Stipends for pDAO Roles

There have been discussions in #governance chats on Discord about the idea of providing stipends to various pDAO roles (IMC/GMC members, pDAO treasurer, IMC treasurer, future roles, etc.). @Wander had mentioned possibly building this into RPIP-15 for the GMC charter, but I thought at the time that it made more sense to have this as a holistic discussion across all of these roles and that we should establish a general procedure for how to handle any compensation for work in a pDAO role.

There are several different ways we could do this. I would prefer something that is definitive (the value of the stipend for X role SHALL be Y RPL per Z period), but also flexible. That is especially true as a lot of the work for these roles are start-up costs and are likely to diminish over time. I’m not sure if specifying those values in an RPIP is the way to go, or whether the better idea is to have an RPIP that establishes a framework by which those values can be determined, but the actual values are not enshrined. I’m kind of just spitballing here, but I wanted to get this conversation moving in something more formal than just Discord conversations.

Realistically, as I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t think anyone is doing these positions for financial compensation (above and beyond the fact that many of us are invested in RPL and want to see that succeed), and there are a whole lot of other things we all want to do with somewhat limited pDAO funding. I see this as more of a gesture of thanks rather than actual payment for services rendered. I’ve compared it in the past to the stipends we gave our Executive Directors at the non-profit whose Board I used to chair. These people were putting in hundreds of volunteer hours every year because they believed in the cause, but we still gave them what was essentially a nominal stipend (anywhere from $500-$1500 a person) mostly just as a way of saying “we see you and appreciate you”.

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A few thoughts I’ve had on this:

  • “Pay peanuts, get monkeys.” We should try to incentivize valuable contributors as much as we can.

  • At the same time, funding is limited. It would be hard to compensate highly skilled people appropriately.

  • I like the idea of fixed payments denominated in RPL. As the protocol grows, contributor work load will increase, but compensation will increase as well.

  • Consistency is useful in general, but it might be helpful to have the first few payments be higher to represent the extra workload of kickstarting governance structures.

  • We should retroactively pay the IMC members.

  • I think it’s best to pay all contributors equally and use grants/bounties/retro-rewards for anything else. If we expect different committees to require more time from their members, I think that’s a sign something is wrong.

  • I suggest 20 RPL per rewards period for committee members with an extra 5 RPL for the committee treasurer. Maybe we double those payments for the first two rewards periods? This feels like the right balance to me, but I haven’t put in a lot of analysis.

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I think I agree in part and dissent in part. I think the part I most strenuously disagree with is the first point, because I don’t think many (if any) of the folks who are going to serve on these committees are motivated by whatever RPL stipend they might get for it. I’m not sure which line item in the pDAO budget this will come out of, but we have a whole lot we want to do with limited pDAO resources and I’d be more leery of overpaying people than underpaying them.

Things I most agree with are the idea of it being fixed payments and in RPL for alignment. I’m good with retroactive payments as well, and that paying everyone on the committee the same amount makes sense (exception for specific role like treasurer). I do not a priori expect that each of the Management Committees would be an equal amount of work, but I also don’t know which one(s) I expect to be more/less work and so starting everyone at the same amount and adjusting those committees that are more/less work in the future makes sense. I disagree that that’s a sign something is wrong as it’s been true of every committee-based organization I am familiar with (though maybe that is a bigger sign that things are wrong!).

As of now we have 9 people on IMC, 7 proposed for GMC, 1 pDAO treasurer and 1 IMC treasurer. The suggested 20 RPL per rewards period per person with extra for IMC treasurer (and assuming pDAO treasurer is getting roughly the same as IMC Treasurer) would be around 400 RPL per rewards period. If that’s coming from Grants/Bounties that’s about 12% of the GMC share of current inflation, which seems a bit high-ish considering all of the things people want to do with those funds.

If it’s coming from the reserve, I’d be more okay with it. My read of RPIP-10 is that that would require a separate RPIP (or part of this RPIP being crafted about stipends) to either create a new MC for the purpose of paying other MCs or otherwise freeing up those reserve funds for this purpose.

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There will need to be a GMC treasurer as well, I’m sure. I agree with most of what Wander says. A fixed amount per reward period seems reasonable, I like the idea of an RPIP to establish a framework rather than an exact value, and the value of the stipend should be determined outside of the committees (protocol snapshot vote to decide/change the amount).

Agree that funding for contributions should come from outside the GMC budget. Meta contributions are fundamentally different than ecosystem contributions, which is the main purpose I see for the GMC. Creating an RPIP for this seems reasonable to me.

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So… I’m gonna mostly opine against stipends.

Right now everyone’s a volunteer, and that’s nice

If anyone puts in 20 minutes, I’m appreciative.
If they put in an hour, I’m more appreciative.
If they put in ten hours, I’m overjoyed.

Right now, we’re community members

We have a community task we’ve taken on for the community, but at heart we’re no different.
We’re certainly not employed by the pDAO or the team.

My concerns

I’m concerned that I’ll have thoughts like:

  • Am I supposed to be getting paid for my work? What’s my hourly rate for contract work? How many hours am I putting into RP each month?
    • Spoiler - you aren’t going to pay me enough. I routinely have days that would blow through Wander’s proposed per-period payment, let alone 4 weeks.
  • Why is insert-name-here getting paid (the same/almost as much/whatever) when they do (whatever I perceive them to do) and I do (whatever I perceive myself to do)?? That doesn’t seem fair.
  • To Wander’s point (“Pay peanuts, get monkeys”), we can only afford peanuts. Thus, I think we’re better off not structuring this as payment.

My suggestion

I think we should be looking to recognize people and thank them, rather than pay them.

I would suggest:

  • Thank yous and celebration primarily
  • Honorariums after the fact to emphasize and add weight to some thank yous
  • An easy way for folks to gracefully turn down personal payment and instead send it to a non-profit’s address or to the pDAO treasury

Stream of consciousness (would need an rpip if we wanted something like this)

  • Maybe we could have a small pool (200 RPL) for thank yous per period managed by the GMC
  • Have an appreciation thread in forum for folks to thank people
  • GMC picks people from the thread to receive 5-25 RPL; no specific rubric, but valuing (A) outlier contributions to recognize them, and (B) new contributors to encourage them
  • I wonder if we could do a poap for honorees or something (once a quarter or year)

Funding is a tough question. My instinct is to take it from the GMC budget (effectively adding a 4th category to Grants, Bounties, and Retroactive). I worry that it’s very easy to take from the reserve, but the reserve is important. Among other possible uses, it’s what will give us a credible path to not being wholly dependent on the current dev team. That war chest will take too long to build up even with the current budget, and I want to protect that flow aggressively.

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In reflecting on this over the past couple of days, I think I am coming around to the idea of not doing set stipends. There is one point that @Valdorff made that I really want to echo, and this at least comes from extensive personal experience on committees. The level of work that each individual puts in will vary tremendously. Some will get busy with other things in life and do the minimum necessary and others will grab the proverbial bull by the horns and become incredibly involved. That’s not a reflection on any one individual, and we even explicitly sought out some people for IMC for specific expertise rather than a sense that they would be extremely active participants. In light of the likely reality of differential work and effort, it seems odd to set a standard amount for a stipend.

I think we may already have a solution for this question. We have retrospective awards and people can be nominated by others for them. If I’m on a committee and I see that Person X is really doing a lot of the work to keep the committee moving forward, then I can nominate them for a retrospective award which would come from the GMC budget.

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These are all very good points. I am worried about situations in which no one wants to do the hard work, i.e. being committee treasurer, and then that job gets neglected or ignored and our process breaks down. Having an honorary treasurer stipend, or reward for the hardest working committee members, makes sense, more so than just giving every member an equal amount.

I was thinking about this some more and remembered a story that Freakonomics ran.

The tl;dr here is, not only could a poor plan for stipends fail to incentivize much-needed contributions, they could be counterproductive by altering the psychology of potential contributors away from, “contributing to Rocket Pool means making a difference in something I believe in, and getting recognition for that” to “contributing to Rocket Pool means getting paid $XYZ, for whatever that’s worth”.

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If of any use, my personal point of view is that payments should be for an agreed outcome, achievement or deliverable that is sufficiently specified i.e. on a project basis. A scalable or appropriate ‘price’ can be set and agreed (as well as perhaps revisited if the case or situation genuinely requires it). This is my personal experience of having worked for and on behalf of multiple consulting organizations, financial institutions and within and for different governments / NGOs across Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Stipends, (which i also have experience of in the above environments) can become an assumed element and may not be as efficient in terms of maintaining output / what is ideally wanted. They also have the potential to put other contributors off / noses out of joint. So I think more downsides here.

Rewards / bonuses can be retroactively awarded for a great result or perhaps after some particularly hard miles delivered. This angle seems covered in the recent proposals.

all the best

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