Why joining a working group may be the right thing to do for a blockchain project

Working groups are a great way to engage the community in a blockchain project, to connect with other blockchain projects, and to align with businesses outside the blockchain space. Depending on the setup and goals of the group, association or alliance, there’s good potential for blockchain projects involved to stay ahead of the game, and successfully onboard various target segments.

What is a working group, and how should it be set up?

A working group has members who work interdependently on a specific, common goal to produce an end result for a business or project. Members can be from the same organization or various, and they can be volunteers or paid. The duration of a working group depends on the preferred outcome - it can vary between short-term (1-3 months) and long-term collaborations which can even run for several years.

Consortia and associations are usually divided into working groups which gather information on various topics in a specific area to build an expert knowledge base. Individual and shared goals, commitments and the discourse among different groups of stakeholders should be clearly defined before starting a working group. The setup allows all participants to add their unique experience and knowledge, and input should be quite “standardized” to make contributing and data analysis easy.

Benefits of joining or creating a working group:

The eventual outcome of any working group is obvious - everyone involved needs to gain some kind of advantage. It could be monetary, or purely knowledge from other participants which can be used, or even just industry status.  Whatever the case, an advantage needs to be present or the group will be either weak, or not exist at all. Advantages can include:

  • Up-to-date with industry pioneers
  • Understand market demands and industry trends
  • Gain knowledge, skills and professional experience
  • Expand your network and connect with other participants
  • Connect with potential customers or suppliers
  • Become a well-known industry figure
  • Financial reward through shared projects or group purchasing

On the other side, don’t forget that working groups require a certain active participation (time)!

Examples in Blockchain

The following blockchain working group examples include blockchain projects organization of contributions, working groups by blockchain projects, and working groups organized within associations.

Example 1: Members of the FullBlock Solutions team created a security token working group on behalf of NEM Europe to find solutions for the security token market, and to…

  • Satisfy rising demand of Issuers, (Institutional) Investors, individuals & regulators.
  • Give access to huge new markets with the tokenization of assets.
  • Create highly liquid financial markets with low fees and fast deal execution.

This working group was specifically organized to build a common knowledge base, create a shared understanding about the current security token market, and to find a pragmatic solution for security tokens from a technical perspective. It brought together 30+ lawyers, exchanges, STO projects and advisories who gave input through a basic questionnaire, and following, a more detailed technical follow-up questionnaire along with personal conversations. This working group was originally centrally organised, and was pushed forward by NEM Europe. It resulted in an in-depth security token status report. The next ideal step would’ve been to open up the group, and bring together more exchanges and CSD providers to help create much needed shared infrastructure for the security token market.

Takeaway: If immediate results are needed, it’s important to have “project owners” who can take on the heavy workload to enable easy contribution for participants. Finding the right partners with knowledge and commitment (long-term!) is one important lesson from this experience.

Example 2: Ethereum has the largest community and most developers in blockchain. They have hundreds of different groups to improve various topics in blockchain - whether it is through ETHmagicians and Rings, or through independent groups. Best known for community input are Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) and Ethereum Request for Comment (ERCs) which has resulted in well known standards such as ERC-20. In EIP-1, ground rules and guidelines are introduced -they include:

  • EIP Types
  • Work Flows
  • What must be included
  • Formats/Templates
  • Ownerships

EIP-1 is heavily derived from Bitcoin’s BIP-0001 (also great Overview!) and Python’s PEP-0001.

Groups cover everything from token economics and new business models through to the definition of standards and key smart contract features. Great overviews like this security token overview can be the result of shared research, analysis and cooperation. In the Ethereum ecosystem, it could be argued there are almost too many different working groups, and sometimes information and knowledge is fragmented. By contrast, the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance has 1400 members and clearly defined working groups and leadership to get results.

Takeaway: It definitely makes sense to have a broad overview and steer newcomers to existing groups, and make joining and contributing as easy as possible. Although guidelines are essential to have standardized outputs. Open source projects need to be inclusive, and it must be attractive to become a member - as detailed above.

Example 3: The NEM Blockchain project is currently led by core developers, but is moving towards an open source collaborative project. The new collaborative setup is well-documented. Working groups and special interest groups have meetings which have attendees from all over the world. Recordings and notes are available, though incentivization and real contribution of participants are yet to be proven.

Project management committee for the NEM Blockchain

Takeaway: The success of blockchain projects can be measured by community growth, unique users and projects because these indicators should result in adoption (transactions on the network), so it’s important to have easy tasks for newcomers, and more difficult ones for long-standing members. There must be clear goals and (financial) incentives for community members and organizations to join, consume, commit or contribute to existing working groups and blockchain projects.

Example 4: Bundesblock is the official german blockchain association. The working groups of the Bundesblock are exploring the potential and applicability of blockchain technology in various fields such as finance, ICOs, supply chain and real estate. Many of the larger blockchain projects which have their headquarters - or a base - in Germany are involved. These include: Neufund, Bitbond, Dash, Advanced Blockchain AG, Bitwala, Ocean Protocol or IOTA. In Germany, this association is working closely together with the government, and provides input on legislation. Some of the working groups are performing well, while others are not achieving results due to different leadership in the groups. 

Takeaway: It is important to have strong project/working group leaders. It’s just as important for groups and associations - especially when they’re “somewhat officially” representing broader blockchain ecosystems - to be open and welcoming towards new participants willing to contribute in order to gain more traction, and advance in-depth knowledge.

What to look for in working groups

The following questions are important for creators and participants in working groups:

  • What is the timeline?
  • Are goals clearly defined?
  • What is the outcome participants are looking for?
  • What commitment is expected?
  • Is there any form of accountability?
  • Who is the leader / manager of the project?
  • Can new members provide input and add knowledge or other resources?
  • Which approaches are used? Questionnaires? Meetings?
  • Does the style of participation work for participants?
  • Is feedback and knowledge input valued?
  • Is the working group open or closed?

Ultimately, you should decide for yourself if the goals and the (intermediate) results of the working group satisfy you, and therefore whether to commit, or not. There’s always an alternative to working groups, though including experts from different departments and organizations is definitely something you should consider for a variety of projects and the above stated benefits.

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