A decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) operates autonomously on blockchain protocol under rules governed by smart contracts. DAO is among the most important innovations that Blockchain has brought to the business world, which can create “super entities” or large entities that do not have a central authority but are instead managed in a decentralized manner.
Understanding a decentralized autonomous organization
This is sometimes referred to as the principal-agent dilemma and occurs when an individual or entity (the “agent”) can make decisions on behalf of another individual or entity (the “principal”). Under this system, the needs and priorities of the agent often differ from those of the principal. This causes the agent to make self-interested decisions, even if they had been originally tasked with looking after the principal.
DAOs are one way to bypass or at least reduce the need for centralized, hierarchical decision-making in organizations. Using blockchain, a DAO ensures that information flow and incentive structures are properly aligned in a codified format. Indeed, organizations of the future will have their systems, management, charters, and performance bonuses written into smart contracts.
One of the primary goals of the DAO is the automation of all essential and non-essential processes, which has obvious benefits to the organization in terms of efficiency and cost. Blockchain also mitigates the potential for fraud and as noted earlier, directors acting according to their own self-interest.
How does a decentralized autonomous organization work?
- Smart contract set up – initially, the underlying rules of each smart contract must be defined and encoded. The organization must reach a consensus on governance, operations, and incentivization before proceeding with smart contracts. This enables the DAO to become truly autonomous and sustainable and avoids potentially destabilizing changes from having to be made in the future.
- Funding – in other words, what will power the DAO? Smart contracts must create and distribute some form of internal property that allows the organization to establish a voting mechanism and incentivize activities. Native tokens are one such form of property, giving interested individuals the right to vote among other things.
- Deployment – a decentralized autonomous organization reaches critical mass when it has secured enough funding for deployment. Moving forward, strategic decisions are made by token holders who automatically become stakeholders in the organization. Provided that the token distribution policy and consensus mechanisms are robust, these stakeholders will make decisions that result in beneficial outcomes for the business.
DAO builders and infrastructure platforms
Several service providers exist to provide the tools and platforms necessary to create a decentralized organization.
Following is a look at some of the best-known platforms:
- DAOstack – providing a large coordination platform for DAOs with a focus on solving the problems associated with large-scale decentralized decision making. Decision-makers can use the native token GEN to promote proposals they deem important.
- Aragon – a dApp on the Ethereum blockchain allowing the creation and management of a range of organization types. These include companies, NGOs, hedge funds, and open source projects. Members who hold ANT native tokens have the right to be involved in decision-making proposals regarding smart contract upgrades and fiscal and token policy.
- Colony – ideal for the community-led organization that wants to utilize “plug-in style” payment and collaboration tools. Colony is web-based and as a consequence is more open than organization-based platforms like Aragon.
A decentralized autonomous organization is any organization run autonomously using smart contracts on a blockchain network. Instead of the centralized, hierarchical decision-making model, power resides with those who own native tokens.
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