A lack of frameworks for coordinating across national borders. Struggles for resources between departments. Money missing from the cash box.

These are issues faced by all types of organizations, from startups and grassroots community groups to multinational companies and NGOs. The issues stem from people problems first, but are made worse by outdated technology.

The balkanization of financial systems means collaboration between people of different nationalities can be difficult or prevented altogether.

Departments competing for resources lack visibility into what the needs are of each other and the rest of the organization.

Multiple people need to pull money from the cash box to pay the group’s expenses, so it’s hard to control access and hold everyone to account.

We have been able to accomplish a lot with the tools still relied on by many organizations to govern and allocate resources. But it’s also clear that there is room for improvement.

An introduction to Aragon

Aragon is software that brings shared control, flexible permissions, and internet-wide access to money, domain names, video game items, financial assets – digital resources of all types, even organization governance itself.

Shared control means that it’s no longer necessary to entrust control of vital resources to a single person. Whereas traditional software requires giving at least one person “Admin” control over an organization’s digital resources, Aragon provides the ability to decentralize control among multiple people, even entire communities. In this way, administration powers are truly shared rather than concentrated in one person.

Flexible permissions mean that if the existing governance rules aren’t working, they can quickly be changed to better suit the organization’s needs. Not only is control over the organization’s resources shared, but control over the governance rules is also shared. Since the rules are written in computer code, changing the rules can be as easy as voting to approve an app update.

Permission settings in the Saint Fame organization at https://mainnet.aragon.org/#/sf

Internet-wide access means that slow or inflexible control of money and other digital resources due to balkanized legal and financial systems is a thing of the past. Just as chat apps make it easy for people all over the world to send each other messages and collaborate over the internet in an instant, Aragon makes it easy for individuals and organizations across the globe to use the internet to share ownership of resources and make decisions together.

We have seen in the examples at the beginning of this post what can go wrong when technology limits the ways that organizations can self-govern. What might an improvement over the old ways of doing things look like?

Governance as an app

Aragon is software that runs in web browsers that are Web3-enabled using either a browser extension or native Web3 integration. Web3 is a new set of internet protocols enabling collaboration and ownership without central authorities. The Web3 protocols that Aragon makes use of today are Ethereum and IPFS.

Whereas older “Web 2.0” applications such as Twitter and YouTube are run by central companies who have full control over the application and its users, newer Web3 applications can be built so that users remain in control of their data and their financial assets. These new capabilities offered by Web3 protocols are what enable Aragon users to share control over their organization’s resources.

With Aragon, users can create a digital representation of their organization complete with tools for managing membership and resources in the organization, as well as a system for managing who has permission to perform various actions, such as spending funds or adding new members.

The Aragon Network Governor Council at https://mainnet.aragon.org/#/network/

Aragon organizations can expand their capabilities using software extensions called “Aragon apps”. Aragon apps provide users the ability to easily manage different aspects of the organization, from adding and removing members, to spending funds, to voting on proposals, and more.

A special app called the Agent app enables an Aragon organization to interact directly with any other Ethereum application, so the organization itself can be treated as a first-class citizen of Ethereum. This means that the organization can take out a loan, register a domain name, stream salaries to workers by the second, even own land in virtual reality, all under the shared control of the organization’s members. Nearly everything about an organization can now be governed directly by its members, no matter where they might physically be in the world – just add internet!

Newfound trust and capabilities

With the new technology pioneered by Aragon and the broader Web3 community, organizations can transcend previous limitations and operate both more securely and with greater freedom than ever before. Where organizations used to have to trust an individual to responsibly manage the finances, now everyone in an organization can be given the opportunity to review expenditures and vote on whether or not to approve a transfer. In larger organizations, responsibility can be delegated to a specific team or small working group. Controversial decisions can be arbitrated by an Aragon-native dispute resolution system if needed, saving time and money over traditional courts and offering a solution for cross-border disputes.

Since all of the actions that can be performed in an Aragon organization are recorded on the Ethereum public ledger, Aragon organizations are transparent by default. Every vote, every payment, every membership or permission change are all publicly visible and verifiable. This makes Aragon particularly well suited for any organization that has transparency and accountability as core values, such as nonprofits and public communities.

Aragon Association finances at https://mainnet.aragon.org/#/budget

It is even possible for Aragon organizations to come together to form a new entity – a multistakeholder group, industry association, coalition, or similar organization of organizations. This enables organizations to pool their resources and tackle common challenges with minimal bureaucracy and legal overhead, even unlocking new opportunities in situations where barriers in the traditional legal or financial systems might have prevented collaboration. 

For example, a grassroots civic community in Africa can partner with an NGO in Europe and a church group from Australia to pool funds for a clean water project, and each organization can have direct input and oversight in how the funds are spent. The lack of financial infrastructure or the presence of legal complexity need no longer be barriers to getting things done and fulfilling important missions. Aragon can help organizations route around these problems by providing alternative finance and governance infrastructure.

Making the abstract concrete

In the next post I’ll help make some of the abstract concepts discussed here more concrete by showing how to create a multistakeholder organization using Aragon. In the meantime, I invite you to try Aragon for yourself by creating a test organization on the Rinkeby test network. If you have any feedback or questions, you can drop by the Aragon community chat and tag me in a message to the #support channel – my username in the chat is @light.