Temperature Check - Radicle Grants Program

Summary

This post outlines ideas around forming grants program for Radicle (the “Radicle Grants Program”). Grants programs make it easy for contributors to get paid for doing valuable work. A well-designed grants program can accelerate growth by supplementing the work done by the core team with work done by a broad set of community members.

In a previous post, we outlined potential use cases for the Radicle Treasury and discussed them on last week’s governance call. The community was very receptive to a grants program, and there was lengthy discussion around specific aspects of setup and implementation.

Based on these discussions, we’ve outlined a proposed framework for what a well-designed grants program might look like. This post is meant as an initial framework; our intention is to gather information and feedback from the broader community. We would then use the feedback to create a formal proposal to launch the Radicle Grants Program.

What would the Radicle Grants Program look like?

  • Funded by the Treasury. The Radicle treasury can provide funding for the Radicle Grants Program, with all grants paid in RAD tokens.

  • Budget. The program could start with a budget between $500k - $1M per quarter. For context, Uniswap and Compound started with budgets of $750k per quarter and $1M per quarter, respectively. Funds would be controlled in a multisig managed by trusted community members.

  • Application Process. Applications can involve a written application along with an interview. Speed is important, so applications could be processed in a rolling manner. A portion of funds can be delivered upon application approval, with the rest delivered upon completion (i.e., milestone-based grants).

  • Funding Priorities. There are many things that can be funded, such as developer grants, incentive programs, marketing, design, education, and more. Ele’s 2021 outlook post includes some guidelines on Radicle’s priorities over the next year.

  • Built on Radicle Infrastructure. Parts of the Radicle Grants Program could be run on Radicle’s own infrastructure. Radicle Orgs are a useful tool that can be leveraged here.

  • Team. Existing grants programs largely operate by committee, with a program lead that is assisted by part-time advisors and contributors. This setup allows the committee to move nimbly and provide funding in a timely manner. We believe the best committee members share two features: first they must be capable, and second they must be motivated to actively participate. If you’re interested in being a grants lead or know someone who might be, please reply to this post with 1) your background and interest in Radicle, and 2) what you’d like to see from the Radicle Grants Program.

Questions for the community

  • What philosophical principles should applicants stay true to?
  • What types of projects would you like to see funded by the Radicle Grants Program?
  • What changes/improvements upon existing grants programs (e.g., Uniswap and Compound grants) would you like to see?
  • What do you think is the optimal quarterly budget for the Radicle Grants Program?
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First off, this was a great write-up.
I’ll try to mull it over a bit more to add comments that may also help tease out details for moving it forward. But overall, if there was a vote to move this forward, I would vote “yes.”

Just answering the immediate questions you posed:

What philosophical principles should applicants stay true to?

Basically, someone who would ascribe to a lot of values important to open source work, since those are the types of people Radicle serves.

A few ideas here:

  • Someone who is collaborative, as opposed to competitive
  • Someone inquisitive: listens, learns, and asks many questions
  • Someone with a sense of responsibility (attention to detail, high quality mentality, etc.)
  • Someone with skin in the game (either owns RAD or contributes to open source projects today)
  • Someone who ascribes to a very long-term view on things (see skin in the game above)
  • Someone that believes in radical transparency

What types of projects would you like to see funded by the Radicle Grants Program?

Web3 network effects

Projects that bolster the overall web3 network by integrating better with other platforms. As a concrete example, if there is some web3 standard (say IPFS or The Graph), integrate plug-ins for Org onboarding, such that we make it easy for developers to quickly setup infrastructure in the best way possible.

As an even more concrete example, if someone is on The Graph’s subgraph page making a new subgraph, linking their authentic Radicle repo should be as easy as dropping a URL in (this could be one task for a grantee to work on). Conversely, when someone is setting up or editing their Org on Radicle Upstream, they should be able to easily link their subgraph there, too. Basically, tooling that creates virtuous cycles for onboarding to Web3.

CI/CD

Finding a way to elegantly make great development pipelines, including automated testing

GitHub Migration

This is a two-pronged problem.

In the short-term, find ways to automate the ease for anyone to migrate their GitHub workflows and funding over to Radicle. This would largely focus on web3/blockchain Orgs.

Longer term, get traditional (read: non-blockchain) projects to migrate their work and funding to Radicle’s platform. As a “pie in the sky” example, getting a project as big as Apache to move all their code and funding to Radicle. What would that take? What does the time horizon for that look like?

Those are the first that come to mind. I’m sure there’s a lot more!

What changes/improvements upon existing grants programs (e.g., Uniswap and Compound grants) would you like to see?

In general, I’ve found it hard to understand what exactly grantees are working on. Grant work is essentially “outsourcing” the work to sort of “3rd party” teams and they keep their code elsewhere sometimes, so the low-level transparency can start to crumble.

Your point of building Radicle’s Grant program directly on Radicle Orgs may be the best way to solve this, if there is a way to more directly tie grantee code contributions to the Radicle Grant’s Org page.

So perhaps an initial grant project might even be to support that:

  • Build an outgoing fund source called “grantee” that links an child Org (grantee) to a parent Orgs (“the” grant)

What do you think is the optimal quarterly budget for the Radicle Grants Program?

No idea.
I think it depends a lot on what the backlog and estimations for projects look like.

In other words, would we have some idea that there is Project A that will require 4 people to do 3 months of work?
If so, I might say the project needs $100,000
Then if there are 4 such projects in the quarter, I’d say the total needed is $400,000 per quarter

I think there’s too many inputs missing to accurately gauge this question.

4 Likes

Fantastic reply, thank you @bordumb!

A quick reflection below.

In general, I’ve found it hard to understand what exactly grantees are working on. Grant work is essentially “outsourcing” the work to sort of “3rd party” teams and they keep their code elsewhere sometimes, so the low-level transparency can start to crumble.

This is an excellent observation and is something I think is worth spending time to get it right. Anyone who has worked for a large company (and even a small one) knows how difficult it is to get people to proactively, consistently, and clearly explain what they are working on, the progress of the work, and what the roadmap for future work looks like. When this information is not communicated among employees, work tends to be done redundantly, without an explicit goal, and generally, poorly. When this happens for long periods of time, morale drops and people burn out. No bueno.

While DAOs are different than traditional companies, in an abstract sense, there is one major similarity: both are organizations of people working together towards common goals. And any time a large amount of people are working on something, it’s important that they tell their colleagues what they are doing in a proactive, consistent, and clear way.

In my experience, companies try to get employees to communicate well by (i) explaining the importance of communication and coordination to employees, (ii) leading by example (e.g., managers mentoring juniors), (iii) rewarding employees who do this well with promotions and more money, and (iv) reprimanding employees who do this poorly through lack of promotions, or worse, firing them. Although the process is simple to understand, most companies fail to do it well and/or consistently. It’s hard!

To get closer to the topic at hand: if grants outsources work to third-party contractors (“contributors”), it’s important that everyone is constantly updated on the progress of others. And to your point @bordumb, right now, most grants programs fail to create a culture of communication and coordination. That’s how we get the problem you refer to; namely, nobody knows what the hell is happening!

Something I’m interested in exploring is how do we implement traditionally used communication and coordination playbooks to DAOs. In particular, what tools are at our disposal? We can certainly create a culture of communication and coordination. We can lead by example. But what about the other tools? Can we pay the “star” contributors more to signal the behavior we want others to emulate? Can we pay “satisfactory” contributors less to signal the behavior we don’t want? Are there other systems we can use to develop a rockstar organizational structure around the Radicle Grants Program?

Food for thought!

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One really quick idea, which overlaps with Grants as a social construct, but also with the Radicle Upstream product itself is:

Maybe there should be a type of “drip” in the Funding features, specifically made for “grants.” At the end of the day, a “grant” is just excess funds that a project has and wants to use to towards investing by hiring 2nd/3rd party help. In this way, a “grant” is like a subset or subtype of the more general term “drip.”

It could be built in such a way that transparently (i.e. codified, automated, and visualized) communicates who is funding which projects and where the funds are going from and where they are going to.

Do this make sense?

I think one of the major bottlenecks in all of the communication is that it relies on manpower to do 95% of the communication. But I think a lot of that could be codified as a branch of funding, not just for Radicle (the team), but for anyone who uses Radicle.

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For the grant program with Uniswap and Compound community members do not know yet, since the grant program is to complement the work of the core team to accelerate growth, it should be clear what exactly Uniswap and Compound are working together and who is implementing it, if there are 10 people involved in the work respectively, for the total amount of $1 million I agree, if only 1 person is involved in the work, then I must be against it.

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I’d like to see this happen. I like iterative approaches, so instead of trying to get everything right, I’d run a pilot grant program. Smaller budget, 6-12 months duration. See how well that works out and adjust from there. See what we learn.

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This was very well written Larry, thank you. To chime in with my thoughts, there are two main things that I think we should require from grantees to make strides towards solving the problems you’ve identified.

First, I think there should be a weekly or biweekly call where all grantees attend, and each grantee gives a status update on their work. If this were a traditional company, think of this like a weekly meeting. Each grantee presents to the group what have they done since the last call, where they are in their roadmap, what problems are they facing? where they’re stuck? and what’s been going well.

Right now we’re missing out on a lot because most grantees don’t know the others, and there is no camaraderie. We should encourage grantees to think of themselves as members in a group, and we won’t foster that sense of community without bringing everyone together at a regular cadence. I believe this is the best way for us to create this sense, and that there will be tremendous value to both the grantees and to Radicle from this. We want every grantee to feel like they’re a part of something bigger, we want them to get on board with Radicle’s mission (short term to get every DAO in the world on Radicle) and values.

The second thing we should opt for every grantee to do their work in public as much as possible. This means hosting their repos on Radicle if that would be feasible, but it would at worst mean that they are publicly updating the broader community (i.e. away from the call) on the state of their work.

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Thanks for the awesome feedback everyone.

We plan to discuss the Radicle Grants Program in more detail on the Radicle Governance Working Group call tomorrow. If the feedback is positive, we’ll close the temperature check and move on to the next step of the process, a structured discussion.

Before we start the structured discussion, however, we’ll likely need to find a lead for the grants program. We’ll be posting more on that role in the forums soon!