Ecosystem and build on NEAR;
  • Incentivize Communities to rally around Ecosystem projects;
  • Onboard Guilds to the v2 Sputnik DAO platform (Astro);
  • Facilitate the complete transition of Communities to Community OS (governance and best practices via our Wiki);
  • Create trusted Councils for DAO verticals by integrating Active contributors to be Council Members of Community Fund DAOs

3. Funding Strategies

Our strategy focuses on the development of the NEAR Ecosystem by growing a network of active contributors. To increase the effectiveness and governance of funding allocations to reach the valued contributors; we are implementing a Multi-Vertical DAO Strategy.

Empowering our Community Through DAOs

The Community Team’s role is to support multiple levels of ecosystem funding through DAOs, to offer a community-driven alternative to grants or venture funding. Hopefully, these can reach more people and source more creative ideas than any centralized approach.

Previously, the use of a single DAO led us to create the CommunitySquadDAO. In this system, requests for funds were sent and processed by a single Council. This meant Guilds and individual contributors could only submit on-chain proposals to the ‘CommunitySquadDAO’ in order to be funded. This process led to bottlenecks in approval and feedback. Council Members had to review multiple proposals ranging from everything from access to seed funds to translation services.

What have we learned so far?

  1. We quickly learned that fund distribution was slower than expected, as Council members are located in different time zones, not all proposals got reviewed within 72 hours leading to some proposals expiring. Proposers expressed their disappointment when they had to submit their proposal a second time.
  2. A summary of open proposals helped get the council more involved.
  3. The need for a standard reporting template that offered enough information about the proposal, its progress, and its impact.

Our key learning from this was the need to create multiple DAOs along with certain key themes that would allow applications to be reviewed more quickly. Based on previous applications, the initial DAOs have been created along the following verticals:

  • Guild Programs
  • Contributor Programs
  • Growth Initiatives for Projects
  • NEAR Awareness
  • Educational & Training Programs
  • Social Impact & Charity
  • Spontaneous Campaigns

We will review these DAOs to ensure they continue to be effective and will look for opportunities to create new DAOs based on community needs.

Before After

Shifting from one council-fits-all approach, which has the distinct whiff of centralization, we hope this new approach will empower community-driven projects to:

  1. Deploy funds faster and give the community it needs to thrive.

  2. Test-drive real NEAR community governance, which will need to be healthy to handle more significant funding responsibilities as our ecosystem further decentralizes.

We’re willing to take risks and make mistakes along the way.

Similar to everything on this journey, the Community Fund is ultimately an experiment. We’re trying to accomplish a specific set of objectives and to do so, we’re willing to take risks and make mistakes along the way.

We expect there to be sticking points, inefficiencies, and failures along this path. Our intent is, and always will be, to trust the community members to act with integrity and empower them to try new things rather than let fear of wasting funds end up wasting opportunities instead.

Funding Amounts

The funds distributed to guilds and contributors require the development of a proposal that is published on the Forum and visible to anyone. We believe that single payouts from our Community Fund should not exceed 50,000 NEAR. Any project or initiative that requires more than this amount will be passed on to the Grants Program.

4. Transparency and Governance

The way we make decisions and execute our strategies is driven by our values and beliefs. When designing the most effective and transparent funding mechanisms, we consciously shaped our approach to meet the following guiding values:

  • Always put the health and success of the ecosystem above any individual’s interest → ECOSYSTEM-FIRST. Put another way, always keep the bigger picture in mind.

  • Operate transparently and consistently share knowledge to build open communities ->OPENNESS, and

  • Learn, improve and fail productively so the project and community are always becoming more effective → GROW CONSTANTLY.

With this in mind, we aim to have a governance structure that is fair, pragmatic, and that emphasizes the importance of accountability but doesn’t get in the way of good opportunities. Using DAOs to vote on Community Fund proposals has increased accountability, given that all the information is public: proposal, recipient, wallet address, amount). Anyone can access the information, ask questions, or offer suggestions.

With publicly shared information, comes great responsibility.

Essentially any forum post can become an off-chain proposal if linked to a corresponding on-chain proposal on the Sputnik DAO platform. Council members review proposals and vote on whether to approve or dismiss requests. The default voting policy of the v1 Sputnik DAO platform is majority rule, so more than half need to vote “YES” to pass any kind of proposal.

Additionally, there is a Community Council, which (as part of the NEAR Funding Platform) provides oversight for all DAOs that receive tokens directly from the Community Fund.

Wiki: NEAR Community Fund

Council Members

Council members review proposals at least twice a week. When proposals remain ‘pending’ for more than 4 days, council members receive a message. When a concern is being raised, council members discuss details of the proposal asynchronously, unless a meeting is necessary. Bi-weekly Council Meetings are held to review processes and lessons learned.

The “Community Squad DAO” council is currently composed of 12 members of the NEAR Marketing-Community Team. You can find more info about the council members here.

Community Council

We will update our list of council members who actively coordinate and manage proposals/requests made via the NEAR Funding Platform. This would happen off-chain, so there is a need for weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports.

Recently, our team started providing weekly governance updates on the forum, and the NEAR Data Center is designed to answer questions, which is especially important for accountability.

5. DAO Verticals

Currently, the Community Team oversees 4 categorical DAOs (verticals):

  • CommunitySquadDAO: initial DAO representing the “on-chain” Community Council governing our Community Fund allocations
  • Creatives DAO: reviewing proposals related to Creatives, NFTs, Arts, Gaming, etc.
  • Marketing DAO: reviewing proposals related to marketing initiatives for NEAR and projects in our ecosystem
  • Knights of Gondor DAO: managing pre-approved budgets for selected ecosystem development initiatives (coordinated by 4NTS)

Our plan is to create more DAO verticals to cover additional kinds of proposals.

… other types of DAOs (work in progress)

Reporting

The Community Fund reports to the Funding Committee, currently composed of NEAR Team Core. Community Fund reports are presented to provide oversight of the spending during biweekly meetings.

Reports Include:

  • Total Spent
  • Total Number of Approved Proposals / Total Number of Proposals
  • Past 2 Weeks: Amount Spent / Number of Proposals
  • Breakdown by DAO
  • Breakdown by Categories:
  1. Contributors
  2. Creatives
  3. Events
  4. Guilds
  5. Projects
  6. Sandbox
  7. Charity
  8. Education

NEAR Funding Team will provide an update on criteria for eligible DAOs.

Work in progress, more on Reporting to come…

Community Fund Strategy Document V1.0, feel free to leave your comments and ask questions, we will continue to consolidate your feedback and our learning along the way.

12 Likes

Hoping see that soon.
Near still governed by near marketing team, door for new councils from community is closed, all attempts to clarify information considering like a fud. Some councils ignoring questions.

This link is not working

@David_NEAR wrote a nice introduction for members of the community squad!

https://gov.near.org/t/community-squad-dao-council-an-introduction/4608