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Thu Dec 14 2023




Revolutionising DAO Governance with Fractal Sortition

A new type of Sortition in DAO governance

Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs), are a new frontier where the forefront of digital democracy is currently being reshaped. DAOs are not just an evolution in organisational structure; they represent a radical shift in how collective decision-making and collaboration can occur in the digital age.

In this context, we present the role of Sortition, and more importantly, the concept of Fractal Sortition, and how they may be beneficial to provide clear innovations in DAO governance.

DAO Refresher

A DAO is an innovative, blockchain-based organisational structure that promotes decentralised, transparent, and autonomous governance.

Unlike traditional organisations controlled by a centralised authority, decisions in a DAO are made collectively by its members.

This system, often facilitated by smart contracts and consensus algorithms, ensures that power and control are distributed evenly across the network. DAOs have groundbreaking potential in their ability to enable global collaboration without geographical or bureaucratic boundaries.

DAOs introduce several benefits to governance models, including increased transparency, direct participation in decision-making, and enhanced security through blockchain technology. They offer a platform for collective problem-solving and innovation, tapping into a diverse pool of global perspectives.

However, DAOs face challenges such as potential formation of plutocracies, where individuals with more tokens or investment may have more influence. Additionally, aligning the diverse interests of numerous stakeholders, akin to herding cats, poses significant governance challenges --- especially related to difficulties in achieving consensus on significant decisions.

The Potential of Regular Sortition in DAOs

Sortition could play a transformative role in DAO governance. By randomly selecting decision-makers from a larger pool, it ensures fairness and equality, giving every member an equal opportunity to influence decisions. This randomness brings in diverse perspectives and mitigates the risk of concentrated power.

In a world where traditional governance often suffers from bias and inequality, Sortition stands as a strong contender to deliver on the true democratic potential inherent in DAOs.

Sortition in Practice: The Success of Citizens’ Assemblies

In modern times, the concept of sortition has been effectively employed in Citizens’ Assemblies. These assemblies are typically composed of randomly selected individuals who are representative of the general population.

Citizens’ Assemblies have been used to tackle complex and divisive issues, from climate change to political reform.

The success of these assemblies lies in their ability to bring together a cross-section of society, each member contributing their unique perspective.

This method has been praised for producing well-considered, informed, and balanced recommendations, demonstrating the practical viability and effectiveness of sortition in contemporary decision-making processes.

Benefits of Sortition

  • Reduced Bias: Random selection reduces the risk of bias, ensuring a fair representation of the larger group.
  • Diverse Perspectives: Sortition brings in a variety of viewpoints, leading to more comprehensive and inclusive decision-making.
  • Mitigating Plutocracy: By not correlating decision-making power with wealth, sortition prevents the domination of the wealthy.
  • **Simplifying Governance: **It makes governance more straightforward and participatory, increasing accessibility for all members.
  • Mitigating Pre-selection and Politics: Sortition removes the temptation to groom, and pre-select candidates, reducing the influence of personality cults, lobby groups and party politics.

Introducing Fractal Sortition

”Fractal Sortition” takes this democratic foundation and builds upon it and is inspired by the concept of Fractal Democracy. This method begins with randomly selecting candidates into small groups for governance roles from the DAO’s main members.

Through discussions and peer evaluations, each small group identifies and votes on the candidate best suited for the role.

If the role requires subject expertise, interview questions are provided for the group to cross-interview each other based on these questions to tease out expertise in this subject.

Or, for more general, non-expertise style roles, there may be a discussion on various subjects with each candidate providing their opinion on the subject.

This process --- termed the PlayUp process --- is repeated, refining the pool until a small group of highly vetted candidates remains. The final selection is made randomly from this shortlisted, qualified group, ensuring both fairness while maintaining competence.

Finally, the governance crew is democratically made accountable to the regular members by having a process to submit a vote of non-confidence.

Rules can be put in place to make this vote of non-confidence hard to trigger in the early stages of each role’s term duration, but progressively easier to trigger the longer this delegate’s term endures.

In this way, “sortition selects and democracy deselects”, ensuring that the governing body is accountable to the regular members.

If a delegate is voted out --- or term limit is up --- the previous shortlist of highly vetted candidates can be drawn upon to ensure there is minimal disruption to the important activities of the DAO.

Benefits of Fractal Sortition

  • Meritocratic Randomness: Fractal Sortition intertwines meritocracy with the randomness of Sortition. This ensures that governance roles are filled by individuals who are not only randomly chosen but also have proven competencies.
  • Multi-Level Vetting: The process involves multiple layers of vetting, offering a comprehensive evaluation of a candidate’s abilities and alignment with the role’s requirements.
  • Accountable Governance: It establishes a system where leaders are democratically accountable, allowing for checks and balances within the DAO structure.
  • Diverse and Inclusive Decision-Making: By starting with a diverse pool of candidates, Fractal Sortition ensures that a wide array of perspectives is considered, leading to more inclusive decision-making.
  • Community-Centric Engagement: This approach fosters active involvement from the DAO members, leading to stronger engagement and a sense of ownership over governance decisions.
  • Adaptive and Scalable Model: Fractal Sortition is designed to be adaptable to different sizes and types of DAOs, offering a scalable solution to governance that can grow with the organisation.
  • Efficient Leadership Selection: The PlayUp process method streamlines the selection of leaders, balancing efficiency with democratic values, and avoiding common pitfalls of traditional election processes.

NOTE*: It is important to emphasise at this point that Fractal Sortition is a proposed, not yet implemented, system that FreeDAO is exploring as next steps in “creating tools of collaboration and freedom”, as per our mission statement.*

Hypothetical Case Study

Let’s delve deeper into a fictional case study of “Green Future DAO”, our hypothetical DAO focused on renewable energy. Here, members are randomly selected to form diverse groups, each representing a mix of backgrounds --- from scientists and engineers to policy makers and community advocates.

In the initial phase, these groups participate in structured discussions centred around key challenges in renewable energy, such as sustainable development, policy frameworks, and technological innovation.

For example, a discussion --- or debate --- might focus on the feasibility of solar energy in urban settings, requiring members to collaboratively develop a proposal addressing logistical, financial, and social factors.

After the peer evaluation phase, members in each group assess each other based on criteria like the ability to integrate different viewpoints, constructiveness of feedback, and leadership in driving discussions.

This could involve members reflecting on specific instances, such as how an individual’s suggestion helped pivot a discussion towards a more viable solution, or how another member effectively mediated a disagreement. Then votes are made in each group to choose who they’d want representing them in terms of governance.

Leaders chosen, from each of these groups, would then be randomly assigned into new groups via the PlayUp process, and this PlayUp process would repeat as many times as necessary until the final shortlisted group has been collected.

As the PlayUp process proceeds, structured discussions may involve deeper discussions on more pressing issues and challenges as the leaders move upwards, coalescing into the final shortlist --- which will result in a random selection from this pre-vetted base.

The final selection of the governance team combines the randomness of the initial grouping with informed peer evaluations, ensuring a leadership team that is not only diverse but also equipped with relevant skills and insights.

With full authority and a mandate to clearly accomplish the role and responsibilities of their new position, this can result in leadership that can truly accomplish Green Future DAO’s mission and goals with precision, while still being accountable to the wider organisation at all times.

Comparing Fractal Sortition

Although Fractal Sortition is a hypothetical model, yet to be employed, key potential advantages can be theorised, especially when compared to other forms of governance.

Compared to Democracies

Democracies have allowed for more freedom and human flourishing than any other system, as democratic governance systems are --- in principle --- accountable to the base group of people at all times.

Yet, democracies are fraught with inefficiencies and exploits that often can corrupt even the most well-intended democracies over time. Many of these inefficiencies and exploits can be addressed by Fractal Sortition.

  • Campaign Efficiencies: In democracy, campaigning is long and expensive, and does not scale well, the larger a democracy becomes. Fractal Sortition, does away with expensive, long campaigns.
  • Mitigating Corruption: In democracies, special interest groups, especially those with strong financial backing, can deeply influence and groom candidates before any election begins, corrupting the democracy over time. The random nature of Fractal Sortition, combined with the accountability systems, strongly mitigates any corrupting influence, making it more expensive and risky to need to corrupt the entire candidate base.
  • Diswaying Demagogues: Appealing to the general public can turn politics into popularity contests, with potential for populist demagogues to emerge. Removing the public campaigning from the selection process, in Fractal Sorition, helps to ensure that demagogues are unlikely to thrive through the selection process.
  • Encouraging Competence: Candidates often do not have adequate levels of subject matter expertise that would help the organisation/group succeed as optimally as it might if more experienced --- but potentially less charismatic --- candidates were selected.
  • Speed in Decision Making: Democracies can be slow to act and hard to reach consensus if there are too many opinions chronically in debate. Fractal Sortition helps filter candidates towards a small, competent leadership team that can result in a smaller, more enabled governance structure that can make clear decisions quickly and with confidence.
  • Smooth, Long Term Leadership: Democracies can have abrupt changes in leadership, especially with party politics that can have one party replaced with another. This makes it difficult for democracies to have long-term plans that might be in the best interest of the group. Fractal Sortition doesn’t change the entire party, but simply individuals, allowing for smooth transitions of power, as well as the ability to make long term plans that are in the best interest of the group --- especially since the leadership team is accountable to the group.
  • Aligned Incentives: In democracies, survival of the party, or politician, can often take precedence over the best interests of the group meaning the incentives of the leadership are not aligned with the group that they are supposed to serve. Fractal Sortition flips this, allowing the base members to have power to ensure the leadership is accountable and serving the people at all times.

Compared to Autocracies

Autocracies, while often efficient due to centralized decision-making, have significant drawbacks, particularly in the absence of checks and balances. Fractal Sortition addresses these concerns while retaining the efficiency of decision-making:

  • Efficiency with Accountability: Autocracies are known for their ability to make quick decisions, a trait often admired for operational efficiency. Fractal Sortition maintains this efficiency but adds a layer of accountability, as leaders are continually answerable to the wider community.
  • Prevention of Power Concentration: One of the biggest risks of autocracies is the concentration of power in a single or a few hands, often leading to abuse. Fractal Sortition, through its randomized and meritocratic selection process, prevents the emergence of an autocratic leadership style within DAOs.
  • Dynamic Leadership Renewal: Unlike autocracies where leadership change can be disruptive or non-existent, Fractal Sortition ensures a dynamic and continuous process of leadership renewal without causing instability or organisational inertia.
  • Merit-Based Leadership: Autocracies don’t always guarantee the selection of the most competent leaders. Fractal Sortition ensures that individuals in leadership positions are not only chosen randomly but also based on demonstrated competencies and peer evaluations.

Compared to Current DAO Governance

Comparing Fractal Sortition to existing DAO governance structures highlights several potential improvements:

  • Mitigating Token-Based Influence: In many DAOs, decision-making power can disproportionately favor those with more tokens. Fractal Sortition counters this imbalance by ensuring that leadership roles are not directly correlated to token ownership, thus democratizing the influence.
  • Enhanced Diversity in Decision-Making: Traditional DAOs may struggle with achieving a diverse representation in governance. Fractal Sortition inherently promotes diversity by randomly selecting candidates from different backgrounds and expertise for governance roles.
  • Reducing Governance Complexities: DAOs can sometimes become mired in complex governance processes that hinder swift decision-making. Fractal Sortition simplifies this by introducing a clear and structured pathway to leadership selection and accountability.
  • Building Community Trust: DAOs operate on the principle of trust in the system. Fractal Sortition strengthens this trust by adding transparent and fair mechanisms for leadership selection, making the process more inclusive and representative of the DAO’s community.

Addressing Potential Challenges

Implementing Fractal Sortition in a large DAO requires a well-structured and transparent system. For example, during the peer evaluation phase, it’s crucial to have clear guidelines on feedback to prevent biases.

In a DAO with thousands of members, this might involve a tiered system where initial group evaluations lead to regional representatives, who then participate in a DAO-wide evaluation to ensure manageability and diversity.

Technical Framework and Feasibility

The digital platform needs to support various functions, such as hosting live discussions, providing tools for submitting and reviewing evaluations, and recording decision-making processes.

Using blockchain, these records can be made transparent and immutable. For instance, the platform might include a feature where each evaluation or decision is recorded as a transaction, providing a clear audit trail.

Future Research and Development Pathways

To transition Fractal Sortition to practise, initial testing could be done in a smaller DAO or a subsection of a larger DAO.

A pilot could involve a simulated project where members go through the entire process of discussion, evaluation, and selection, providing valuable data on the system’s effectiveness and areas for improvement.

Ethical and Social Considerations

Ensuring inclusivity and fairness in Fractal Sortition means designing the process to be accessible to all members, regardless of their technical prowess or familiarity with blockchain.

For example, the digital platform could include tutorials and support systems to assist members who might be less tech-savvy, ensuring they can fully participate in discussions and evaluations.

Smaller Scale Situations

Fractal Sortition works well when there are enough potential candidates to undergo the PlayUp process, and may need other forms of governance until the base grows large enough.

Pure Sortition or pure Democracy could be a contender when the base is small. This can also be true when the base is not particularly active.


Fractal Sortition stands as a potential game-changer in the world of DAOs and beyond. It represents an exciting confluence of democratic ideals, fairness and the efficiencies offered by both sortition and blockchain technology, and adds meritocratic aspects as well as strong accountability.

As we, at FreeDAO, explore the potentials of decentralised governance, Fractal Sortition offers a glimpse into a future where innovation meets the age-old principles of democracy and decentralisation.

NOTEThis article is a hint of some upcoming announcements that relate to what we’ve been working on behind the scenes for quite some time. We will have another, more tangible, announcement soon.

Its implications could extend beyond blockchain, influencing governance models in NGOs, and potentially in city, state, or national governments, offering a new paradigm for effective, inclusive, and accountable governance.

We encourage the community to participate in discussions, share the concept, and contribute to its development, helping to evolve this innovative governance model from a theoretical concept to a practical tool in our Telegramchannel.

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