I have rarely commented on ZOMG, and I also haven’t tracked suggestions around its future shape moving forward closely. However, I feel compelled to describe what I perceive as a significant issue, and suggest some brainstorms on how to address it. If I’m just rehashing existing discussion, I’d love pointers to it, since I missed it.
The significant issue is that due to the structure and timeline of elections, grant applicants have significant uncertainty around planning longer term projects.
Here are some challenging questions grant applicants face in planning how much they can risk and commit to contributing to Zcash around grant process/structure uncertainty:
- Will my application be decided by the current committee or an upcoming not-yet-known committee?
- Will the next committee have the same priorities and criteria as the current committee?
- Will my ongoing approved project be subject to different scrutiny around ongoing milestones when the committee composition changes?
- How can I successfully propose a long-term project that will take longer than a single committee’s lifespan?
- What kinds of contingencies do I need to set up before I can even submit the application successfully, such as preparing backup sources of income or budgeting savings to accommodate a rejection?
Keep in mind that proposing a grant not only requires an applicant to put forward all of the proposed visible work itself, but they also have to plan their future around it, including foregoing other potential plans, and making contingencies around whether or not the grant is accepted. This is a significant cost that is outside of the price tag of an application, and typically only seasoned consultants know how to handle this kind of income / work contingency planning.
Another important nuance: long term doesn’t necessarily mean large scopes or large budgets! For example, someone may propose something like fulfilling some role, like a community coordinator for a specialized niche, over the course of a couple of years even though their budget is a relatively low rate. IMO, longevity of grant-funded projects is potentially very valuable for Zcash, even for small-budget projects.
Ok, with the problem defined, how can ZOMG committees or the larger process and structure around ZOMG address it?
- One “light weight” possibility is simply that ZOMG committees establish a convention / norm that they strive to apply the same review norms to currently running grant projects as their predecessors.
- Another similar convention / norm might be that by default they agree up-weight a grant application from an existing recipient (same team / org / people) that has a similar scope of work.
- A more structured brainstorm might be to introduce a concept of “renewal proposals” where if the proposal effectively boils down to “keep doing a similar thing to what we’ve already done” the proposal format / effort is streamlined so it’s not as heavy-weight. (I’m not super clear on how to do this effectively…)
- Establish a convention of breaking up large applications into “starter” vs “followup” grants for long term or large scope projects. Remember, part of the goal of a “starter” grant isn’t just to limit the risk to ZOMG and Zcash of misallocating funds, but also to help get the applicants in the door to reduce the planning uncertainty issue I described above. For example, suppose they have a big idea, but even putting together a proposal and planning their contingencies around it is costly, then a starter grant would actually include work to build out a fuller plan and do contingency planning around it.
- IMO, a deeper structural shift that I’ve heard people discussing is to stagger committee elections so that the entire committee is never replaced, except for unusual / exceptional reform needs.
I’m not particularly attached to these suggestions, and I don’t have experience in running a grants programs through committee like ZOMG. What I’m hoping to see is more experienced folks address the deeper underlying issue.