CIP 128 - Univ3rCity by CityDAO

1. TL/DR

Web3 is being built on the premise that decentralized organizations/networks will, and should, replace centralized ones wherever possible. A significant application of this will be moving credentials (degrees, credit scores, health information, employment history, etc.) from centralized databases to blockchains by replacing the institutions that issue and back them with credible and trusted decentralized organizations. Credentials will become soul-bound tokens (SBTs) as we create a decentralized society.

The future of academic credentials will be on chain, and there will be a race to supply them. To capitalize on this market, these SBTs will need to be issued by a legitimate academic institution with a firm footing in Web3. Why not create one? We believe CityDAO is uniquely positioned to build a transformative Web3 learner-centered academic institution (tentatively named Univ3rCity), given its ability to provide a physical campus, community, and Web3 expertise.

The ultimate goal is a Web3 academic institution that will issue SBTs representing academic credentials and return a healthy percentage of the profits to the CityDAO treasury. The CIP outlines funding for the first two phases (Phase 0 and Phase 1) of a long-term project (In Phase 1 we will offer a prototype course that citizens can take free of charge). The CIP asks for 16k per phase (32k total) in funding.

2. Overview/motivation

All great cities have great universities. And it’s no coincidence. At their best, universities and cities exist in a beautiful symbiotic feedback loop: universities attract talented young people and foster their skills, skilled people generate ideas and innovation, innovation grows cities, and cities invest in their universities. For example, of the cities with the highest seed funding per capita, it’s college towns, Boston/Cambridge (Harvard, MIT, etc.) and San Francisco/Berkeley (Stanford, UC Berkeley, etc.) that wildly outperform their peers.

But universities have become - like many of our cities - bloated, bureaucratic, centralized, and out of touch with the needs of the 21st century. The goal is a flourishing city (and CityDAO) built symbiotically with a 21st-century university (a modern institution that attracts talent, produces knowledge, trains our citizens, and generates revenue). In other words, we want to start the feedback loop described above.

Univ3rCity will focus on personalization and passion-based learning to motivate students. It will be built on Web3 primitives to verify learning and give students ownership and autonomy. It will be built such that it will evolve into a DAO with time by issuing governance tokens upon successful completion of courses – Welcome to Univ3rCity, where teachers own the classes and students own the university.

Univ3rCity will be a step into the future while holding onto ideals of the past. The first university ever, in fact, the University of Bologna, was founded by students who wanted leverage over their city and teachers. They pooled their resources to negotiate affordable rent with the city of Bologna and to hold their professors accountable to showing up and teaching them. It’s time for a DAO based University of Bologna 2.0.

3. Project Team

Eric and Jake are long time friends and higher education advisors, investors, and entrepreneurs. Univ3rCity by CityDAO couldn’t be more up our alley. In fact, we’ve talked for years about how few people share our overlapping interests in the future of higher ed innovation and urbanism, and have talked about teaming up to help entrepreneurs launch “new cities and new colleges”. Upon meeting Scott and David we quickly realized our vision alignment and complementary skill sets. Scott and David see the potential for education to promote city development, and Eric and Jake see the potential for a Web3 city to foster and develop a new education system.

Jake (JakeW_934) has spent his entire career helping entrepreneurs build new affordable, career aligned, and transformative postsecondary pathways. As a leader at organizations like Year Up, Duet, and Verto Education, and a graduate of the Harvard Grad School of Education (focused on Higher Ed Entrepreneurship) Jake has developed the skill set to launch new and successful Higher Ed ventures. He is currently working as a consultant with one organization building a new college (Verto Education), and another setting up a new accreditor for start up colleges (College 101). Jake is also a co-founder of the group, the Future of Higher Education, and an investor in education-focused orgs like Kibo School and the Transcend Network.

Eric (ericscott) is an education technology investor and entrepreneur with 15 years of experience as a: classroom educator, ed tech founder, independent consultant to schools, governments and foundations, and active k-100 ed tech & Web3 angel investor. He currently serves as a Venture Partner at Avalanche.vc where he invests in pre/seed fund focused on supporting ventures that increase human agency across learning, earning and owning. Previously, Eric was the founding CEO of Whetstone Education and served on the board until its acquisition by SchoolMint (2020). Eric started his career in the classroom as a high school Civics and US History teacher (TFA Mississippi Delta ‘09). During his time at TFA, Eric developed his passion for learning, which has transformed into a purpose to help reimagining education for the digital age.

Scott (ScottA) has worked for the government to develop programs to end homelessness and alleviate poverty (Housing First Edmonton). He has taught and fully developed university economics classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In 2022, Scott completed a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Alberta, focusing on economic growth. He graduated with top marks and is set to publish two journal articles in reputable publications (the Journal of Economic History and the Journal of Institutional Economics). He has taken an active role in CityDAO and organized successful initiatives such as the CityDAO Conference and Journal.

David (Da3vid) has worked with academic institutions for well over a decade. He has a Juris Doctor and is licensed to practice law in New York since 2005. He has a Masters degree in East Asian Studies and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociology focusing on DAOs and the metaverse. He has been teaching business law, management and organizational behavior at an international university for 15 years. He has also run successful theater companies with valuations in the millions of USD. David was on the first CityDAO City Council, helped to write the Charter and Operating Agreement, facilitated the Legal Guild, served on the first Mission Guild and is currently the facilitator of the Education & Research Guild, which he also founded. David will support this CIP as an unpaid advisor.

Together, We are educators, education entrepreneurs, and CityDAO citizens who bring a deep understanding of the logistical and operational challenges of starting a new school/college/university.

4. Proposal Budget

Scott, Eric, and Jake are asking for $15,000 USDC for personal compensation along with $1,000 to be used on additional expenses, such as consulting and design, per phase. Thus, a total of $16,000 USDC is requested for phase 0. If successful completion of the deliverables is met (as determined by our unpaid advisor, David), we ask for the same funds to complete phase 1 ($32,000 total). Each phase is anticipated to last 6 weeks.

A Gnosis multisig will be set up for the funds to be transferred. The multisig will have Scott, Jake, Eric, David, and one additional overseer as signers. Upon passing a snapshot vote, we ask that $16k for Phase 0 be transferred from the treasury to the multisig.

We calculated this project rate based on a rate of our expected hours over the 12 weeks ($100/hour for an expected 8.3 hours of work/ week). David will support this project as an unpaid advisor; we will meet with him regularly and share our deliverables.

5. Timeline and Deliverables

We are proposing a 6 week Phase 0 and a 6 week Phase 1 to lay the foundation for Univ3rCity. We guarantee frequent communication and transparency throughout these 12 weeks to ensure we deliver a project in line with expectations. It should be noted the timelines are tentative; if deliverables require additional time to achieve, the team will not require or ask for further compensation.

Phase 0: 6 Weeks

In Phase 0, we will develop the vision of Univ3rCity and create a prototype course to be offered to citizens free of charge and non-citizens for a fee. It is essential to note the course topic and content will be chosen to maximize the benefit to citizens.

We will engage in a consultative design process with CityDAO citizens, leadership and other relevant stakeholders around the guiding questions of:

  • Why does CityDAO need a university to exist? What are the benefits to the DAO (e.g. member recruitment, L&D)?
  • What should a CityDAO University look like? Who is it for?
  • How to best leverage CityDAO?
  • What are the most relevant Web3 primitives for education?

Below is a rough timeline of how we would work and what artifacts we would prioritize in sequence.

Phase 1: 6 weeks

In Phase 1, we will continue to develop the whitepaper and deliver the prototype course. Here are some guiding principles for how we would design this learning experience:

  • NFT based credentialing (SBTs)
  • Interest-driven and personalized
  • Career-connected
  • Project-based
  • Goal-connected
  • Structured peer & coach interactions

Phase 2: Pending a successful Phase 0 and 1 we will produce a separate CIP to outline continued development of Univ3rCity by CityDAO. This would include oversight and management of the following areas:

  • Learning Outcomes
    • Design high impact learning experiences
  • Growth + Marketing
    • Market positioning, branding, social media, student pipelines + strategic partners
  • Regulatory
    • State Authorization, accreditation, incorporation, Title 4 Compliance, governance
  • Financial
    • Pricing & tuition strategy, financial modeling, other revenue streams (eg, DeSci)
  • Operations and Technology
    • Staffing roadmap, setting up a registrar and financial aid office
    • Developing student and faculty handbooks and processes for HR & admissions
    • Data tracking and analysis, outcomes measurement
    • Choosing and implementing tech tools
    • Revenue operations
  • Industry Engagement
    • Defining industry-connected pathways and partnerships (eg, employer driven skill standards, internships/apprenticeships & jobs)
  • Talent Network
    • Develop a network of coaches & mentors
    • Design peer accountability, feedback mechanisms

6. Benefits to CityDAO

In Phase 1, citizens who choose to participate will benefit from the ability to take the free course. CityDAO, as a whole, will benefit from branding and 100% of the profit from the prototype course. The main benefits to CityDAO will be realized if Phases 0 and 1 are successful. A CIP for Phase 2 will describe further benefits that would entail consistent, ongoing, and potentially significant financial gains for CityDAO. While details will need to be finalized, the goal is a certain percentage of profits being sent to the CityDAO treasury in perpetuity.

7. Risks & Regulatory

In the long term, there are a host of regulatory challenges and risks that new colleges face, which we would plan to flesh out as part of the Phase 0 and 1 work. There are no regulatory challenges or risks to us developing this proposal or prototyping a course.

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Appreciate the time that went into drafting this so far.

In terms of courses, these are non-crypto courses, they just happen to use NFTs? With all the online learning opportunities that exist, and how information is so available, what makes this different? A learning platform could easily ‘add NFT’ to program where it’s a small feature, not a backbone and primary reason for the institution existing.

Excited to read up on the University of Bologna.

One issue I take is that the funding per capita and out performance argument is that expensive places to be have wealthy people, wealthy people have high paying jobs, and wealthy people have connections to other high paying jobs. Knowledge aside, universities are sometimes mostly about who you meet and rub shoulders with, which can be one of their greatest features.

At first glance, it might be on track to replicate the ivory towers we have in higher education already. Credentials and licensure are important for certain professions with ethical and life safety concerns (doctors, architects, etc), but I sense that more and more we value what someone can do over where they went to school. I like that.

Inspired by this view by a guy named greg: https://twitter.com/gregfromstl/status/1529188735786422272?s=20&t=mxZOb_J79hm7ed6J9DuCbQ

Soulbound “credentials” are centralized whether they’re on a blockchain or not. Because of basic network effects there will become a “favorite” credential. That credential will be issued by a source and therefore be centralized. This is headed in a dystopian direction.

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Agree with all but Greg’s (rip) point on SBTs. They’re valuable insofar as they provide signal (that is composable within other smart contracts) and inherently signal is an application-dependent measurement. Put another way, going to Harvard may signal that somebody takes the SAT well but it does not signal that they will perform well as a software engineer.

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Thanks for the great feedback as usual @alexthims (I will send you your A+ NFT :slight_smile: )

This is a great question. First, yes, these are crypto and non-crypto courses. The University is Web3 in its setup, not per se in the content. That said, there is a natural reason to think Web3 content will also be a focus.

We focused on the SBT in the proposal, given there has been talk of returning money to the treasury, so we focused on what we would sell. But there is much more to the proposal (David, Eric, and Jake can also expand on this).

NFT credentials are just one aspect. The greater goal is to return education to a more decentralized, student-focused entity with better feedback between teachers and students. Break down the huge bureaucratic mess that is academia today.

For example, I couldn’t agree more that so much information is free, why pay for it? Most universities have to get a teacher up to teach something even though students could just watch someone better on youtube given all sorts of bureaucratic constraints (Jake refers to this as the “sage on the stage” model). Why not utilize this? If the student can watch the free youtube videos and learn, great. Perhaps the course is someone verifying what you learned on youtube.

As a serious example, you could have a course that just has a professional look over and rate the quality of your GitHub repo.

It will, of course, not be so simple for other skills. You might end up with other courses that follow a much more traditional path. You might learn Java script online, but you probably won’t learn philosophy the same way. The point is to let the best courses and practices emerge given better feedback. It isn’t about what the product will look like, it is about using Web3 tools to let it emerge.

Totally true, it is complex. The reason we chose that stat, in particular, it gets around a lot of this. In the end seed funding goes to innovation. Innovation must come from real skills, not just connections. But I agree, rubbing shoulders matters. Which is why we want a IRL component.

I know this Greg person, he is a degen who spends too much time on Twitter :laughing:

Seriously though, love Greg, but I don’t get the comment. In the end people will demand credentials, you can argue they shouldn’t, but they will, instead of having the information stored and issued by a centralized entity, it will be issued by a decentralized entity and controlled by the owner. How would that be more centralized?

I would argue that credentials and licenses etc are very valuable in so many areas of life, like it or not. And to a degree, it is a first-world problem to worry about being over-credentialed and caring too much about them. The reality is much of the world can’t get credentials and as such, can’t prove they belong in a certain labor market.

I would love to follow an idea that I heard from Balaji, which is to have a skill market cap. If you get a SBT that says you are good at coding a certain language (that is have a certain skill), you know exactly how much it will be worth, given there is data on how much people with that credential make (would require some fancy statistical techniques to isolate this of course). But then it is up to you. If you want to take a course in fishing, go ahead, but you know full well it won’t return a marketable skill.

The goal is to focus on what is referred to mainly as “micro-credentials.” Get away from the big 4-year degree. Take a weekend class in a certain skill, know how much it is worth, get the credential, earn more. Good feedback provides better content, better content provides richer feedback. It is an information loop that Web3 can utilize over traditional academia. To the degree the information is much more relevant and cheaper, is the degree to which this model will replace the traditional model.

Agree, SBTs are valuable in so much as they contain valuable information. Much formal education is based on weak correlations, given the inability to break down the signal into its components. In other words, separate the skill of taking the SAT and being a good software engineer. If a SBT can do that, it will be valuable given, as you suggest, a Harvard degree doesn’t do that.

Definitely agree on credentials being important, “micro-credentials” explains it well instead of one degree/credential that took 4 years. I guess the magic piece is who is allowed to give stamps of approval and who’s the gatekeeper to being stamper.

Rabbithole comes to mind as an example of earning credentials through doing, a very narrow focus though. You end up with a rabbithole approved credential. https://rabbithole.gg/

I’m quite interested in the idea of micro-credentials. As someone who has gone through pretty extensive academic credentialing (and am still in the midst of it), I see how little it really has to do with skills, and how the KSAOs of a job could be better broken into their consituent parts and taught with clear, provable benchmarks.

Rabbithole is a good example of task-basecd credentialing. One question is also how to do this with knowledge based credentials without simply quizzing people on whether they memorized information.

For me, this proposal centers on the dual propositions of creating something that sustainably returns value to the treasury over time and that has the potentiality to draw people to a physical location. As both of these seem possible through education, and as education is a core feature of many cities, it seems like a very viable pathway to pursue, at least to operationalize and measure feasibility as closely as possible.

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I’ll support this based on this quote alone and with your good intentions behind it :mechanical_arm:

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Can CityDAO vote on curriculum? Now that we’re in a downturn, several members of the community are interested in learning how to develop a career on OnlyFans.

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First of all… I love the name Univ3rCity!

Yes yes yes. I am 100% on board with the vision of this CIP. The one thing I really want to challenge is credentialing on courses. I think credentials should be a byproduct instead of the aim. I think one major problem with mainstream education today is that the incentives to achieve kill the intrinsic motivation of curiosity. Also, as @alexthims pointed out, there are already countless online courses that can provide certification. I do not see much value in Univ3rCity continuing the traditional educational model, just with a different form of credentialing.

I think DAOs are the future because they thrive on two elements that are intrinsically rewarding to humans - community and contribution. What if Univ3rCity is a way of credentialing citizens based on these elements?

Because we are socially-motivated creatures, I think credentials for community can be based simply on participation. For example - post ten times in a philosophy forum to get a level 1 philosophy SBT. I don’t foresee quality being an issue because people tend to care what other people think of them. I think this is why participation in DAOs is relatively low - scared to post. That is bad news for DAOs because every perspective adds value. Having a credentialing system could motivate higher participation. For citizens, it is a convenience because their track record is automatically built.

Similarly, contribution SBTs could come from project work. The motivation remains to contribute to something interesting to the citizen and useful to the DAO, and credentials come as a byproduct. Anything created could be a credential - more like a portfolio than a resume, which I do think is more meaningful. I don’t even think we would have to extract the skills from the creation. For example, if someone designs a webpage - the wouldn’t get a generic credential in web design - the webpage they designed would be the credential. That is a quality control in itself, and anyone who wants to know that citizen’s
skills would be better informed by the creation than the credential.

Curriculum relates to the overall content in an educational system or a course. Voting to have a management course, for example, would make perfect sense if those who voted then wanted to take that course. But it wouldn’t make much sense for people to vote that we need a management course if no students want to take it.

In that sense, we would definitely want students to have a strong say in what is offered, or else we would be replicating modern educational institutions that decide for the students what is available.

The key idea would be that teachers would own their classes as IP rather than being paid by a centralized institution that then owns them as work product, and that what gets taught is primarily a function of what people want to learn. If a cohort of students wants to learn management, then it would make certainly sense to offer a management course.

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I like your idea of credentialing based on community and contribution, though it’s a challenge to do that while maintaining quality, or else people could game the system by just “contributing” an endless stream of meaningless content. To me, this is where community comes in. I like credentialing based on contribution to community, as that means something, if we can operationalize the concept in a more quantitative fashion.

There’s no sense, as you said, in just providing more online courses with a “CityDAO certificate” when that model has been done to death, unless the CityDAO certificate was tied to something, such as evidence that people who had this were able to get paid positions with it or provide tangible value to organizations because of it.

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Not to poke unfairly - but I for one have received a lot of flak over time commitments that I did not even write (i.e… by project leaders asking me to be on their teams) - and so I think its fair to ask here: you and @Da3vid are already fairly fully-committed in terms of time and bandwidth already, no?

Also - without knowing more about the education job market - $100 per hour for this seems extremely high.

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I receive no compensation from this proposal and only act as an indepedent overseer to watch transactions, and make sure that the CityDAO community is apprised of all issues, concerns or updates. Because of my schedule, I wouldn’t commit to doing any more than that on this project. I agree that $100 may be high. I also think 6 weeks is a short time line.

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Thanks so much, @melissa, this is great feedback! I pretty much agree with everything you said.

For sure, as mentioned above, we focus on the SBT in the TLDR as it is the mechanism to return money to the treasury. But there is much more to our model. While doing a college/university precisely as they are done today, but instead of getting a diploma/degree you get a SBT would be a modest improvement, as the student would then own and control their credentials, it wouldn’t be transformative at all. What we envision is an entirely new education model emerging, given web3 can allow direct feedback between students and teachers. We will cut out the bloated bureaucratic mess that is academia today. The credentials are a byproduct, not the aim!

There is a lot here, and again really appreciate it. A SBT will be valuable if it contains valuable information. What we want is an incentive structure that ensures we get the most valuable information. If teachers have actual control and IP rights over their classes, they will create them so that the student learns the most, and the SBT represents that. The methodology could be different depending on the context.

For example, as Alex mentioned, there are some skills where tools to learn the skill are abundant on the internet and free. In this context, a traditional university fails by making a student pay for a teacher and a whole bunch of resources they already have for free. Perhaps the most valuable SBT represents you took and passed a test. All that is needed is a much cheaper way to verify you know a skill.

In another context, traditional universities might fail in the opposite sense. Given universities have set structures, they will put you in a philosophy class and test you on questions that need to be marked right or wrong. Perhaps what is best is for the students to have an open discourse with others. Perhaps there is no real teacher at all. What the SBT represents is that you added quality – that you engaged with the community and made a contribution. As you suggest.

The point is the teaching method could be different from class to class. The important thing is we will not be bound by traditional methods of teaching, which means every student has to spend so many hours in a seat listening to someone on a stage talk.

We are doing a AMA Tuesday the 15th at 2 ET in the town square stage. I would love to hear from you if you can make it!

So this is clearly the most important thing to address, and I would love to ask you, what is the CityDAO mission? Not trying to poke at you or anything. Genuinely curious. I think building a city is so multi-faceted people have very differnt answers. I will quote fellow citizens who said, “when it comes to building a city, buying the land is the least interesting part.” So my answer is this is very much inline with CityDAOs mission. I think this quote summarizes it.

As David mentioned, he is not putting much time into this project. Personally, I feel I have plenty of time; I finished grad school a couple of months ago, which took up 40-60 hours per week. Along with t0wn, I only have a couple of other minor commitments. I feel confident in stating I am not over-committed.

Eric has been a citizen for longer than I have, I believe. While he isn’t super active, he wants to be. Jake is relatively new, but that’s how the projects are supposed to be done. Based on small teams with skills. They should be looked at as a gateway to getting involved in CityDAO.

For compensation. As discussed in another thread, I don’t think the rate per hour really means that much. All that matters is the deliverables; if they are worth that much to CityDAO then citizens should approve. We are trying to deliver a highly valuable product that will have a considerable market. It will be complementary to a physical space (such as t0wn) and would potentially add tremendous value to a growing city.

Web3 University, we have to just imagine how great will be if we will do it right.

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Generally this is a great proposal though I agree with most of the feedback above.

Does the team have the required experience or proper budget to implement the NFT credentials? Apologies if I missed it in the detailed proposal.

I would like more detail about the white paper. Should we hire consultants to write what we are going to be bound to or should it come from us? As David said, “We are builders” - will the white paper incorporate what was built before and the values that undergird those accomplishments?

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Thanks @kkopczyn. I think the main thing is this is just for the first two phases; the goal is to develop the roadmap, not per se, to have it fully fleshed out. But, good questions to have.