Building a Community Board Seat - community leadership requested

The Stacks Foundation is now 6 months old, and although we’ve laid a lot of corporate governance ground work, we’re looking forward to more community development in the coming months.

One area in particular is around community representation at the Stacks Foundation Board level. It allows us to compliantly operate as a US nonprofit corporation and to ensure we have fiduciary oversight of the organization. Our initial board members were selected in a closed process using the criteria we outlined here. This allowed us to form the entity and get started with the MVP board.

The board bylaws were created to allow for additional seats on the board to be designated. We’ve discussed community board input in the past, but the processes did not net the results we were originally hoping for : a robust process that delivered strong candidates that represented the community needs.

We’ve learned a lot along the way, which I’ve outlined in our Board Member Nomination Retro and the Community Board Seat Proposal below in more detail.

The main takeaway is that the best path forward is for the community to lead the process on creating, recruiting, and managing the Community Board Seat process. The corporate board has approved a board seat for this purpose, and, through the Stacks Grants program, there is now funding available for the work and research to execute a plan to bringing this idea to life. If you are interested, please join the conversation on Github here:

Now, to dive in a little deeper to what we’ve learned.

Board Member Nomination Retro

In May, we asked the community to submit Board Member Nominations to help fill the open board seats. We wanted the ownership of potential candidates to be in the hands of the community, especially as we saw success from a similar process run for the ZCash Foundation. Unfortunately, our process failed to deliver the outcomes we wanted: a robust list of potential nominees who were interested in the role, candidates with the skillset to complement the board (laid out here), and strong nominator participation from the community - not just STX employees or contractors.

Here are the results. We received 13 nominations from 6 different people in the last 6 months:

6 Nominators:

  • 3 of the 6 have an employment relationship with Blockstack/Stacks Foundation.
  • One nominator put in 6 of the 13 nominees, another nominator submitted 2 nominees. The remaining 4 nominators had 1 submission each, including 1 self nomination.

12 Nominees:

  • 2 Nominees were aware of their nomination
  • 10 Nominees were not notified or consulted before their nomination

I think the failure was in the design of the process, not in the pursuit of community-nominations. This process also surfaced the downstream questions that went unanswered: if we have a number of interested nominees, how is the selection further made? What relationship do they need to have (or not have) to the existing Foundation to be eligible? Will this person be representing self interest or the community’s interest? What would be the term length for new and existing board members? These discussions took place in the Governance Working Group, here, here, and here.

Community nominated board members is still an opportunity, but it’s back to the drawing board for how to setup the process for success. Join the Governance Working group if you have some thoughts on this process.

Community Board Seat Open Proposal

After more discussion with the Governance Working Group in June, we discussed an alternative type of board representation : a Community Board seat. Instead of selecting a single person to sit on the board based on community feedback, we could create a more direct way to get community feedback into the board. We’d learned from peers in the network that a community board seat could be a seat that serves to represent the community interests on the board. It may not be a single individual who shows up each time, but could be a collection of people or a rotating representative who is there for the community. This could serve as 1 of the 5 board seats, leaving open the possibility of a community nominee for the remaining 5th seat. The number of seats is not fixed, but going from 3 to 5 seems like a good goal that would then open the opportunity to step change again in the future.

The next steps to developing the board seat was scoped with two pieces: (1) Sign off from the existing board this could happen (2) Community committee to research and propose a plan to execute. In the Q2 board meeting on June 24th, the board approved the opportunity to add a community board seat. The board bylaws were also accepted by the board soon after that meeting. Those bylaws were edited from the standard version to our version through the Governance Working Group as well, progress shared here.

The pieces are all setup, the next step is to build the proposal of how it works. This came up in the working group but remains an open issue looking for more participation. Now that the Stacks Grants program is up and running, there is even opportunity to have a group of people apply for funding to research and develop how this Community Board seat will be selected, operated and maintained. At the Foundation, we see this as critical grassroots architecture that should come from the community instead of top-down from the Foundation. If you are interested, please join the conversation on Github here: