Since the beginning of OpenGov on Polkadot, we have seen numerous treasury proposals that aim to spread the word about the Polkadot Network, its usage, chains, features and tech stack. Some of them started from Polkadot Gov1, and on Kusama - some started later, alternating between chains and providing useful information to users, newcomers, and more - out of the top of my head some projects include The Kusamarian, DotCast, DotLeap, Polkaworld, the events bounty, to name a few. These projects, in my opinion, started slow, focusing on specific topics, and over time we have seen improvements in the way they produce and distribute content.
Of course there are different types of marketing efforts, depending on audiences (and excuse my ignorance here but that is not my background): however, it is important to differentiate these efforts by what the community finds useful and what they do not. The creation of content for Polkadot has been, by legacy, much linked to the marketing and communications teams at Parity and Web3.0 Foundation. Their efforts are extremely valuable, and include blog posts, content and opinion articles, press releases and documentation as well as community calls organization, online discussions and branding strategies. They also work closely with the community on articulating a unified message of what Polkadot is in a way that makes sense. With the recent news on deepening decentralization efforts, some of these existing community initiatives could be affected (or not, as more info comes to the community and we wait until these developments settle).
I think the recent events related to marketing proposals in the Polkadot ecosystem, the sudden submission of various proposals and the heated discussions within the community mean that we should start thinking about the following: does the community want to fund marketing efforts via Treasuries? And if yes, in which form? To which audiences? With which goals? This short article aims to kick off this discussion, in order to hear from others in the community who, like me, would like to see a coordinated and collective effort towards marketing and communications that make sense for Polkadot. Diversity of voices is essential, but sometimes one source of truth for content, education, communication and marketing is needed: and this does not mean our community is not decentralised - it means we delegate our decision power to those who know best, or who we think know best.
I want to outline here some of the options that are available to be used through Polkadot governance (for those who are not aware of them and how they work), so that the community can decide in the future if one of these paths is the preferred one.
At the moment, three funding alternatives come to mind when thinking about the treasuries:
Direct Spending Proposals: we have seen this mechanism from the very beginning, so we know how it works: a team submits an on-chain proposal to the treasury for the community to discuss and ultimately vote for Aye or Nay. In the proposal, the community should be able to find the rationale behind the submission, including: team background, scope of work, roadmap, deliverables, budget and resources, as well as reporting mechanism to the community. The pros of this mechanism lie in the fact the community is deciding directly on what to spend, how, and what are, in their eyes, the needs of the ecosystem (without delegating any decision power to third parties). The cons are intrinsically related to the immense amount of work the community needs to execute to keep this method dynamic, the fact that teams need to repeat a somehow cumbersome process for each project, and the fact teams cannot project a roadmap mid or long-term due to the funding limitations if the community decides to only approve short-term projects. Take into account that a marketing and communications roadmap needs to have a vision, and this implies a long-term projection of the developments in the ecosystem.
Bounty Proposals: the bounties mechanism was ideated and developed after Kusama’s and Polkadot’s inception, and added to the networks’ runtime as a new spending mechanism by community vote. This tool allows us to set aside a portion of the treasury (without leaving the treasury itself, just earmarking the funds) to be administered by a curator or group of curators with the supervision of the community. In the same way as a direct spending proposal, a bounty is submitted for vote by the community and, if approved, the community also elects the curation team that will lead the administration of the funds (technically, this is a Polkadot address, meaning it can be a single account, a multisig or a pure proxy account managed by a multisig: providing flexibility to the bounty). Once an address is elected as the curator, this address has the right to transfer part of the earmarked funds to particular beneficiaries. Curators should come up with an application process, guidelines, scope of work and budget for these funds to be used. As a positive characteristic, I think this mechanism allows the community to focus on a long-term vision for a particular effort (something we might need for this particular scope of work), multiple content creators, marketers and communicators can apply for funding and receive it if they align to the curators’ guidelines (ultimately entrusted by the community), the bounty can even be topped up, and if curators are not doing a good job, their position can be canceled, maintaining the funds in the treasury and the community can always elect a new set of curators: all on-chain. Some might think that delegating the power of decision-making for a portion of the treasury to a small group is not the best way to govern these decisions though. Furthermore, a bounty needs complete transparency and constant reporting from curators to the community, in order to keep this ‘trust’ relationship going. However, it is a great way to ‘budget’ the treasury and administer treasury funds in different areas of development, and it provides enough flexibility for a mid or long-term vision (so needed for marketing efforts).
The New Collectives Idea: Since the inception of the Polkadot Fellowship, I have heard discussions and conversations (both in podcasts, blogs, and forums) about the possibility of creating a marketing and communications fellowship. The Collectives chain is up and running, and that is where the current fellowship lives. This system chain allows us to create collectives governed by its own rules, make on-chain decisions and enact specific proposals: all transparent and open for the community to review. An idea for a collective like this would involve: 1. Setting some kind of rules for admission (similar to the Fellowship manifesto) with requirements regarding old and new members, rules, scope of work and requirements. Members could focus their work on improving the Polkadot brand, publishing content, sponsoring particular deals and maintaining documentation for specific rewards. They could also manage a fund, derived from the Polkadot treasury, to develop a roadmap involving more members of the community: with a funding application process, reports and reviews. The clear advantage of this idea is the stability a well-curated set of members provides for a task like the one we are discussing: fulfilling certain requirements and consisting of members who are known by the community, and are experts in their field. The collective can become a (instead of “the”) powerful source of truth on how to explain Polkadot, branding, formats, content, and documentation. It is true though, that an idea like this takes time to mature, and some heavy work would be needed from marketing and communications experts in the ecosystem to draft a manifesto with clear and objective rules, for developers to code a collective like this, and ultimately, a runtime upgrade is needed to include this in the collectives chain. The Polkadot Alliance served as the first inception of this, I think, and it would be nice to see it evolve into a similar collective like the one I described above.
These are three possible mechanisms to use for marketing efforts, and choosing one will depend on how big the community thinks the scope of work for the funding should be, which topics it should touch (it is not the same to create and maintain documentation, to produce a podcast series, or to fund an influencer campaign, as we have seen before). Maybe we want to limit the scope of the treasury funds to particular activities. Maybe we want a broad roadmap and include new things gradually: based on this, a bounty or a collective might be more suitable.
I hope this introduction to mechanisms, in relation to the topic of marketing triggers your thoughts for you to ask yourself:
- Does the treasury need to fund marketing activities, communication and content creation?
- Is this what I want to see as part of the spending?
- If your answer to the above is a yes, think about which activities would be suitable, and based on this, which mechanisms are better prepared to tackle these activities (it can be a combination of all - but take into account the effort each mechanism entails).
I also want to hear from those who have experience going through some of these treasury funding processes for marketing to speak up: what are the pain points? Would alternative mechanisms to the one/s you used help overcome the issues you have seen?