This RFF is premised on the idea that the Aura Maxi, in their current form, are not an effective means of providing for de-centralisation. This RFF instead proposes an alternative model with increased Aura distribution, based on closer integration between core, community and governance.
This closer model is premised on delegating vote weight to the Maxi, appointing a Maxi chair or leader and ensuring more direct communication with the community.
Aura seeks to be a community-driven, decentralized protocol. Since May 2023, the Aura Maxi have worked diligently to try to live out the visions of de-centralisation and community led governance. It is my hypothesis that this has not been successful.
The goals of the maxis are as follows:
-Facilitate the education and growth of the Aura community and the participation of its members in governance;
-Engage, analyze, and provide recommendations on issues arising in Aura and Balancer governance;
-Enable others who choose to build with Aura and Balancer with support from a technical and governance standpoint;
-Promote Aura in ways that transparently build consensus, independence, and censorship resistance; and
-Help build a diverse community of contributors and participants.
It is my view that these are worthwhile tasks but they are too limited in scope. These points cover assisting others to write governance, providing educational services and maintaining the veneer of de-centralised decision making. They do not actually provide for a means of the Maxi challenging the core nor setting goals and actively promoting community interest and ideas.
It is my contention that the relationship between the core and the Community needs to be much closer and based on a series of checks and balances, rather than what currently exists.
The Current Maxi remit
I am not best placed to describe all of the inner workings of the Aura Maxis, but from the outside it appears that the current Aura Maxis are focused on administration and governance advice. Providing commentary on Balancer and Aura Improvement Proposals is one such governance task and is admirable, but only rarely makes any difference. The current Maxi have instead become more of a “grand” secretary role as opposed to a group of individuals actively thinking and empowered to make a difference in the ecosystem. I think this needs to change.
The current maxi are also not expected, or required, to personally hold a significant amount of Aura tokens nor are they expected to lock their Aura tokens once they are received. This is not to cast aspersions on any Maxi, some of whom are big holders and lock their tokens, but instead to highlight that alignment with the DAO is not guaranteed in this structure.
Governance with no real power
It is my contention that de-centralisation can only exist where the community has actual power over the activities of the DAO. The vote locked model theoretically provides for that de-centralised governance, but as has been seen, power tends to concentrate. A scan of the AIP will generally show a complete lack of votes from the community and instead the votes of the delegate council only. Ie, a single vote of about 7M Aura tokens. Understandably, with so many BIP being voted on every week, it is unlikely that the community will actively participate on every matter and so delegating has become the primary means of ensuring that long term interests are aligned. BUT, this is centralised again to the delegate council.
The “Core” of Aura, ie those individuals in full time roles etc, are the ongoing power and driving force behind Aura. Core members sit on the delegate council, in the Maxi, in the Meditator chats and have right of veto over a number of DAO decisions. Most notably, what projects could be accumulated by the DAO, partnerships, business development and long term vision, are all set by the core. Whilst this may have some operational advantages, there is nothing in the Aura token price nor in the incentives to indicate that this future vision is keeping the attention of the market.
To be clear, whilst it is important to realise that the Aura token is just a governance token and has no inherent value, the desires of people to hold the token are of interest to token holders and so I think it is a fair metric to include when measuring success.
Checks and Balances
Decentralised governance is much harder to achieve than a simple assumption that people will vote in their own self interest. While this is true for people who have the time and energy to study and vote on issues, this is not the case at all times in different market cycles etc. Instead, a closer link between Maxi and Core/delegates would be preferable with a more contested voting apparatus. I believe this would also be in the best interests of the DAO and would generate more community interest on specific proposals.
To that end, Maxi must be allocated percentages of the Aura delegated vote weight. I would suggest the following:
40% The delegate council
50% The Maxi vote (broken down to 5 delegates with 10% each)
10% The core vote
This break down gives the Core the ability to align with the delegate council to split any decisions and prevent a decision being implemented. Notably however, that would require the Maxi to all agree on something and then vote in complete contrast to the delegates and the desires of the core. This seems unlikely and will probably only be a risk vector regarding token allocations.
This allocation of vote weights becomes part of the broader Aura vote with individuals still as free as ever to vote as they see fit.
The Maxis who wield this delegated Aura however, must also hold at least 20K vlAura tokens themselves. Should they fall below this threshold then their votes for that epoch/week will not be counted and the vote weight returned to the delegate council.
The updated roles of the Maxi
Participate in Discord and the Forums as individuals.
Moderate, manage and support the Aura Discord, fostering an autonomous and educated community that includes international language channels, educational content and the Aura Forum.
Promote the long term health of Partner protocols that Aura is built on, such as Balancer, through active participation in their discord and socials and further educational content.
Collaborate and publish at least 1 monthly newsletter or medium article that educates and updates the community
Identify 5 delegates to vote on every proposal and update the Aura delegate thread with reasons for decisions made
Establish “chain” focused individuals to scout out opportunities and gather info on competitors and friends from across multiple chains. Present these ideas in AIP to ensure that the DAO continues to innovate and to challenge Balancer when they need to do more.
Business development and idea propagation
Aura’s future should be decided by the community, as represented by the Maxi and the delegates. Direct democracy will lead only to shills and poor governance, but representatives have the power and the motivation to govern for the long term good. To this end, Maxi need to be empowered to go out and propose ideas to other DAO and other protocols for the benefit of Aura. This can include new partnerships, new ideas and new depositors. This expands the reach of the Maxi and the DAO more broadly, without needing to seek permission from the core contributors.
By allowing a diverse set of eyes and ears, our reach as a DAO will grow and our opportunities to gather more vote weight across a lot of protocols will also further develop. Such a system must include the right to negotiate, introductions and Aura token allocations for successful negotiations, with final approval and security audits completed by the Core.
The role of the “Guru”
This RFF presupposes that all functioning groups need a leader of some kind. Whilst I remain a huge supporter of the DAO structure, the current Aura incentive model is not sufficient to attract and maintain the focus of the individuals. By using co-ordinape, the Maxi are forced to constantly please each other for their Aura allocations each month. Maxi are reluctant to call each other out on poor performance and on ideas that are not working. The same is true of calling out the Core or the delegates as this is a sure way to lose favour in the ecosystem.
I would instead propose that an elected Consul, or a Guru (in line with the Aura and Chakra theme), be elected by the DAO to lead the Maxi. Ie, the Maxi do not elect their own leader, the leader is elected by the DAO to lead them for a period of 6 months.
This helps to ensure that the Maxi are working towards a common vision and prevents the need for a contributor to act as the surrogate leader when the maxi do not know what to do or how to act. This leader speaks for the Maxis and helps set the agenda and Aura allocations.
The previous Aura maxi budget was woefully inadequate and did not inspire commitment nor alignment. Most importantly, the role of Aura Maxi should not be considered a person’s primary means of income. Instead it is a commitment to long term investment in the future of Aura. To that end, all compensation is in Aura tokens, must be locked on receipt and is not adjusted by price. (Fulltime commitments should likely be more closely linked with a role in core)
The proposed Budget in Aura tokens is: 50K per month with no limits to the number of Maxi that can be in the group although only 5 will ever be delegated votes (each of whom must hold at least 20K Aura). It is expected that the “Guru” will receive a standard 8-10K per month fron the allocated 50k above.
This proposal is in no way meant to cast aspersions on the current Aura Maxi who are uniformly excellent and motivated individuals. My concern is with the structure and the incentive model to drive value and long term health to Aura holders. I welcome any feedback or discussion on this idea as a concept.