Scaling for success – Operations Strategy 2024

Author: jan Published: December 31, 2023

Reviewing DF Governance through the Lens of the Prosocial Core Design Principles

In our journey of ‘scaling out’ we are not just trying to build an effective organization, we are building a culture. Especially in an organization that is founded on the participation of a globally distributed community, building a positive and collaborative culture is essential. Unlike traditional organizations, we have no buildings for people to gather, there is less social control on work ethics and there is no coffee machine to gather around for informal conversation. Of course, we can have some task-tracking systems, feedback methods, and rating mechanisms, but our main tool in creating a positive, collaborative, and effective organization is still: Culture!

The book ‘Prosocial’ based on the work of Elinor Ostrom, offers a lot of insights into the dynamics of groups and individuals and outlines multiple aspects of governance, that are relevant when building a community like Deep Funding. Although every situation is different and our endeavors as a global, distributed, community-driven initiative are still pretty unique, the book provides a nice checklist in the form of CDPs or ‘Core Design Principles’. Reflection on these principles triggered a desire to have a more in-depth analysis of the status and direction of our Governance processes, aligned with these CDPs. 

Therefore, both as an exercise and a presentation of our current status, accomplishments, and needed steps, we decided to go through these CDPs one by one, and for each CDP consider the situation in three different layers of the Deep Funding Program. 

The 3 layers or perspectives in Deep Funding we are assessing separately are; 

  1. The wider community in general, 
  2. A subsection of the community identified as our ‘community of builders’ including, but not necessarily limited to, awarded team members, 
  3. Our operational ‘Circles’; a subset of the community that is directly involved in governance and operations. 

The 8 ‘CDPs’ to explore are:

  • CDP1: Shared Identity and Purpose
  • CDP2: Equitable distribution of contributions and benefits
  • CDP3: Fair and inclusive decision-making
  • CDP4: Monitoring agreed behaviors:
  • CDP5: Graduated responding to wanted and unwanted behavior:
  • CDP6: Fast and Fair Conflict Resolution:
  • CDP7: Authority to self-govern
  • CDP8: Collaborative relations with other groups:

Theoretically, this would lead to 24 subsections (there are some exceptions). If written in full, some of these subsections could easily fill a single article by themselves. Therefore we will often limit ourselves by just mentioning the most relevant initiatives or occurrences, without trying to explain them and their circumstances in detail. 

Important to note is that culture cannot be created through checklists. A positive culture is founded on the authentic drive of the leadership of an organization for fairness, inclusiveness, and also, effectiveness. By seeing each other not only through the lens of work but also as human beings who have needs and aspirations. Bringing these personal needs and aspirations in alignment with the needs and goals of the organization is foundational in building a culture. When building a distributed organization that consists of people who are mainly contributing on a part-time basis, while having other priorities in life, such alignment is a necessity! Therefore, building an inclusive organization where everyone can contribute based on their personal choice and according to their ability is not just a great goal in itself, but also a fundamental success criterion for Deep Funding, as a decentralized, community-driven organization.

Qualitative, subjective rating matrix based on current status and plans, measured against our ambition levels:

CDP1: ‘Shared Identity and Purpose’

Being the essence of a community, this is an emerging quality that should be nurtured and cautiously directed, rather than planned. With the foundation of SingularityNET’s deeply felt mission and vision, we have a good starting position for growing our special Deep Funding flavor of this identity.

  • Community – I believe that most active community members align intrinsically to the SNET purpose of bringing about a ‘democratic, inclusive beneficial AGI. ‘
  • Builders – One of the main conditions of Deep Funding is ‘To help grow the decentralized AI platform, so that is a good start, but not yet enough for a shared identity. We are setting up a Circle of awarded team members. Also, our new platform will have features that allow individual builders to build a profile and become more visible. If we can add a working active communication layer to this, we are in a good position to let this ‘shared identity’ and purpose emerge. 
  • Operations – It’s still early, but I see an enormous amount of enthusiasm, engagement, and responsibility in all Circle participlants

CDP2: Equitable distribution of contributions and benefits

We believe in rewarding people for their contributions if they add real, desired value, and if properly balanced with the main purpose of Deep Funding of helping the platform grow in an open and unrestricted way.

  • Community – We have been offering rewards to community members based on their (feedback-) contributions to the platform. There have been many discussions on the topic and we are still exploring the best, fairest, and most effective way to award community members. While not perfect yet, this topic is getting the attention it deserves, and I feel very confident we will be able to land on a balanced solution in due time, given the proper tools (Contribution ratings based on many activities and checkpoints)
  • Builders – This circles around the grants given by our community. While we have a very good foundation, we might improve in having the ‘best’ proposals float to the surface prior to voting and improvements in the voting process itself, to protect against whales and strategic voting based on self-interest
  • Operations – Instead of growing our internal team, we are in the process of creating community-led operational teams. We have started by giving all team members the same basic earnings across the board. (Which, in a global organization, has another type of inequality baked into it, due to local differences in costs of living) We are planning on a retrospective twice a year where we will give full disclosure of tasks done, expenses paid, and insights learned. 

CDP3: Fair and inclusive decision-making

This is a topic of ongoing exploration and implementation, where we are aiming to involve the community not only in the decision-making of awarding grants to project proposals but also in the governance process of Deep Funding itself

  • Community – After the very first Deep Funding round we started having ‘Governance rounds’ after the regular rounds where the community was invited to initiate improvement ideas, bring them to a vote, and have them implemented. This proved only partly successful, and as a follow-up process, we have created the DF ‘Focus Group’ to mediate between internal and external stakeholders of the program. With this, we aim to have a more focused and structured approach leading to better processes and concrete outcomes. One of the first concrete outcomes of this was a ‘consent-based‘ decision process around reputation rewards, that could be implemented as a template for similar occasions. 
  • Builders – We are taking efforts to have the awarded teams involved in the application of new grants, through advisory ‘peer reviews’. This is challenging due to the growth of Deep funding, and the resulting balance between awarded teams and new applicants, but conceptually we see still see this as a promising direction. Also, we have just started our ‘Awarded Teams Circle. While we are facilitating this process, we hope that they will stand up as a self-organizing entity, and determine their own roadmap and action points. 
  • Operations – The aforementioned Focus Group and Awarded Teams Circle are 2 out of (currently) 4 community-driven groups we are in the process of establishing and shaping. The other two groups are the Review Circle and the Marketing Circle. We expect each circle to self-govern, within the boundaries that we are setting in terms of deliverables and compensation. See also CDP 8 for inter-circle governance

CDP4: Monitoring agreed behaviors:

Deep funding is not about ‘policing’. We prefer to offer a coaching and guiding role, relying on the intrinsic motivation of participants. We do however acknowledge that in an open distributed environment accountability is needed, especially when token rewards are involved. In a decentralized organization like ours, transparency is a key attribute for building trust, and thus, offering our community clear and open insight into all activities and outcomes is essential.  

  • Community – Community behavior is visible on the platform as feedback in different shapes and forms. We are building a reputation/contribution platform to make contributions quantifiable and transparent. We aim to add additional sources over time, such as wallet-related behavior, presence in governance calls, and other ways that inform us about the contributions and expertise of our community members. Having some kind of identification system that enables us to differentiate between bots and people as well as ensuring that every person is only represented by a single identity is a hot topic that may incur some heated discussions in the coming year :-). 
  • Builders – For the awarded teams we have started a survey process from the beginning with a few simple questions that would give the community insights into the progress of the projects. Unfortunately, participation here is well below desired levels. We have plans to improve this, first by making the results more visible, basically calling out teams that have not responded and showcasing those that have.
    Besides this and the re-instated awarded-team meetings, we are still very pleased with our original decision to make payments of funds dependent on milestone deliverables. A further improvement is that we will have our (community) Review Circle in charge of assessing the milestones and reporting their findings to the community.
    Finally, our website already showcases all information regarding milestones, payments, and surveys per project. We aim to make this more visible and more easily consumable by creating appropriate dashboards and overviews. 
  • Operations – We are at the very beginning of scaling out our operations to the community. Nevertheless, we are already taking reporting into account from the start. We are aiming for a periodic (half-yearly) retrospective of all Circles on their achievements and learnings, along with giving full transparency on tasks done and costs. By aligning the reports from all Circles at the same moment in time, we can more easily get a full overview, compare different Circles, learn from each other, and organize a Town Hall where all results and insights are shared with the community. We hope this will evolve into a celebration of distributed governance where all teams will happily and freely share achievements, and failures, with an eagerness to always learn and improve.

CDP5: Graduated responding to wanted and unwanted behavior

Building and maintaining a positive, constructive culture requires work. Ignoring signals and behaviors that are unaligned or counterproductive to the needs of the community, as defined by our shared values and purpose, can easily lead to the deterioration of the community, thereby weakening our sense of shared identity or even fundamentally changing it. Therefore we need to be ready and willing to respond, both on an individual level and on a community or ‘leadership’ level, to signals of undesired behavior. Perhaps an even harder challenge is to acknowledge the ‘invisible contributors’, people that quietly contribute while not being on the forefront that much. We would love to see a process and a culture that makes all contributions small and large, visible and thereby gives contributors a sense of purpose and belonging. 

  • Community – The main ‘tool’ for responding to wanted or unwanted behavior is our reputation rating system. The more sources we connect, the fairer the outcomes should be and the harder it will be to game the system. An example of motivating desired behavior is by adding a ‘wallet reputation’ system that will decrease the voting weight of wallet IDs that (consistently) vote in extremes (only 1 or 10) and will increase the weight of wallet IDs that vote frequently and more nuanced. It should be noted that while being able to track this behavior over time, the algorithm should be ‘forgiving’. I.e. If a penalized ID shows improved behavior this should be rewarded proportionally.  
  • Builders – We prefer nudging and motivating over policing. An example is the process around status-update surveys mentioned in CDP4. However, should our nudges not lead to a proper result it is conceivable that we will take financial or other measures to motivate the teams to keep us and the community informed.
  • Operations – Here we rely mainly on the culture of the group itself. For instance, the hours that individual circle members are writing are visible to other members of the group, so there is a measure of social control. Another measure could be a feedback system, by which tasks are not just marked as ‘done’, but will also offer some rating on how well the task was done. If and how this should be implemented and who will be responsible for the ratings is to be explored. Alternatively, circle members could organize feedback rounds e.g. per quarter, instead of task-based. While objective criteria, such as the number of hours spent or presence in meetings could be reported to the wider community, more qualitative reviews are perhaps better kept inside the group. 

CDP6: Fast and Fair Conflict Resolution:

There were a few instances where we would have benefited from this type of final resolution-making. The question is how to implement this without creating an implicit or explicit centralization of power. We may have structures in the future that have a wider scope than just Deep Funding, but that doesn’t stop us from creating a dedicated solution for Deep Funding now. 

Since this is a kind of final authority, it will be the end of the escalation ladder for all three perspectives, which is why we are presenting this as a single solution for all three perspectives. 

  • Our current thinking is that we should have representatives of all circles involved in conflict resolution. This will ensure that different perspectives are accounted for, giving a  ‘360’ view of the situation and the potential impact of a decision. To avoid that this will create a kind of precedent for centralized, small-group, decision making we propose to rotate the representatives from each circle and limit the decisions that this collective is making to conflict resolutions. There are however some pros and cons to the rotating system, which may lead us to rely on limiting the scope of decision-making only. 

CDP7: Authority to self-govern

Self-governance is a cornerstone for any decentralized or distributed organization, especially when it comes to scaling. Every Team, ‘Circle’, or Department needs some boundaries but should be able to self-govern within the limitations of these boundaries. Another way of saying this is that any decision should be made at the lowest possible level in the organization. 

  • Community – This is best represented by our efforts to make not only the selection of proposals community-governed, but also involve the community deeply in the governance of the program itself. This is illustrated by initiatives such as community-driven Town Halls, Community Governance Rounds, and the installation of a Community Focus group. And of course by scaling out our operations towards the community! 
  • Builders – Every team that has been awarded a grant is fully self-sufficient. We only have minimal requirements that are mostly aimed at ensuring that the teams fulfill the promises made by themselves to the community. Moreover, as a program, we aim to avoid bureaucracy and policing, and instead, build a culture of coaching and support. 
  • Operations – Each circle has its own requirements. E.g. the review group has to deliver timely eligibility reviews and milestone assessments, the Marketing Circle is responsible for newsletters and social media management, and the Focus group is responsible to effectively mediate in a bidirectional way between the internal and external organization. We have also listed an initial scope of hourly compensations per task that is aligned across circles. Within the limits of these basic requirements, however, each circle has a lot of agency in how they want to accomplish their goals and also if they want to expand their efforts to other areas not immediately required.  Perhaps, once we have sufficient experience, instead of hourly rates we can assign a budget to each Circle, and give them more agency in how to distribute the budget over their tasks. 

CDP8: Collaborative relations with other groups: 

we believe in collaboration over competition. We welcome collaboration with other platforms and projects, without sacrificing our sense of purpose and identity or our agency in determining our tools, processes, and methods

  • Community – An interesting perspective here is how the Deep Funding community will be interacting with other communities. Starting with the Ambassador’s group, but also thinking about other programs like Cardan’s Catalyst. This is already happening grass-roots by individual community members and also on the level of leadership connections. Yet another perspective is tooling: Our vision for the Reputation/contribution rating tool will allow for the interoperability of contribution ratings between platforms. On our platform roadmap, we have the integration with a (freelance) marketplace for exchanging resources and tasks. This could also be a catalyst for collaboration between different (grant-giving) platforms. 
  • Builders – We are exploring options to partner with other organizations, such as setting up shared pools or having RFPs that are specified and funded by our partners. In either case, the conditions for Deep Funding would stay the same: helping the AI platform grow in alignment with the values of SingularityNET. Potentially the voting process could be used to bring separate communities together, distributing voting weights based on the percentage of funding provided. 
  • Operations – In a smaller way, the collaboration between circles is a topic to explore and establish.
    The next step in our operations will be to define a structure for overarching topics where multiple teams can participate in the decision-making. A more traditional approach would be to have a kind of ‘super circle’ with representatives of the other circles, but we rather see a more inclusive way of decision-making where all relevant/interested Circle members can be involved in discussions and decision-making. We expect that this process will need to be supported by appropriate tooling.

Circling back to the introduction where we stated “that culture cannot be created through checklists.“ we hope that it is self-evident that, while we have used the CDPs in this article as a checklist, a rating system like this will never be able to drive a genuine and positive culture. 

To build a culture, first and foremost there needs to be an intrinsic intention to treat everybody fairly, to be inclusive and respectful, and to value everyone’s contributions. With that mindset, all of the above should follow naturally. However, this exercise will help us in sharing our ambitions, educating our desired way of working, and in keeping us alert on areas where we can do better. We hope it will cement the purpose and the identity of our program, and help us build out our already great community! 

If you made it this far into this document, we are very impressed by your interest and engagement! Just by reading you have demonstrated your openness and motivation to help us build this community and add to our culture. If you are inspired to engage in further activities with the community (and not yet doing so) please visit, join our social media channels. Subscribe to our newsletter, and visit our community meetings scheduled in this calendar. We are looking forward to sharing ideas and collaborating on the manifold initiatives we are – and will be – working on. See you on Deep Funding!

If you’d like to read more on how were are developing the tooling and platform around Deep Funding, 
Continue to read ‘Platform roadmap 2024 – Status and Outlook’.

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  • 0
    Kenric Nelson
    Jan 7, 2024 | 2:20 PM

    I'm impressed how quickly Jan absorbed Atkins, et al's book Prosocial and applied it to a review of the SingularityNET governance. Good ideas spread quickly. As the Photrek team was finishing its white paper on Democratic Governance last fall, Stephen Whitenstall suggested I read Ostrom's work on polycentric governance. While her own papers and books are heavy but worthwhile reading, the Prosocial book is an excellent introduction. As Photrek dives into our work on building a contribution score MVP I've been wondering if there would be merit to shifting the focus toward scoring social graphs rather individuals. As Jan summarizes well, there is a need to assess, monitor, and respond to good and bad influences within a community. I'm wonder though if in our development of technical tools for developing metrics we should be cautious about centering this on individuals where there is the danger of the tools be misappropriated. With regard to defending quadratic voting capabilities, a central requirement is detection and mitigation of collusion. This requires measuring correlations between wallets. If the measurement of these community social graphs was the foundation for a reputation system, then perhaps the rewards & penalties could be applied to a subnet of wallets rather than individual wallets. This would in turn decentralize responsibility to monitor and improve contributions to subcommunities rather than to a centralized group. These are complex issues but its great to have such a well laid out framing of the progress SingularityNET is making in decentralized governance.

    • 0
      Jan Horlings
      Jan 7, 2024 | 2:32 PM

      Thanks Kenric! I wonder if this graph of correlation between wallets could also be part of the Wallet Reputation RFP that we are preparing. Or would it be better to include this in the Community Engagement Scores tool?

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