Web3 projects survive and thrive because of their communities.
As Ben Werdmuller succinctly puts it:
The internet .. is people— Ben Werdmuller (@benwerd) November 8, 2021
One could say that community can be described as a place where people feel like they belong. Thus, creating a home that speaks directly to the people you want to attract into the folds of your project is the key.
Community has been a feature of the internet since Web 1 (i.e., the days of IRC and AOL for the old-timers). When most people think of web3, they think of financial capital. However, without the communities that power its ecosystems, web3 wouldn’t exist today.
In web3, the community of talented and civic-minded individuals creates new tools, protocols, and pivotal conversations. These projects–like Ethereum, GitcoinDAO, and BanklessDAO–have enabled new political economies, i.e., new ways to collectively exercise power, all the while positively impacting the world.
Happy Devs = Happy Community
One of the most robust engines for creating a community for your web3 projects is to make it a place where builders and developers feel at home.
Most recently, ETHGlobal hosted ETHBogotá, which coincided with DevCon Bogota (where GitcoinDAO contributors attended and populated the stage), and Gitcoin’s own Schelling Point. Talk about a confluence of web3 community events!
Through ETHGlobal hackathons, the EF has onboarded thousands of developers to the Ethereum ecosystem, who have, in turn, become full-time web3 engineers, DAO members, founders, and co-founders themselves.
We’d do well to remember that there were the builders in the beginning. Crypto began in cryptography forums where academics and enthusiasts excitedly discussed new ways digital money works. One of their key ideas was that digital money might work better if it was programmed into a decentralized and transparent ledger known as a “blockchain.”
It’s from this small community of cryptography enthusiasts and academics–the original “builders”–that web3 sprouted.
Hackathons, both IRL and online, and events like Gitcoin Grants Rounds bring together all types of web3 people: from builders to those donating to grant projects, to those running protocols such as Optimism or Celo, to representatives from venture-backed web3 companies like a16z and Consensys.
In this article, we’ll keep it high-level in discussing the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of a web3 community. For a deeper dive, read this post about building and scaling a developer community by the folks at ChainLink.
It’s apparent that having an engaged developer community is a crucial ingredient to any healthy web3 community, but what does this mean? It’s time to take a step back and illustrate the tenets and perspectives of a healthy web3 community and how best to grow your own.
What Is a Healthy web3 Community?
We can define 'a healthy web3 community' as a community where people are building things, submitting, and giving feedback on proposals. The community is steadily growing in terms of members and treasury.
As defined in this panel with Celo, Talent Protocol, and Climate Collective members, a healthy community has an aim and a vision.
For instance, for Celo, that's environmental preservation and financial inclusion.
For Ethereum, that's to grow Ethereum until it's capable of helping all of humanity.
And for Gitcoin, that's to build and fund the open web together 🪴
It may seem obvious that you can't create a web3 ecosystem without community.
How Does a Community Help a web3 Ecosystem Grow?
A community drives an ecosystem's growth through its members' engagement and contributions.
For example, your community can help grow your ecosystem by:
- Providing product feedback on projects and community initiatives
- Providing security audits on projects
- Building relationships and partnerships with other communities
- Participating in DAO governance, voting, and proposal writing
- Contributing to efforts that increase the network effects of the protocol/project
Builders build software; product leads drive projects; community builders host events and broadcast the narrative of the ecosystem.
The sum of the activities described above can be understood as the community-driven output of a project or ecosystem. These phenomena can also be more deeply understood through the lens of The Network Effect.
If this concept is unfamiliar, a basic explanation is that the value of a product, service, or network is derived from the number of community members and their impact on driving that network. In the case of web3, we call this network "the community" of a given project or ecosystem.
To better understand how network effects function, watch this talk by startup executive and investor Andrew Chen, in which he describes how to solve "The Cold Start Problem," which is the chicken-or-egg problem most web3 projects face in the beginning. The Cold Start Problem can be summarized by asking, "How do you find your first users?" or, in the case of web3 projects, "How do you find your first community members?"
Gitcoin has helped to fund thousands of projects that have had to deal with the Cold Start Problem and have gained valuable insight into the it, and how best to leverage network effects for community growth.
What Community Has Meant to the Success of Gitcoin
Since its inception, the Gitcoin ecosystem has intentionally used network effects for growth. Applying our understanding of network effects has been a core tenet of growing the Gitcoin Grants program, decentralizing the governance of GitcoinDAO, and now, decentralizing our grants platform into grants protocol projects such as Passport, Round Manager (coming soon), and Grants Hub (coming soon).
Through these initiatives, we have grown the Gitcoin ecosystem and empowered members of our community to have a voice in GitcoinDAO governance and initiatives.
This post, “The Gitcoin Egregore,” by Gitcoin co-founder Kevin Owocki, sums up our approach to growing the Gitcoin ecosystem:
“The more funders that are available in the Gitcoin network, the better the network is for community members. The more community members are in the network, the better it is for funders.”
Here’s a diagram of the network effects feedback loop between funders and community members in the Gitcoin ecosystem.
We also recognize that Web 2 networks, such as Facebook, Uber, Upwork, etc., have historically been extractive. It’s been said that “In Web 2, you are the product.”
Gitcoin envisions a world in which web3 is a force for good, where community members own their data and on-chain reputations and can make an impact based on their involvement in public goods and social impact projects.
- Thank you to McKennedy for creating these memes!