Radicle: Design for community-led governance

The Radicle ecosystem has an ambitious goal: to create the infrastructure for a free and open internet. To protect and further this mission over time, Radicle has been transitioning decision-making to its community of developers, users, token holders, investors, and founders.


Planning this transition prompted an important question: would a one-token-one-vote governance system advance or erode Radicle’s core mission? Without protections (e.g., voting mechanisms, more distributed voting participation, checks-and-balances, etc.) would the financial interests of token holders ultimately lead to decisions that threaten its founding mission? 


To pre-empt this risk, Radicle asked Apiary to support in designing a governance system that would ensure the successful stewardship of its mission over time. 


Designing governance beyond the norm


As many DAOs have found, moving beyond the norm of a one-token-one-vote system is complex. In all decisions, and especially those that change the underlying dynamics of power, there are technical, legal, and social complexities to be considered. To avoid this complexity, we often jump to solutions without all the relevant information about the community in hand.


To build an effective governance system, we must first ask:


  • What is the purpose around which people are in collaboration?
  • Who is in the community? What are their underlying motivations and incentives? How do stakeholders identify with and understand their participation? 
  • What is the environment the community is operating within? What are the constraints, incentive structures, and behaviors needed for the network to succeed?
  • Do people understand the current governance system and how it functions?


Answering these questions is essential to building an effective governance system, and to designing its most foundational element: who has power to influence or direct change? 


Community research 


To answer these questions for Radicle, we completed a comprehensive qualitative analysis of the community. Over three months, we analyzed all existing documentation and historical decision-making processes. We also conducted more than 20 formal and informal interviews with community members representing the ecosystem’s core stakeholder groups.  


The output of our analysis is an Insights & Recommendations Report which presents the information gathered along with a series of recommendations for the DAO’s governance, culture, and future.


Recommendations & next steps


The research revealed several insights into the community: its stakeholder demographics, culture, self-perception, challenges, and opportunities for improved success.


Two insights in particular catalyzed immediate action from the Radicle team:



  1. The community deeply identifies and aligns with the vision of a free and open internet, but lacks a clear understanding of the community’s purpose.  As a result, individual contributors fail to understand their contributions, impact, and role in the system, hindering the full potential of the community’s collaboration.
  2. There is confusion about who holds power and how decisions are made. The team is working to provide more transparency and structures to legitimize the ecosystem’s governance and the decisions it makes.


To address these issues, we have been working with the founders, core team, and community to define and communicate Radicle’s purpose. Once defined, this purpose will serve as the foundation for iterating on and advancing the ecosystem’s governance system.



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