What Is Collective Governance in the Web3 World?

Explore the concept of collective governance in the context of DAOs and subDAOs in the web3 world, with a deep dive into the SZNouns project.

Since the dawn of human civilization, singular entities have governed over everyone.

2000s years ago, Kings and Monarchs had absolute power. 2000 years later, governments around the world still have complete authority. Different entities, same governance model.

However, the internet revolution changed everything.

With information spread far and wide, at speeds never seen before, humans have discovered a new form of communication: A decentralized network. From here, the world would undergo a shift in governance style, from one of singular power and authority, to one that is collaborative and collective.

So, WTF exactly is collective governance? And how does it apply to the web3 world?

So many questions… which we will be covering in this article! Here’s a quick run-through of our itinerary for today:

*A big thank you to SZNouns for sponsoring this article. SZNouns is an experimental CC0 and Governance project… read more about them below!

Now, let’s break down collective governance.


What Is Collaborative Governance?

Collaborative governance is the distribution of policy/decision-making power to various shareholders with different interests, ultimately reaching a collective decision and creating public value.

Now that, was a mouthful. And mind you, this is already a simplified version from those I’ve found on multiple research papers!

Essentially, collaborative governance is a system that shifts the power of decision-making away from the traditional central authority: governments. This breaks the age-old hierarchical form of governance, allowing other stakeholders like non-profit organizations and private sectors to have a say in the final decision.

Furthermore, collaborative governance heavily focuses on building consensus in decision making, as well as having a collaborative network to communicate. These two points are crucial in any form of collaborative governance, especially the cases in which multiple stakeholders have conflicting interests.

But I understand that this could be a little too much to take in. So, allow me to explain collaborative governance with a simple example.

Social Impacts: ICDS, India

In 1975, the Government of India launched a flagship program called the “Integrated Child Development Services” (ICDS) Scheme, with the goal of supporting early childhood care and development. With limited manpower and resources, the program never really took off.

Fortunately, they were able to liaise with non-profit organizations such as SNEHA, launching the SNEHA SHIVIR which addressed severe malnutrition and prevention at the community level. Anganwadi Workers and Anganwadi Helpers [MWCD] were also deployed to help with supplementary nutrition services on the ground.

Even the World Health Organization and the World Bank were involved with funding efforts and evaluation of the program.

In short, the collaboration between governments, non-profits, global organizations, and the people ultimately turned the once-gone ICDS scheme into an overwhelming success. Do check out the ICDS website for more information… what an inspiring story!

Now we know about collaborative governance, but how does that link to collective governance? Let’s find out.

Collective governance is the distribution of decision-making power to EVERY member in the organization, building consensus on actions to move forward together.

Note that the key difference between collaborative and collective governance is slight. The former focuses on crucial stakeholders when approaching a specific matter, while the latter involves everyone in the particular organization, regardless of subject-matter expertise.

Another minor difference between the two is that while collaborative governance aims to find the middle ground, collective governance focuses on the opinion of the majority. The more diverse the governance pool, the better.

To let you better understand the idea behind Collective Governance, allow me to break down the “consensus” behind the collective.

Building Consensus Without Compromises

Earlier, we have established that collaborative governance requires consensus building; which ultimately helps groups move toward a common goal. This usually requires compromises between parties with different agendas – and that is understandable on a smaller scale.

However, collective governance has MUCH, MUCH MORE stakeholders. Since everyone in the community is involved, too many split motives from different individuals paint a fragmented picture.

Collaboration does not exactly fit into collective governance.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that consensus-building won’t happen.

Collective Governance very much follows the “General Agreement” style – where decisions to manage resources are either agreed on or disagreed upon. Since the goal in Collective Governance should already be aligned, whether or not a proposed solution aligns with the goal is completely up to members’ POV.

In a nutshell, collective governance is inclusive and effective. While it may be a “1 or 0” situation without compromises, this really speeds up the typically time-consuming process of collaborative governance. At the end of the day, collective governance may be the solution to let everyone’s voice be heard, whilst still moving the organization forward.

Collective Governance in DAOs

On the geopolitical level, collaborative governance is the modus operandi. In fact, collective governance is almost unheard of in this global political sphere, so much so that it is pretty much interchangeable with the former.

But this is not the case in web3, and more specifically, DAOs.

DAOs, more formerly known as Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, are web3-native groups that work together to achieve a common goal. DAOs are non-hierarchical and anonymous, as well as permissionless and fully reliable since all actions are executed through smart contracts on the blockchain.

Want to find out more about DAOs? We dive deeper into DAOs in a recent article “How To Join a DAO“, do check it out!

And hand to heart, DAOs are truly one of the marvelous creations in web3. Leveraging blockchain technology and implementing a few mechanisms, DAOs are the perfect experimentation ground for effective collective governance.

Equal Weight, Equal Votes

In traditional governance models, not every stakeholder has an equal voice at the table. Even though governing bodies have started giving other stakeholders (such as non-profit organizations and private sectors) a chance to voice out opinions, the ultimate decision still lies with a central authority.

In crypto-slang, we like to call this a central point of failure.

DAOs on the other hand, completely avoid this failure. Due to the mechanism “Equal Weight, Equal Votes”.

Every member of a DAO has an equal vote, and even founders of the DAO shouldn’t receive additional votes. Of course, this depends on the member’s stake in the DAO, in other words, their capital invested in the organization.

Even then, there are mechanisms like Quorum voting to prevent a malicious attack on a DAO. Again in crypto-slang, what we call a 51% attack. The general idea of setting a Quorum is ensuring a number of members vote “for” or “against” a DAO before a proposal is accepted or rejected. This, of course, depends on the DAO we’re talking about.

In DAO everyone‘s voice has an equal weight.
Chilli, Pineapple, Bag – each has 1 vote.

The Universal Right To Propose

Traditionally, high-level institutions and organizations are echo chambers. Mainly because the governing bodies listen to a group of cordial members (none of which dare oppose the governing body), and completely reject ideas coming from those outside the private circle.

DAOs are different – or at least Nouns DAO is.

For collective governance to work, the element of service providing cannot stay within an inner circle. Simply because it is too unfeasible for the same group of individuals to attend to all the responsibilities within the DAO – which can get tiresome and time-consuming after a while.

Hence, service providing can go outside the “members club”. Take for example, Nouns DAO’s Nouns Prop House!

Nouns Prop House!

Back to collective governance, this is a class example of how “the collective” can participate in activities and bring progress to the organization. Talk about distributing proliferation efforts to the public, getting rid of stakeholder fatigue in the process!

Nounish Spotlight: SZNouns & Collective Governance

SZNouns (Pronounced, “Seasonal Nouns”) is a Nouns DAO derivative with seasonal minting cadence made by the SZNS team for the community, as an experiment in CC0 and governance. They are the first web3 company pivoting into the Nounish ecosystem – with the launch of its own subDAO today, in conjunction with the release of this article!

SZNouns aims to be a leading subDAO in the Nounish ecosystem, with a core focus on governance models – including collective governance. Like the Nike “Swoosh” and Nouns “⌐◧-◧”, SZNouns has their own defining brand, the circle glasses “ ◐-◐¬”. The circle glasses are deployed on-chain using a unique, custom SVG rendering algorithm, just as are the OG Nouns.

A Background in Collective Governance

Okay… so what does SZNouns have anything to do with collective governance? Well, the team does!

SZNouns is founded by the team behind SZNS by first depositing a collection of NFTs, then creating a native token to distribute to the community. Those who have these tokens join the DAO, manage a collection of NFTs, and collectively govern the new DAO.

So that’s what the SZNS team has built. SZNouns will work in a similar way governance-wise, just that the mode of joining the DAO would be through purchasing SZNouns rather than tokens.

As such, SZNouns hopes to introduce more governance methods to the ecosystem, and bring collective governance as we have defined earlier to the next level. I haven’t a clue what they have in store for what’s coming next, but seeing what the SZNS team has built as their default protocol, I’m just bullish!

Bringing Governance Models To The Next Level

Many SubDAOs in the Nounish world have spun a twist of their own “art-wise”, and some really cool results have come from that! However, we haven’t fully explored a “fork” on the Nouns DAO governance protocol – and this is exactly where SZNouns wants to chip in!

The current Nouns DAO governance model is built on collective governance, but it is far from perfection. No doubt, as we grow and continue experimenting, better and better protocols will be built. After all, Nouns Prop House (a considerable driver of collective governance) didn’t exist from Day One!

Here are some possible governance models we can explore:

  • Collective Accountability: Collective Governance isn’t just about fair voting – service providing is an essential part of governance as well. How can we ensure accountability for individual proposers, who after all, are anon? Perhaps, is there a way to make this aspect trustless?
  • Eliminating Malicious Actors: While we should encourage diversity, those who seek to spread dissent only weaken the collective. Is there a way to separate the builders from the destructors? If not, how can we strengthen the collective resilience of the DAO?

SZNouns, as thinkers and pioneers in the business of thoughtful governance, may be able to address such issues we face today. And once again, thank you to SZNouns for sponsoring this article. Proliferating the Gover(nouns) is key ◐-◐¬.

Win a Mash-up by Greta!

We’re delighted to announce the giveaway of a custom SZNouns Mash-up by Nounish 1/1 artist, Greta! Excited to become part of the Greta Mash-up Club?

We are partnering with Nounish Raffles for this giveaway. Keep a lookout for a “Nouns Blog Collab Tweet” on the Nounish Raffles Twitter account, and comment **one interesting thing you learnt about Collective Governance.**No repeats please!! And good luck ⌐◧-◧

Collective Governance: Here To Stay

As we reach the end, perhaps some of you can’t help but have a feeling of uncertainty. Unsure whether collective governance is possible, feasible, or even

Is It Really Worth It, After All?

I don’t blame you, that’s a question I ponder about as well. But as we weigh the pros against the cons, the big picture suddenly becomes clear.

Not choosing collective governance means accepting central authority. It means rejecting the DAO non-hierarchical structure. It means retracing steps; from Web3 to Web2.

So I’d say collective governance is here to stay. While we don’t have the perfect plan to grant 100% fair and non-destructive governance for now, that is something we can work on. Together.