Delegation is the DAO version of representative democracy.
Delegation is the DAO version of representative democracy. Token holders delegate votes to members who nominate themselves, usually running on a platform to bring certain principles or changes to the DAO. Representative democracy can be an effective governing system, since instead of asking voters to learn about complex issues, it's the job of a smaller group of people to deeply understand policy choices. In DAO governance, delegates can commit to being informed stewards who invest time learning about proposals and consistently voting. For protocols like Ethereum Name Service (ENS), which manages a blockchain domain registrar, decisions are often more technical, and it makes sense for a smaller number of informed delegates to steward the protocol. Similarly, Optimism is building a very technical protocol that makes blockchains cheaper to use and more scalable. With delegation, anyone can choose a delegate or delegate tokens to themselves.
While delegation is a great option for some protocols, it isn't always the answer. Delegation can lead to political dynamics where delegates are campaigning to accumulate large amounts of voting power. Once those delegates have power, it tends to be sticky since while in theory members should hold delegates accountable for their votes, in many cases token holders set it and forget it. For delegation to be effective, it should be done via regular elections or have a delegation expiration date. Another reason to avoid delegation is if voting is a core part of the experience. In CityDAO, for example, members were eager to comb through different pieces of land and vote on which parcel to acquire. In summary, delegation is recommended for projects where a smaller group of people should deeply understand complex choices and tradeoffs and where individual voting is not core to the experience.