Disbursement
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Priority process

Overview about the importance of a priority process for disbursement
Prioritisation is an important process in disbursement where an ecosystem determines which areas and initiatives are the most important and urgent for the ecosystem to focus on. Ecosystems benefit from being able to express their preferences on what the most impactful areas are in the ecosystem that disbursement could support with treasury assets. Good prioritisation can help with identifying the most impactful initiatives that would help with addressing the biggest problems or opportunities that exist in the ecosystem. Prioritisation of these different problems and opportunities can have a direct impact on where treasury assets get disbursed. Priority systems that help to gather and record the preferences of a community help with gathering and presenting the current sentiments and opinions of the community. This process alone can help spark further discussion and debate about what areas and initiatives are most important and potentially impactful for the ecosystem.
Treasury funds could be disbursed to a wide range of different initiatives that each have their own opportunities, risks and tradeoffs. Good prioritisation can make the difference between sustainability and growth over the long term for an ecosystem versus stagnation and decline due to poorly allocated treasury assets. Community members involved in any disbursement decisions will want to apply the available knowledge about the ecosystem to better identify and compare which problems and opportunities are the most important at that certain point in time. The priority process can provide a way for a community to express their exact preferences and opinions so that the community can better identify where alignment and compromises might be needed when disbursing limited resources.

Process steps

  • Identifying problems & opportunities - Problems and opportunities can be identified by digesting and analysing the available knowledge in the ecosystem. The more that the community can understand what is happening inside and outside the ecosystem and what is working well and what isn’t the more they will become well informed about the most important problems or opportunities that could be prioritised in the ecosystem.
  • Creating priorities - Community members will create priorities to share the different problems and opportunities that the rest of the community will benefit from considering. Priorities could be targeted at a high level to help with communicating a preferred general direction an ecosystem wants to take. Priorities could also be lower level and be more targeted towards exact areas of focus that the ecosystem could benefit from spending more attention and resources on.
  • Selecting priorities - Selecting priorities could have a big impact on the disbursement process as these preferences could heavily influence where funds get allocated. An ecosystem benefits from being able to communicate why certain priorities are important at the moment and then seeing the level of support those priorities receive from other community members of an ecosystem.
  • Maintaining priorities - As ecosystems start executing ideas to address the most important priorities there will be new emerging information and changing factors that influence the progress and importance of those priorities over time. As well as this external factors or community preference changes could also influence the importance of priorities. Priorities will need to be kept up to date with relevant information that shows the progress of initiatives that are helping to address existing priorities or any other changing factors.
  • Measuring outcomes - Although it is not always possible for priorities to be measurable in whether they have been exactly achieved or not there is still benefit in trying to measure the outcomes of any priorities that have been addressed or that are close to completion.

Desirable outcomes

  • Diversity of thought - The priority process can benefit from attracting a diversity of thought from the community about which problems and opportunities exist. Diversity of thought in the priorities submitted can help with better enabling the voters to consider which priorities are actually the most important at that moment. Enabling a full range of opinions in the priority process will help with creating a more expressive system that effectively represents the opinions of an entire community.
  • Quality submissions - Adding the right depth of detail along with all of the relevant supporting information sources will be an important part of creating insightful and relevant priorities that a community can then consider. A priority process can benefit from trying to increase the quality of the priorities being submitted and that any suggestions are sufficiently justified.
  • Inclusive - A prioritisation process can help with enabling a community to express their thoughts and opinions. Making a more inclusive prioritisation process will mean making it simple to use and participate in so that a wider diversity of people can contribute to the process.
  • Timely submissions - If an ecosystem wants to be more responsive to a fast changing environment it will benefit from ensuring that any suggested priorities can be submitted at any point in time for community consideration. Priority processes should be effective at encouraging a community to submit priority suggestions quickly so that emerging problems and opportunities can be addressed more promptly.
  • Priorities are feasible - Priorities that get submitted and then selected should be feasible for the ecosystem to address. This means that ideas that could be executed to address these priorities can actually be executed. Having priorities that are measurable is one approach that can help with ensuring that priorities are feasible. If the priority was not measurable it could alternatively use a voting mechanism so that the community could indicate that they believe a priority has been addressed. The focus on certain priorities could also naturally increase or decrease over time as the importance of those priorities change based on how the community is voting and spending their time on the different existing priorities.
  • Well maintained information - Keeping priorities up to date with the most relevant and important information will help with keeping the community well informed about what is happening across each priority. The better this information is kept up to date the more responsive a community can become in increasing or decreasing the importance of certain priorities as new information starts to emerge.
  • Improved decision making - Adding new information to existing priorities can help with making voters more well informed about what is happening across each existing priority. The more informed that voters become on what is happening in the ecosystem the more well informed they can become when making future prioritisation decisions.
  • Reallocation of contribution effort - Updating priorities can help with the reallocation of contribution efforts from one priority to another as the importance of each priority changes over time. Good prioritisation systems can help with enabling this behaviour of contributors migrating their attention and focus towards the most important priorities.
  • Important priorities get addressed - A priority process should ideally have enough influence over the disbursement process to ensure that the most important priorities get addressed. A priority process will need to consider how the incentives are aligned to encourage and support the initiatives that help to address the most important priorities.
  • Measurable outcomes - Although it might not always be easy or possible, it is at least desirable for priorities to be measurable when possible so that the progress and completion of any priorities can be more easily tracked and reviewed upon completion.

Concerns

  • Lack of engagement - A process for priority setting that takes too long or that is too complex could be a reason for a lack of engagement. Another reason is if existing priorities are not getting addressed people may choose to disengage with the priority process. If the priority process has a large influence in how treasury assets are disbursed it will be important there is a sufficient amount of engagement from the community so that the most important priorities are suggested and selected.
  • Process complexity - Prioritisation is an important part of disbursement for community members to express their thoughts and preferences. The diversity and depth of these different opinions could lead to the creation of an overly complex process due to the amount of different priorities that need to be reviewed and maintained. Considerations will be needed about how the submission of priorities can remain relevant and concise but still highly informative.
  • Information complexity - The diversity of opinions and information relevant to each priority could be vast and potentially be highly overlapping. A priority system will need to consider how it manages and incentivises more collaboration around bringing together similar opinions rather than a system that leads to a lot of duplicated information. It will also be important to encourage people to add the most relevant and concise pieces of information to a priority rather than to incentivise people to add as many pieces of information as possible that could lead to bloating the prioritisation process. Too much information could make it difficult for voters to easily and quickly understand what is happening with each priority and which priorities are currently the most important.
  • Malicious and biased contributions - An ongoing concern with prioritisation is how bad actors could try to influence what gets prioritised through submitting priorities or maintaining existing ones with information that is biased, incorrect or misleading. Priorities could highly influence how treasury assets get allocated meaning there would be an ongoing incentive for bad actors to try and influence this process in their favour. A priority process will need to consider how the identity of contributors is being verified and reviewed and how the process could potentially be gamed and exploited.
  • Measuring priority completion - Priorities are not necessarily easy to measure or mark as completed. For instance a community could want to prioritise more DeFi innovation in their ecosystem but ahead of time don’t know exactly what innovation is possible. A priority process will need to consider how it can handle different forms of prioritisation and whether it intentionally encourages one approach over another and what ramifications that approach might have on the disbursement process.
  • Execution scope complexity - A number of ideas could exist that help with addressing different priorities. The diversity in ideas that could be focussed on increased the range of execution scope that might be involved in a given priority. This can make it difficult for a priority process to determine how much effort or resources will be needed to address a priority.
  • Changing priority complexity - If the scope of a priority changes over time due to new information or a changing environment the amount of incentives that are required to address that priority can change. Accepting the fact that priorities can change over time makes it more difficult to estimate accurate budgets ahead of time. It also means it is beneficial for a priority process to accept an ongoing amount of suggestions and information so that it becomes actively responsive to these changes rather than only enabling these changes at certain periods of time.
  • Stifling other forms of innovation - Community set priorities can have a large influence on how treasury assets get disbursed. Community set priorities could increase the risk that novel and less well known areas of contribution get ignored that have the potential to create highly impactful changes to an ecosystem. A priority process will need to consider the risks around groupthink and how prioritisation could encourage or prevent novel contribution efforts towards less recognised but important ideas.
  • Increasing priority selection complexity - As a Web3 ecosystem starts to scale the complexity of selecting priorities could increase over time due to an increasingly diverse community that have a wider range of backgrounds, opinions and preferences in how the ecosystem could move forward. This increase in thought diversity will make priority selection more complex as there could be an increasing number of competing priorities to choose from. This increase in the number of priorities also increases the complexity for voters to become well informed when they are deciding which are the most important ones.
  • Priority selection scope complexity - Web3 ecosystems will need to become increasingly capable of determining what scope of execution efforts the ecosystem can feasibly handle. The community will not want to select too few priorities that would be too easy to achieve and result in stagnation of potential change and progress. On the other side an ecosystem would also not want to be overly ambitious and set too many priorities as this might not be feasible nor practical in the short to medium time frame.
  • Maintaining overall mission and purpose - Growing the number of community members involved Web3 ecosystems will mean increasing the diversity of opinion and preferences about how that ecosystem could evolve over time. If the ecosystem was set up for a particular purpose this initial mission and purpose could fade over time and be lost as the ecosystem scales. Ecosystems will need to determine whether this is important or not for their ecosystem and if so how they can maintain a culture of trying to achieve that mission over the long term. A constitution is one approach in which the mission and values of an ecosystem could be recorded, the United States constitution being one example.