SG 0.1d - Improving onboarding experience with ethnographic research and a data-based framework

SG 0.1c - Improving onboarding experience with ethnographic research and a data-based framework.


Using ethnographic methods to get self-onboarded at VitaDAO. Then using that data and an adapted framework from Organizational Psychology literature to implement a plan with a VitaDAO team to have science-based onboarding practices.

Relevance to Strategic Plan

This proposal addresses the Seasonal Goal 0.1: Increase Community Size. Specifically point “c”: Production of turnkey onboarding experience with resources and step by step to-dos for joining each WG or squad, funnelling people into either a working group or squad, and forging a personal connection to our members who wish to contribute.


Good onboarding practices enable new joiners’ adaptation to any institution, allowing them to find their place inside the group, understand their role(s), and make important human connections to facilitate their daily work. Lack of a proper onboarding experience may lead to higher levels of contributor turnover and burnout, which are related with lack of role clarity, self-efficacy, and social acceptance.


Project Lead: Pancho#9754 will lead and execute both the research and implementation plan.

Team: For the implementation plan we have support from SME from talentDAO: my teammates Mr.Nobody#0187 and sherifoz#7023. TalentDAO is a web3 native professional services DAO with expertise in organizational science and social system design.

*Description: at talentDAO we have conducted literature review about induction processes at traditional organizations, were we recognized certain frameworks that can be applied to the DAO context. The framework we use to assess onboarding practices is adapted from van Maanen & Schein (1979), Jones (1986), and Chao et al. (1994). In particular, we are excited to implement the “old-but-gold” framework from van Maanen & Schein:

The goal of this project is to conduct a two-phased plan consisting of an ethnographic study where the researcher will get onboarded at VitaDAO to identify and document the different strategies mentioned in this framework, so we can use that data to evaluate how the onboarding practices match the necessities and long-term strategy of the DAO. We’ll then move on to consolidate an onboarding team that we’ll get enough context and training to understand the theory and practice needed to improve the onboarding experience of newcomers (detailed timeline and step-by-step below).


Budget: Requested $5,000 for the whole 8-week project. Paid in stablecoins or ETH.

Success Metrics: We succeed with this project if at the end of week 8 we have:

  1. Identified VitaDAO’s needs in terms of strategies for onboarding new members (What is the ideal behavior of newcomers after they get onboarded? How to achieve that behavior?).
  2. Identified strenghts and weeknesses from current onboarding practices. The judgement will be based on how these practices are aligned with the needs of the DAO.
  3. We consolidate a team that has proper knowledge of theory and practices of what is useful to facilitate newcomer’s familiarization with VitaDAO workflow and culture. Having a trained team for this task will allow faster and better newcomer engagement, while reducing turnover and member burnout.

Timeline: This is an 8-week study consisting of two phases.

  • Phase 1: Ethnographic study.
    -Week 1: Project planing and member alignment: coordinate with the onboarding team how the study will be conducted and clarify strategies and research methodologies to avoid bias in data collection. We’ll have a call with the team to answer any questions regarding the different steps of the study and the implementation. This will also help the researcher to have quick access to all necessary documentation and resources from the DAO.
    -Weeks 2 to 3: getting onboarded and document all practices and resources available during the socialization process. This part of the study doesn’t focus on good or bad practices, is just an initial register of what the DAO does in terms of onboarding and how it relates to each WG goals and strategies.
    -Weeks 4 & 5: retroactive surveys and interviews with recently onboarded members. The retroactive survey helps to understand the strategies that the onboarding team followed from the point of view of the newcomer and how that person perceives it helped or not with the familiarization with VitaDAO workflow and culture.

  • Phase 2: Implementation plan.
    -Weeks 6 & 7: gather a consolidated team for the onboarding process of VitaDAO. We’ll have a weekly meeting to share all the context from the data that we gather from weeks 1 to 5. The objective is to have VitaDAO members with the neccesary tools to improve the onboarding experience of their respective guilds or the DAO at general.
    -Week 8: Deliver a written document with the findings of the study and the framework used to improve the onboarding practices. This document will allow the DAO to build on top of this knowledge to improve their practices based on future needs or to train new people at charge of the onboarding team.

  • Agree
  • Revisions Requested (Detail in Comments)
  • Disagree

0 voters

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Thanks for the proposal. Do you have examples from previous projects and could you showcase them?


Giving the same feedback I’ve been giving to contributors who are interested in contributing to the onboarding process :slight_smile:

This is our onboarding process:

There are definitely many things that can be improved about this process… but, it mostly works. To expand on this a bit, many people start by thinking about conversion rate at each step of the onboarding funnel. This is not a good metrics – contributors aren’t the same as paying customers. Onboarding is a two way process: contributors checking us out, and we checking them out. Filtering is an important purpose of the pipeline; we don’t want to spend time and effort on people who ultimately won’t have the skills, commitment or time to contribute.

The current onboarding process starts with “Intake”: people finding us through our website, Twitter, etc. and ends with them attending onboarding calls + submitting a starter task. Since we’ve implemented this onboarding process several months ago, the starter task now has around 50 people. They are great people, high skilled people too! And they’ve dedicated enough of their time to read and follow the onboarding process to the end.

But, among these 50 people, maybe 1 or 2 of them are now consistent contributors. This is what I see as the bottleneck in this pipeline: we’ve had good people who have passed our filter, but we’re unable to help them integrate into existing workflows. Part of it is that we don’t have up to date documentation of what everyone is working on and where the needs are (creating this is the easy part! Keeping up to date as time goes on is the hard part). Part of this is that we’ve not found a way to create a sense of community. Maybe there are other reasons. But this is a shared sentiments; I’ve often had stewards coming up to me saying “X messaged me that they had completed onboarding and submitted the starter task and ask what they could help with, but I don’t know what to give them.”

I think for an onboarding proposal to make a difference, it has to address this bottleneck. We can improve the earlier part of the pipeline, and for sure there are many things to improve about it. But what will end up happening is that the funnel gets wider, but we still end up with no onboarded contributor because like before, no one is able to pass this bottleneck.

** So far all this is just about contributor onboarding, we haven’t touched onboarding for non-contributors (strategic contributors, scientists that have no time, KOLs, etc.)


Sorry, to tie this back to the proposal: I think this proposal is too “consulting” at the moment, and the focus of the consulting is on the earlier part of the pipeline. I’d like to see this proposal moves more into execution, e.g. starting a program or project to address the bottleneck directly. And I’d also like to see it move into addressing the bottleneck outlined above, instead of the beginning of the onboarding funnel.


I would rather tie the payment to success metrics, defined as conversions to consistent, quality contributors that last more than a month, not to production of documents and teams that will take further resources.

I’d also like to see proof of concept that “ethnographic research” will work for VitaDAO.


Sure! I recently co-published our latest research results from our study on Descentralized Leadership here:

It should give a good overview on how we work

Thanks for the feedback. The challenge I see here is that is difficult to achieve what you ask for as an “outsider”. I understand that this proposal is headed to the first part of the pipeline that you mention, but I would need to be a decision maker from VitaDAO to directly adress those problems. Otherwise I would be an advisor trying to improve the work of project stewards when training/onboarding new members or filtering them out because they don’t qualify for the needs of the DAO (which is partially the intention of this proposal)

That’s why seasonal governance works differently from just typical proposals – there’s a long period of discussion, feedback, and proposal modification :slight_smile: You’re right about the challenge of course, and this is also a barrier to onboarding (the bottleneck, right here!). But that’s why we have this long discussion period.

I’d actually flip the engagement you mentioned – we have a lot of insights to the DAO and can advise, both during this proposal forming phase and during the execution of the project, and you will be the main leads/executors of the project. We’re trying to practice DAO leadership as you synthesized in your research – great research btw – by enabling other people to do good work, autonomously :slight_smile:

If you’d like to explore how to modify this proposal into something addressing the needs above, I and many other long-term contributors would be happy to jump on a call to help brainstorm!

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This proposal did not pass phase 2 and will not be implemented by the DAO