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Best Practices for Drafting a Community-Spend Proposal

[under active development]

Engage directly with the voting community and seek feedback

Last updated: Feb 14, 2020

Engagement is likely to be critical to the success of a proposal. There are many different ways to engage.

One strategy involves a few stages of engagement before and after submitting a proposal on chain. In the first stage of this strategy, you should engage people informally about your idea.

Note: this guide likely fails to capture all ways of engaging. Perhaps you could bring your idea to a podcast or a hackathon. You could host an AMA on Reddit or host a Q&A (questions & answers) video call. Try to go above and beyond what's recommended here--experiment, and use your strengths.

Stage 1: Your Idea

Not yet confident about your idea?

Great! Governance proposals potentially impact many stakeholders. Introduce your idea with known members of the community before investing resources into drafting a proposal. Don't let negative feedback dissuade you from exploring your idea if you think that it's still important.

If you know people who are very involved with the Cosmos Hub, send them a private message with a concise overview of your idea. Wait for them to ask questions before providing details. Do the same in semi-private channels where people are not anonymous and tend to be respectful (and hopefully supportive). I recommend this Cosmos Discord community and the private Cosmos Network VIP Telegram channel (ask for an invite on the forum if you are or would like to be a Cosmos contributor).

Confident with your idea?

Great! However, remember that governance proposals potentially impact many stakeholders, which can happen in unexpected ways. Introduce your idea with members of the community before investing resources into drafting a proposal. At this point you should seek out and carefully consider critical feedback in order to protect yourself from confirmation bias. This is the ideal time to see a critical flaw, because submitting a flawed proposal will waste resources.

Are you ready to draft a governance proposal?

There will likely be differences of opinion about the value of what you're proposing to do and the strategy by which you're planning to do it. If you've considered feedback from broad perspectives and think that what you're doing is valuable and that your strategy should work, and you believe that others feel this way as well, it's likely worth drafting a proposal. However, remember that the largest ATOM stakers have the biggest vote, so a vocal minority isn't necessarily representative or predictive of the outcome of an on-chain vote.

A conservative approach is to have some confidence that you roughly have initial support from a majority of the voting power before proceeding to drafting your proposal. However, there are likely other approaches, and if your idea is important enough, you may want to pursue it regardless of whether or not you are confident that the voting power will support it.

Stage 2: Your Draft Proposal

Begin with a well-considered draft proposal

The next major section outlines and describes some potential elements of a community-spend proposal. Ensure that you have considered your proposal and anticipated questions that the community will likely ask. Once your proposal is on-chain, you will not be able to change it.

Engage the community with your draft proposal

  1. Post a draft of your proposal as a topic in the 'governance' category of the Cosmos forum.
  2. Directly engage key members of the community for feedback. These could be large contributors, those likely to be most impacted by the proposal, and entities with high stake-backing (eg. high-ranked validators; large stakers).
  3. Engage with the Cosmos Governance Working Group (GWG). These are people focused on Cosmos governance--they won't write your proposal, but will provide feedback and recommend resources to support your work. Members can be contacted on the forum (they use the tag 'GWG' in posts), in Telegram, and on Discord.
  4. Target members of the community in a semi-public way before bringing the draft to a full public audience. The burden of public scrutiny in a semi-anonymized environment (eg. Twitter) can be stressful and overwhelming without establishing support. Solicit opinions in places with people who have established reputations first. For example, there is a private Telegram group called Cosmos Network VIP (ask for an invite on the forum if you are or would like to be a Cosmos contributor). Let people in the Discord community know about your draft proposal.
  5. Alert the entire community to the draft proposal via

Stage 3: Your On-Chain Proposal

A majority of the voting community should probably be aware of the proposal and have considered it before the proposal goes live on-chain. If you're taking a conservative approach, you should have reasonable confidence that your proposal will pass before risking deposit contributions. Make revisions to your draft proposal after each stage of engagement.

Submit your proposal to the testnet

I intend to expand this guide to include testnet instructions. You may want to submit your proposal to the testnet chain before the mainnet for a number of reasons, such as wanting to see what the proposal description will look like, to share what the proposal will look like in advance with stakeholders, and to signal that your proposal is about to go live on the mainnet.

Submitting your proposal to the testnet increases the likelihood of engagement and the possibility that you will be alerted to a flaw before deploying your proposal to mainnet.

The Deposit Period

The deposit period currently lasts 14 days. If you submitted your transaction with the minimum deposit (512 ATOM), your proposal will immediately enter the voting period. If you didn't submit the minimum deposit amount (currently 512 ATOM), then this may be an opportunity for others to show their support by contributing (and risking) their ATOMs as a bond for your proposal. You can request contributions openly and also contact stakeholders directly (particularly stakeholders who are enthusiastic about your proposal). Remember that each contributor is risking their funds, and you can read more about the conditions for burning deposits here.

This is a stage where proposals may begin to get broader attention. Most popular explorers currently display proposals that are in the deposit period, but due to proposal spamming, this may change. Hubble, for example, only displays proposals that have 10% or more of the minimum deposit, so 51.2 ATOM or more.

A large cross-section of the blockchain/cryptocurrency community exists on Twitter. Having your proposal in the deposit period is a good time to engage the so-called 'crypto Twitter' Cosmos community to prepare validators to vote (eg. tag @cosmosvalidator) and ATOM-holders that are staking (eg. tag @cosmos, @adriana_kalpa).

The Voting Period

At this point you'll want to track which validator has voted and which has not. You'll want to re-engage directly with top stake-holders, ie. the highest-ranking validator operators, to ensure that:

  1. they are aware of your proposal;
  2. they can ask you any questions about your proposal; and
  3. they are prepared to vote.

Remember that any voter may change their vote at any time before the voting period ends. That historically doesn't happen often, but there may be an opportunity to convince a voter to change their vote. The biggest risk is that stakeholders won't vote at all (for a number of reasons). Validator operators tend to need multiple reminders to vote. How you choose to contact validator operators, how often, and what you say is up to you--remember that no validator is obligated to vote, and that operators are likely occupied by competing demands for their attention. Take care not to stress any potential relationship with validator operators.

Elements of a Community-Spend Proposal

It will be important to balance two things: being detailed and being concise. You'll want to be concise so that people can assess your proposal quickly. You'll want to be detailed so that people will have a clear understanding of what the agreement is and won't need to ask many questions before voting. These are some elements that the Cosmos Hub community may be likely to be looking for:

  1. Summary - the key details of the proposal

    • who is submitting the proposal
    • the amount of the proposal
    • the items being delivered deliverable
    • the date for which the deliverables will be met
    • a short summary of the history (what compelled this proposal), solution that's being presented, and future expectations Assume that nobody will read beyond this point.
  2. Applicant(s) - the profile of the person(s)/entity making the proposal

    • who you are and your involvement in Cosmos and/or other blockchain networks
    • an overview of team members involved and their relevant experience
    • brief mission statment for your organization/business (if applicable) eg. website
    • past work you've done eg. include your Github
    • some sort of proof of who you are eg. Keybase
  3. Problem - generally what you're solving and/or opportunity you're addressing

    • past, present (and possibly a prediction of the future without this work being done)
  4. Solution - generally how you're proposing to deliver the solution

    • your plan to fix the problem or deliver value
    • the beneficiaries of this plan (ie. who will your plan impact and how?)
      • follow the "as a user" template ie. write a short user story about the problem you are trying to solve and how users will interact with what you're proposing to deliver (eg. benefits and functionality from a user’s perspective)
      • voters should understand the value of what you're providing in a simple way
    • your reasons for selecting this plan
    • your motivation for delivering this solution/value
  5. Funding - amount and denomination proposed eg. 5000 ATOM

    • the entity controlling the account receiving the funding
    • consider an itemized breakdown of funding per major deliverable
    • consider outlining how the funds will be spent
  6. Deliverables and timeline - the specifics of what you're delivering and how, and what to expect

    • what are the specific deliverables? (be detailed)
    • when will each of these be delivered?
    • will there be a date at which the project will be considered failed if the deliverables have not been met?
    • how will each of these be delivered?
    • what will happen if you do not deliver on time?
      • what is the deadline for the project to be considered failed?
      • do you have a plan to return the funds?
    • how will you be accountable to the Cosmos Hub stakeholders?
      • how will you communicate updates and how often?
      • how can the community observe your progress?
      • how can the community provide feedback?
    • how should the quality of deliverables be assessed? eg. metrics
  7. Relationships and disclosures

    • have you received or applied for grants or funding? for similar work? eg. from the Interchain Foundation
    • how will you and/or your organization benefit?
    • do you see this work continuing in the future and is there a plan?
    • what are the risks involved with this work?
    • do you have conflicts of interest to declare?
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