Social Impact DAOs Panel at SxSW Grit Daily House

by | Mar 17, 2022

Last weekend, our Media Pod leader spoke at SxSW to a packed house at the Grit Daily House on social impact DAOs. He shared the stage with the general manager for ChangeDAO, and they explored the challenges and opportunities facing this space.

Dr. Peace Uche:

So yes, my name is Dr. Peace Uche, also known as Doc Peace. For those of you who are just joining us, welcome. I am a doctor by trade, retired now. Spoken word artist at heart. It’s a blessing to open up this space here today with some spoken word. We’re going to get it going, keep it going. One fun fact is actually, I’m also a change maker for ChangeDAO. So how many of you agree that this is the year of the DAOs? Yes, I Know. I hear it. I hear it. So up next, we’re going to have Kelsey Driscoll from ChangeDAO, accompanied by Mark Hopkins from FreeRossDAO. And both of these DAOs are leveraging NFTs as a force for change and fighting against injustice. So welcome. Join me in welcoming both of them. Yes. Thank you. Okay. I’m going to pass you the mic. Go ahead and [inaudible 00:01:03]. Yeah.

Kelsey Discroll:

GM. GM.

Visionaire:

Howdy.

Kelsey Discroll:

Just saying we need another chair, I think.

Dr. Peace Uche:

Yep.

Kelsey Discroll:

Here we are.

Visionaire:

All righty.

Kelsey Discroll:

We can share a mic, right?

Visionaire:

Yeah, that’s fine. That’s fine. Hello everyone. My name is Visionaire. You can call me V for short. I am an anonymous recording artist, creative director and producer. Essentially, all my work is about centering people of culture and just creating opportunities for new futures through web, through technology. I’m so excited to be joined by both of you because in essence, art is the revolution and I think art is really the front end of this radical change. So Web3 to me is really… It gets really interesting when you start to think about art as the front end, the UI, so to speak. I think both of you, through your respective projects, are using art to literally transmute energy. Right? There are bad things happening in the world. There are systems that are broken and art is the means by which we are presenting this information to people to create change.

Visionaire:

I’m really, really excited to have this conversation. Please give them a round of applause, just for all of the amazing work that they’re doing. It’s going to be a little bit of a different conversation. I definitely want to start off with some intros and just what you guys are doing. For everyone who maybe is learning about DAOs or is interested in DAOs, you got to be certain kind of person to make this thing work. We were talking about it earlier, self-starters and people who are motivated by self-starters are really important. I want to center this conversation around your places in the organization and also how your organizations run. Then, also just some more personal questions about your mental and emotional health, as both of you battle Goliath in certain instances through some of your initiatives. Let’s start here and talk about what it is that you’re doing and where your project is at currently. [crosstalk 00:03:23] Yeah. Start with Kelsey. Oh, [crosstalk 00:03:27] is it on? You want to take this one?

Dr. Peace Uche:

It’s on? It’s on?

Kelsey Discroll:

It’s not.

Speaker 4:

Here. I think… Yeah, if you [inaudible 00:03:38].

Visionaire:

If you just want to use mine [crosstalk 00:03:40].

Kelsey Discroll:

I did it. All right. Who was saying that they’re not really good at technology? I’m Kelsey Driscoll. I am actually the GM of ChangeDAO. We love that but what that means is that I lead all of our front end operations. And ChangeDAO is an NFT marketplace for social change art. I’d like to say that we’re a three legged stool. So the marketplace is one leg of that stool but we also have a Metaverse experience. We also a [DAO 00:04:14]. We haven’t launched our marketplace yet. Our community wallet is not yet capitalized but what I do and what I’m doing is building all of those processes, building the governance mechanisms that we are going to activate eventually and lead events like this and lead our team and all of our contributors. So hello, happy to be here. Excited to share our story.

Mark Hopkins:

Yeah. Yes. My name is Mark Hopkins. I am the media pod leader for FreeRossDAO. Our structures are, I would say, a little flat. We’re growing very fast. Our mission is simply to make it politically safe to get a pardon for Ross Ulbricht. If you’re not familiar with who that is, he was accused of being the creator of the Silk Road, which was mentioned in one of the earlier conversations today. He was accused of a lot of things that he was not particularly guilty of, which earned him a double life sentence for creating a website and we feel like that’s an injustice. He has been an artist most of his life. He created a series of art, both in his youth, as well as while he was incarcerated. We were the lucky recipients or the winners of an auction, where we purchased that art with some community raised funds. Half of those funds were left over after we purchased that art. It was, I think, the seventh most expensive NFT sold in 2021.

Mark Hopkins:

We bought it for six million dollars, the collection of art. And then we had about six million in crypto left over. So we decided we were going to continue the mission. I was just the crazy person who volunteered at the right time during a community call. And I said, “I’ve got experience with media.” And they said, “Well, that sounds like you’re volunteering.” So here I am.

Visionaire:

Yeah. My first question and I think, this is an important question when we talk about DAOs, how are each of you operating on a personal level to shoulder these initiatives as core members and movers of people in your organizations?

Kelsey Discroll:

[inaudible 00:06:38] Yeah. So for ChangeDAO, as I said, we’re really in this beginning process. We haven’t launched our community wallet. We’re not capitalized yet. So I picture us in this stage of… You know one of these pop-up tents, when you’re putting it up and it’s on the ground and you snap all the things in place but then you have to actually lift it?

Visionaire:

Yeah.

Kelsey Discroll:

We’re in that phase, the lifting phase. All of that to say processes. I’m a big process person. I have a master’s in public policy. I was a management consultant. I’ve worked for the federal government. I come from the nonprofit sector. That’s my day job. So processes, processes, processes. We do have a lot of contributors come forward. We’re very, very thankful for our contributors but it’s about managing talent. And not a lot of people get into NFTs and go, “Wow, this is a cool HR puzzle”. But DAOs are a cool HR puzzle to figure out about how people are going to come in and out of your organization and support your community and if we have a product, support our product. Personally, I’ve had to do a lot of… You mentioned the people who start DAOs are very type A. I am very type A. So I have had to release the reins a little bit.

Kelsey Discroll:

Trust my contributors. And what that looks like, creating that trust is for us, we have a very easy up and down, as far as going from citizen, which we call anyone who’s in our ecosystem, to contributor, someone who dedicates zero to 10 hours a week to us. Then, over 10 hours, 10 to 20 hours a week, would be core team. So all of that to say, processes, training your contributors, making sure they’re aligned with your values, being very intentional about who you have in the room and making sure that you can trust them, so that you can go do all of the other building and processes that you need to do because standing up a DAO is not the same as but it is just as much of a lift as standing up a startup or a nonprofit or any type of organization.

Visionaire:

Same question.

Mark Hopkins:

I’ve got a lot of experience in startups too. So a lot of what you said sounds familiar but our DAO is so strange compared to any startup experience I’ve been in. It’s really like, the DNA of it being an art project has continued. I would say the most popular political ideology within our DAO is anarchist, which weird because we do have a governance structure. And I’ve heard a lot of people say that a DAO is more like starting a government than it is starting a startup, it’s something I can… At least resonates with me. I don’t know if I totally agree with that but there’s… Yeah. All our other founders are Nadya from Pussy Riot and Trippy from Trippy Labs, she’s got a venue across the street. I’ll just say, my experience working in creative agencies and media companies, wrangling creative folks, has come in handy because I too have type A leanings but you can’t just put people in a box when you’ve got a whole bunch of artists running around. That’s not how they work. So, yeah.

Mark Hopkins:

So it’s been, I don’t know, cat hurting sounds pejorative. It’s not really like that. It’s more just like, conducting a chaotic symphony. Just making sure people feel the passion for what… Like, how I was assigned my position. When someone speaks up in a community meeting [inaudible 00:10:14], “That should be fixed.” I’m like, “Well, you sound like a volunteer”. Fortunately, we’re very well capitalized. So they’re not necessarily volunteers, if they’re capable at what they’re doing. It sounds like, you’re volunteering for a job you’re going to get paid for and like, “Okay, yeah. I can track with that.” That’s been the vibe of the show so far.

Visionaire:

Yeah. That’s amazing. And I asked that question, more so because I think, as I’m doing my research on both DAOs, I recognize that in architecting these revolutionary concepts, there’s a mental health component, right? There’s a burnout component. And I feel like, these things aren’t talked about as often because the product, the Web2 mentality of, we’re shipping a product. And in DAOs cases, you’re shipping an effect, a reverberation through the space, a resounding statement through the work that you’re doing but in order to do that, I find that there are often core team members, if there is no structure, everything is on their shoulders in one way or another or if there is some structure, it still requires getting that engine started, right?

Visionaire:

And that shoulder, that elbow, that bicep, that forearm, they get tired after a while, constantly having to start the engine. Individuals like yourselves are just so… DAOs can’t exist without you all. So leading to my next question, I would imagine, you’re familiar with the term sprinting and you all are sprinting a lot to solutions. So what are the challenges, within your DAOs respectively, of sprinting to some of these solutions with your communities?

Mark Hopkins:

So I think, the class of DAO that I come from or that I’m working on right now, it’s a particularly lucky situation. I would explain… I’ll give the answer to your question but I don’t think what we do is going to be broadly applicable to the type of DAO that Tally Ho is or maybe yours because we’re lucky that we exist because of a zeitgeist.

Visionaire:

Right.

Mark Hopkins:

There was definitely orchestration. Trippy’s group, definitely, and Pussy Riot and PleasrDAO folks had a huge thing to do with our genesis at Art Basel. But we come from a lineage of DAOs that have been captured in the news cycle like, ConstitutionDAO and then AssangeDAO, literally came into our Discord and said, “Hey, we like your governance structure. We’re stealing it. Thank you.” Which we’re were… flattering actually.

Visionaire:

Yeah. Yeah.

Mark Hopkins:

Agree or disagree with the politics, Honk Honk HODL, that came a couple weeks after that. UkraineDAO was founded by, again, the Pleasr folks and Nadia and our Ops pod leader Alona… Again, it’s a zeitgeist thing, right? So all the stuff that we’ve done has been sprinting but in our particular situation, we realize that what we’re doing is a marathon. Right? Ross has been in prison for eight years. We set ourselves up to do it right, not do it quick. That’s not a luxury that a lot of DAOs have. And fortunately, our community for the most part has been very supportive of that way of doing things. On the other hand Alona, over at UkraineDAO, the reason why she started that is that she’s Ukrainian expat that lives in London. Her family lived in the city where the nuclear power plant was being shelled-

Kelsey Discroll:

Right.

Mark Hopkins:

… a few weeks ago. First she took a couple mental health days just because that was going on. Then she’s like, “Look, I’m living in the center of the hurricane. I can do something.” And just a couple of Discord chats later and seven million raised and then another 50 million, direct to the country. That sprinting is the thing that definitely takes a toll and you cannot exist without a team and a support. I guess that what they’re doing about it is, their DAO hires psychologists as a part of the basic core function.

Visionaire:

Wow.

Mark Hopkins:

Because a lot of them are up 20 hours a day, orchestrating evacuations and whatnot and dealing with the horrors of war. So yeah, psychology is a huge part of it in a very literal sense.

Visionaire:

Amazing. These are the winds of change folks, by the way, that we’re feeling. Just so you know the company that we’re in at the moment.

Kelsey Discroll:

I love that as I shiver on stage. I would agree. I think, it’s easy to get into the Web3 space and get that hypermania and as soon as you jump down the rabbit hole, you’re like, “Oh, my gosh. Everything’s happening right now. We have to get it out. We have to get out.” There’s this false sense of urgency. I wouldn’t say false, right? It’s a market that never closes. Of course, it’s going to be constantly churning. Our design statement for ChangeDAO is how do you create a decentralized social change institution for the next 10,000 years? So we look long term and to do that, that means that we really have to control the FOMO of ourselves as core team and the FOMO of our community that’s like, “I want the marketplace now.”

Kelsey Discroll:

Well, we’re not rushing our Devs. You know why? Because they need to have the time and space to create quality [inaudible 00:16:04] that’s not exploitable. So I think, it’s a lot of slow and steady, keep your eyes on the prize, keep aligned with our values and realize that we’re building an institution, not just a product. I think that outlook and always returning to that, how are we meeting the needs of change makers? Keeps us grounded and prevents us from that FOMO spiral.

Kelsey Discroll:

For example, when the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke, a lot of people in our community came to us and said, “You have to march. You have to launch your marketplace right now. We have to have a whole thing.” And we were like, “Okay. So there’s not going to be a lack of global crises in the near future and if we rush now, then we’re not going to have the infrastructure we need to be able to support that in the long term.” So I think, constantly keeping our whole team aligned and all of our contributors and communicating that to our community members, to our citizens, has been really helpful.

Visionaire:

Yeah. That’s such a great point. That was actually what I was going to say is, I think the reason why Web3 and why exemplary initiatives like, FreeRossDAO and ChangeDAO are so important is, I personally find myself… The more I read and the more I understand the systems that require change, it’s like finding rot in your house and then you find more rot and more. It’s like, this infrastructure is actually broken and the more you pull out of it, the deeper you get in, the dirtier your hands get and it starts to make you panic. I think with DAOs, especially as this conglomerate of very, very active and transformative energy, it can be difficult to aim when you’re aiming at something that’s so big and it’s older than you. It’s older than all of us and we’re trying to actively take this thing down or to transform it in a positive way. So just a really great point.

Visionaire:

I think that talking about infrastructure, my next question is really about the tools that your DAOs use to optimize your community members’ time, effort and energy. And also, just for those of us that may want to build DAOs, what tools might be interesting for organizing, for structure? Curious to what you guys are building with.

Kelsey Discroll:

Yeah. We use a lot of tools. Once again, a DAO is not only a product or a token or something like that. A DAO is an entire organization. So communication for us, we have internally Notion, Slack. We actually made the decision to close our Discord. We used to use that tool. We decided that it was very difficult to create a safe space, an unexploitable space, in Discord. So we paused it because that was not good for the citizens of our community to be able to come to us and we want to be able to create safe corridors for that to happen. So we’re on Slack. We might come back to Discord. Right now it’s locked down because there are just a lot of scams going around and we are a prime target. For example, for Alt-Right groups or things like that.

Visionaire:

Wow.

Kelsey Discroll:

Absolutely. So yeah. Communication-wise, those. To communicate with our community and our citizens, Twitter. Newsletter, we use Substack. Then, internally we have a lot of technical tools that we use for our actual product. As far as governance, we also use the Gnosis Wallet. So it’s a multi-signature wallet. Our last speaker was talking about that. So that one person in our DAO couldn’t clean out our wallet and take off with the community funds. We’ll probably be using Snapchat or something like it for voting mechanisms on chain as well.

Mark Hopkins:

Yes. So there’s a [inaudible 00:19:55] of tools, many of which you mentioned. We use Gnosis as well. We are primarily a Discord community, although we’re trying to reduce our reliance on Discord. So a lot of what we’re trying to make actionable for our community… We’ve got a really strong community of folks but they’re just like, “What do we do? What can we do?” Because not everybody has the ability to join a full-time team. So we’ve created a series of micro [inaudible 00:20:26] that are incentivized either with airdrops of tokens or NFTs and whatnot.

Mark Hopkins:

So we’re just building some custom tools along those lines, where people can check-in and they don’t have to dig through thousands of lines of chat logs to figure out, “What can I do this week?”. It’s just “Here’s your community action for the week and click this button and you help the cause.” Type of thing. That’s some custom code that we’re working on but we’ve also got Discord, which was mentioned. We’re going to be using that more for community proposal development. We are very active on social. We’re taking the attitude that, we’re building a media company out of FreeRossDAO.

Visionaire:

Wow.

Mark Hopkins:

So a lot of the stuff that we’re doing looks a lot like a blog slash video network or something like that, that we’re working on. But we’ve also got Snapchat for governance voting and all the other run of the mill pop-up DAO tools that everybody else seems to be using these days.

Visionaire:

To hop on that, it’s interesting that FreeRossDAO is moving in the direction of media because I know that one of the long-term initiatives, which is something I’m going to ask about in a bit, is really to approach prison reform in general.

Mark Hopkins:

Yeah. That was one of Ross’s wishes for the funds raised. Our Ops director, one of the founders of the DAO, is Rene, which is one of Ross’s longtime childhood friends. So he’s really bringing that DNA of Ross’s personality into what we’re doing and… Yeah. Just one thing that Ross brought up in communication through Rene to us, that he would love to see, is just a fund that helps kids be able to visit their incarcerated family members because maybe, a criminal deserves to be in prison. Maybe, the sentence is not just or something like that but certainly, who does not deserve punishment is the children. So that’s just something that was close to Ross’s heart and we want to serve that as well.

Visionaire:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. That reminds me of a saying from a dear friend of mine and it’s funny now because it feels like a Web2 thing but he always used to say, “Culture starts at the top and it trickles down”. With DAOs because I think, it’s a more horizontal structure, culture starts at the center and it reverberates without…

Mark Hopkins:

Yeah. There’s a guy that I’ve worked with in and out of RossDAO that likes to say that a DAO is just a community with an unseasonable bank account. In that respect, the CEO is really the community. It’s the… Because if we suddenly pivot and become a hedge fund, the community leaves us. Yeah, sure, we’ve rugged the funds but at that point, the cause is dead.

Visionaire:

Right. Yeah. The cause is the culture.

Mark Hopkins:

Right.

Visionaire:

It is the lifeblood. Yeah, that’s amazing. What are the immediate next steps for your respective DAOs and also just maybe, for the year? For 2022, what are you looking at tackling?

Kelsey Discroll:

So for ChangeDAO, within the next month or so, we should have our marketplace launched with our first artist. It’s a traditional artist who is teaming up with an NGO that is helping out Syrian refugees that have been relocated. That’s our first product launch, which would be super exciting and that’ll be V1. We want to be V2 by the end of the year with more features for causes. So for [five ONC3s 00:24:15] but also for organizations that may not be five ONC3s but are social impact focused. So that’s next. And then, also more VR gallery experiences. We had one at the end of February with our first seven change makers. You should be seeing work from those first seven change makers that we created for our platform throughout the year. They should be releasing their work, NFT projects. So that’s where we are right now and internally really growing the team. So right now, we’re at six core team, about 10 to 20 contributors but this will be the year that we scale as well.

Visionaire:

Awesome. Awesome.

Mark Hopkins:

Yeah. So FreeRoss was really a very bottom-up approach. So the first few proposals were quite boring, government like. Setting up how voting was going to take place and who the core teams were. Now, we’re starting to get to the exciting bits where we’re hiring community members. We’re hiring editorial team. We’re investigating some of the longer term projects that involve documentaries on various [inaudible 00:25:27] platforms, ways in which to take what exists, mountains of unreleased content and unreleased interactions with Ross over the years and turn that into content for people to consume. Part of our mission, like I said, is to make it politically safe to pardon this man. And nobody knows who he is, other than they’ve heard vague stories about maybe he hired a hitman or something. These things that were completely fabricated during the prosecution. So we’re just trying to bring who he is to the forefront and in so doing, shine the light on some of the flaws in our system.

Visionaire:

Amazing. With that, to close, I have a prompt that I like to give anybody I ever get to talk to. So I’d like for each of you to speak one affirmation to the Web3 community. This can be a wish for others. It can be a wish for your DAO. Something you want to see happen. Anything you hope will come to fruition within this really beautiful community that we’re all a part of. [crosstalk 00:26:28].

Kelsey Discroll:

Would you like to go first?

Visionaire:

Take a moment.

Mark Hopkins:

I would not like to go first! [crosstalk, laughter 00:26:35].

Kelsey Discroll:

I can go first. It’s fine. Yeah. Can I plug my event before I do this or can I do it after?

Visionaire:

Let’s do it.

Kelsey Discroll:

You want to plug my event now?

Visionaire:

Plug it.

Kelsey Discroll:

So changeDAO is holding a GM coffee event on Tuesday at Freddo ATX, in South Congress. It’s free and it is a conversation with Tyler Hobbs about… Who was a generative artist and NFT artist, also computer programmer. He created Fidenza that was featured on the art block’s platform. Anyway, we’re having a conversation with him, free coffee. And also, what we do at these is really pass around the mic and have change makers meet each other, share what you’re doing. It’s really participatory. So if you want to come, email me so I can put you on the list. Yeah. Okay, great. So just email hello@changedao.org and then, I’ll put you on the list. Absolutely. Now, onto my affirmation.

Visionaire:

Yes.

Kelsey Discroll:

So I’ve been in the crypto world probably for two years now but I got really into NFTs about a year ago. And we’ve all heard, we’re all going to make it. [wag 00:27:38] me. But for me, coming from the nonprofit world, what that says to me is, we have lots of brands coming in. We’re becoming mainstream at this point. And I think, as leaders in this space, we need to protect that ethos, that we’re all going to make it ethos, so that we can build an economy that serves more people. So that we can build an ecosystem that does not leave out people in the way that traditional markets and institutions did. So as corny as it is, wag me, is my last word for you all.

Mark Hopkins:

Yeah. So I think, what you just said. I’m going to steal your… No. So actually, I got into this because I’m a big admirer of hacker culture and the cypherpunk culture that was the genesis for all that and one that I believe that Ross is a very big figure in. He doesn’t probably get much of the credit he’s due in the foundational role of Bitcoin, all of cryptocurrency. So my affirmation or my wish for anybody that’s involved in this space is to really understand the ethos that spawned all of this because it is… You wag me feels trite but it is very much about individual liberty, individual freedom.

Mark Hopkins:

Earnestly, I’m not in it for the money. I’m not in it for the tech. I’m in it for the politics. I believe that this is a better system than the one that we currently exist in. It’s more egalitarian. And if we are able to maintain that ethos, the wag me ethos, which you can read in more eloquent detail and maybe the cypherpunk manifesto or the crypto anarchist manifesto, that talks about where that all comes from. I think, if we all understand that as we build in this space, we’re going to have the world we want to see.

Visionaire:

Yeah. And the last thing I’ll say before we close out. I am so grateful to have spoken to both of you. There is such a really wonderful, compassionate energy that I think both of you exude, that is also very indicative of this space of Web3, especially people at the epicenter of radical change. As you touch people through your projects and products and protocols, that is literally how we are transferring this energy from person to person. And I wish not only success on both of you and both of your organizations but I also wish you peace. I think, oftentimes revolutions are very small and they create these huge waves. And that little boat where it all started, usually ends up broken or tattered or oftentimes, forgotten about. There are individuals who are the reason why we’re here but we often can’t really reach back.

Visionaire:

So there were lots of ways that I wanted to go with this particular panel but being able to talk about, where both of you are and how you’re rooting yourselves for these mountains that you are moving in real time, is very important to me. And I hope that… My affirmation is that DAO culture shifts to the individuals and shifts to the health and wellness of these individuals because that’s a part of history that is often left out. So yeah. Nothing but love to the both of you. And thank you so much for the work that you do. We appreciate you.

Kelsey Discroll:

Thank you.

Mark Hopkins:

Thank you.

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