SCRF Interviews | Culture and Incentivization - Ellie Rennie and Zach Anderson (Ep. 3)

The third episode of our “Culture and Incentivization’’ mini-series featured a conversation between Ellie Rennie, a Professor and Future Fellow at RMIT University, and Coordinape’s Zach Anderson, moderated by SCRF’s Head of Operations, Eugene Leventhal.


Audio - Spreaker (player, download), Apple


At issue:

  • How do you compensate early-stage contributors?
  • What kind of mechanisms can help teams find ways of compensating individuals that are more representative of their contributions?
  • How to help people understand how to get paid and what the processes are for work?
  • Reputation as a form of compensation

Takeaways from the discussion:

  • Coordinape, SourceCred, and other organizations are developing tokenized compensation tooling for DAOs and other Web3 organizations.
  • These tools create conversations about compensation, allowing an organization to better allocate resources and reward contributors.
  • This enables experimentation with compensation models, such as guaranteed basic income and retroactive rewards, which can contribute to a culture of gratitude, psychological comfort and entrepreneurship.

“When you leave a traditional organization, all you’re left with are LinkedIn connections,” says Prof. Ellie Rennie. “There are very different cultural dynamics at play in a decentralized autonomous organization, such as how do you ensure people are compensated for their work and how do you break down the formalities that traditional workplaces impose?”

Rennie studies SourceCred, a Web3 company which describes itself as a tool for communities, typically DAOs, to measure and reward value creation. Zach Anderson is tackling a similar problem with Coordinape. “Coordinape is a system that decentralizes decisions about compensation,” he says, “allowing people to pay each other based on their perceived value.”

SourceCred and Coordinape use community voting and distributions of cryptocurrency tokens to allocate compensation. These allocations spark vigorous debate within communities and it’s these conversations which both Rennie and Anderson have observed create the most value for an organization.

“The conversations that come out of allocation are more valuable than the allocations themselves,” says Anderson. Over time, these community discussions tend to surface high-performers and find hidden reservoirs of value creation.

“In traditional companies there’s safety in obscurity,” says Rennie. “At SourceCred, there was security in transparency.” She wonders whether or not collective allocations can devolve into a popularity contest.

“We’ve seen all kinds of dynamics at play,” Anderson says. “There are people who give to everyone with the expectation that they’ll get more, there are people who post all day in the Discord about how much work they’re doing while other people are too busy to tout their work, but over time these dynamics get exposed.”

When they function well, communities using these tools develop a culture that is less about self-interest and an employee pitting themselves against a company than it is about shared interest and stewardship.

As communities grow larger, it can be difficult for everyone to understand what everyone else is doing. There are various strategies that groups can use to work around this: smaller allocation circles can allow teams to better understand one another within larger organizations, universal basic income can supplement allocations or rewards can be granted retroactively.

“These communities are very temporary,” Rennie says. “People are constantly moving on or even consciously stepping aside, but if someone creates a core piece of code and it’s suddenly getting a lot of use that person could still be recognized long after they’d left. This could also be a form of institutional memory.“

“To me it also brings up an equity lens,” Anderson says. “Historically men have taken all of the credit. That’s one of the hopes of Web3, that we can rethink these systems and hopefully dismantle larger patterns of oppression and patriarchy.”

To kick off a discussion in Smart Contract Research Forum: a question for the community – how do you think implementing complete pay transparency might change the dynamics of your workplace / favorite internet communities? Are there better methods of incentivizing participation you can think of?


I find the incentivization tooling and discussions about payment a little unnerving, although much less so if it’s only a small fraction of total compensation. To me it seems like a resentment generator in any circumstance other than one in which people are already friendly and at a relatively equal level. But I’m eager to see how SCRF’s experiments turn out, the idea of openly and honestly discussing value does seem compelling (although wouldn’t it end up like any other discussion with a few loud voices drowning everyone else out?) What do you think?

1 Like

My perspective as a relatively young undergraduate student majoring in computer science is that it is very important for me to develop a circle of mentors or reciprocal individuals who hold me accountable for my personal and technical growth. There are many things that I cannot learn in the classroom nor in professional on-the-job settings. This is especially true when I’m alone in a foreign country being constantly hammered with foreign world views and customs.

I have joined many such meetups and communities and I have made a reputation of myself being able to access these “experts” from different walks of life to pave my own career path forward. Asking for help with data structures and algorithms homework, asking for design architecture or best practices for an application, asking for help with my calculus course etc… to something as simple as to how to navigate a banking system in a foreign company are some of the little things that enabled me to achieve more than I could have ever imagined. As far as compensation goes, I have always somehow managed to extract very genuine and interesting value that has opened a lot of doors for me in the long run. A lot of these times, these “experts” know quite well that I am there to exploit their wisdom but nevertheless succumb to my persistence and eagerness to reap their knowledge. For me, monetary compensation can only be good until the point where I realize I am no longer growing or am seeing my future monetary compensation growing.

  • I think implementing pay transparency in a workplace or community can allow for a clear understanding of contribution and value, it communicates that there’s a standard way of paying for specific roles and can display whether a workplace is treating participation fairly. Incentives for participation when done correctly are motivators. Methods vary as a community grows however experimentation is a great way to measure responses to specific incentives over time.

  • Found these questions about designing incentives quite interesting:

Designing incentives

What would we need to consider before designing your community incentives?

  • What is the goal of the incentive? Liquidy, higher engagement in the community, governance.
  • Who do we build the incentive for? Find your target group, define your ‘contributor persona’.
  • What kind of incentives should your community receive? Liquid tokens, NFTs, reward points.
  • What’s the structure of the incentive, how much supply? Vested periods based on membership tokens, tiered supply allocation.
  • What is enough vs what is deserved? airdrop distribution, incentives for contributors based on tasks/bounties, rewards for liquidity providers.
    (Designing incentives for web3 communities — David Tomu)