Interview with interview with dGov Council founder Max Semenchuk. Max is the founding partner in #dgov foundation, 4irelabs & teal ua. Striving to improve the economy with better organizations and technology. The Dgov Council exists to support the progress of distributed and decentralized governance research and implementation.
What is dGov all about?
Dgov is a movement, community and foundation. The term Dgov means Distributed Governance in relation to different types of organizations, from teams to states. It can also mean Decentralized governance, yet the concept of distributed is considered the most advanced (see picture below).
As a movement, dgov states that dynamic power distribution is more efficient for network management, and organizations are more tending to networks with time. As a community, it’s a number of researchers, practitioners and developers that work towards dgov implementation.
Foundation became a thing after the EthCC’18, where the plan to make a DGov conference emerged. First, it was a conference org team, but after a while, a number of activities arose and a focus shifted more towards the community creation and support.
How did you get involved in dGov?
I became a fan of DAO (distributed autonomous organizations) as a concept in 2016. And while the first experiment failed drastically I started to research the direction further. I’ve played with dgov concepts and toolset in my own company. So at the time, I learned about the conference I was already committed to it and wanted to support the effort.
How has it grown since the start?
Well, the very first followers were easy to get. It gave us some confidence to plan a conference for 600 people at first. But after reaching out all of our personal connections, the growth slowed down and became more organic. Now it’s ~200-300 people spread over channels like email list, chat, twitter and reddit.
The crypto market has been shaky, but it seems the dGov organization has been growing steadily. How do you explain that?
While Dgov relates to the economy and some politics, it also has a lot to do with technology, specifically blockchain. We believe networks like Ethereum or Aragon can be the most advanced playgrounds for dgov. As their wealth has shaken, we felt that as well.
But funnily, in my opinion, crises can also help dgov progress even more rapidly. Distributed organizations are more sustainable and effective in coordination than centralized organizations. In situations wherever we see a managerial failure (like the recent case with RChain), dgov offers ways to prevent that within governance design.
Your organization run on sponsorships. How has the downturn in crypto affected your organization?
We’ve received the sponsorship from Tezos, Rchain, and recently smaller amounts from Aragon and some private figures. Currently, we have no regular burn rate and use those for specific projects. So in this sense, we’re more of a volunteer organization. The only downside was that we’ve lost some value from the initial amount raised, but now converting to stablecoins works better for us.
Why is decentralized government important?
The complexity of the problems we’re trying to solve in the organizations is always rising due to the VUCA environment (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). Globalization brings new challenges like tougher competition, cross-cultural collaboration and overload of information. The old paradigms of centralized governance and hierarchies were not designed for the dynamics of rapid change. As capitalistic markets has outperformed the Soviet planned economy, organizations applying new approach are showing the agility that will allow them to win over their slower and traditional analogues.
Do you see decentralized government replacing the governments we have now? How do you think that will happen?
Transforming states is a supertask, but we already see some distributed state-level collaborations. This kind of collaboration is essential for tasks like maintaining peace and preserving ecology. So the hierarchical, comand&control part will be slowly decreasing, but still there for some significant time.
What are the obstacles to scaling decentralized systems?
The complexity of coordination increases with the number of participants. While tools like internet help to spread information and collaborate, the strength of connection weakens. There’s an idea of a limit of people with whom a person can maintain relationships (150, Dunbar number). So the question is how to build the trust and sense of purpose in larger groups, in order to maintain high-quality collaboration.
Also, the legal system that worked for us before is not keeping up with the changes. So cryptocurrencies and DAOs are basically outlaws in the current system. In this environment, traditional organizations have a barrier to entry. Just trying to stay within the law is difficult for DAOs, not because they are doing anything wrong or illegal, but because the way governments conceptualize a legal entity in today’s world just doesn’t fit with the organization of a DAO. In other words, if you already have a working entity, and you have some income or some operations that are working, it’s almost impossible to find a legal framework in which you can create a distributed governance model.
It seems there are many competitive visions for decentralized government. Is there competition among the different members of the organization? How do you resolve that.
Sure, each organization sees its own path and we see some interesting debates over that, e.g. between Zamfir and Wood. The dgov concept is open to debate from the start. We need alternatives and evolution, with no single point of truth. So we’re supporting a variety of opinions, comparisons and discussion with our newsletter, group and events.
What elements of dgov are being solved from a technical perspective?
Current tech solutions already help in fund distribution, voting and building incentives. Most prominent solutions are Loomio, Aragon, DAO Stack and Colony. But there are already more than a dozen frameworks and tools in the development in the blockchain space alone.
What elements are still missing?
There’s no concrete body of knowledge, including terminology and long-term case studies. There’s no legal framework. To date, one of the big missings was a platform for collaborative research and lobbying which is what we set out to create with the dgov foundation..
What elements of dgov cannot be solved technologically? How do you approach that?
The cultural aspect of values, personal development and relations are in the core of this evolution. Tech is only a slave to these cultural shifts. We’re trying to approach that by supporting the movement and the community, hoping it will spread from there.
What about interoperability? What are the elements technologically that need to interoperate?
We’re arranging a community council in Berlin on Jan 26-28, and this will be among the topics discussed. What I’d personally like to see is more collaboration between the major players in the space. We’re trying to solve a tremendously complex problem with limited resources. So introducing the synergy is one of our tasks in the foundation. Hopefully, we’ll see the tech for fund management, decision making and dispute resolution start to interoperate with each other. Throughout the blockchain world this is an ongoing question, both within the governance space and the blockchain space as a whole, we want to see networks communicating with each other.