Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) have become a prominent part of the crypto space, managing a staggering $17.2 billion in value, according to DeepDAO. However, the governance of these organizations has been a major challenge, with many of them failing to demonstrate even the most basic principles of business management.
Several high-profile examples highlight the issues surrounding DAO governance. One such example is the Wonderland DAO, which reached a total value locked of nearly $2 billion before it came crashing down. It was revealed that the treasury manager, known as 0xSifu, was actually Michael Patryn, the co-founder of failed crypto exchange QuadrigaCX and a convicted criminal for financial fraud.
Another recent incident involved the Solana-based trading protocol Mango Markets. Attackers exploited the DAO’s loosely governed parameters and managed to acquire a significant portion of the DAO’s MNGO tokens. In a bizarre turn of events, the attacker proposed returning half of the stolen tokens in exchange for the DAO not taking legal action against them. Although the proposal ultimately failed, Mango Markets still had to pay $47 million to the attacker.
These cases are not isolated incidents, as many DAOs that kept their funds on centralized exchanges also suffered significant losses during the market turmoil of 2022. Despite the ideals of self-sovereignty and self-custody, these organizations failed to protect their treasuries.
The complexity of DAO governance is evident, as founders have to navigate multiple competing priorities, including tackling voter apathy, promoting decentralization, and achieving product-market fit. There is no definitive “best practices” manual, and knowledge sharing among DAOs is limited.
Thankfully, devoted DAO enthusiasts are actively working to address these challenges through a series of experiments. One of the main issues they are tackling is voter apathy. Many token holders refrain from voting due to the time commitment required. Additionally, when voters do participate, they often lack the necessary expertise or context to make informed decisions. Some voters are not even aware of ongoing votes until it’s too late.
To combat this, a range of DAO infrastructure tools have emerged to streamline the voting process. Platforms like Senate and Goverland aim to aggregate governance proposals from multiple DAOs into a single interface, simplifying the decision-making process for token holders. These tools integrate with popular voting platforms such as Snapshot and Tally and offer features like in-time notifications to boost voter participation.
Furthermore, some proponents argue that DAO governance should go beyond token-based voting and introduce more engaging and personalized approaches. One such project is JokeRace, which leverages incentivized contests to encourage token holders to take part in governance decisions. These contests can be tailored to specific criteria, such as expertise or loyalty, allowing for a more nuanced approach to decision-making.
Another strategy used to address voter apathy is delegation voting, where token holders delegate their voting rights to trusted individuals. This approach has gained traction in many major DAOs, allowing for faster decision-making and decentralization. However, it also comes with its own challenges, such as the risk of voting power consolidation and apathy among delegates themselves. Efforts are being made to improve accountability and transparency in delegation voting through tools like Karma, which aggregate information about delegates, their voting history, and forum activity.
In conclusion, DAO governance presents significant challenges for founders and participants alike. However, a growing number of initiatives are striving to improve the system and overcome issues such as voter apathy and centralized decision-making. These experiments aim to create more inclusive and efficient DAOs, where token holders can actively participate in shaping the future of decentralized finance.