Creating good vibes online and IRL.
Many startups and traditional communities envy the passionate engagement found in DAO communities, which are strongly bonded by a collective sense of ambition, purpose, and ownership. While the first DAOs were anonymous accounts interacting with smart contracts, today most DAOs are social systems that rely on members working together, forging relationships, and collaborating on proposals and projects. Most DAOs are open to the public, which makes it important to foster a healthy, warm, and welcoming space and create clear rules for communication. For smaller DAOs and invite-only DAOs, the art of community management isn't a necessity, but as a DAO scales, it becomes critical to creating a healthy culture.
The best community management advice is to hire a community manager. Ideally, this person is deeply interested in people, cares about the wellbeing of the community, and is already active in the DAO. Hiring from the outside is fine in some cases, but someone from within will have more credibility and context. Depending on your community needs, it can be a part time or full time role. Responsibilities will include onboarding new members, creating good vibes, and managing moderation like hiring language-specific moderators. An especially good community manager will build up a compounding repository of context on DAO members and their interests and will have a unique ability to connect the dots between people and projects.
Most DAOs use Discord, a chat server popular with online communities and gaming groups, to connect and interact with each other. First and foremost, it is important to establish clear rules and guidelines for behavior on the Discord server. This often takes the form of a rules channel that explains policies on language, harassment, spamming, self-promotion, and any other behaviors that are not tolerated. These rules should be clearly communicated to all members. DAOs should bias towards openness, and only resort to banning when policies have been explicitly communicated and clearly broken.
It is also important to have one or more moderators who are responsible for monitoring the server and enforcing the rules, as well as a system for reporting and addressing any issues that may arise. It is also a good idea to have a system in place for appealing any disciplinary actions that may be taken, to ensure that members feel heard and that any issues are resolved fairly.
One great thing about DAOs is they attract people from all over the world. If you notice a subgroup of people who speak the same language in the DAO, it may be time to create language-specific channels to create a sense of community for the group and recruit a part-time moderator from within each language-speaking community to help enforce the rules.
Another important aspect of Discord organization and moderation is keeping the server organized and easy to navigate. This can include using channels within category folders to separate different types of content, as well as using roles to give members different permissions and access to different areas of the server. We especially recommend setting up Reaction Roles that allow members to opt into different interest-based groups, for example architecture, history, or politics. For example, someone who selects the "history" role would unlock a "history-buffs" channel where they can meet members of the DAO interested in the same things. This can use the same mechanism contributors can use to signal which skills they have (Engineering, Design, etc), but should be more focused on allowing members to specify interests and create a richer degree of connection.
Finally, it is important to foster a positive and welcoming community. This can include warmly welcoming new members in an #intro channel and connecting members with similar interests and ambitions. It can also involve hosting events and activities to bring the community together. For example, some DAOs have book clubs, movie nights, and intentionally non-productive hang outs.
Effective community management is a process that starts with finding great people, enforcing clear rules for engagement, and fostering a positive and welcoming community.
In-real-life collaboration is higher bandwidth than online text and audio chat and more likely to lead to creative breakthroughs and energizing conversations. It creates a healthier, more thoughtful culture, and deepens connections between an organization's members. DAOs may be internet-native organizations, but that doesn't mean they need to stay confined to the internet.
Online discourse in environments where people only communicate with text or audio and sit behind anonymous usernames can embolden the internet version of road rage, where people don't consider the human on the other side. Moving from the more typical audio chat towards video chat is a great first step to feeling more connected, but IRL is the holy grail of communication. Sitting around the same table face-to-face, discussions are almost always more civil, thoughtful, and nuanced. It lowers the friction to riffing on ideas, sparking contagious positive energy feedback loops. The folks at Cabin DAO figured this out, which is why their online Discord community is a way to connect between real-life retreats and "build weeks" they host at their ranch property in the Texas Hill Country near Austin.
Organizing DAO member meetups around crypto conferences is particularly effective since many people from around the world will be more likely to have a reason to be in town. Other best practices are asking a community lead to coordinate regular meetups in different cities where the DAO might have density, and offering bounties to members who organize events. Retreats for core contributors are also very helpful but can feel exclusive, so special attention should be paid to make sure these are inclusive and productive work sessions and not a DAO-sponsored vacation.
While DAO's may be internet-first organizations that are globally distributed, bringing DAO members together in real life creates alignment, deepens connections, and forges relationships that last and create a more robust, energized organization.