(updated on 2019.10.03)
Hi community, we are back.
For the past year, the Ethereum Community Fund conducted a trial run as a centralized grant distribution program. It supported non-profit infrastructure projects, educational programs, and even events. Initial funding was provided by the founding members, a group of projects wanting to provide benefit to the ecosystem more broadly than they were able to do on their own.
Despite the difficulty of coordinating across the groups’ wildly varying interests, ECF was warmly welcomed by the community. Through leaps both forward and backwards, we managed to learn a thing or two about what our optimal role in the ecosystem might look like. Based on these findings, we reshaped our initiative, modified our means to support the community, and enhanced our understanding of the goals. In this post, I will be discussing our findings, and discussing some of our exciting next steps.
Through months of discussion amongst the founding members and ECF’s advisors, one core objectives have been established for this second instantiation:
To harmonize community concerns through various, mutually agreeable means such as grants, strategic and operational support, and community events.
We achieve this mission by:
Being an open network of funds, emphasizing the original vision of many funds contributing to the common good.
In the realm of harmonization, our goal is to research and understand the specific needs of the ecosystem and our members, in order to propose collaborations to address those needs. A collaboration for example, might be a clearly mandated grant program dedicated to specific infrastructure. It might be coordinating a formal partnership effort between two or more projects. It might be a promotion of specific ideas via anything from events, to long-form essays. In fact, it might be any action that the community and/or projects in need deem to be beneficial. Overall, as an organization founded by, comprised of, and operated for the community, we simply found it necessary to go beyond grants. While grants are an important part of the ecosystem, most applicants clearly needed strategy and connective tissue just as much as the funding itself.
As it happens, both our domain name and the original draft concepts for the ECF suggested a vision of a network. Indeed, there was a good reason for this. In order for us to properly assist in addressing the current problems of scalability, usability, developer tooling, community education, and so on, we need to constantly bring in new blood (talent, projects, enterprises, capital) through all acceptable means. Thus, external funds and projects as members of the ECF should be able to donate to, and, where appropriate, invest directly in applicants, with support from us for curation, coordination, and vetting. In other words, we see our job as helping applicants find who and what they need, across a wide network that they may not have time to address or otherwise be familiar with.
# ECF network of funds
Out of the thousands of grant applications we have seen so far, many read like the missing chapters of a great story. There are projects that make perfect sense if they go commercial. There are projects which can help bridge the gap between the Web2 and Web3 communities that thus far have largely been separate in practice. There are infrastructure projects formed by strong teams of exceptionally bright, competent developers that need guidance from more experienced builders to avoid pitfalls along the path. And there are community projects that go beyond blockchain to the decentralized, open, and transparent future it represents, truly embracing the counterculture that seems to naturally emerge from the technology. Many projects with diverse interests are actively seeking funding to make the ecosystem better than it is today. And funders, whether grant programs, traditional venture capital funds, or cryptocurrency funds, are actively looking for them as well. The ECF Network, with its dedicated managers and volunteers that have the validated experience in building projects and communities, are here to help make those connections.
So as of today, the ECF Network of Funds offers a more flexible way to collaborate with funds:
Option 1: Support the general grant program
The ECF has a general ecosystem grant program that receives donations from the members or any unsung heroes that want to contribute.
Option 2: Set up a program via the ECF
In the spirit of diversifying how resources can be allocated, we encourage members to set up agenda-specific grant or investment programs within the ECF. In such a scenario, a specialist appointed by the member would work on project evaluation together with our existing team, eventually announcing progress to the community in joint publicity.
Option 3: Give directly
Upon joining ECF, Members explicitly pass their goals and objectives, including needs such as ideal talent descriptions, to ECF grant managers. The ECF will then arrange meetings according to both applicants’ and members’ preferences. Members can offer guidance, mentorship, and tech support, or they can offer direct funding. Public communication of such support can be initiated and coordinated through our operations.
# Membership benefits
The ECF is a non-profit organization, with all members enjoying equal rights and obligations.
1. Right to vote
Members need to vote on two matters primarily:
On leadership: every year, members vote to choose the executive director for the year, who will carry on the missions of the ECF on behalf of the members and the community. The director is elected by a majority vote with his or her proposal for the plan for the following year, along with the budget to carry out the plan.
On new members: the ECF welcomes all players in the ecosystem to join. With the recommendation of two existing members or the executive director, a vote will be called for all members to decide the membership of a given candidate. The vote is, again, subject to majority approval.
2. Right to exit
The result of the election may not be sufficiently satisfactory to the members who have not voted for it, in which case, the members retain the right to decide whether to stay with, or to leave the ECF for the year.
3. Right to information and support
Upon joining the ECF, members should explicitly and clearly pass their needs, including e.g. ideal talent descriptions, to the ECF managers. We will then arrange meetings according to applicants’ and members’ preferences.
In the spirit of supporting applicants by all possible means, we will never exclude the larger external community projects that are an ideal fit for applicants’ needs, even if they are not ECF members. However, we will always prioritize the requirements of our members. This means catering to their needs, and creating strategic approaches for collaboration. Members will always enjoy equal access to projects recommended by the ECF.
1. Membership donations
Based on the budget passed by the majority of members for the year, the expenses are shared equally by members as membership donations. The same amount also goes to the members join during the year, after the plan and leadership are passed. The flat rate is $50K USD in fiat or any highly liquid token for the 2019 term. With the budget adjusted next year and more members joining, the membership donation for the 2020 and beyond may decrease.
2. Active participation
Members joining the ECF should ideally share the same vision and outlook for the broader ecosystem by supporting applicants and programs which match members’ strong suits, while also aiming for a common good. It is strongly advised to invite specialists from member organizations to participate in applicant mentoring and vetting alongside our internal efforts. We would advise members to hear out the voices of their own communities, in order to help identify and prioritize their needs. Members can offer guidance, mentorship, and technical support alongside funding, to both applicants directly and to the ECF’s own programs. Members are always encouraged to actively work with us to construct, extend, or sanity-check communication and research strategies as they relate to the above.
# ECF 2.0 Updated features
Based on the explanations above, ECF 2.0 has the following major updates to convey:
1. To Applicants: more resources to apply for support!
The original ECF grant program focused primarily on non-profit infrastructure projects, and we will continue to support such important work. However, for the ecosystem to grow, we believe that community endeavours and application and tool development must also be supported at all reasonable levels. Therefore even commercial projects may now also apply for support from the ECF. In such a case, we would again serve as connective tissue by locating the right resources and connecting them to the vetted applicant and vetted project. Assistance could come in the form of money, mentorship, partnership, or other means. As long as the opportunity is of high quality and broadly beneficial, we will do our best to help. (Here’s the form to apply: https://ecfnetwork.typeform.com/to/nSA6Id）
2. To Members/Contributors: Open to all players!
The ECF is now officially open for new members to join. This offer is inclusive of all who share our vision of expanding the reach and potential of our ecosystem. As explained above, members may donate directly to the ECF by designating funds for general purpose ecosystem use, they may setup a dedicated grant program within the ECF to support specific objectives in the ecosystem, or (as indicated above), they might work with us to construct something totally new with very specialized interests. To join as a member, please write to email@example.com, including clear information about who you are, as well as an honest consideration of what you would like to get out of your relationship with the ECF.
3. To the community: Open to your contributions, too!
In order to best understand your needs, we call for communities in all regions to come forward during the following weeks, to help us assess and deliver on our objectives together — especially in regions less often represented. For example, we’d love to hear from co-working facilities that are interested in donating office space to grantees, translators that could help with localizing content, or volunteer grant managers that could provide assessment and due diligence in their spare time. We want to join efforts and resources with all of you! We also hope to also set up regular calls that are open to all community members, in which we discuss the needs and evaluations of projects and generally hear out ideas from the community about how we can be better. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have something to add to this, now or anytime in the future.
In addition to grander plans which will be revealed later, we expect the updated website that is coming soon to demonstrate project and grantee progress more clearly, while also providing a space for community feedback in terms of grant and performance evaluation. Keep an eye out for it! We are also open to hearing from great people who want to work with us more formally. If you are interested, please send your CV, along with your PGP pubkey and a brief summary of how you can help to email@example.com.
The Ethereum and greater decentralization ecosystem now have thousands of serious projects in development, and the people making it happen are hard at work with their heads down. This is a fact we can be thankful for, but a fact which has also created a problem to be solved, because busy people typically have a diminished ability to look carefully outside their own domain. The implications of this have been felt in different ways: Projects have missed obvious collaborative opportunities. They have done redundant work. They have also had difficulty finding the perfect people to involve, some of whom are waving their hands in the air, trying to get noticed. We have redesigned the organization to address the problems we see, in order to try to meet the needs of all players as a community union.
There is no question that these are stressful and difficult times for our ecosystem; we see it on the faces of our brave colleagues every day. In such moments it is easy to fall into the trap of manic, defensive over-planning, when what is called for is the gentle flow of doing. We understand this is easier said than done, so enabling projects to focus and grow is what we aim to provide. After all, there may never before have been an ecosystem like ours in which collaboration has such profoundly multiplicative effects. We simply want to encourage everyone to walk with a stride past any hesitation towards their best possible work, for the benefit of all.
We will be in touch.
QJ Wang (firstname.lastname@example.org — PGP 0x62EB8044A07D2D2A)
ECF Executive Director
Many thanks to friends and colleagues who helped improve the post (but not limited to): Wendell, Christopher Lema, Justin Lee, Simeon Duke, Tiger Kim, Scott Moore, David Knott, Yusuke Obinata, Jarrad Hope.