Welcome to Built on Bitcoin - Your home for innovation happening in the Bitcoin ecosystem.
Jan. 28, 2022

E38: Empowering the Builders of Tomorrow with Jenny & Will from the Stacks Foundation - Stacks Grant Series

Stacks is working to unleash the full potential of Bitcoin, and the team at the Stacks Foundation is supporting all the builders bringing this vision to life.
Listen to Jenny Mith and Will Corcoran from the Foundation talk about the programs they offer and some exciting changes coming to support the movers and shakers of Stacks.

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Stacks is working to unleash the full potential of Bitcoin, and the team at the Stacks Foundation is supporting all the builders bringing this vision to life.
Listen to Jenny Mith and Will Corcoran from the Foundation talk about the programs they offer and some exciting changes coming to support the movers and shakers of Stacks.

Blog post coming Monday.
Check back here for more details.

Keep updated by following these accounts on Twitter:
Stacks Foundation @StacksOrg
Will Corcoran: @corcoranwill
Jenny Mith: @Jennyrmith

Will & Jenny (Stacks Grants)

Jake: [00:00:00] So Will and Jenny pleasure to have you guys here. I'm super excited for this one. Cryptos and falling off a cliff lately, and some people are freaking the F out and others just kind of being heads down, building.

How are you guys feeling in this kind of like crazy time right now? Maybe we could start with you, Jenny.

Jenny: Um, I feel fine. I don't even know what's happening. What's happening. Um, it's just never been my thing to care that much about how the market, I mean, obviously I'm excited when I see Stacks at all time high, but that's for obvious reasons, I think, um, I think I've been trained well to ignore market trends and to, to keep building, um, because other it's already, it's already so busy and exciting building with people. I don't want to add the stress of caring about the market too. That makes me, it's a very simple reason. I'm just like, oh, I just don't. I just try not to care about that stuff.

Jake: Yeah, What about you Will?

Will: Yeah. I suppose I'm on that [00:01:00] side too. I don't, I don't really think about it. I mean, of course I look at it and that it gets to me, but, uh, really it's just about like keeping building and I don't know. I mean, I feel like I haven't gone through in my professional life, like gone through 9/11, gone through the 2008 crash, sometimes, you know, when it's like, like really bad and then there's just other times when it's kind of, um, um, you just kind of keep working and then.

Otherwise, they're going to be really in a bad position, if you let it get to you and you just stop moving forward.

Jake: Yeah. I know. I can't, I can't tell if it's like being blessed to work in Stacks where like the builder ethos is so strong and I'm just like, I'm unfazed at all by it. Like, I'm just going to keep doing this podcast and talking to cool people and just is what it is.

Like, it hasn't changed at one iota, but I see my timeline and I'm like, okay, that person's going off a cliff, that person's crying. Like it just [00:02:00] like, there's all kinds of different, different variables. It just I'd want to get a pulse on it. So that's, it's cool that we're all kind of on the same page.

Will: We seem to have so much more analytics. You know, at our grasp. And so you can, you can really, uh, you know, doom scroll through a bunch of charts and, you know, convince yourself that things are, are really getting ugly. And, you know, I mean, there's, you know, some very concerning market conditions going on at a macro level.

And, you know, I think just coming out of COVID in general, uh, are coming through COVID, but yeah, it's, it's beyond my control, so I really can't do anything about it

Jake: a hundred percent. Okay. Well, curious because lots of people would know you, you guys are like kind of staples in the ecosystem for sure.

That's, that's putting it lightly, but I'm curious about a little bit of you guys as background before you got into [00:03:00] crypto. What, what did you guys do before you landed here?

Will: I want to start with Jenny cause I don't even know this.

Jake: Here we go. Details.

Jenny: I don't think that there life before this. No, I'm just kidding.

Um, no, I think like a lot of people in crypto, I obviously didn't study this didn't really work in this for a long time before landing in this, in college and grad school, I studied philosophy and public policy. I was going to go into academia. I thought about getting my PhD in philosophy, which is really not where I'm going now.

not what I'm doing now, and before the Stacks foundation, I, I worked for Blockstack, which is now Hiro Systems. And before that I worked at a coding bootcamp called CodeSmith. So that was actually, that was like my first sort of foray into tech. And it was a really good, like soft intro to tech.

Cause I was working with people who were learning software engineering. So I, I got a lot of time to get ramped up. You know, within a matter of months, I wasn't really afraid of talking about technical things. Not that [00:04:00] it was not that I was afraid before, but it is intimidating. If you don't have a technical background, suddenly people are talking about programming languages.

It's just, it just sounds like they're, they're listing off a bunch of rocket parts in like the first month, but, um, that really gave me a lot of confidence in tech in general. And I think through that, seeing all the different places that software engineers could work made me realize how much I wanted to work in emerging tech.

So who was interested in AI, did a little bit of learning on my own on with deep learning but was also interested in blockchain. And I think that. I moved away from the AI sort of sector because the barriers to entry are so high. Whereas when you look at like blockchain industry and crypto, it was so much more accessible, it was friendlier.

To be honest, a lot of the podcasts I listened to early, early in my time of researching, there were a lot of women on the podcast. So it was, it felt like a more promising opportunity for me. So I just did a lot of reading. And at that time this was 2017. So it [00:05:00] wasn't that long ago, but at that time, the content out there was so shitty too.

So I had to like really, really dig. Um, so I feel like I, I put in some work, uh, to at least get a fundamental understanding and I applied to Blockstack and the rest is history.

Will: Yeah. I guess also came at this from a point of view where I was not trained to, to be in this world, I was involved in architecture for 20 years and I've had a chance to sort of throughout that period of time, I was practicing architecture in a lot of different ways on, you know, different points of that landscape.

So at one point I was doing like advanced digital design, like a large multinational firm, that's where I started programming and got really into interoperability and advanced modeling and simulation. It was in the lead up to the '08 crash.

And there, this kind of like arms race between the different firms in terms of like what services [00:06:00] they could provide and we almost had this like startup within this large firm called SOM. They did like the Freedom tower, Sears tower and stuff like that. So I got to work and a lot of really cool buildings, but I was sort of felt disconnected from being an architect and doing there's.

So like sort of this like capital A Architect where your like more in this well-rounded traditional sense, I suppose. And I wanted to go and do that. So I actually got into Design-Build back in New York and that's where you're simultaneously the construction manager and the architect on the same project.

So I spent a lot of time on job sites and working with a lot of different trades and being able to talk to a lot of different audiences on the same day about the same thing in very different ways. And so, yeah, I mean, architecture is like 50% designing buildings and 50% designing the documents that communicate those buildings to people. You know, whether it be like a [00:07:00] spreadsheet or a set of construction drawings or a virtual reality model, like universal models. So, you know, you, you get to experience a lot of different mediums, you know, you're just always iterating, always trying to refine ideas and facilitating the creative process. And, that's what I loved. I knew that I wanted to get into tech because my partner, she's a front end engineer at Hiro actually. And, she used to be an architect and went through a similar transition where, you know, I guess that like the, the more contemporary ways of getting work done is aligned with a lot of people in architecture, where they come from like a very computer centric world, the way that they learn.

But then you kind of smashed that up against the construction industry, which is like still using fax machines, scribbling on drywall to like put together a [00:08:00] home Depot run order, something like that. And so there's a lot of friction there. And so at one point in time, you know, she just wanted to cut that free and get into the technology.

I've just been learning vicariously through her process. And then she came across this lecture by Muneeb and we both kind of went down the rabbit hole together of falling in love with Stacks ,orange pilling on Bitcoin, and then that really just kind of like philosophical shift in the way that you think about like value and money and your time.

I just had to walk away from architecture and luckily I came across this great job post on Twitter that Brittany put up originally and then had my first interview with Jenny and luckily things clicked and the rest is history. So.

Jake: I love it. Yeah. It's, it's especially your, your story's cool because, um, I think a lot of people calcify like their knowledge base and they just like, they do what they do and they get [00:09:00] comfortable and that's kind of like you're stuck there.

And so making that jump, I mean, it had to be scary at some point, but how was the transition initially when you were kind of thinking about it to like talking with Jenny and saying yes.

Will: It was more the convincing that it took to just finally quit the profession. Architecture is very deadline driven profession.

it's also a team and I was leading teams and, you know, close with all the people that I worked with. And so you want them to be successful and you kind of like get the thrill of meeting that deadline and designing a cool building and seeing it built and all that stuff.

But it's extremely exhausting. And looking back on it from the point of view that I have now, the incentives are very misaligned. It's a very extractive, it's a total, no zero sum game in terms of like the winners and losers on that. Um, so anyway, There was periods where [00:10:00] you're really happy and really satisfied.

And, it's intellectually stimulating, but then there's periods where it's just like, you know, you can't, you can't do it anymore. So anyway, it took a lot of convincing to finally walk away from it and, you know, take the first step into the unknown, taking the job. That was a no brainer.

It's like in the old job that, that took that took years of convincing them to do it.

Jake: Got it. Okay. Well, uh, yeah, I think seeing you it's cool. Cause I've only been here for six months, but I feel like I've experienced so much already just because of how fast crypto moves, but seeing how, seeing how fast you jumped in and you really seem like you're a natural fit.

You're almost like a marketing team now on Twitter and you're interacting on the discord, like Will is everywhere. So, uh, yeah, outsider, you've been a crucial piece. That's really helping the, the interface between the grant program and the, and the public more broadly, which has been cool to see.

But I'm curious [00:11:00] what we somewhat know what the Stacks Foundation does to kind of support the blockchain. What does an average day look like for you guys?

Jenny: I can start. Well first, like on the question of what the foundation does, I think our purview is really broad and that's really awesome, but also sometimes it can be really confusing for a decentralized ecosystem, but I think the best way to sum up what we do is that we enable people to build on Stacks.

And that can mean something very literal. Right? We have the grants program, we have like the residents program and we literally fund people to build things on Stacks. But then you also have the work that the foundation does to make Stacks more accessible to people around the world but I think at the core of what we do is always just empowering people to be able to contribute. Not everyone's technical, right. But I think that we really operate on the belief that everyone can contribute something of value, create value, and distribute that value in this ecosystem.

That's the great thing about this technology. And I think we're [00:12:00] constantly, you know, on top of just funding the builders that are in front of us, I think we're also trying to constantly find ways to surface new contributors. Maybe people who didn't think that they could contribute to Stacks in meaningful ways before what are programs and initiatives that we can come up with that educate those folks that build them up to a point where they're confident in contributing.

There are a lot of calls involved, but there was also a lot of strategy. There's lots of like a lot of tactical stuff. Right. Will knows this now as the Grants Program Manager. It can be really exhausting because you're talking to people for hours every day, but you also get to talk to really brilliant people.

You're working so closely with them to pull out that gold, um, in like, you know, list of ideas. So someone can come to us and be like, I want to build this. I have this idea. I'm just not really sure how to approach it. And you get to have an hour long conversation about like, well, this is maybe a six month project, but maybe in the next month you can do this thing and that's going to be incredibly valuable to developers.

So I don't know if that really [00:13:00] answers the question of like what a day looks like, but that's what a day feels like to me, it's like switching from program management to community relationship building, to looking at partnership opportunities. Just anything that will help community members build and contribute to Stacks is what the foundation is about.

Jake: Okay. Have some follow-up questions, but first I'd like to hear your thoughts Will how has it been for you?

Will: It's been great. It's simultaneously your a team, but there's complete autonomy. And like we all, you know, every member of the staff is, first of all, they're amazing. They're awesome.

They're a lot of fun to work with. And there's very little in terms of hierarchy and, and there's zero kind of like sense of territorial, like protectionism that comes along with a lot of work environments. And so you [00:14:00] have people that are just naturally inclined to want to, you know, move in a certain direction.

And it's kinda like everyone. You know, like vector math. So vectors are like described by their direction and their magnitude. And so like, we all kind of like have our own direction that we're going. And our own magnitude is based off of our passion. And then like the resultant vector is the direction that the whole ecosystem is going.

And it's like the really fun thing is trying to empathize with what the community wants is always like a constant part of the conversations. It's kind of like a, what is it, the 12th man, you know, when you're like seeing a football game, they're not on the, they're not on the field necessarily or on the zoom call, but like, you know, they're always there in terms of like the influence that they're going to have, that they would want for [00:15:00] the good of the community that is kind of always in the back of your mind.

But yeah, I mean, there there's people that are focused on growth, on education, on developer advocacy. You obviously have amazing core developers, Jude, Jesse, Marvin, that you're working with and Kenny now, Alejandro. And then, you know, you have Brittany and Mitchell, which are really sort of integral and leadership and partnerships and Louise and Jenny, Shannon, and Kaitlin are sort of running point with a ton of different programs, comms and social outreach and events.

And, um, geez, I really hope I didn't leave anyone out. Um, yeah, everyone just, it's a joy to work with. Uh, it's been a lot of fun

Jake: Very cool. First of all. Thank you for saying, uh, you know vector math, and then describing that because I for sure don't know what that means. Uh, but now I'm a [00:16:00] little more

Jenny: big smile.

Just like, uh,

Jake: yeah, just, just nod your head and agree, but know you gotta be the dumb one in the room. Ask the question, but you followed it up with the how and the what? Uh, okay. That's interesting. You, you did say, um, You know, one of the beautiful things about it is that you guys are a team, but there's also autonomy.

And I know trying to, trying to community organize in some small fashion in the ways that I have. It's, that's the tricky thing with decentralization is that, you know, it's, it's hierarchical-less, so it's very flat and everyone has their own itch to scratch, which, you know, curiosity is the best driver and fuel. So let them go.

But then reigning people in is very weird to do with, with this like decentralization. How do you guys balance that? Like, I'm sure you have a mission statement or some directed goals, but how do you let people go, but then also reigning them in or police each other in that sense as a foundation?

Jenny: That's an [00:17:00] interesting question. Language is interesting too. I think, uh, well, first. The foundation's philosophy on all of this is really interesting. We've we figured this out pretty early on as a team. Um, when we finally found the language for it, I think it was like a big aha moment for everybody, but, um, in terms of hierarchy, and this is like one of the first things I told Will is that, um, in order, not in order to work at the foundation, but everybody who works with the foundation isn't necessarily interested in that traditional management hierarchy.

All of us are very much not interested in managing people. If anything, we're just interested in managing programs and initiatives. So, uh, you mentioned, you know, we'll mentioned a direction and magnitude and, and your passion being, correlated to, to that magnitude. I think that's, that's, what's really.

Fun. And, uh, what you're really grateful for in being at the foundation, is there going to be so many things that you're good at, but the thing that you're going to be able to contribute most to the community is the thing that you're passionate [00:18:00] about. So, you know, Will and I have been really passionate about empowering people to build.

So let's turn that, you know, we have a grants program which is, you know, a standard grants program in a lot of ways, but because we know community members really well, we get to tweak the program in ways that we think will be helpful to the community.

The residents program, for example, there are so many community OGs that like for years, I've just been like, how do we get you to work full-time on this thing. This is so cool. You know, we've been talking about this idea for so long. How can we support you in a way where you can just go heads down and focus on this for a whole year? And then at the foundation, because there's so much autonomy and there's so much trust, you can just say like, does a residence program sound good?

And everyone's like, yeah, what would that entail? It's a really high trust environment. And I think that's probably one of the key things about how we operate. I don't think that you could do that without trust. And it's funny to say that because you know, in a decentralized ecosystem, it's a little bit about removing that factor of trust, but right [00:19:00] now it's like a really critical element to decentralizing correctly.

So with that model, I would say that we're, it's important for us to experiment with that. And you know, this idea that you're managing programs, initiatives, not people. To take that to the community, right. It forces you to take your ego out of it. So when we're thinking about what the community wants, it's not like, oh, this is what I think the community wants.

But like secretly is what I, what I want for the community. It's literally being like, in a year's time from now, I might not be here. How can I set this program up so that community members can run it for themselves? And not just run it, but like pay themselves, be happy running it themselves. So. Lots of really interesting thought experiments.

You really have to take your ego out of it. You're not managing people, you're managing programs. Yeah, those are some key takeaways for me.

Jake: Okay. That's interesting. Yeah, it kind of sounds too like that ethos and tech is kind of like move fast and break things. And so there's a, there's a, uh, a comfortability with just experimentation [00:20:00] and you guys doing that at like the incentive and like the program level where it's like, here's an idea, throw it on the wall.

We can try it. If it doesn't work, we can, we can scrap it and move on. And because it's focused on the program, not the individual person selling it or doing it, uh, you know, there's no like reputational harm or like you guys are focused on the ultimate goal of expanding the ecosystem.

Jenny: Yeah. It's not like, um, you know, I'm like putting myself or my rep on the line.

It's like the ideas that I have for these programs are truly inspired by needs that I'm seeing in the community. So it's like, it is very much, you know, Jenny's idea. It's like, well, I saw that community members needed this maybe we can like throw a grant to that, or maybe we can put a program on that.

It's a really interesting way to think. And I can't see myself ever working in a different structure. I think this is, yeah. I mean, when Will talks about, you know, his previous life in architecture, I'm like, not exactly. Um, [00:21:00] but yeah, I I've, I've really, I personally really enjoyed the sort of paradigm switch.

Will: Yeah. I mean, I think that, you know, we're all kind of having those group epiphany where cryptography, smart contracts, tokenization of things. It's allowing us to begin to explore these trustless systems.

And rather than having a manager holding you accountable, like having some type of verifiable system or, you know, that you volunteer to be a part of not, you are required to be a part of and you are rewarded for that. And so I guess all that being said is like, we get to support amazing people that are building amazing things, but we also get our own loan grant because like designing these things and tinkering with the way the foundation works is our own little thought experiment.

[00:22:00] And, um, it's, it's been a lot of fun, because it's a new industry. It's a new, like typology for a nonprofit supporting that industry. We're also encouraging people to build things, nothing set in stone, so everything is. Everything is new.

Everything, you know, is up for debate. Um, and you, you want to, you want to provide like just enough guidance so that you don't prescribe for the way that things need to happen, but you also don't like allow for chaos. And so, you know, I always go back to like this idea of like building a trellis and then not putting the vines up and like planting the vines, but like just allowing, you know, nature to run its course.

And so just by building that trellis and like being in those very simple, you know, grid structure, you [00:23:00] then allow something that's way more beautiful and organic, you can never anticipate what's going to happen there.

Jenny: That's something because you asked about how we reign people in.

That was probably the harder part of the question to answer. I think the answer is that is like, how can you, when everybody is your colleague, right. And there's no hierarchy and you work so closely with community members. It's it's. Yeah. So I do think it gets tricky because. Sometimes you do need to prioritize, right?

It, you, can't just, you can't just throw ideas at the wall and build whatever you want. But I think it helps that everyone in the community is generally aligned on the mission. Um, and that's super helpful, right? Cause I can, I can go back and forth with community members about, um, You know the timeline for their milestones or their roadmap and someone, someone might think like, no, it's better to actually we do this with the grants program all the [00:24:00] time.

So someone might want to build like a whole application first. And, um, we'll have these conversations where we'll say. That's a great idea, but there are so many risks involved in that, right? Like what if the app, isn't something that community members want to use right away, or like what if you run into some technical issues?

So through a lot of conversation, the question that we often ask is what is a version of this that you can build? That's going to be immediately helpful to people or is going to deliver the most value to Stacks community members. So that's often the easiest way to sort of reign people in when like you have tons of ideas is just thinking in terms of like, what is actually going to be beneficial to builders? What's going to be beneficial to contributors?

So I find that that is a great way to do it without having to micromanage or, you know, tap into that hierarchal structure. Because at the end of the day, I think people want to be aligned on what they're building. They want to be helpful to each other.

Jake: I love that. Yeah. I think it sounds like you don't reign people in, by like coercion or force it's by [00:25:00] reassessing that you're aiming at the same direction.

So you ask a clarifying question and then make sure that, uh, does this goal serve us in the best way possible. If not, you know, let's keep molding the clay and shaping it and then maybe it looks different, but it still gets that same end goal. I've had a lot very interesting. Okay. Uh, well, we've touched on programs in many different ways.

Grant program, residents program, advocates, all kinds of things, and there's some new things coming down the pipeline. Maybe give us a brief overview of like what's the lay of the land of the programs that the foundation currently . Offers.

Jenny: Well, I can give an overview though I feel like, Will it has a lot to say about all the exciting stuff that's coming down the line for the grants program. Um, but yeah. So in general, we've got, we've got a few, I think that's the most well-known one is the grants program.

People generally know how that one works. We launched the residents program, almost like a beta version of it in the fall of last year. So we've got a ton of residents [00:26:00] right now who are working heads down on a few cool projects. Actually you'll hear from them on a public community call on February 4th, shameless plugs.

So if you're, if you're curious, you can tune into that. We've got the chapter's program, which is a lot of, you know, supports global community growth. So we've got chapters in different regions like Pakistan, India, Korea, China, all over. We're talking to two new regions as well, Indonesia, Australia, Stacks Southwest US.

Um, so that, that program is exciting because it really, I think that one really acknowledges the power of decentralization. When we started that program, we were really like, You know, we have a lot of experience building community, but community is going to be different everywhere. How can we support people to build their own version of Stacks in a way that's going to support their community?

In a way that is tailored to their community. So with the chapter's program, I think you can expect to see a few new chapters signing on and what's going to be interesting there is that there's going to be [00:27:00] a real focus on sustainability for chapters. So a lot of the chapters are exploring ways to basically become financially sustainable on their own.

So some chapters have experimented with NFT campaigns. Um, we've talked to a lot of chapters about having their own stacking pools or like partnering with community pools, like Friedger pool, and, um, sort of, uh, referring community members to those different community pools. And, uh, with some of the chapters we're talking about using like CityCoins model as a way to fund themselves as separate entities.

So I think we're going to see a lot of really cool experimentation with business models from the chapter's program and from the advocates program, that program has been incubating for a little while now. And Jake, I know that you're part of it, but that one I'm really excited about because. There is such a sophisticated algorithm and team that is running the program.

I think it's, I honestly feel like it's not just the first in, in Stacks. It's kind of the first in the space where you have a really positive culture of people reporting [00:28:00] their contributions and acknowledging other's contributions. And based on that community collaboration, you get something like a reputation score that I probably there's a, there's probably a better way to explain it.

But based on that, you are paid out from your paid out rewards from a stacking pool, and that's the way to, to share and value creation. Um, I know that that is going to launch more efficiently and welcome more advocates in the next couple of months. So yeah, you can expect, um, a ton of new ways to get involved, whether it's, you know, building communities on a global scale, whether it's just contributing on a day-to-day basis through advocates, whether you wanna build something you've got the grants program, or if you want to focus on a longer-term project or research, you've got the residents program.

Jake: Very cool. Yeah. I know the advocates program was one of the first things I interacted with and it, the reason I liked it is because it felt, um, it's almost like the grassroots, like first level entry point where it's, it's pretty easy to get into, and then you just kind of contribute whatever way you [00:29:00] can.

And, uh, yeah, like you said, there's this, there's this reputation score, which they call SourceCred and it tracks, uh, you know, you post what we call a DidAThing. And when you post that thing, then you get points and it tracks it. How many posted per week and also how long you've been doing it. So there's like a history component to, uh, but yeah, when I look at the programs, it seems like they're almost layered to ascend in either trust or contribution where like the advocates program is very, like anyone can join.

If you're, if you're a lover of Stacks you know, come in and write an article, do whatever. And then grants is one step up. And then the resident is almost one step up above. Was that intentional or did it kind of organically go that way?

Jenny: I think it was a little more organic, but I do think that there's a lot of intention in acknowledging that anything that you contribute is valuable.

Right. I think that this is, this has been kind of a challenge across crypto [00:30:00] is how you, how you distribute value to people based on, on what they are doing. And lots of people do labor that's not recognized, right? Like just being on Discord answering questions. That takes a ton of your time and people will do that for free.

And I'm not sure. You know, you should expect to get some sort of compensation for everything. You know, it's, I'm not saying that it should be transactional, but I'm saying that it's important to foster a culture where people feel valued for the work that they do. And I think that's what I really loved about advocates is that with that algorithm, you can actually apply like a decay.

So if you're someone who was like really active for six months and you contributed something super impactful, people are going to feel the impact of your work much longer than six months. Right. So that algorithm can make it so that you're getting paid something like royalties for the work that you do, even if you decide to like pull out of the community for a little bit.

So I, I love that. And I think that that was really foundational to the way that I think about the [00:31:00] other programs, right? Again, it's like it's not just transactional. It's really recognizing the holistic value that people bring to Stacks and just want to make people feel appreciated and recognized for what they do.

Jake: Yeah, no, a hundred percent. And like you said, it's the, the like commenting in the Discord or the Telegram is one of the things where like, you know, the Hiro team or the Stacks team is only so big and you guys are, you got 10 different things they're doing, but if you, if you can have someone who's answered that question before they can hop in and for it, set them on the right path and then get a small amount of credit for that thing that they're doing which is fantastic.

Uh, Will okay. I'm curious what, what's coming down the pipeline, I've seen you, you've sent me some pre-release documents. It's insane. What, what are you guys working on?

Will: Yeah, so, I mean, I guess there'll be a series of blog posts that come out, but, uh, to kind of follow up with all this so there's really like three different flavors of change that we've been working on.

So [00:32:00] we did a really thorough competitive analysis of other grant programs in the space and just did some reflection. I think we had issued close to like 250 grants where we really started reevaluating, like, how are we going to move forward? So we had a, a nice body of work to look back on and reflect on.

And, um, so I guess the three flavors of change are like change in process, change in mechanics, and changes in structure. So just top level change and process, you know, to build off of what Jenny was saying, and what you, uh, picked up on in terms of giving people opportunities to like scale in to where, you know, the support mechanism meets them, where they need to be.

So there's going to be four levels of grants. There's going to be a level one, level two, level three, level four, there'll be more recognizable names coming out with them but each level is going to have like a monetary target that we're trying to [00:33:00] hit a target audience that we want to direct to that and different approval requirements that come along with it and perks.

So a level one will be for instance, like up to $5,000, a level two will be up to $25,000. Level three will be up to $250,000 before it will be up to $500,000. Now you're only going to be eligible to apply for the two bigger ones, the 3 and 4 if you've gone through the process of a one or two. And so the idea is that we want to really increase the throughput of grants, so we always want to be good stewards of the Stacks foundation treasury, but we also want to be in a position where we're more inclined to support, then to not support.

So it's, it's a delicate balance that you need to strike. And as we grow as a community. The number of grants, applications that come in are going to start to [00:34:00] exponentially increase the scope and the breadth of those applications are going to increase with them, the needs of the community.

You're going to grow beyond like what the three of us on this call could be aware of. And so we really want to make it even more transparent and more opaque and more community led and so there's going to be an addition of a new role within the process and some changes to the process and that new role is going to be an ambassador, like a grant ambassador.

And so there will be a call for applications going out soon, where we want to onboard as many ambassadors as we can hoping somewhere between six and 12, like really committed, really talented individuals. We want to hit the full compliment of what the community needs.

So we want technical, we want design and we want community. So you don't need to be a developer to be an ambassador. You don't need to be a designer to be an ambassador. You don't [00:35:00] need to be a community lead to be an ambassador. We want all of them because we want those ambassadors. They're going to serve as like part mentor, part project manager and part consultant within the grants ecosystem.

And so all of the reviews of the level ones and level twos, those will be up to myself, Jenny, and a couple of other advisors and the ambassadors. So that's going to allow us to not have to convene a large review committee that, you know, is busy with their own contributions, to what they're doing with Stacks.

And it's going to allow us to be a little bit more intimately involved with those people. And we're also going to have all of these meetings be open on discord. So everyone is going to be able to hear the conversation. They're going to be able to hear what the expectations are for applications. It's going to be hopefully a big value add in terms of like people being able to you [00:36:00] know, trend on the right direction in terms of what the application should be.

And also like you, you hear about this menu of options that are available to you for, you know, support. And one of the biggest challenges is just Jenny and I are working together to make sure that we put the right person on the right path, um, and make sure that it works for them also. I think that by having all of this open for people to be able to listen and on it's going to be helpful.

So, these will be very flexible positions. Like I said, we want the best of the best there. It's going to be a very competitive rate of payment. These ambassadors are also going to be eligible to take out or apply for a level one grant every month. So that's an additional $5,000 that they will be able to be eligible for.

We want them to use those grants to say, "Hey, I see this team over there or this team over there, and they're deficient on the skillset that I can bring to it. [00:37:00] So I'm going to jump onto that grant. I'm going to be like this. You know, sort of consultant, that's going to help them move forward and round out their team for a week or two."

Or I'm going to look inward at all these cool things that we're talking about at the foundation and be like, "Hey, like you could make this process run much more smoothly with, you know, a smart contract or, you know, with a platform, something like that. So those are, those are the changes in process.

Then the changes in mechanics, we're building our own platform. So we're going to be going away from a GitHub. You know, we have this great body of grants that we're looking at and I came in wanting to evaluate them and GitHubs kind of. It's very, it's a great for a lot of things in terms of transparency and the low barrier of entry for developers, but it's also like kind of a high barrier of entry for people that are more community minded and more design minded.[00:38:00]

And it's also like. When you look at these issues, it's really hard to find, you know, to make sense from an administrative point of view, what it is that you're looking for, and also from someone doing research. And so we took all those grants and spent a long time, like coming up with a taxonomy of how to like organize these grants.

So this dashboard is going to be totally open to everyone. Anyone that's interested in a grant, researching a grant, applying for grant, been accepted for a grant is going to be saying the same exact stuff that Jenny and I look at. The finance people look at. So we're all gonna have access to the same thing.

It's been designed with that in mind, it's going to require a lot of power users giving us feedback, which the ambassadors will also help with finishing out. And then I want to give a shout out to Jonathan Pixel8. He's one of the residents he's been working with us, [00:39:00] hes been awesome on the, on the design and build out of this, Andrew, that Jonathan works with.

So that's the second one that the changes in mechanics and then changes in structure, I think is one of the most exciting ones as one of these, that's kind of like chicken or egg, like how do we proceed forward with it? Because, um, we are sensing that the grant program. There's a lot of benefit from it beginning to be materialized into a DAO. We don't want to make that decision. We don't want to like decree that, you know, this will be a DAO that needs to be a community led decision. So I think one of the most exciting things is ambassadors will be working on is being core members of a DAO working group.

They will be learning by doing, and then they will be evaluating by doing and they will be evaluating, okay, all these [00:40:00] processes, um, this dashboard that's been built. Does it make sense to turn this into a DAO? How can all these processes be made that much easier, that much better?

If there were codified as smart contracts, how can we crowdsource the review of this even more? If it was through a DAO, how can we align incentives even more if it was a DAO. And so going through the thought experiment of first determining is this the right thing to do. And then if they decide that it is really shredding out and coming up with the governance processes, the mechanisms, and, you know, beginning to pull them all together.

So working with people like Marvin, working with StackerDAOs, trying to pull together the best of the best in terms of like DAO OS what Drew is doing. That team and the other group with the residency. So we have a lot of different people working on DAOs and a lot of different ways.

We [00:41:00] hope to, uh, you know, put this, you know, we want everyone to learn from each other's efforts. And so hope, you know, this will be another opportunity to make that happen. So, please apply.

Jake: I love that you guys are really at the bleeding edge of trying to figure out this, like, especially the word DAO. Like it's a buzzword nowadays, but I remember asking Drew and Mark. What, what is a DAO? What is a DAO? And like, there was three completely different answers. Like sometimes it's the governance aspect and there should be some kind of token involved so you can vote.

But I don't think we know what that means at all. And I think it's going to come very organically by what you're saying. Like, there's a, there's a decentralized kind of like trustless, smart contract aspect where you're moving people as much as you can. So it's kind of like run in the cloud in a sense, but what that looks like in practice and how does it work by like incentivizing people in a proper way and not [00:42:00] being abused?

Uh, we have no idea. So. I don't see a better use of a DAO than what you guys are building with ambassadors and funding grant programs. And if we can make that work, it's super interesting.

Jenny: I'm really excited actually when, um, my first call with Will I think that's what, like, that's what we vibes about cause we'd been talking about how like the foundation is set up in a way that, you know, it could potentially become more like a DAO. I'm not going to go and say it like it could be, it could become one.

That's a really big decision to make, but I think a lot of the programs that we have are, are set up in a way that, you know, it would be tempting to maybe move them toward this structure. So when I mentioned that to Will, I know he got really excited about it and I was like, I I'm so excited.

I'm, I'm so happy that I've talked to a candidate who doesn't think this is crazy, who is sort of, um, already diagramming it the way that I've been diagramming it. Um, but you know, but [00:43:00] now that we're here, I think that it, and now that there's so much discussion about DAOs. Were very aware of the fact that we have to be thoughtful about a decision like this.

It's just like what you mentioned Jake, like, um, with the DAO do you need a token? Do you need, need a governance token? It's so attempting to sort of do what everyone else is doing. But then like you said, you can set it up in a way where people abuse it, right? And anytime you have a token, anytime you have a secondary market for a token, you have to ask yourself whether you're comfortable with people buying their way into this DAO right?

People who aren't ambassadors, being able to, maybe they can use the token to buy entry into the DAO. They have no experience looking at community projects. They have no sort of concern about, you know, funding, public infrastructure for Stacks. So in that way, you're like, well, we should have have a token and you can go back and forth.

So I think that through. Through experimenting with the structure that that Will has really thoughtfully set up with ambassadors. We're going to [00:44:00] basically share this burden with community and it'll be like a big working group of figuring out like, okay. Um, the first stage is moving toward, um, a phase where the community does feel comfortable taking on a lot of grant decisions themselves, right?

Like imagine a world in which you go and there's just a directory of new grant applications and everyone who's part of like the grant committee can just go and have like a really easy to use interface where they're clicking through giving their comments. And then, you know, all of that is showing up and you can get, uh, you know, a measure of.

You can get like a sentiment from the community, and then based on that people, um, are comfortable saying, yes, I'm comfortable funding this. And that can happen on a daily basis to the point where you're funding, you know, hundreds of applications a month. And you can trust that the decisions about what to fund are actually coming from the community.

Like that's where we want to get first. And I think that's what matters to us. The most, the DAO structure is secondary to that. They're going to be a lot of kinks that we need to work out, but should that work out then like absolutely. You know, it's [00:45:00] time to turn this program into a DAO.

So I, I'm mostly really like excited about figuring out the, just the, the community and social aspect of it, you know, can we motivate people to want to go in and review grants every day? Are people gonna feel like it's in their best interest to go and review grants every day? So it's going to be an experiment with incentive alignment. ,

Jake: I love it. Cause like everything about Stacks it's like, we don't need to be first, like jumping into a DAO would be very cool, but you want to do it right? Like it's very deliberate. And so, you know, even like the levels, like I can see, like maybe you, maybe the DAO does the level ones first because the potential for harm is low.

And then as the system is proven over time, you can go to level two and level three, and then eventually, maybe the whole thing can be run by the ambassadors or something. Uh, yeah, that's very cool. Well I want to start to close this down and I like to do an aspirational question towards the end, kind of leave on like a crazy over the top high [00:46:00] note.

So I'm imagining Stacks is like where Solana is now. They've swapped Solanas whatever 52. Now we don't care about them and Stacks is number seven or whatever it is. And there's just a ton of people coming to Stacks and everyone wants to build here. And so you have almost too much interest. What does a home run look like for the foundation in two, three years time, if stacks is in that position?

And you can riff. And again, this is like not saying it's going to happen. It's aspirational, but, uh, yeah, I'm curious.

Jenny: Yeah, I can, it's definitely going to be half-baked and breadth on this, but, um, I did a deep dive on a bunch of governance stuff a couple months ago. And, um, I came to this idea about, what a successful community looks like?

And it really, you know, you hear decentralization all the time, but sometimes you just have to sort of research again and remind yourself what that [00:47:00] means. And so for me, I think like success for the foundation and success for Stacks would be people being able to flow between different sub-communities.

Right. So like Stacks is your overarching chain. You join Stacks for, you know, maybe technical reasons or maybe you're, you're aligned with the mission, but you're comfortable as an individual pursuing your personal interest within various small groups. Right. And actually by then, I would hope that Stacks has like cracked a lot of decentralized identity stuff.

I'm very confident about it, especially with some of the projects that we have on the chain right now. But, um, okay. So I can speak for myself, like, as like a, as like a citizen of Stacks, that's maybe not a good word to use, but like as a citizen of Stacks .I would, you could see on like discord or something different badges I have.

So you can see which sub communities I'm a part of. I might be part of like the governance lab. I might be part of the advocates program. I might be a grants ambassador. And so I've got these. Um, identity [00:48:00] markers that show which causes I'm, um, I'm involved with and, you know, based on the causes I'm involved with, based on the experiences I've had.

I'm able to participate in, um, larger decision making bodies, right? So you might have, you might have these smaller working groups, maybe at most max they're like 150 people. And then beyond that, and you have like steering committees and based on the expertise you have, and the experience you have, you might sit on a couple steering committees and those are the committees you, you work with to make certain decisions.

Like I see my future with Stacks I see myself being like very involved in governance. Like I would hope that. You know, one of the committees or the decision-making bodies I'd be a part of, or my voice would be heard, you know, has to do with governance. Whereas some people don't care as much about that and they should be totally welcome to pursue whatever other interests they have.

So I'm seeing this, like, it's almost like being in different clubs at school. Um, but it's a lot higher stakes cause you've got tokens and money involved in your own, like decision-making committees, but that's kind of the dream [00:49:00] future I see for Stacks is like very personalized to me, but I want people to feel comfortable sort of going in and out of different groups and participating.

And you kind of have that now. Right? Like you have different groups, people work together and it's very organic, but I would love to have a structure for that. Like an interface for that, where you go and you see the different little dowels you're a part of, and then you go and see the different decisions that your steering committees have made.

So yeah. That's like, I don't know how many years that said, here's how we are in that. We could be like nine months from that. Who knows?

Jake: No, that's very cool. I know. Balaji has the 1729 site, which is like a paid newsletter. And I've heard him talk about one of his ideas was this, um, proof of contribution where if you did, if you did a thing in the newsletter, you got like a badge and his thinking was, you know, there's so much knowledge in parts of the world that isn't seen.

Like it's just in rural areas and maybe they have internet access. That's all they have. And so [00:50:00] you don't, and they're brilliant and they can do the things where they can just learn to do the things. And so over time, by doing small tasks and elevating up slowly, you, um, establish a track record of like, yeah, I can do this thing.

And then you become seen on this kind of like more global meritocratic stage. And it's something like that where like, and you can have a hundred different subcategories with reputation or a history of, you know, contribution that can then be solidified into your decentralized identity that that's.

Jenny: Yeah, it is a bit like that.

And I think, um, I find that idea really interesting. I do think that there's a risk of. People sort of feeling like they have to start from the very beginning, right? This idea that you have to build your way up. Um, I think the reality is that your contributions and the value that you contribute to the ecosystem, it's going to be relative to different groups.

Right? Like I said, you know, some people might not want to be involved in governance. They might want to be involved in like completely different interests and that's fine. [00:51:00] Maybe those folks don't have as much weight in like, in terms of how they're evaluating, you know, my work, because it doesn't really impact them as much.

So I guess what I'm thinking about is, um, a system that is truly peer to peer, you know, where like with the advocates program you have, and it's, you know, it's not perfect. We're still working it out. But the fact that you can have people shout you out for the work that you do, because sometimes you might not even recognize your own contribution.

So the fact that there's a culture of people saying like, Hey, Jake was super helpful in this thing. I don't know why he didn't report it, but he should, that should go in his history or that should go in his reputation because in future, I would, I would want to refer other people to Jake, for podcasts, for interviews, for, you know, video editing.

It's impossible to capture all the value that people create for this community, but I would want us to get close. And I think the first step is recognizing that like, not everybody has the same reference point for what's valuable. And like, you need to sort of build that into the system to be as fair or as like, just as possible.[00:52:00]

Jake: Love it. I love that. That's a great goal to strive for. What about you, will?

Will: I'm still trying to figure out today, but, um, I suppose just riffing off of what Jenny said. I mean, I think that taking that world and then allowing it'll be interesting when all of the on chain experiments that Jenny was talking about, start to catch up with mobile and internet of things and the overlay of that, all of these governance and organizational experiments that are happening online, begin to show themselves in the physical world.

That might be that architect in me but just seeing like how that can begin to recast the physical world and, and hopefully positive ways. I think that there's a really interesting working model that I shared on Twitter earlier today. People, you know, sort of wanting to liken your blockchain to a [00:53:00] city.

And that's something that I think is really important and, uh, fun to work towards as we, as we all contribute to Stacks is like right now, stacks is this sort of like, the quintessential small town America, like an intersection with, you know, like a few things emanating out from the intersection.

And it's going to be fun to just see. All of the points, nodes, edges, districts, and landmarks that come together to turn that into like a really vibrant city. Um, so those are two different architectural metaphors I'm using, like one is like actually occurring in the physical world. It'll be fun to see how that plays out in two is, um, you know, like Jenny was saying, like being able to navigate your work your way through a world and find places that are defined and find places that you [00:54:00] want to spend your time and really contribute.

But how has all of that stitched together? And part of like our little Stacks city, and then how does that city begin to connect to other cities? Um, that should be really fun. Um, next, next couple of years. Okay.

Jake: No, I love that, especially because as more and more things go online, you know, these platforms, at least the web two ones are meant for us to like consume on them.

And so the whole ethos of a user on internet kind of flips that entirely. And so how many things start to move in a more positive light or empowering light when some of these kinds of like inroads relayed from small town Stacks to, you know, big city, whatever it is. And, uh, how do we all kind of act differently in our lives to better off for it?

So, yeah, I like that a lot. Well, this has been fantastic. I think just a last parting message. Anything that we didn't cover or [00:55:00] any closing thoughts that you want to give to the four people listening to this podcast?

Will: No, I just thank you for your time and thank you for covering the stacks community. Uh, I love your content, um, even a lot of fun to work with, and I hope that we continue to be able to do this. I do think that getting, you know, what you do is really, really important and something that we didn't really touch on too much with the changes to the grants program that's coming up.

But grantees are going to be required to create some type of content that can be shared. A tutorial, a solution. We're going to have this online knowledge base, where people are able to, you know, go there and do research, whether it be a smart contract template or a click by click video or a blog post, we want people to, um, sort of memorialize something that comes out of their [00:56:00] grants so that everyone can, uh, benefit from it.

But also. Like what you're talking about. And I've shared that diagram with you, the fly wheel, like those little bits of shareable content information that helps someone learn something or is also onboard more people into Stacks to create that next wave of shareable content. And so I think that it's, it's, you know, you're going to be, I think, a vital part of the ecosystem moving forward, you've already Gar, but, um, just having more great content to share and, um, and awareness about all of these people, building all these fantastic things, all seemingly with like really pure intentions is really cool.

Jake: Yeah. A hundred percent as well. This is a blessed, I'm blessed to be part of the community. I, I couldn't agree more. Uh, Jenny, do you have any closing thoughts?

Jenny: I'm going to echo will and say, thank you. It's been so fun to work with you. And I think I'm sure [00:57:00] it's a lot more than for listeners talk about the grant, um, this podcast, cause I know we can reach even more awesome community members with it.

As far as party messages, I have so many different things going through my head. I can't really choose. I think this conversation was really fun because we got to talk a lot about the, the social and like social coordination impact of what we're trying to do. Obviously there's a lot of technical building that happens and that's very key and critical to keeping, um, an ecosystem like this running, but I would kind of encourage people to start working groups. Think about some of these other issues, around like, you know, how do we better distribute value to each other? How do we recognize work that isn't seen? How can we utilize things like proof of transfer to encourage people, communities that are underserved to you know, launch their own token and fund themselves?

You can, I mean, that's such an interesting use case for proof transfer. Do you know people who are interested in doing that kind of [00:58:00] work? What are the implications of stacking? It's really cool. This mechanism that doesn't really exist elsewhere, that generates Bitcoin for people, we're in the process of partnering with this organization called Open Grants to allocate our Stacking yield, which we've done for Bitcoin core development.

We're going to be doing it for women in Afghanistan in the next couple of months. And you know, that's a really creative use case. Uh, I just, I I'm basically, I want. Encourage community members to be even more, um, creative about the S the social benefits in like the real world that Stacks can have. We're very, you know, heads down building in our own community, but I think that there's so much potential for what Stacks can do for other communities outside of, of ours.

Jake: I love that. Yeah. I think we got a taste of that with CityCoins where like the civic engagement thing was like, I did not want to do anything with my city but like I vote. And then if I get jury duty,, I'm like, oh, here we go. Like three days of wasted time. But now it's like, where were we [00:59:00] thinking the entire idea of what does a connected city look like and how can we get involved and how has the outside help the inside and that kind of thing.

And that's just the first to look like cities or like a broad category, but you can go into the community level or like a, an idea can go that you can niche down all kinds of different ways using proof of transfer or small working groups. So I liked that a lot. Um, Yeah. I want to say anything else that I think you guys ended it beautifully so thank you guys so much.

Jenny: Thank you.