Rafa Explains How To Start & Build Sustainable Digital Communities And Discusses The Future Of DAOs
We were honored to have Rafa on this episode of NEWFORUM.
Rafa is originally from Puerto Rico and co-founded Obras delpais — a non-profit organization focused on preserving his cultural heritage and integrating the artisan community into the digital world, where it can be valued internationally.
Rafa explores Web3 collectives, combining organization design theory with digital-first community practice.
He works full-time building the Mirror DAO while contributing to others DAOs such as Cabin.
Rafa often works as a Community Architect: researching and implementing digital-first operating models.
We enjoyed an insightful and meaningful conversation with Rafa about his experience building the Mirror DAO and contributing to other DAOs, discussing his perspective on the question on our minds — Do DAOs have a future? Rafa also shared the essential ingredients for starting and building sustainable digital communities and why community building in Web3 matters!
“The focus of my work stems from a nagging question that I have not been able to let go of for almost 15 years: how do organizations work?”
This question appeared in his mind while counting screws at a hardware store owned by his uncle.
Rafa shared the details behind this story and how exploring this question shaped his curiosity and career path.
Rafa shared that he must have been 18 years old while working for his uncle, and the job was counting screws (he was working on their inventory).
“A question came up like, how does this work, if I am working full time for my uncle here, counting screws? How does a business survive? How does the organization work? Where do the screws go? What is the value chain of the organization of that business? Where does it start? Where does it end? How do people participate?” — Rafa
Rafa explained that based on that question, he started getting more curious and digging into it, taking on the different operational, analyst, and strategy roles to understand the question — how do humans coordinate?
How do organizations work?
How do businesses provide value to our economy?
And his quest to understand this nagging question — how do organizations work?, led to his work as a community architect with a passion for understanding the next generation regarding leadership skills, operational management, and DAO tooling.
Why is Rafa passionate about understanding the next generation regarding leadership skills, operational management, and DAO tooling?
According to Rafa, in the history of humanity is this concept of the internet, of this digital world.
And it is reshaping the way that we work together; one of the things he is curious about is that, although we have all this new technology that gives us an infinite amount of knowledge — there is immeasurable information that we can consume.
He expressed that we have algorithmic feeds that give us engaging content, which may not be the best.
“We work all day carrying around a little black crystal that serves as an oracle that tells us the weather, not just today but tomorrow, that tells us what the overall market is. We have this incredibly sophisticated technology these days that provides instant communication with hundreds and thousands of people; and I think it would be naive to think that the same way that we have done work in the past is going to be the same way that we do work in the future that we craft, the way that we produce value for ourselves and others…” — Rafa
Rafa added that when he looks forward, ten to twenty years, going from the iPhone, launched in 2007, nearly fifteen years of adoption for the world that it has changed.
We have Amazon Prime and two-day delivery in a large portion of the world.
His point is that we need to ask ourselves, how does that change what we do?
How does that change the type of leadership style that we have?
How does that change the communities that we are building?
“ I like to think about it as post-digital? We still have this divide between what is in the physical world versus what is in the digital world, but it is not that different. It is the same thing, and there is not a binary — it is like shades of grey; if you are walking down and using Google Maps, are you in the digital or physical world? Well, you are in both.” — Rafa
What does Rafa mean by being in both the physical and digital?
He gave one example explaining that currently, we send pins to each other; we do not send directions to each other anymore.
According to Rafa, maybe twenty or thirty years ago, we would have to talk to someone on the phone, tell them where we were going, explain how to get to that place, or they would have to ask their network of people how to get to this new place; if they did not know it.
Rafa explained that our planning phase for participation is instantaneous since we no longer do that.
Rafa gave us another contextual explanation, he can text a group of people in the morning, as he did yesterday, and say, Hey, does anybody want to grab dinner tonight; they will pick a place, and they will go.
According to Rafa, this significantly decreases our cost of coordination. Although, before, we would have had to contact each person individually or walk over to their houses. He used magic to describe this evolution
but pointed out that this magic means that the roles change, the work we do, and engagement styles change.
We discussed his perspective on if the digitization of everything has the potential to win over the physical without any connection to the physical.
“ I do not particularly know how it is going to turn out. We spend twelve to sixteen hours on screens. If you are not on your phone, you are on your computer or television. So a large portion of time is already spent inside this digital world. And yet, the physical world persists, and I think when push comes to shove, it is either going to be a collaboration but also potentially an expansion. I believe that as digital tools become more ingrained into the work that we do even more so than they are today, they serve as an extension of the experiences that we have, and not a replacement.” — Rafa
Rafa further explained that he believes the replacement piece for the sub-portion of a population might be accurate but that escapism already existed when books occurred; some people lived their entire lives just reading, avoiding the real world. Others immersed themselves in a video game for their whole life- essentially the equivalent of having on blinders.
Rafa expressed that he believes most people are instead looking for an integration extension of the world.
He also described the term modern-day philosophers, journalists, and researchers use to describe this process and their warnings against this process of digitization.
Watch his full interview to dive deeper alongside Rafa on this topic of if the digitization of everything has the potential to win over the physical without any connection to the physical.
Rafa gave insights into his learnings working as a Community Architect building the Mirror DAO.
Rafa shared that as we have automation, we have AI now that can create beautiful pictures. He believes it is incumbent on us, as designers and community participants, to reclaim that time to create meaning for ourselves and others; what he hopes to see. He added that at the Mirror and other Web3 organizations, what he wants to make sure of is to create these conducive spaces.
What does he mean by this?
He explained that he believes we often confuse the role of community building with event planning.
“I think the real magic and community building is in the design and the development of spaces of connection, and so at the Mirror and with the other DAOs that I participate in, I want to be able to invest and nurture in in creating these spaces. So that people can create experiences and stories and not necessarily as The School for Social Design Joe and Anne mention these tubes are funnels where people feel pushed through a specific environment for a specific metric, or objective or KPI or OKR.” — Rafa
And so, on a day-to-day basis, Rafa focuses on questions; how can I identify the people I want to invite into the space? And how can I design that space that is inviting to those people? And those people can come in, create experiences together and find additional meaning to express their values, contribute to the ecosystem, and find inspiration, connection, and mutual support.
Rafa added that at the end of the day, his goal is to answer those questions to design an environment that produces belonging for them, and technology has a huge role to play in it.
Rafa explained further in his full interview!
What makes a good DAO leader, and how can a community leader navigate challenges with diversity and inclusivity?
Diversity is crucial- a healthy community cannot exist without diverse participation. Rafa explained, and he meant in all the senses world. The richness of the stories produces these new experiences, but one detail we tend to forget in community building is the different time zones, he added.
“ How do you create a community when you want to invite people from different time zones to be able to participate? And this goes back to designing the type of space that invites people from different time zones to participate, and it has a lot to do with the technology rails implemented…” — Rafa
What does this mean?
According to Rafa, if you are doing live events, they could be recorded or rotated to allow an inclusive participation process. But even before that, he believes a big part is commune design, which is understanding your current participation and intentional participation that you want to have in the future.
Rafa is truly a builder who cares about community building in the most ethical sense. Watch his full episode to hear his passionate and meaningful suggestions to cater to your diverse community to be as inclusive as possible as a DAO manager.
“So focus on the infrastructure and technology to be inclusive. Do not stop at an open door policy, have intentional outreach. And when you have people from diverse backgrounds, it is crucial that, as a community, you are very clear on what your anchors are; people will have different ideologies, perspectives of the world, cultures, and backgrounds. It is extremely crucial to focus on creating a common language around the anchor of the mission of your vision…” — Rafa
What is Rafa most excited about when it comes to digital communities?
“I am excited about Crypto and Blockchain because it brings physicality into the digital realm.” — Rafa
What does mean by this?
According to Rafa, it boils back down to the design aspect. He gave an example by saying that if you were designing a house or a gathering space in the real world — if you want to be inviting to a wide range of people, you would consider the design, types of chairs you get, the kind of lighting you put in place. Where to put the tables? Are people sitting on the floor? Do you have carpets? What type of snacks are you putting out? What kind of agenda and conversations are you doing? So, not just what you do, but designing a pathway for the community to engage in the space.
“ I am excited about this new digital environment, all these new items that we have NFTs- representative like digital assets; these are new things we can decorate our spaces with and use infrastructure. Smart contracts are new ways that people can interact with each other and have different types of conversations. They are an expression of values; they are ways to manage a bank account, do administration, manage bureaucracy, and cooperate. If we think about the pre-blockchain world, we had some toolkits available, but they were not easily accessible.” — Rafa
A community getting together to open a bank account was a challenging thing to do. There were all these steps to make that happen, like first creating a legal entity, Rafa explained. Yet, Blockchain technology offers a wide variety of new tools, which are permissionless, and a lot of the knowledge is available to everyone to participate.
We could not agree with Rafa more. Our community believes that Blockchain technology equals community!
“I think that it will open up doors, especially for the community managers and communities that have a wide variety of imagination; they will be able to express a lot of that imagination in these new types of structures…” — Rafa
Enjoy hearing all the thoughtful and inspiring reasons why Rafa is excited about Crypto and Blockchain in his full interview. He also shared his brilliant views on whether or now Web3 could survive without Blockchain technology.
Other topics and themes we discussed include:
- The distinction between a group chat and a shared belief and understanding to perform as a Dao?
- What Rafa sees in the ability to co-create as a whole in Web3.
Our conversation on this episode of NEWFORUM concluded with Rafa answering the question on most minds- How niche are DAOs? What does the future look like for DAOs?
Join the NEWFORUM community to enjoy this insightful and inspiring episode with Rafa🔥
✨Follow Rafa! Twitter: @rafathebuilder Website: rafael.fyi
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