3. Use a contributor model for stewardship and delegated authority


There is currently no democratic, scalable, recurring and suitable path for IOG to pass over stewardship of different systems and processes in the Catalyst and Cardano ecosystems.


Introduce a recurring contributor categorisation funding model where community members can be elected as full time contributors to support, develop and grow the Cardano and Catalyst ecosystems.

Research and analysis

What this proposal is about

Exploring the issues with stewardship and delegated authority, issues with existing approaches like Catalyst circle or established groups and then reasons why Catalyst and Infrastructure contributors offer a good solution.

What this proposal isn't about

  • How contributors should manage themselves and handle governance decisions internally

  • Creation of exact plans for stewardship should be handed over. This would come in stages as and when IOG is ready and any safeguards are in place.

Why stewardship and authority is important

  • Determines who is able to make decisions on changing core systems and processes.

  • Impacts whether decentralisation can be achieved by pushing stewardship and authority increasingly to the edges of the community over time.

  • Impacts the speed of iteration and evolution of the ecosystem.

Problems with IOG having stewardship and authority

  • Centralised - IOG has full authoritarian control over the main systems and processes

  • Bottleneck for making progress - The community relies on IOG to make changes to the existing process. This is especially important for core functional areas which can lead to stagnation in innovation and improvements.

  • Not scalable - IOG would struggle to scale to meet the communities increasingly diverse requirements and support structures need for the ecosystem to truly thrive.

Complexities with using organisations for stewardship and authority

Using existing groups or other organisations instead of individuals increases the number of complexities involved with passing over stewardship and authority:

  • Stewardship and authority complexity - How is stewardship and authority distributed and managed between the organisations? How does the size of the organisation impact this authority?

  • Participation complexity - How are members added or removed from that organisation that contribute towards control? What policies must they follow?

  • Consensus complexity - How is consensus reached for a decision? Does an organisation have one vote per organisation or is it one vote per person in each organisation? One vote per organisation increases the incentive to have lots of small organisations to have more authority. One vote per individual reduces the need of having the organisation structure.

  • Stagnation of control - Well established organisations will make it difficult for newcomers to enter the space and compete for the same authority and stewardship.

Problems with Catalyst circle for stewardship and authority

There are a number of issues with the Catalyst circle for being passed stewardship and authority of the Catalyst ecosystem:

  • Lower commitment - Catalyst circle members do not have to be full time in the ecosystem which increases the probability that members don't have the same depth of context and understanding as someone who is working full time due to the complexities of the systems and processes.

  • Small democratic process - Only a small amount of the community are involved in the election due to it currently being a completely separate governance process.

  • Lack of execution - Only problem sensing is performed by Catalyst circle which means they have limited impact on pushing the ecosystem forward.

  • Small member size - Less than 10 people are involved in any given round for Catalyst circle which makes them less suitable to handle high workloads or increased responsibility compared to a larger more skill based functional team.

  • No guarantee of skill diversity - Catalyst circle is not role based with different skill sets meaning there is little guarantee that they will have a diverse mixture of skill sets relevant to the Catalyst ecosystem.

Desirable contributor properties for passing over stewardship and authority

  • Community governed - Elected individuals that help in the ecosystem are chosen by the community.

  • Must be sustainable - A cohort of individuals must exist on a recurring basis. This is a supporting reason why funding categorisation benefit from being recurring.

  • Diverse skill set - A cohort of contributors should have a diversity of skills so they can push forward the execution of solutions and effectively support the ecosystem.

  • Full time contributors - Catalyst and Cardano ecosystems are complex and benefit from having full time contributors who are well informed about the decisions and contributions they are making.

  • Simple and scalable - Both Catalyst and Infrastructure contributors should be easy for the community to apply for and also be able to contract and grow as the ecosystems requirements change.

Advantages of Catalyst and Infrastructure contributor categories

  • Easy to integrate - The entire community can decide who will be elected based on the existing plutocratic approach using ADA for the voting power. The existing system can be used. In the future this could become more of a democratic vote once the right identity solutions are in place.

  • Diversity of skills - Catalyst and Infrastructure contributors have a minimum threshold for a number of roles suitable for each ecosystem. This ensures that a diverse range of skill sets that would be elected.

  • Reliable - If funding categories were used as a replacement approach then the contributor model would be more reliable as there would always be a cohort of contributors being elected.

  • Fluid team structures - Contributors are elected based of skill sets in different roles. This diversity of skills means contributors can work in fluid team structures and contribute across different functional areas of the ecosystem.


  • Team synergy - Having a changing cohort of contributors over time or contributors who are unfamiliar with other community members may lead to poor team synergy which could result in weaker execution outcomes.

  • Potential conflicts - As the number of contributors increases in a given cohort there is an increased chance of potential conflicts on product direction or certain governance decisions. Policies may be needed to such as a code of conduct that contributors would need to abide by.

  • Malicious contributors - Some contributors who are elected could have malicious intent. Safeguards are needed to prevent a single or small number of contributors from disrupting and damaging the funding process.

Next steps

  • Agree on desirable contributor properties for passing over stewardship and authority

  • Plan on initial areas of authority for first cohort


  • Contributor analysis - Analysis that supports the need for a contributor based funding model for passing stewardship over to the community by delegating authority to elected community members.

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