This piece is written by Deniz, Community Design Lead for the Protein Community. Deniz thinks deeply about community design, community strategy, and digital culture.
Onboarding is a make-or-break moment for any kind of online community experience. DAO onboarding should make the mission of the DAO, the language spoken, and how to contribute super clear and solve some pressing pain points emerging from decentralized coordination. For this purpose, I decided to design an 8-day long cohort-based DAO onboarding which resulted in members starting to contribute from day one.
First impressions are vital in forming mental images of a person we just met, and onboarding for communities is just as important as forming good first impressions which inspire you to dive in deeper.
The journey is made even harder when onboarding into DAOs. DAOs are one of the most complex, proactive yet passive types of online communities you can choose to become a part of. They exist in a form much different than online learning communities or social communities in general, DAOs inhabit multiple levels of communication and interaction.
To become a contributor to a DAO, you first have to understand: the mission of the DAO, the language spoken, and how to contribute.
So how do you build context and companionship, accountability and alignment when onboarding into a DAO… it could be cohort-based onboarding.
A cohort-based course is a “ program of learning that’s organized according to a syllabus (usually in sections) and is taken by a group of students (a cohort) at the same time.”(MN)
It starts with our internal processes. A cohort-based course feels so familiar because most of our formative years revolve around a form of traditional education. You start the academic year with your peers, and your class, and end the year with them.
This creates the strong advantages of tapping into our understood behavior of education, enabling peer-to-peer learning and creating accountability among the less motivated students. Onboarding to DAOs can get super intimidating especially when your cohort is mixed with people coming from different levels of web3 savviness, so designing an all-encompassing experience is super important.
However, even in a journey of cohort onboarding, it can still be difficult to bring community members on board meaningfully on the path to being a contributor.
At the end of our initial launch in December 2021 and through various “vibe-check” feedback forms, we ran a temp-check survey to understand how we can improve our process, and this inspired much of the onboarding process today. Back then we started to see patterns in the below conflicts…
“I live in a completely different time zone” “I don’t know where to find information on Discord.” “I don’t know how to contribute.” “I didn’t understand what Protein is up to.” “I don’t understand how the DAO works.”
We understood that to overcome these, I had to design an onboarding that sits somewhere in between the below scales.
For this, I designed an 8-day onboarding cohort for the Protein Community which brought together members at these intersections. Creating momentum, rhythm, and opportunities to get involved every day.
The newcomer receives the “turtle role” on Discord and gets added to a private “turtle chat” which only turtles can view. This is a safe space for newcomers to ask any questions or chat away with fellow cohort members.
It gives them the first opportunity to connect with other members and display vulnerability as well as help others.
“Turtles” are invited to a live welcome call where the community designer goes over a general deck about Protein and a short Discord walkthrough of our server.
This is an important sync moment for the new members and helps them with context of where they are and why they are here.
We post daily messages to the public “onboarding” channel including information on governance, compensation, and teams and how to join one, bounties and proposals, our accelerator program and the projects we are supporting, and our good growth mission.
This is important for creating a reason to come back, incremental learning which helps them explore without overwhelming new members.
Nearly every daily post includes a daily task for the “turtle” to engage with the rest of the community and practice what they have learned that day.
Creating these daily tasks creates a sense of achievement and allows the new members to connect with other parts of the community.
On the 9th day, I share a feedback form and send a congratulatory POAP to those who have completed the onboarding cohort as well as the feedback form.
A POAP is an important signifier to end the onboarding process, demonstrating on-chain the member's membership to being an active Protein Member.
Feedback loops are the backbone of any healthy community. Taking feedback when implementing initiatives on such a scale is a must to keep iterating towards perfection.
When we consider the above sliding scales of solutions that we mentioned earlier, this onboarding cohort design sits in the below-sliding scales.
With all transparency, you can find the results of the feedback form we shared right after the onboarding journey. The results indicate that the overall satisfaction from this type of onboarding is quite high, but it’s also important to note that these forms were completed by the members who completed the journey.
"I enjoyed the daily onboarding posts. They were helpful, clear, and informative" 6.1 / 7
"I know what all the Discord channels are for and can use them effectively" 6 / 7
"I know where and how I can retrieve/access the information I'm looking for" 5.8 / 7
"I understand what Good Growth means" 5.4 / 7
"I understand what bounties and proposals are" 6.6 / 7
"It clear what Protein Community is up to" 5.7 / 7
"I understood how I can contribute to the teams" 6 / 7
While the first cohort-based onboarding definitely had its ups and downs, the onboarding experience was overall positive and some “turtles” even started contributing from day 1. However, time zone differences still remain an issue for attending sync events. I’m thinking of decreasing the number of live events and iterating the onboarding design to become more async-friendly so all members feel included.
Even though the cohort-based DAO onboarding design has to be iterated for each cohort and even re-designed for each season, the outcome of leaving a good and friendly first impression on our newcomers is positively visible even today.
As community builders working for DAOs, we have to be super diligent with our onboarding because who knows, your DAO might be the first one someone ever joins (or not!).
We’re excited to keep evolving our cohort-based onboarding, and the process for it in order to bring more members meaningfully into the Protein Community. If you’ve been building out your own DAO onboarding processes or want to chat membership please reach out to me via Twitter.
And if you want to be part of the new onboarding cohort, please jump in and apply to the Protein Community.
Special thanks to Fancy, Harry, and Gus for polishing this baby up.