Ensuring the longevity of ZFND grant recipients in the Zcash ecosystem

I would like to start a discussion around the longevity of previous Zcash grant recipients and how many of them are still working on Zcash now. As someone who is considering applying for a Zcash foundation grant in the short-term, I wanted to find out what has happened to previous grant recipients and looked through the previous github repositories that the Zcash foundation had for grant submissions. I noticed that a large number of the grant recipients are no longer as active in the Zcash space as they once were at the time of the grant submission.

The reason I would like to bring this up is because, as the Zcash community is maturing and non-trivial amounts of money are getting rewarded, there needs to more accountability on both the Zcash Foundation and recipients’ end with respect to expectations around being Zcash community members and participating accordingly. Perhaps, there are certain cases where these expectations can be relaxed but we won’t know unless we discuss them. Further, to ensure the longevity of the Zcash ecosystem, there needs to be an investment in making sure that grantees are in it for the long-term.

I would like to highlight the fact that the Zcash Foundation’s emphasis on transparency is the only reason I can make this post and although not perfect, we can openly critique and attempt to improve the grant process. They have posted some rationales for why they funded certain proposals and why others weren’t funded (although this aspect is missing from the current Zcash grant system).

Mainly, I think we should discuss the following:

  • What are the main criteria in the team (potential grantee) that the Zcash Foundation looked for the most?
  • On the grantees’ side, did they feel like they got a lot of support from the Zcash Foundation and by extension, the Zcash community?
  • If they didn’t get a lot of support or feel like they didn’t, what could the Zcash foundation and by extension the Zcash community do to ensure that the team still wants to build on/for Zcash?

As a participant in the grant advisory committee for the very first and second rounds of Zcash Foundation Grants I can say the criteria were basically:

  1. How well does this project fit into the Zcash Foundations mission?
  2. Who is the team behind it and what is the likelyhood of success?
  3. Is the cost reasonable for performing such work?

The first two rounds were very academic style (ie: cumbersome) with plenty of time spent with the reviewers going over a spreadsheet with all the proposals. Different reviewers would do a deep-dive into a proposal and rate it with a 1-5 of support. After that we had a Hangouts meeting to discuss our findings and for debate on the merits of each proposal.

After that it was a matter of budget, what projects would give the most “bang for the buck” and use the allotment most effectively. We then presented our findings to the Zcash Foundation board for final review and approval/rejection of the projects.

We learned that the academic style review/debate/review/present/approval process was very slow and out of that was born the current Zcash Foundation Grant platform: grants.zfnd.org which is a much less paperwork intensive process.

CC @acityinohio


Even on the Zcash Foundation Grant platform, it’s not clear why certain proposals are chosen whereas in the Github issues, whenever an applicant was rejected, a comment was added for why. Currently on the grants platform, most of the proposals have been accepted but it would be nice as a potential grant applicant to know why so I can tailor my application accordingly.

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That is why I CC’d Josh Cincinnati, he would know more about the proposal review process for the newer Grant’s platform than I do.

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Out of left field: are there long term plans to head towards a more decentralized grant recipient program, e.g., a decentralized treasury system built into clients like zcashd?

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That is two separate answers:

  1. The entire point of the community voting to create a Major Grants portion of the Development Fund was to make it more decentralized, ie: not under the direct control of the ECC or ZFND.

  2. The second part of your question about a embedded on-chain Grant’s system could work if Zcash had a voting system like Decred has. It’s been discussed many times in threads around here but I don’t know of any concrete plans to build one yet.


What would the requirements of a voting system be?

We might be able to build that into Zbay in some way.


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The hard part of any voting system is keeping people from gaming the system by stuffing the ballot. I can’t think of a way for a website to do that reliably, hence the idea of a on-chain system.

The only way I have seen voting done successfully on-chain is the Decred system where users can vote with hashrate and proof of staking. https://voting.decred.org/


@Shawn did an excellent job distilling the criteria for grant selection:

This is as true today as it was in the past grant programs. The last programs were perhaps too onerous, but you’re right @Mikerah, it featured much more detailed rationales for funding. However, I do think looking at the grants we have funded (which is now easier/more visible with the latest grant platform upgrade) it’s pretty clear how they line up with our roadmap and mission. And the template for a grant (on the new platform) is meant to guide prospective grantees toward evaluating their proposals this way as well.

We have made some improvements — approved grant proposals are now open for public discussion before a funding decision is made, and the Foundation will be submitting feedback openly on those channels as well. But in general we haven’t used the new grant platform to the fullest extent, and the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction compared to the old process.

The biggest improvement will come with the selection of the MGRC. My personal view is that the Major Grant Review Committee should independently create criteria and process for Major Grants that could filter into the Foundation’s method for minor grants — or as the Foundation wrote when announcing the MGRC election process, it would be even better to have the MGRC take over smaller grants as well:

The Foundation would be happy for the MGRC to use ZF Grants for selections and applications, and would work with them to modify the platform to suit their needs for larger grant disbursements, but that is ultimately up to them to decide. The Foundation would also be thrilled if the MGRC took on evaluating and distributing smaller-scale grant disbursements from their slice, but again that is ultimately up to them.

We’re very close to this committee being selected, which I hope will inform future Foundation grant processes in addition to this public discussion. In the mean time, we’ll be more open with public feedback on future grants on the platform. If you’re wondering how your proposal might fit in, I’d encourage you to submit an initial version and let us respond on the platform publicly.


I’ve been planning something for Zbay where users do a proof of burn by donating some meaningful amount to a non-profit like Zcash Foundation, EFF, or Fight for the Future. The recipient would make their viewing key public and donors could sign the messages to link them with a pseudonymous identity. If this identity has both a proof of burn and a history of activity over time you have a reason to believe it’s not fake, and if you get a burst of votes from accounts without much burn or history you have a reason to be suspicious. It’s not foolproof but it’s something.

Another cool approach I’ve heard about recently is one where you have some kind of programmatically generated turing test with a limited time to solve it.

For example, you could generate a random series of words based on data from a given block and ask people to post a signed link on-chain of a video of themselves (or an inanimate object if they’re shy) performing an interpretive dance that meaningfully incorporates each word. This would be really silly, and it wouldn’t prevent people buying votes, but it does roughly guarantee “one person, one vote”.

@tromer and @sarahjamielewis have lots of experience on voting (in)security.