Adopting the Advice Process with a philosophy of seeking consent (vs consensus)

TLDR: We urgently need a decision-making protocol to move towards a mature, grounded, and decentralised community. The Advice Process has 4 simple steps that allows anyone to make decisions as long as the process is followed. A philosophy of seeking consent, rather than consensus, means that decisions in decentralised orgs are more likely to move forward.

Effective decision-making in a decentralized environment is a challenge for all DAOs. However, it’s one of the key foundations of a mature and grounded community.

While it is important that as a decentralised organisation PopcornDAO finds its own path for decision-making and governance, it is also important that in these early days as a community, with many new members arriving in our community that naturally hold different perspectives and histories, we adopt an agreed decision-making process. The PopcornDAO community has grown very quickly in a short amount of time; and while we are working very hard to create onboarding processes and organisation structures that will help us become a mature decentralised organisation, currently we are experiencing a somewhat chaotic community.

Hence this forum post. This has been created as step 3 in the Advice Process: seeking input from stakeholders, and has been created with input from specialists. As part of the Advice Process, we are seeking input from the community (especially Popstars, due to the role they will play) before moving towards a snapshot vote.

Seeing the urgent need for an agreed decision-making process while the community works towards establishing its own path, the team is looking to implement the Advice Process as that agreed process. The Advice Process has been successfully utilised by many decentralised organisations, TEAL organisations, communities, and established DAOs (and you can read more about it in the below links):

https://reinventingorganizationswiki.com/theory/decision-making/


The Advice Process

Source: Rebellious Practices: Make Better Decisions with the Advice Process


How does it work?

The Advice Process is the cornerstone of many decentralised organisations since it embeds the norm that anyone who sees a need or a problem is the right person to solve it as long as they 1. want to, and 2. they seek out advice from those with experience and expertise, and those that will be affected by the decision. It has four simple steps:

(source: Do try this at work: the advice process | by Mark Eddleston | Reinventing Work | Medium)


When do I use the Advice Process?

(source: The Advice Process | Giveth Docs)


How should I seek advice?

Advice can be sought in numerous ways depending on who the decision will affect and can be requested by private communication with individuals or groups inside and outside of PopcornDAO, or in the forum by tagging individuals and/or creating a forum post and sharing the link to the post in Discord (with a brief explanation and timeframe for advice gathering). Advice could also take the form of a Forum or Discord poll.

It is useful to have a deadline/timelines for advice gathering stated clearly in forum posts and private communication. It is also important to keep a record of advice gathered, in case of any conflict resolution.

(source: Decision Making - Reinventing Organizations Wiki)


Step-by-step guide for using the Advice Process in PopcornDAO


Examples of the Advice Process:

  1. You see another project that you would like Popcorn to partner with. You create a simple forum post, sharing your reasons why the other project would be a good fit. You make the post under the ‘Advice Process’ section of the forum, with a poll asking the community what they think and sharing about the poll on Discord, noting a 5 day deadline for input. You tag Anna-Marie and Michael in the forum post, since they are both working in partnerships. Anna-Marie and Micheal make small suggestions to improve the partnership terms, which you agree with so you add them. The poll shows the community supports the partnership. You move ahead to the next step, creating a Snapshot.

  2. A group are working together to create Medium posts and guides explaining how the different products work. One of the group notices that there seems to be low engagement and thinks that it would be helpful to get feedback from Popcorn users, and share their idea with the group of hosting an online session to gather feedback. The rest of the group think it’s a great idea. You share your idea on Twitter, asking for input from communications experts on how best to run that session. You incorporate some of the feedback into your planning. You then ask Popcorn’s product manager if they have any advice for feedback sessions, which they do, and you incorporate that advice into your plans.

  3. You see a piece of broken code on the website which you know how to fix. You tag the dev team, asking if anyone’s seen it and if not, how you intend to fix it. They’ve not seen it, so you go ahead and fix it.


Things we’ll need to do to support the Advice Process:

  1. Set up an ‘advice process’ tag for the Forum so that all forum posts seeking advice can be easily identified.

  2. Clarify within the Popstars if they’re happy to be the liaisons for members seeking support to help formulate ideas or tackle issues.

  3. Clearly share core team information - who’s leading on what within Popcorn, and what specialities they have, so that community members know who to ask for advice.


2. Consent-based decision-making.

(source: Making better, faster decisions that are good enough for now | by Bonnie Slater | Humans of Xero | Medium)

(source: https://twitter.com/jeffemmett/status/1367665680565350402?s=20)

Tools for consent-based decision-making

  1. When creating a Forum post as part of the Advice Process you might want to add a poll to check if anyone would likely block your proposal as it stands.
  2. In meetings, you could ask if anyone would not consent to your idea.

Things to remember!

  1. Consent doesn’t necessarily mean you love the idea or that you wouldn’t put forward a different idea yourself. It means you can live with the decision and it wouldn’t negatively affect your ability to do your role.
  2. If you don’t consent to a proposal or idea, share your reasons why the decision would negatively impact PopcornDAO. The more information you can point towards, the better.
13 Likes

Really helpful Anna-marie! Currently in the process of researching more about giving advice in a correct way and self reflection as this was a working point at my full-time job. Being clear and understanding isn’t always easy for introverts.

3 Likes

Had never heard of that before now. I think it’s great general guidance for working in DAOs, from what I’ve seen / experienced.

One Suggestion: the OP is a lot to sift through. It might be helpful to break it down to the most succinct main points and then share some links and resources for further reading for those so inclined.

2 Likes

I hear you. If it’s helpful, I think of the Advice Process in quite a different way than giving or receiving advice. It could easily have been called the ‘Input Process’ or something else, as it’s somewhat different than how we humans normally deal with ‘advice’ (which is often personal and/or not asked for!).

With the Advice Process, we’re actively seeking input more along the lines of ‘I have this idea that could improve something or create something new. Is there something I can’t see (that input from specialists can help me see) that will improve my idea? And is there something that the people that this idea will affect see something I can’t see?’. The ‘advice’, therefore, is more input on an idea than personal feedback.

I think a key thing with the Advice Process is that emotionally the person starting it is emotionally ready to receive the input, and those giving it have specifically been asked to give it.

Also, at the end of the day, it’s input. It’s up to the decision-maker to adopt the advice or not.

2 Likes

To add: so, in this situation, the input we’re seeking here from you as a community member is:

  1. Is there anything missing here in the proposal above that would improve how this would work for you as a community member? And if there is, what would improve the process?

  2. Is there anything suggested here that would negatively impact your life as a community member?

2 Likes

I get that. That was the intention behind making the step-by-step guide. To have a one-page succinct guide.

Unfortunately, to be useful, there is some learning here if you’re learning to use the Advice Process before.

I should have added: we will role out some Advice Process focussed Q&A sessions that will be open to all members, to help answer any questions if the reading is too much.

1 Like

Hi Anna-Marie! Really interesting work, especially for someone (me) used to working in web2/corporate hierarchical structures. A question: what does the chain of accountability/responsibility look like when using the Advice Process? For example, if someone makes a decision/change that adversely affects the functionality of the website, are they also responsible for rectifying it? Would this line of accountability extend to larger initiatives? And do y’all intend on tracking decisions and their impacts over time in some way? Again, really cool stuff here!

4 Likes

Wow - this is a really great synthesis with concrete recommendations here. The decision tree diagram is :100:! Thank you for taking the time to put this together for us.

I suspect there might be a tie-in here that could extend to polls/snapshot votes and on-chain votes. For example, the last step in the decision tree is “Having taken all advice into account, make your decision and inform those who were part of the Advice Process.” What if the decision is: creating a snapshot vote after seeking advice? I don’t think we have clear guidelines yet for that, but I could see this as the process through which all action begins.

I know people on the discord have brought up creating RFC’s and making it so that only the core team can submit a snapshot vote after it has gone through a due process. If this is some how integrated with that process I think we’ll have a very solid guidelines for converting thought to action. Thank you again!

3 Likes

Very interesting starter to the discussion - I really like the “informed decision maker” process (as I have previously come to know it…) but you haven’t mentioned how you intend to handle bad-actors as part of the PopcornDAO process, for larger decisions which have large impact I’ve seen a “viva” style check-in being used before progressing forwards at the decision point - wonder if it might be of use here?

1 Like

I think the Advice Process as described above is a really interesting approach @anna-marie and good starting point. At the moment I have a bit of a hard time wrapping my head around on how the “Informal information gathering → RFC/formal information gathering → PIP creation → Snap Vote” process described by @illhelm will fit into this? @anna-marie @illhelm could you (both) merge both process or integrate the later into the former?

Hey @pleasuredoing

Such interesting questions to explore the Advice Process through. Here’s my take on it:

The Advice Process is not for every single action to be taken by a community member. It shouldn’t been seen as a stifling ‘law’ that stops us from using common sense. If a small change was needed for the website - lets say that a piece of code had broken and needed fixing - then likely the most obvious action is to message the person who oversees the website and they’ll sort it out. Simple!

However, if what you have in mind is that someone has an idea about a significant change to the site’s functionality, then if they’re using the Advice Process it’s likely that their change wouldn’t adversely affect the functionality. Why? Because as part of the Advice Process step 3: seeking advice from specialists (which in this case is likely the person overseeing the website, and potentially other web or software developers), then any issues with the idea being sought advice on would likely be spotted before being implemented. That’s really the intention of the Advice Process, to utilise input to spot any issues before a change is made.

But let’s say that the Advice Process was followed, a change was made, and then issues occurred. What that has done is take us back to the start of the Advice Process and it’s really down to the individual who spots that issue. Obviously, if you’re changing code on a site and as you’re changing it, it breaks the site, then yes, the responsibility is yours to correct! If we’re taking on a responsibility, it’s ours to make sure it works OK (i.e. we take responsibility to implement our idea to the best of our ability). But, if the negative impact happens or is seen at a later date, then it’s the responsibility of the person that spots it. And if they utilise the Advice Process, they should seek advice from specialists, which would (seem to me) to include the person who made the most recent changes.

As I see it, with the Advice Process there’s two types of responsibility: 1. being responsible to finish what you start if you choose to move forward with your idea, and 2. being responsible to act and utilise the Advice Process if you see something that needs a decision made around it (which could include notifying others if you don’t have time/the skills/the desire to become responsible for something.)

Here, I have a responsibility to move this proposal through to completion, because I’ve set the ball rolling. But, once I have completed this task using the Advice Process, it isn’t necessarily my responsibility to respond to the outcomes if at a later date the Advice Process agreed here needs tweaking. I might choose to; or, the person that sees that it needs tweaking might want to take responsibility and seek my advice.

And no, there’s no intention to track decisions. However, if that’s something that you see the need for/would be a good idea, then using the Advice Process you could start that ball rolling as an idea :slight_smile:

Thank you! I’m so glad in particular that the diagram is helpful :slight_smile:

So, here’s the thing about the Advice Process - the outcome, i.e. the what the decision is of ‘make your decision’ - is going to be dependant on what the decision is being made about. Which means that creating a vote is not going to be the outcome needed every time.

However, if the Advice Process is followed, especially step 3: seeking advice from specialists, and the decision being made is likely to impact the entire community or make a significantly change (like here, with us implementing a community-wide decision-making process), then the advice being sought should point someone towards creating a snapshot vote and utilising the PIP creation pathway being explored by @illhelm (tagging you into this @ToBe). It should point someone that way because if someone is seeking advice about decision that is likely to impact the entire community or make a significantly change, then the (it seems to me) logical way to do that is to ask a team member, mods, Popstars, or the community about any steps needed to take.

It’s actually quite important that the Advice Process doesn’t become too narrow and specific in regards to how a decision is made. The intention with the Advice Process is to give a pathway to gathering input about a decision, but not to enforce any outcome.

The difference with what Will is working on is that the Advice Process is a very open but shared general framework on how to make decisions across the board, and the suggested PIP creation is a specific proposal creation process we can utilise as a community to (hopefully) ensure that we create the best proposals we can make. What I love about the suggested PIP process Will has been working on is that it utilises the Advice Process (gather feedback from the community etc.).

2 Likes

Hey @ThreePhase I don’t know what a Viva-style check-in is, can you share more about it?

I’d also be curious to understand what a ‘bad actor’ is, from your perspective? and where you think the Advice Process (any particular steps, for example) gives room for bad actors? I have my own interpretation of what you’re talking about but it would be helpful to hear what you’re thinking of here.

I suppose what I’m saying here is with regards to how decisions are actioned and what controls are put in place around that - how much autonomy will people following this process have and what checks will be in place to ensure that someone doesn’t get a bunch of advice and then effectively ignore it for their own malicious purposes, thereby allowing them to carry out actions on behalf of the DAO whilst looking like they have followed our processes - the risk is that if someone can pretend to be following the process without actually revealing what they are going to do they could (for example) procure funds from the DAO to carry out a project without actually revealing fully to the DAO what they are intending on doing by saying that they have consulted and gotten advice (which they are intending to ignore, but aren’t saying that)

I don’t know how the DAO protects itself in this regard, what controls are in place to avoid people damaging the reputation of the DAO by using the brand for something off-message, or acting as a representative for the DAO etc?

I don’t know if I’m making any sense…

2 Likes

Absolute sense!

So here’s my perspective on it.

I get the concern and desire for a ‘bad actor foolproof’ set of community rules/tools. Unfortunately, I don’t think any DAO has created a system that protects from bad actors. However, what I think successful (i.e. grounded and mature) DAO communities are doing is
working together over time to build up a system specific to their DAO that best mitigates the likelihood of bad actors not being noticed, with agreements in place on how to act when it happens, along with the cultural systems in place to create a strong community.

I see this working really well when the following are instigated:

  1. Utilising Ostrom’s design principals for stewarding commons, which both 1Hive and the TEC do:

Ostrom's Design Principles

This means spending time creating an agreed conflict process, which (IMO) should be set up by conflict management specialists, and graduated sanctions for those that ignore agreed community processes and systems.

  1. A strong onboarding system for new members. Things I’ve seen work really well are interactive and extensive onboarding forms (that share a community’s purpose, values, and goals), regular onboarding calls, working groups and other groups to join, and so on.

  2. A strong focus on cultural build, which the TEC has done exceptionally well (you can find more about it in the previous TEC link):

All of the above take time and a community effort.

Which leads to: I don’t see the Advice Process as being the right place to explore bad actors. I see it as one tool we can use to help us move together in the right direction but it should just be viewed as one part of an extensive system, to be designed by us.

3 Likes

Hi Anna-marie, great to have this information regarding advice and decision making process.
Having clear processes and guidelines outlined helps a lot in Dao’s work I think. Thanks a lot. Cheers,

1 Like

Seems like the way to go. Build faster with the help of the community.

1 Like

Where’s the best place for us to post our ideas?

Hey @mois It’s here, in comments, as those above have been doing. Would you like to share your input?

I agree with you entirely. Obviously if a proposal is made, there will be a lot of mixed opinions because our thinking is different. However, it will take consistency, suitable for everyone, so the Advice Process is really essential for us. As far as I know, the Advice Process has worked very well at Giveth.
Imo, it would be great to have more Community Call combined with Advice Process to get the best results for us

1 Like