As I understand it, the Foundation’s estimate of the likely time commitment was based on the experience of its own grant committee. However, it’s become clear that the activities being undertaken by the ZOMG Committee are different to those of a normal grants committee.
There are two obvious ways to address this: increase the expected time commitment (Chris proposes quadrupling it) or look at ways to reduce the burden on the committee members.
As @holmesworcester points out, we definitely do not want to increase the time commitment to the point where we discourage good candidates, the vast majority of whom will have full-time jobs that they’re not prepared to give up in order to serve on ZOMG.
FYI, I do not believe that allowing ZOMG to hire its own staff is consistent with either the wording of - or the intent expressed by - ZIP 1014. While we could obviously change the wording to allow ZOMG to hire staff or engage contractors, it would, in effect, turn ZOMG into an independent operating entity, which is not what the Zcash Community intended when they drafted and approved ZIP 1014.
Therefore, we must look at ways to reduce the time burden. To that end, we have advertised a Communications & Ecosystem Relations Manager role, we have been interviewing candidates, and we hope to be able to announce some news on this front in the near future.
In the meantime, over the past couple of months, we have stepped up the amount of support by having our COO, Alex, join the ZOMG meetings to directly field requests for help. Examples of the increased support that has resulted include a dashboard that tracks the funds ZOMG has available to it (see the Dashboard tab), as well as providing a single view of all the grants and milestones that ZOMG has funded (see the Grants tab).
We have also taken responsibility for assessing grant milestone payout requests, with a clear policy in place to ensure that the ZOMG Committee retains control, by having the ability to take back control of any milestone payout decision, and by having the final say if the Foundation judges that a milestone payout request should be refused.
Alex has worked with ZOMG to make updates to the grant platform that will encourage applicants to submit better and more complete applications (e.g. clear milestones that can be objectively assessed), with a nudge to remind applicants to post to the forums.
Once the Communications & Ecosystems Relations role is filled, we’ll be in a position to make a step change in the support we can offer to the ZOMG Committee. For example, we’ll be able to filter new grant applications in advance of the fortnightly ZOMG meetings so that any that do not meet the Committee’s criteria can are excluded from the agenda, while the Ecosystem Relations Manager can respond to the applicant appropriately (e.g. requesting more information, prompting them to post to the forums, etc.).
As an aside, I think that, when defining those criteria, the Committee should give some consideration to what constitutes a “major grant”, as set forth in ZIP 1014 (i.e. “large scale, long term projects”). I get the impression that the amount of time required to assess a $5,000 grant application is not significantly different to that required to assess a $500,000 grant application. Filtering out grant applications that do not meet the definition of a major grant could go some way to reducing the time burden.
We’ll also be able to provide a single point of contact for grant applicants (so that ZOMG Committee members no longer have to respond to and liaise with grant applicants) and communications support (e.g. posting updates to the forums and Twitter, organising calls with existing and/or potential grant applicants, publicising the work of ZOMG and advertising the fact that funding is available in order to attract more and better grant applicants).
With that level of support, I expect that the majority of the necessary support work will be taken off the ZOMG Committee members’ hands, reducing their time commitment significantly. That will be an appropriate point to review the expected time commitment, and if it turns out that the existing estimate is still insufficient, we can address that appropriately.
For the avoidance of any doubt: I believe that we can resolve these issues without changing ZIP 1014. To my mind, these are teething issues, to be expected with any new structure of this nature. Importantly, they have not prevented ZOMG from approving over $2.4m worth of grants. It’s unfortunate that the change in leadership at the Foundation distracted us from providing more support sooner but we are making progress, and we are prepared to devote the necessary resources to close the loop.
I appreciate that there are some who are unhappy with how ZIP 1014 turned out but I do not believe that it is appropriate to use these issues as an excuse to make changes that are not inline with the Community’s intent.
We all - the Foundation, the ZOMG Committee members, and the Electric Coin Company - have a responsibility to implement what the Zash Community asked us to do - and what we agreed to do - when they approved ZIP 1014.