Decentralized Governance Requires Meaningful Participation


February 8, 2022

Our proposal to renovate the Cosmos Hub Discourse Forum as a well-organized space for debate and deliberation

What makes the interchain unique is its vision for interoperable blockchains that enable a patchwork of self-governing communities with shared economies. The focus on self-governance is important here. Every blockchain has full autonomy over the chain’s treasury, block space, and underlying software. Every blockchain charts its own future, collectively decided by its own community. This promise, where stakeholders participate in bottom-up decision-making, is what makes interchain projects attractive.

The roughly 200K accounts on the Cosmos Hub represent a vibrant community of ATOM holders: validators, delegators, developers, and investors. From node operations and tokenomics to marketing and organizing, ATOM holders bring a range of expertise and lived experiences. Among them, there’s an immense pool of talent and knowledge. And while the blockchain provides the technical infrastructure to enable the formation of community and capital, what ultimately creates value for us all is our community’s ability to cooperate, tap into our unique strengths, and strategically deploy the resources we hold in common.

Robust Decentralized Governance Requires a Neutral Space for Deliberation

Deciding where to eat with your friends is hard enough, imagine making decisions with 200K anons. It’s not only the scale that’s concerning, but the complexity of risk factors to be considered. New product features coming to Cosmos Hub are only going to expand the surface of governance. Interchain Security will require governance to evaluate the viability of other projects in order to secure them. Interchain Accounts will allow the Hub itself to participate as an economic and political actor on other Cosmos chains. The upcoming upgrade includes the “groups module”, which will allow smaller groups of people to make decisions together, thereby enabling “on-chain committees”. This future will bring a new set of opportunities and challenges for governance. So for Cosmos Hub to become a high-performing decentralized organization, it must practice its skills in decentralized governance in parallel with technical development.

The minimum requirement for good governance is maintaining a neutral space for deliberation: creating an accessible venue where people can discuss ideas freely and respectfully. Beyond that, engaging voters and helping them become well informed participants will prevent the loudest voices, the largest whales, or the latest hype to dictate the project’s direction. At the same time, it’s critical to recognize that not everyone has the time or energy to engage in deliberative activities. Builders should be able to focus on shipping features, validators, like traditional infrastructure operators, should be able to focus on uptime and security, and new adopters shouldn’t need to be tokenomic experts to participate in governance. It’s important to meet people where they are, to create structures that allow for varied levels and styles of participation. This is the work that makes governance work.

Our Proposal: A Pilot Project to Improve Cosmos Hub Deliberations

We, at Hypha, are proposing a six-month pilot project to make Cosmos Hub governance more accessible and effective. We think the place to begin is by improving the Discourse forum, to be the public venue for deliberation. We will play a neutral role in cleaning and maintaining the forum, engaging and informing voters, and cultivating a culture of meaningful participation. We believe this work is crucial and should be continuously funded by the community pool. Relying on volunteerism is unsustainable and would not guarantee that the maintenance will be consistent or ongoing. We also feel that lumping this with community management would be too short-sighted. Decentralized governance is a core competitive advantage for the Cosmos Hub, and off-chain aspects of governance should be no different.

Looking ahead, we believe the community itself should be selecting individuals to steward off-chain governance processes. This pilot will lay the groundwork to realize this vision of community stewardship of off-chain governance work.

Who We Are: Hypha Worker Co-operative

We’re a worker cooperative based out of Toronto, Canada, and our members have worked across the decentralized web ecosystem for the past five years. Our core members originally met through our work on Toronto Mesh, a community wireless mesh project based out of Toronto. Since then, we have advised on a number of organizing efforts, including for non-profits, companies, and other co-operatives on strategies to manage projects related to technical infrastructure, arts, and education. Our contributors on this project have worked closely with the Internet Archive’s Decentralized Web project, worked on international digital rights policy, and conducted research and experimentation on governance practices. While these experiences will come in handy, our approach has always been to enter spaces with humility, and design processes alongside stakeholders.

We’re inspired by the Cosmos community and the potential of the interchain to enable people to design interoperable, self-governing communities. Our hope is to apply our organizing experience to this network and help realize the vision of Cosmos as an accessible space for self-governing communities to own, control, and manage resources together.

Have questions about this effort? On Thursday, Feb 10 2022, at 8:30am PT / 11:30am ET / 5:30pm CET, we’ll be hosting a conversation about it on Twitter Spaces with Daniel Hwang (Stakefish), Sam Hart (Interchain Foundation), Lauren Gallinaro (Cosmos Hub team), and Udit and Mai from Hypha.

We’ll provide more context behind this proposal, and what we hope to accomplish over the next six months.

You can find us on Twitter at @hyphacoop, or visit our website at