DAO, a revolution for organisations?

Explanation of new forms of decentralised autonomous organisation

August 21, 2023

Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) are all the rage these days, and are beginning to appear in the press. But what is a DAO? And what will they achieve?

Origin of decentralised organisations

Ants are entirely decentralised. Their social organisation can be extremely complex, with a division of tasks and roles between warriors, feeders, anthill housekeepers, aphid breeders, etc. The queen is in no way a hierarchical leader; she only plays the role of procreator.
It has to be said that this type of organisation has enabled them to survive for 700 million years, through 2 mass extinctions, and they will probably survive the next one, which is imminent.
There is also the ecosystem of bees around beehives, as well as that of trees with fungi and their mycelium, earthworms and termites, all working together to maintain soil fertility.

It is therefore our duty to try to develop truly decentralised organisations where power is only in the hands of all the members, with a subtle balance between them.
By observing these decentralised organisations, we can draw 3 major characteristics:

  • A decentralised organisation can accommodate different sensitivities but they are grouped into roles or skills, a unit of organisation immediately below that of the total community.
  • A decentralised organisation has a simple but universal means of communication between its members and, above all, is immune to any attempt to destroy part of the community. Ants have their pheromones, and bees their hovering flight, for example.
  • A decentralised organisation has one primary objective: to ensure the survival of the community. All the rules of the organisation are centred on the resilience of the group.

Toute organisation possède des fondations naturelles ou à travers des textes fondateurs mais surtout des valeurs, des usages rassemblant les individus. Ces valeurs et ces usages induisent une volonté de vivre ensemble qui, nous le voyons aujourd’hui, n’est pas facile à mettre en avant pour nos gouvernants ou dirigeants.

How a DAO works

How a DAO works

The concept of a DAO emerged in 2016 with TheDAO project, which was the first of its kind. DAOs are based on a number of existing technologies, including smart contracts (programmes embedded in a blockchain that define common rules for all participants). These are perfect tools for executing contracts between several individuals. These contracts can define security, authentication and governance rules for a project. The multi-signature system is ideal when several parties need to validate a stage or tasks carried out, for example. The approval of all parties is required to release the funds.

Curve.fi is a DAO that today has more than 40 billion in capitalisation locked up in smart contracts, enabling those who deposit their funds to be remunerated.

On another note, the Constitution DAO project aimed to acquire an original copy of the US Constitution. This operation raised the bidding from around $20 million to $40 million. And even if the operation did not result in the acquisition of the parchment, it is in any case a first in the joint purchase of a valuable historical asset for the participants.

The world of Web 3 and freelancing

Internet 1.0 made it possible to search for and consult information, Internet 2.0 to produce and share this information and Internet 3.0 will make it possible to monetise and certify information.

Web 3 projects can be very different in nature, but they have a number of points in common that characterise them:

  • Use of a digital asset (token, NFT) representing the value created by the project
  • Animation of a community divided into qualified user groups
  • Innovation in use
  • Combining skills to produce value, often created by members of the community

As we more or less formulated in our Crypto-Nations article, Metaverses will be the new interaction interfaces (social networks) where we can materialise all the elements of the environment with NFTs and where we will exchange value with crypto-currencies. All this is governed either by centralised rules of use and application, or through a DAO that offers a governance solution for the project or environment.

At the same time, there are a number of underlying trends in the world of work.

As indicated by the Belgian organisation Smart, whose aim is to support self-employed workers, the link between autonomous work and cooperation makes it possible to envisage collective forms of work that are not governed by subordination and hierarchical structures. It invites us to explore the different organisational models that can be adopted by groups of non-subordinate workers.

The autonomy of autonomous workers is linked, among other things, to the development of cooperative practices with their peers, which increase the opportunities for working together. Co-operation enables autonomy to flourish in a collective setting, as well as the exercise of collective autonomy.

In addition to this trend towards greater autonomy in the workplace, there has been a slow but significant erosion in the value of diplomas, in favour of specific skills, soft skills, continuing education and work-linked training, all of which are expanding rapidly around the world. Diplomas still have a value, of course, but this is increasingly put into perspective by other ways of acquiring know-how. More and more companies, including some very large ones, are no longer necessarily asking for qualifications in order to be recruited. The ability to self-train has been boosted tenfold by online training (MOOCs) and YouTube videos.  Concrete skills acquired through previous experience tend to be more valuable to employers than academic qualifications. It is therefore essential that these skills are acquired and certified by means other than diplomas.

The health crisis, on the one hand, and recent inflation, particularly in energy costs, on the other, are driving the development of remote working. Collaboration tools (Notion, Figma, Miro, etc.) have been largely perfected to enable collective remote working. Videoconferencing tools are evolving towards virtual reality to enable much more effective collaboration (Google Meet, Facebook WorkRooms, Teams, etc.). Teleworking, when done well, significantly increases people's availability by reducing their commuting time, giving them flexibility in their working hours, and enabling them to work on several projects at the same time.

The younger generation, aware of the ecological issues at stake, are more and more careful about who they work for, and prefer meaningful jobs. There's a real desire to participate in virtuous projects, and being independent makes it easier to reconcile your values with your career choices. These generations are also increasingly cautious about sharing their personal data and are looking for ways to monetise it, having understood how the major Web 2 platforms have managed to become the most valued and global companies, at the cost of numerous scandals.

The new approaches aimed at moving away from the public/private goods duality towards a public/private/commons triptych, as outlined in a remarkable way by Gaël Giraud, offer a much more promising regulatory framework that respects resources and individuals, making the system more resilient.

Managing Web3 projects in a decentralised way

In the light of all the above, we can imagine a new model of collaboration that takes account of current developments in technology and ways of working.

Exemple of a DAO system

Ce modèle doit avant tout être un espace collaboratif décentralisé, permettant aux projets qui l'utilisent de créer de la valeur pour leurs communautés. Il doit accueillir une diversité d'acteurs : porteurs de projets, personnes compétentes pour mener à bien les projets, investisseurs, arbitres de conflits potentiels, mentors expérimentés pour orienter la stratégie des projets.

Elle doit reposer sur des règles précises de sélection des acteurs, de partage de la valeur et d'arbitrage des conflits. Ces règles, qui constituent la gouvernance des projets, doivent pouvoir évoluer à travers un mécanisme de vote qui doit rester autant que possible sous le contrôle de la communauté, en évitant la concentration des droits de vote entre les mains d'un petit nombre de personnes.

The current context and the growing awareness of the difficulties ahead are staggering people, who feel like spectators to these events. Globalisation is still with us, with all its qualities and faults. We are feeling a backlash that is forcing us to think about exchanges of value on a smaller scale, and CADs are perfectly suited to this.

If entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, craftsmen, content creators, brands and associations come together with common rules, you maximise everyone's energy. You guarantee ownership by using NFTs and crypto-currencies. We haven't seen the last of our surprises, and the meta-uses, meta-objects, meta-rules and meta-universes that are emerging have not finished surprising us.

Co-writers Matthieu Chassagne and Cédric Nicolas

Cédric Nicolas


Software engineer for 30 years / blockchain expert