DAOs need to learn from Burning Man for mainstream adoption

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As they exist today, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) will not scale to the masses. 

Sure, shining examples like PleasrDAO, Uniswap DAO, Synthetix’s group of DAOs, and Maker DAO exist, thriving in their respective niches. Still, none of these have gotten anywhere close to being household names.

Why, you might ask?

Related: Cybernetic organizations — BORGs — are doomed to fail

They’re too crypto.

Three of these four are protocol DAOs, driving the day-to-day operations and future growth of DeFi ecosystems. The other, PleasrDAO, is a collective of well-known crypto builders, investors, and overall thought leaders curating the future of art, on-chain.

Though these DAOs are supposed to be “crypto-focused,” we still need a model for DAOs that will transcend the industry.

The organizational structure of a DAO. Source: Seth Bannon

Consider Burning Man: A DAO before DAOs were coined. A DAO truly outside of crypto.

From its founding in 1986 with just 20 guests, to its rise to a global phenomenon with an estimated 73,000 in attendance this year, the draw has always been simple, yet powerful enough to bring people together from all sorts of backgrounds.

Burning Man can be almost anything to anyone, but to everyone, it’s an escape from traditional society to an alternative in which money doesn’t rule and paying it forward does. Every year, the city gets bigger, and the camps around it offer more, despite the fact that money isn’t used during the event itself.

With the crypto bear market continuing and DAOs still stopping short of crossing the chasm, perhaps it’s high time to draw inspiration from the physical world’s most famous DAO.

Central planning, but with decentralized governance

What if DAOs don’t always need to be fully decentralized?

Burning Man thrives on a model in which the non-profit plans the city and everything involved with making sure the festival and its camps can still thrive there. Simultaneously, the camps are allowed to offer services they choose to offer, as long as those services align with the greater mission, vision, and values of the event.

If that rings a bell to DAO practitioners, it’s because certain DAOs already operate with a similar structure. Take Ukraine DAO and VitaDAO, both of which Vitalik himself discusses in his seminal essay on DAOs vs. corporations.

Ukraine DAO functions with an overarching council making major decisions such as creating working groups or “pods,” funding them, and choosing what organizations or initiatives receive donations from the DAO. The working groups below the council are largely free to operate on their own, much like Burning Man’s camps, as long as they do not do so in a way that goes against the DAO’s mission, vision, and values.

VitaDAO has, as of this year, consolidated into three working groups, namely: longevity dealflow, community and awareness, and coordination. Each group has a steward that shepherds its activities and all ensure that all of their activities are always aligned with the common goal of pushing longevity research to new heights.

Both DAOs continue to operate and scale their activities in their own ways, working far beyond the typical model of “DAO as an investment fund of some sort.” If more DAOs were to draw inspiration from both their examples and that of Burning Man’s interplay between the foundation and the camps, we just might see the DAO model move far beyond crypto and more towards a shining example of what the future of all communities can be.

Network states can work, can’t they?

Burning Man, in and of itself, can be conceptualized as a sort of “mini-network state.”

Balaji Srinivasan, who pioneered the idea, defines a network state as “a highly aligned online community with a capacity for collective action that crowdfunds territory around the world and eventually gains diplomatic recognition from pre-existing states.”

Though the Burning Man movement is largely rooted in the physical world, it thrives because of the idea that it’s the escape from traditional society and overall, the pressures of everyday life, for everyone.

Related: OpenAI needs a DAO to manage ChatGPT

It’s here in the power of the idea that its potential status as a network state exists. If DAOs ever hope to become ubiquitous, they should learn from Burning Man’s success here.

Why not put all or nearly all crypto on the back-end and in so doing, make it easier than ever to understand the power of DAOs? We’ve promised it time and time again, and yet, Ukraine DAO and VitaDAO are the most well-known examples of attracting people from far beyond the crypto-sphere to DAOs.

Let’s start with better manifestos.

When DAOs launch, they should launch for an audience, above all else, that can push their goals forward to a scalable reality and less for a tiny fraction of the world that “gets” tokenomics and related fields.

Let’s consider as well, making the physical world a part of their activities, far beyond involvement in conferences and other industry events. Why not have festivals that everyone can get behind, backed by DAOs?

It’s a start.

Crossing the chasm means educating the masses on the impact we can make beyond our industry bubble. We’re not there yet but with a sprinkling of magic from initiatives like Burning Man, we can be.

Crypto and DAOs by extension desperately need better roads to the rest of the world. Why not hyper-scale physical events to help us get there? Burning Man shows us that a simple vision can evolve into a global movement that persists and grows for generations, when done right.

Let’s make the first truly crypto, Burning Man, as one.

Kushagra Agarwal is the co-founder of Samudai, a DAO project management platform that enables collaboration and bounty management for admins, project managers, and contributors. He also serves as a Kernel Block III member at Gitcoin, where he successfully created a tokenization platform for content creators to generate and distribute social tokens He was previously part of IBM’s Digital Transformation Labs. He holds a bachelor’s in technology in computer science from Vellore Institute of Technology.

This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

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