Build for Humans First.
Many communities in the web3 space were crafted by technical founders seeking to build support for their project, protocol or collective impact mission. Many of these communities are also DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations, built with the premise of communal leadership and moving a collective mission forward through coordination. Unfortunately, many of these communities are also built without a strong framework to support the human layer of the collective.
A balance of soft skills, like compassion, empathy and human interaction, must be present amongst the technical tools used to manage community. When communities are built or re-organized with a “human first” approach, the necessary elements that support the human layer in a community of builders, creators and developers will bake resilience and longevity into the core of the organization.
Missions Over Memes
One foundational pillar that can not be overlooked is the mission of the organization. Many DAOs in 2021-22 were built on a meme, not a mission. While memes play a powerful role in our ecosystem, they do not possess the necessary elements that will allow a group of people to connect on a deep enough level to weather the difficult task of daily coordination and action needed to move a group of people towards a collective goal.
Missions drive people to do extraordinary feats in the face of overwhelming challenges. Missions connect strangers and allow them to coordinate in order to achieve a collective goal that they feel is valuable to the health of our society. When bonded by mission, a group of strangers can evolve into a family that can create powerful change at scale.
What is Contemplative Community Building?
While contemplative practices encompass many elements, I believe the most important for our ecosystems is cultivating cultures that support mindfulness, empathy and foster a deep human connection. Here’s an excellent definition of contemplative practices from The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society organization:
Contemplative Practices cultivate a critical, first-person focus, sometimes with direct experience as the object, while at other times concentrating on complex ideas or situations. Incorporated into daily life, they act as a reminder to connect to what we find most meaningful.
Contemplative practices are practical, radical, and transformative, developing capacities for deep concentration and quieting the mind in the midst of the action and distraction that fills everyday life. This state of calm centeredness is an aid to exploration of meaning, purpose and values. Contemplative practices can help develop greater empathy and communication skills, improve focus and attention, reduce stress and enhance creativity, supporting a loving and compassionate approach to life.
I’ve based the following “Healthy Community Stack” on my studies in Tantric Yoga and Tibetan Buddhism at a university that specializes in contemplative pedagogy.
A Healthy Community Stack
In order to begin building or introducing healthy frameworks into our communities, I created the following “stack” of human-layer elements that will foster healthy interaction in our organizations and help community builders create structures designed to support the collective with empathy, compassion and resilience.
to be vulnerable.
to hear the muse.
to find peace.
to welcome new members.
to resolve conflict safely.
to share IRL experiences.
to move the collective mission forward.
to share laughter and ideas.
to ask questions without judgement.
to ask for help.
to set boundaries.
to acknowledge mental health struggles.
to step into active contribution.
to step into leadership.
to build with compassion and empathy.
to token gate the community and embrace slow growth.
through proactively identifying and removing toxicity in the community.
through slow, organic and mindful community growth.
through supporting the core and contributors with resources.
through insulating the core through centralization.
through non-monetary governance steeped in equanimity.
through maintaining layers of strategic centralization to insulate the mission from death by over-deliberation.
through adhering to authentic transparency on an individual and community level.
Why This Matters
The web3 ecosystem is standing at a familiar crossroads. We’ve seen this intersection before with the openness of web1 and the transition to a commodified, centralized and weaponized web2. Silicon Valley chose to embrace market enclosures of a fundamental public good and built gigantic platforms that changed the course of our collective human experience, but they failed to bake empathy and compassion into their code. When their platforms began to rip the fabrics of our society apart in the pursuit of unrestricted monetization, they threw their hands up and claimed that technology was too large to contain and they weren’t responsible for how it was weaponized or who was destroyed in the process.
And now we have powerful actors using this technology to create mass chaos to support political agendas that celebrate and promote the worst humanity has to offer. These platforms have caused genocides, amplified hatred and violence to the point of real world massacres, empowered authoritarian rule, destroyed public health and the ability for people to access and process facts. We all have loved ones we can barely speak to now because they have consumed the toxicity of weaponized algorithms to the point of madness.
We now have the ability to ensure that the technology we’re building repairs the damage done by code created without empathy or consequence. We can create situations where equality and compassion rest at the core of our creations. We do this by supporting and cultivating the human layer in our technology stacks who are building the infrastructure powering tomorrow’s internet.
If we take the time now to cultivate contemplative communities with mechanisms to support the human layer, we can move collective missions forward and help create a more equitable society through the code that will power our tomorrow.
Moving forward, I will explore the specific tools, structures and practices that will help community builders incorporate a Healthy Community Stack in their organizations and support the human layer of mission-driven builders to create a healthier ecosystem for us all.
I explore the intersections of humanity, technology & the mystical. I began building communities in blockchain in 2017 and have been storytelling as a photojournalist and writer since 1996. I'm currently studying Tantra Yoga and Tibetan Buddhism at university in the States and a daily builder in the public goods on-chain ecosystem.
I am a founding member at JournoDAO, an impactDAO trying to restore sustainability to the news industry through decentralization. If you can, please support my work by collecting some NFT art or patron NFTs (coming soon). Or simply share this essay and subscribe!