[DISCUSSION] Education DAO

Proposal Title: Education DAO

Authors: Jonathan Allen from Magnus Ventures and Jocelyn Weber from UC Berkeley RDI

Date: 23 Nov 2021

Universities are an amazing place for untapped talent and a small amount of support, guidance, and funding can have a profound effect on the innovators of the future. We have already seen numerous founders and projects spin out of university groups and we believe this trend will not only continue but greatly increase. Faculty and University Centers are beginning to take interest in this burgeoning space and supporting academic research and enabling professors to begin focusing more time on solving fundamental problems will benefit everyone.

This proposal ensures that universities know BitDAO is fully supportive of their endeavors as well as aligns BitDAO to sponsor first time founders, their projects, and future autonomous entities. In addition, one of the main issues BitDAO currently faces is a lack of critical engagement and feedback from the community. This proposal is a way of quickly engaging some of the brightest minds and bringing them into the BitDAO community to focus on exactly that.

Read the full proposal here.

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This is exactly what I’ve been waiting to see!

As mentioned in previous posts, I’m a Comp. Sci. student, and I know first-hand that there’s a huge amount of potential to be had here. With preliminary access to funding, so many universities can be incentivized to direct focus, resources, and talent towards the space. It really just needs that push in the right direction.

Though the general preference is to remain apolitical, I believe that initiatives like these, like it or not, ultimately command influence, just by virtue of the capacity to extend funding or not. With this in mind, I would like to see a set of expectations that all participating universities are expected to adhere to, and perhaps one that goes above-and-beyond the status quo; a focus not on current best practice, but what we collectively want to see become the standard in our institutes of higher learning.

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this is super, really excited to join and get top Asia universities to participate. Seeing this becoming a young global crypto community.

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"The support from BitDAO will in particular help support research in decentralized governance, decentralized research, and regulation related questions regarding DAOs."

Since these universities will need to answer those same compliance questions to accept funding from Bitdao, that may be the first use of the endowment. Cornell’s Initc3 is the only example of this I have heard of.

We need more vertical integration. This proposal fills a gap and is likely to pass. I support the idea. I am interested to know more about how this can be funded by tax-exempt universities that will encounter grey areas regarding compliance and their subsidized campus programs. Someone here may shed light on those questions for us.

The labor pool you’re describing is really young college kids from old money. In my opinion, this proposal does not achieve these goals. This does not address retention issues. They are not ideologically-driven and have alternative career paths if their startups fail. They can pivot out of the industry far easier. Retaining builders is the issue. I suggest introducing an amendment to the proposal–a complementary fund for smaller universities where the disenfranchised talent has a path to innovate. Or, failing that, an open-source doctrine that protects the work products of these endowments from being university IP. If you want radical young minds for cheap to enter the workforce and build, weeding out students destined for consulting in middleman operations is needed.

…and propose at least one BitDAO Contribution every six months
That’s brilliant. Still not thrilled at the idea of giving old money more fast-tracking into a new money industry that needs deeper drivers than profit. Built as a public good, this is an easy win. But the people this will attract are not the ones you need if the goal is a regenerative model for perpetual university endowments. They will extract this fund and replenish it only insofar as the university needs a budget for overworking grad students on the research teams.

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Great proposal, I believe these types of initiatives will ultimately bring value back into BitDAO in the form of talent, community engagement, and greater exposure of the BitDAO name to those wishing to innovate in the blockchain/crypto space. The opportunity for students across different universities to network, build and innovate together in an evolving DAO structure will certainly yield interesting experiments that the entire blockchain space can learn from.

I love the idea of developing MOOCs! Although it is not the goal of this initiative, providing access to education for individuals who have limited access to educational resources is important. The development of open course material related to decentralized technology created by contributors at top-tier universities like the initial partner universities of Education DAO is an exciting prospect. It would be great to see universally accessible education resources produced by Education DAO!

A few questions:

  • The proposal mentions that BitDAO will provide the “vast majority of funding”. Are there other groups participating in funding Education DAO?

  • Why $30M? Are the funding distributions based on a discussion amongst university participants?

  • Have there been discussions about what the expected costs of initiating Education DAO will be and who might be in charge of this initiative? I’m aware that the initial Steering Committee is still being formed. Will this committee be in charge of allocating funds for the entity formation and legal costs or have these details been determined beforehand?

Thank you to everyone involved in this proposal!

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I second this.

As for your concern with not attracting the right individuals; There are collaborative tools currently being polished that offer solutions to this. Incentives for continued engagement (post-study period), based on merit could encourage the retention (and development) of huge amounts of talent.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I believe EduDAO could redistribute the opportunity for post-secondary education away from old-money; and to be fair, the perspective you vocalized about where students largely come from doesn’t ring true everywhere, and a DAO, by virtue of its nature, should have a focus towards a global road-map.

I’m an undergrad who went back to school as an adult; I was a latchkey kid from a working-class family, who left home at 16. No ‘old money’ here. It’s all in who the community chooses to empower. I believe not taking advantage of a DAO’s potential to fund undergraduate studies would be passing up on a very real chance to improve the equitable distribution of post-secondary opportunities.

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My only question: who does this proposal make those opportunities for?

It is absolutely not a population made up of middle class people. It’s just not true. Your existence does not negate the issues in the education system or the demographics of research universities in the US. You can learn about that independently of this discussion, but I really encourage you to read some stats and studies on it. Your personal background is not relevant to this conversation because you don’t represent the majority of ANY of these institutions. Don’t believe me? Google the statistics. I’m not here to argue that.

This proposal gives $10Mil/year (for 3 years) to 7 top universities in the US. Berkeley, Harvard, MIT…This is not global. It is US-based. It is not distributed for equitable opportunities for the middle class. I would not characterize the idea of giving more money to the richest institutions in the world as missing " a very real chance to improve the equitable distribution of post-secondary opportunities". That is very misleading.

No one is saying “don’t fund education initiatives that bring smart people into cryptocurrency”. That’s just a strawman argument. Criticizing the proposal doesn’t erase opportunities for anyone.

I’ll say again: Who has the privilege of accessing these funds and why are they the chosen targets? I think the answer to both is rather obvious. And this will likely pass anyway. It’s a small amount to these chosen colleges. Less impactful (in my opinion). The ROI could be improved by targeting more disenfranchised populations. And universities that actually need funding and grants programs for students with more at stake than risking having to pivot careers outside cryptocurrency with their undergrad degree from Berkeley, Harvard, or MIT] and a well-funded support system that can cover their student debt if by graduation, their parents haven’t already paid it off. I would much rather bet on those people for retention within the crypto job market that have the most to gain and the most to lose. Most startups fail. This could become a glorified Bitdao-subsidized college project for most participants. That’s the risk I see.

Even if I didn’t, it seems obvious to me that research universities are experts at extracting grant money without students getting in the middle. I don’t know if BitDAO would even have a legal avenue to address misuse of these grants as they’re not a widely-recognized legal entity. Are these taxable? I have no idea because DAO’s rights are not (as far as I know) established legal precedent. You may want to start with how to enforce the grantee guidelines and assure that these grants aren’t just gifts with polite suggestions and no recourse. If someone stole funds, and when caught, simply pointed out their college does not have legal obligations to BitDAO or any DAO, and therefore, this grant came with no strings attached, I don’t know what you could possibly do to stop them.

I see a lot of potential issues worth addressing and discussing publicly before voting on this.

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As a PhD candidate in data science and artificial intelligence, I have mixed feelings about this proposal. Please do not get me wrong. I am 100% in support of an education-focused DAO. However, I do not see how this proposal falls under the term ‘Decentralized Autonomous Organization’.

As per my understanding and discussed by others, this proposal may only benefit a handful of already ‘well-funded’ institutions. An Education DAO should provide equal funding opportunities to institutions worldwide instead of being limited to US-based. I think the following features should be the basis of an Education DAO:

  1. Funding pools/research grants available for public applications.

  2. Representatives/delegators from the DAO, with sufficient experience in research and grant management, should be responsible for assessing grant applications (they should also be paid).

  3. Multilevel approval process for different grants opportunities (e.g., representatives have the rights to approve small grants, whereas large grants require formal snapshots.)

The existing grant application process is already well-established, for example, the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). An Education DAO can adopt these processes and replace the centralised elements with decentralised mechanisms (representatives, delegation, snapshot, etc.).

With all that being said, if the proposal aims to inject funds into these research institutions (with highly talented minds), then please do not use the word DAO.

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Fanatickus, I believe you missed this part of my post:

“doesn’t ring true everywhere, and a DAO, by virtue of its nature, should have a focus towards a global road-map.”

I’m not based in the U.S. Respectfully, I do feel that my experience is relevant when you make a point about a demographic that I belong to. The issues you’re describing are not as glaring of an issue here in my home country. Though there are disproportionately higher numbers of students who derive from upper-class families, this is something that can be improved.

With that said, I do agree with many of the points you bring up. Will come back to this tomorrow. Cheers.

EDIT: Clarity and more concise.

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Hm, I think I replied to the proposal, not your post :slight_smile:

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Sorry Jimmie, this was a reply to Prof_Fanatickus- just half asleep and slipped up on replying properly, haha. Apologies.

Best

No worries. Your comments are very insightful :slight_smile:

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Hi Prof_Fanatickus! Really appreciate the time and effort you spent going through the proposal and leaving thoughtful comments. Definitely a lot of things to discuss and people like you really help in lending an extra set of eyes to ensure proposals like this are a success!

A few things to clarify, all of these University Group DAOs are separate entities entirely run by students that do not fall under the particular university that they happen to attend. We are speaking with several firms that are spending a lot of time figuring out the most optimized entity structure for this application.

RDI’s participation and likely other University Centers will be predicated on gift funding to support their focus (which obviously will be very aligned with BitDAO and EduDAO to garner said funding). We are working closely with RDI and in conversation with several other University Centers discussing how to have an even more engaged relationship going forward, and as you point out, this is one of the areas RDI will be focusing on using the funding they receive!

More succinctly there are two groups we are engaging with this proposal:

University Group DAO’s = Student driven entities entirely seperate from the universities they attend.

University Centers = Faculty driven research centers that fall under University rules and guidelines.

The labor pool you’re describing is really young college kids from old money. In my opinion, this proposal does not achieve these goals. This does not address retention issues. They are not ideologically-driven and have alternative career paths if their startups fail. They can pivot out of the industry far easier. Retaining builders is the issue. I suggest introducing an amendment to the proposal–a complementary fund for smaller universities where the disenfranchised talent has a path to innovate. Or, failing that, an open-source doctrine that protects the work products of these endowments from being university IP. If you want radical young minds for cheap to enter the workforce and build, weeding out students destined for consulting in middleman operations is needed.

I don’t necessarily agree with you on all of this point. Retention issues are definitely one of the primary focuses of this initiative and very important when it comes to student orgs, but your overgeneralization of club participants is off base in my experience. I co-founded Blockchain at Berkeley and do not fit into your narrative. I joined the military to pay for school because my family could not afford it, and my family losing their house during the financial crisis right after I joined was one of the primary motivators for me to work on technology that could empower people like my family who the current system was obviously not working for. University populations in general may fit into the “old money” category you address but those students will likely join traditional consulting or venture clubs where they can better leverage their family connections. When I was at Berkeley, I was surrounded by people with similar stories who seem uniquely drawn to this technology. I could go on and on addressing my personal experience and go over in detail the leadership of the various University Groups in this proposal and how they don’t fit into this overgeneralization but I think the entire conversation is the wrong approach.

In my mind, this initiative should be data driven. As you see in the proposal, funding is entirely driven by results. We set an initial funding bar, with checks every three months to adjust based on performance and need. In the Scaling Up section, I discuss exactly what you are describing, including numerous other schools who wish to participate. We wish to be as inclusive as possible and if you know any university group who would like to participate please connect me, we will likely be adding many more during phase 2 (If this initial trial goes well).

I targetted student groups that already had been organizing, building, and educating in the absence of funding to see what they could do with a larger budget and increased support. As you mention, retention is very challenging and groups that have been around for a while have a much better chance to succeed initially, paving the way for other university groups that will need to undergo the same struggles to create something lasting. Connecting these established student groups to make a structure others can follow will hopefully give as many young, motivated individuals a chance to self select as possible. I went from disarming bombs in Afghanistan to building blockchain solutions for some of the largest companies by my Junior year at Berkeley with zero support from the actual university - it was entirely student driven as most of these student groups still are. I want every student to have this opportunity, it truly changed my life. To discount the work being done by motivated individuals in order to justify a more inclusive approach goes against the spirit I was aiming for in submitting this proposal in the first place. EduDAO is not zero sum, I hope that this proposal can end up funding every single student with an interest in blockchain and we don’t need to put down others in order to get there.

…and propose at least one BitDAO Contribution every six months
That’s brilliant. Still not thrilled at the idea of giving old money more fast-tracking into a new money industry that needs deeper drivers than profit. Built as a public good, this is an easy win. But the people this will attract are not the ones you need if the goal is a regenerative model for perpetual university endowments. They will extract this fund and replenish it only insofar as the university needs a budget for overworking grad students on the research teams.

I covered it above, but once again, these University Group DAOs will be independent entities working on public goods for BitDAO and beyond. Each university’s IP rules are different but this is something we are extremely aware of to make sure that everything produced is open and usable by the public. In speaking with the faculty at RDI, this is the spirit of what they are working on as well, and will be a requirement of any University Centers we choose to work with. There is an important dichotomy within this proposal, student driven groups and faculty driven centers, funding will be allocated based on the value that each of them creates as determine by BIT holders. If the situation arises that you mention, I believe Year 2 funding will look quite different.

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Thank you so much! You really highlight the ethos of this initiative, to conduct an open experiment on an evolving DAO structure to best support students. MOOC’s and open source material are the key for where things are headed long term in my mind. Education and ability to participate in this space should be dependent by desire, not physical location or the university that you happen to attend. While starting with university groups is likely the best way to bootstrap this, what you mention is definitely the desired destination.

To answer your questions:

  • The proposal mentions that BitDAO will provide the “vast majority of funding”. Are there other groups participating in funding Education DAO?

There are other groups we are in conversation with regarding funding but we are keeping a very high bar. It would be very easy to open this up to many others who will simply use it to push their own narrative or extract value from students. It is paramount that we keep this initiative focused on providing value to students to get them from 0 to 1 as quickly and efficiently as possible in my opinion. I do believe that by Year 2 BitDAO will be a much smaller portion of overall funding based on the current interest, but as I stated above, all capital participants must be 100% mission aligned.

  • Why $30M? Are the funding distributions based on a discussion amongst university participants?

This funding amount was based on conversations with university participants. Overall, to support the vast ecosystem of students, it is not even close to enough. We believe that it is a good start however, based on the initial batch, to help prove the model. With accounting checks every three months, we would like to keep this initiative very data and results driven. I’m sure we will all learn a lot in the first six months, and through those lessons, will hopefully be able to continually iterate to find the best model that can be expanded to support dozens of other student groups.

  • Have there been discussions about what the expected costs of initiating Education DAO will be and who might be in charge of this initiative? I’m aware that the initial Steering Committee is still being formed. Will this committee be in charge of allocating funds for the entity formation and legal costs or have these details been determined beforehand?

I briefly mentioned in the proposal that costs will be paid from budget excess but I am hoping to have a more defined budget before this goes to snapshot so that it can be its own line item. I am in discussion with two fantastic candidates who wish to work on this full time serving on the Steering Committee. I believe that having 2-3 individuals working on EduDAO and supporting University Group DAO’s part/full time will give this the best chance of success. The Steering Committee will be in charge of allocating funds for entity formation and legal costs, and BitDAO support entities such as Mirana and Windranger will be available to help in the interim period while the entity is being formed.

Thank you once again for your questions! Please let me know if I didn’t fully answer any or if you’ve thought of others.

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Hi Prof_Fanatickus,

Once again, I really appreciate the time you’ve spent here. It is 100% clear you are passionate about this domain, and that is what I love so much about this growing community: the ability to engage with so many diverse and knowledgeable individuals to hopefully find a way to improve the world around us!

To get into a response, I already discussed a lot of this in my post above so I won’t bore you with more personal anecdotes but it’s worth repeating that I disagree with your generalization. I do think the delineation that students are 100% in the beginning, middle and end of this proposal is important to make. This is not direct funding to these universities, it is to University Groups led by students who have a history of contributing to this space, usually in the absence of direct university support. Things are starting to change but very few universities, even top ones, have put much time or effort into supporting or teaching blockchain let alone supporting student groups who have self organized.

I’ll say again: Who has the privilege of accessing these funds and why are they the chosen targets?

To answer your question directly: These university groups are the initial targets because they are organized and have an established history. Anyone who has been involved with a university group knows that they can die every semester that their leadership graduates. Highlighting student groups that have survived and thrived is necessary to create a framework for success at other universities. I fully agree that other schools likely have much more potential, but it is exactly that, potential. If we started off with other universities with no established blockchain group and gave them capital, I think it is much more likely that many of them would not succeed the first year and that would give those on the fence ammunition to shut this initiative down which would be a tragedy. At the end of the day, I really think we are 100% on the same page, it really comes down to order of operations during the bootstrapping phase.

I don’t know if BitDAO would even have a legal avenue to address misuse of these grants as they’re not a widely-recognized legal entity.

Regarding recourse for funding misuse, there is pretty significant social capital at risk if any of these student groups were to misappropriate. I don’t necessarily think suing students or having a path to doing so is the desire of anyone here. This is one of the main reasons we initially went with established blockchain groups as there is some trust needed during this early phase. The check would be that annual funding is distributed in 4 tranches every three months with accounting taking place before each period, limiting the amount at risk for any given period.

Once again, really appreciate your input. Would love to work with you to expand this initiative to be as inclusive as possible. My dream is to have every single university participating in EduDAO, and eventually for education to become completely decentralized, agnostic of physical location or the university that one attends.

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Hi Jimmie, thanks so much for taking the time to leave thoughtful comments regarding this proposal! Would love to continue this dialogue as you seem to have quite a bit of experience into the existing grant process.

To clarify, there are two beneficiaries of this proposal:

  1. Student run university groups that will function completely autonomous to the university they happen to attend.
  2. University Centers that are faculty driven, with goals aligned with that of BitDAO and funds appropriated to items that specifically benefit BitDAO and its community.

EduDAO will be driven by members of the community with a passion for this domain. I am currently in talks with almost a dozen people from four different countries who would like to be involved in the EduDAO steering committee. Feel free to fill out the form in the proposal if you’re interested, we welcome participation from everyone! This EduDAO will then allocate funding to University Group DAO’s and University Centers around the world. I definitely think giving grants directly could be a future role of EduDAO but I believe funding student groups is the most meaningful way capital can be allocated initially. Successful student groups are magnets for other students who would otherwise not be interested in blockchain. The social aspect and structure provides an easy on-ramp for students to get involved and educated so that they can participate in a meaningful way.

I don’t necessarily see research funding as the biggest hurdle for the blockchain ecosystem, instead I see a massive participation problem: everyone is looking for talented individuals with knowledge of blockchain/distributed systems and paying exorbitant salaries to engage them. This proposal targets this issue directly, helping widen the funnel at universities to engage more students as early as possible so that they have the knowledge to participate.

In my mind a DAO is a community led entity with no central authority. It is entirely governed by individual members who collectively make decisions, preferably using blockchain based or transparent tools. EduDAO and the University Group DAO’s governed by students seem to fit that definition. Perhaps clarifying that these student led University Groups are separate from the universities that they happen to attend changes things, if so, apologies for the ambiguity in the proposal I could have made that clearer! Would love to hear your definition of a DAO though, it is quite a nebulous term so defining parameters is helpful!

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I’ll second that point about the quality of the contributions; Prof_Fanatickus and Jimmie, this type of engagement is essential.

I appreciate your concern for these ad-hoc student groups, Jon. This touches on why I was immediately excited by this proposal, as I’ve personally seen administrative politics result in restricted course offerings, and it serves to reason that this results in talent being directed away from the space. Funding independent student groups could present opportunities that are otherwise entirely absent.

There were a few fundamentals that I hadn’t properly caught (exam season, makes retaining anything outside of studying difficult, haha). Giving the proposal a better look, but I think my prior points might be worth writing off- with part of the focus being on funding student-led groups, it’s not worth diluting the proposal.

Family member was an EOD tech, Jon- intense work, appreciate your service.

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Some thoughts after reading through the responses in this discussion: I understand the need for some degree of simplicity when bootstrapping a complex operation like this but the points raised in the comments above have pointed out a few shortcomings. It would be helpful if the order of operations when it comes to onboarding new universities during and after the bootstrapping phase was further defined.

The proposal states that “University Groups with significant experience were chosen to help define the model going forward and lay the groundwork for other University Groups to participate in the future.” This makes sense, but what seems to be missing in the proposal is a clear path for smaller universities and new university groups to participate and receive funding. A portion of funding in years one and two could be set aside for onboarding new student-led organizations from universities not included in the initial cohort. And/Or a portion of budget excess could be set aside for helping new universities and student groups join. This funding could include bounties for current Edu DAO members such as creating guidelines and best practices for creating and incubating new University DAOs, writing proposals to fund new University DAOs, etc. Basically, it’s somewhat ambiguous how the Initial partner University Groups will “define the model … and lay the groundwork for other University Groups to participate in the future”.

It seems clear to me that the creation of new student groups (not just the inclusion of existing groups) would fit perfectly into the vision of Education DAO. The mission of expanding the resources, funding, and talent for blockchain and decentralized technologies would clearly benefit from spreading the vision to universities that do not currently have a strong focus on blockchain. The mandate of the University DAOs is to fund and support internal efforts, the mandate of the greater Edu DAO appears to be in supporting the efforts of the Universities involved but might also include a concerted effort toward expanding the vision and participation to other universities across the world. This all comes down to one question: Is there a practical plan for expanding Edu DAO to include smaller universities and supporting new student groups?

From what I have read expanding Education DAO is Jon’s vision and seems to align with those who have commented thus far. Expressing a clear path towards fulfilling an inclusive Edu DAO feels important despite being in a boot-strapping phase.

Thanks for your thorough response to my first questions. I have no follow-ups in response.

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Should include famous universities all around the world not only in the US.

I don’t agree with this selfish proposal.
I also don’t agree to fund the richest schools and institutions in the world.
Maybe they will use the money to buy Porsches :slight_smile: