A constitution, like an orchard of apples, requires diligent cultivation to yield fruit. Just as the crop cannot take root in the soil without water, a constitution cannot be adopted without the consideration and acceptance of its community.

In this section, we make a set of practical recommendations on how to draft DAO constitutions in order to maximize their use in governance. In particular, we recommend that constitutions be digital, amendable, short, expository, and early.

  1. Digital. The constitution should be accessible at a URI, stored in an accessible digital format such as a .md or .txt file, and make use of hyperlinks to other relevant resources

    Constitutions require context. Through hyperlinks, a digital constitution is uniquely able to convey contextual information, which can include related constitutions, smart contracts, or other DAOs relevant to this community.

  2. Amendable. There is an accessible, transparent process for amending or changing the constitution. Often, but not always, this means having a section dedicated to amendment procedures

    Using a code repository can automatically enshrine certain amendment procedures by providing a transparent account of what amendments happened when. Whether this is a platform such as Google Docs or GitHub, we recommend a tool that enables low-friction amendments alongside a transparent record.

  3. Short. The constitution should be short and focused. Do not overspecify definitions, rules, and processes. As a rule of thumb, imagine a document that more than 50% of your community would actually read. That might be three tweets, or it might be a page. It is not a 30-page legal document

    Brevity prevents over-theorizing and is crucial for constitutions to be in active use. Constitutions, whether from nation-states to neighborhood associations, have historically focused more on describing institutions than prescribing rules for direct behavior. Because DAOs have their institutions framed by the digital platform they use, they can be shorter.

  4. Expository. Each goal, value, or right should come with enough context and exposition, often through an example, so that any member of the community can grasp the concept

    Despite the importance of keeping a constitution short, it is also crucial for shared context to be established around each crucial term. Floating signifiers such as ‘open’, or ‘decentralized’, should be clarified as much as possible, ideally through the use of both positive and negative examples.

  5. Early. Constitutions should be written and promulgated at the beginning of an organization or community’s creation

    It is very important for a constitution to be drafted early on in the lifecycle of an organization. First, it explicates a framework for minimal viable governance for obstacles that appear early on (e.g., abusive behavior within a core team or polarization within the community). Second, it sets the tone for the organization, filtering for new community members that are aligned with the organization’s values and providing guidelines for behavior.

These recommendations are based on a series of interviews with the drafters of DAO constitutions, including those from DAOhaus, the Ethereum Name Service (ENS), and the Token Engineering Commons (TEC), and on the empirical practices analyzed in Part II. Along with these recommendations, we provide a template along with a forkable code repository to help DAOs draft and maintain such constitutions.

Logistical considerations

  • Draft in stages. For example, the following procedure was inspired by the Token Engineering Commons constitution process:
    1. Allocate initial responsibility for draft to a small core group of between one and three persons
    2. Share the initial draft with a small number of individuals and incorporate their changes
    3. Share the secondary draft more broadly and give time for the greater commons to respond
  • Establish a record of changes to the constitutions
  • Integrate the constitution into a procedure. For example, you may decide to require all new members of the organization to read and sign the constitution.

For further resources, we suggest Richard Bartlett’s Handbook of Handbooks for Decentralized Organizing.