In this collaborative writing experiment between the Aragon core team and community contributors Renzo D’andrea and Luiz Fernando, they reflect on their experience developing an Aragon Network DAO proposal for their onboarding handbook initiative and talk about what it’s like to collaborate as part of the Aragon community.
Ideation, boundary-setting, and self-belief
Coming up with a compelling idea, writing a proposal to request funds, receiving feedback, and making adjustments – it is as exciting as it is demanding. Being part of the lifecycle of an AN DAO proposal means you’re subordinate to no one and entirely self-motivated, so you must believe in people’s natural ability for cooperation.
It can be a steep and lonesome learning curve, so growing and bonding together is key. Contributors’ availability and focus are always in flux, and this innovative creative power has the potential to dissolve if it is not grounded in concrete deliverables in which to engage our human capital. It’s also important to set boundaries for information absorption in order to manage the chaos, while remaining flexible for when the path is unclear. This will make you more agile and mindful of being aligned in your journey in the DAO.
Defining your own purpose can be daunting, but the adrenaline of treading your own path, sharing your idea with others, and coming to a collective decision as an enthusiastic community fuels your self-belief, as it only takes one more soul to believe in your vision.
Starting an Aragon Network DAO initiative
In the case of the handbook initiative, Renzo’s initial idea was to create learning agility to address adoption in Web3, after joining as an ambassador in July and experiencing an ever-increasing community need for education. Learning agility can be achieved by practicing peer-to-peer learning, where the learner is at the center and you design by listening, not imposing. This triggers an organic learning flow that equips people with the agility to learn fast.
Renzo briefly shared his vision on an Aragon community Discord call in October 2021 where the project sparked interest and encouragement from a number of other community members, including Luiz, Isabella and Shawn, who each contributed to further brainstorming.
Eager to advance from an ambassador to a contributor, craft his own identity, and fund a circle of people to develop a project, Renzo sent his early code, including his vision of the platform design and UX research intent, into the Aragon constellation. However, it was crucial to bring in different perspectives in order to foster a culture of listening and adaptation.
An open call for ideas inspired a bunch of suggestions from various people, including from teams external to Aragon seeking to solve similar onboarding problems. These included Daolicious and Catapult Labs, who envisioned a DAO university on Decentraland, a step now embedded in the potential project roadmap.
Renzo and Luiz resolved to investigate the workings of the DAO and communicate their experiences didactically, speaking once a week about their vision and how to implement it gradually. While exploring, they discovered how fluid the workings of a DAO can be. Through observing certain topics, they learned how proposals were discussed and evolved, and sometimes even found themselves participating in these discussions, activities, and plans being made. They eventually realized that their ideas were simply too broad to be deliverable in the short term, and so a primary focus was needed. Following discussions on what they perceived to be the DAO’s most dire educational need, it was concluded that it was the community’s lack of understanding of what the AN DAO is and what it does.
It was decided that the most effective way to provide this information was to develop educational resources for onboarding new community members, spawning the idea of the AN DAO handbook. It was vital that Aragon refined this process in order to accommodate the high volume of people joining the DAO and to start addressing governance. Their attempt to alleviate this bottleneck would mark the genesis of the DAO Academy, a working group set up to develop the handbook.
Developing collaboratively as the DAO Academy
Following discussions around the handbook project that culminated in the creation of the DAO Academy, Luiz was open to joining even though there was initially no clear way of articulating and breaking down such an initiative. Together they made their first few steps into Aragon’s unique ecosystem, pursuing the project with support from the community, deciding their culture, pace, and flexibility, and building the river banks that would define and enable a path of steady progress, in the face of the challenges of uncertainty. Acknowledging and embracing trust in each other’s contributions, in connection with a shared purpose and alignment on common values, fulfilled an unconscious need they were seeking to address.
Meanwhile, the sounds of tropical birds from Luiz's home in Brazil and the chirps of his blue-masked lovebird Azul entertained and inspired them throughout many calls, along with Shawn’s cat Lucy who could be seen wandering around his place. All this became part of team life.
Working out which upcoming projects in the DAO could support their initiative, and thus which made the most sense to interact with, was a building block of the handbook, in order to ensure internal alignment with other proposals, avoid duplication of work, and deliver it more quickly. This involved keeping a watchful eye on how the community was evolving, which was made more difficult by the fact that they were learning and drafting their proposal at the same time as the executive sub-DAO – the organ responsible for unlocking funding – was forming, and the community guidelines and objectives, that their proposal would have to match, were being defined, leading to uncertainty.
As part of their action research plan, they engaged with, learned from, and built relationships with other working groups, including the metrics and learning wall teams, and the Tech Guild, which was already in the process of producing onboarding documentation. They conducted 12 qualitative interviews with their members, asking questions about their directions, needs, and challenges, and raising awareness of their project by sharing their drafts. The feedback loops generated by these interviews over a four-month period helped define their purpose in the DAO and supported and shaped their clustering and analysis steps. Their journey also saw them collaborate with the DeepSkills team to improve their approach towards tasks and workflows.
Ebbs and flows: Launching an Aragon forum proposal
The first step after finalizing their proposal was to post it in the Aragon forum, after which they launched it live on Discord on December 23rd. As the proposal’s creators, they were responsible for continuing to tweak it over the next three months in response to feedback so it could progress to a vote, which passed successfully. Fast forward to April 1st 2022, and the DAO Academy delivered its first piece of work.
The team barely had time to reflect on the passing of their first proposal before they began on a new one in early April, just like one plant pollinates the next, enabling it to grow. Working in a DAO is like traversing hills and valleys – after surmounting each hill, you descend into a valley, before climbing to the top again, and then back into a new valley. It is a fast process, often seeming too short, and things can always change, so it is important to create space for reflection. The 30-minute retrospective sessions they held every month provided a focused window for such self-reflection and discussion. Nurturing and improving collective collaboration helped align the team’s goals, and maintaining a team culture and focus made this a lot easier. The result of creating a collective project mirrors the culture of the community it emerges from. Transparency between team members was a key part of this journey. Working together spans a range of emotions, convictions as well as doubts about your shared vision. In those moments of uncertainty, a reality check with your original mission helps to clear up confusion.
Writing a proposal is like placing a bet for three to four months where you walk the talk and are free to deliver the work you create. Delivering a proposal is a fast entrepreneurial journey that helps shape your reputation, and you will enjoy the freedom of pursuing the work you want to do. However, the relevance of your work and contributors’ presence in a DAO can be temporary as there is no certainty or clear support for your talent to stay. The fast pace of knowledge sharing between members and teams along with the pace of changes coming from new learning opportunities and extra tasks to deliver can put pressure on motivations and workflow. For example, Renzo was working on a Coordinape circle bounty, while Luiz was committed to the learning wall bounty, slowing progress for a couple of weeks.
From jumping on a random call on Aragon’s Discord and connecting with Luiz all the way back in October 2021, where Renzo shared his vision of what would become the DAO Academy, to an IRL meeting after Luiz moved to Germany in April, the project and its community have come so far already. The pair met and talked about how they felt about their Web3 journey, their first completed project, and plans for proposals in the future. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of their impact in the Aragon Network DAO.