Lauren and I spend the summers living in a cabin on a lake in Minnesota, something we’ve done together for at least part of every summer for a decade. In addition to her love of children, having flexible summers to come to the lake has always been a key fringe benefit of her career as a school counselor. We have developed a deep and abiding sense of place here. It is where we fell in love, where we got married, and where we tend to feel most relaxed and happy together.
Deep in the early pandemic summer of 2020, I worked remotely from this cabin for the first time. It was the proof-of-concept for Cabin. That summer—living in a cabin surrounded by nature and still deeply connected to my work—taught me what was going to becoming possible for tech workers like myself.
It was the summer I took Write of Passage, started the Creator Coop, wrote and published essays consistently for the first time, began actively using twitter, started angel investing in creators and communities, and committed to building my own cabin in the woods. The seeds of Cabin were planted here, and returning each summer feels like a return to some of Cabin’s earliest roots.
We hosted Cabin’s core contributors and city council out here at the lake over the past few weeks as we planned for Cabin’s next season. It felt like the DAO had reached a new cross roads. Two years ago, we were a loose set of ideas, not yet woven together. A year ago, we were a scrappy crowdfunded creator residency project. Now, we were steering a large community in the vague but exciting direction of founding a new city.
In the past 8 months, we accomplished a tremendous amount. We sold out seasons of residencies and retreats, ran deeply meaningful and impactful programs and camps for DAO leaders, brought the DAO together to build impressive physical projects, launched innovative products, published top-notch content, and built a community of the best people in web3. In short, we accomplished the bulk of our 2022 Roadmap to build an Embassy for DAOs six months early.
But, to be honest, we were beginning to feel rudderless. We had not clearly articulated our vision beyond bringing together DAO people for gatherings. Our organization was growing large, unwieldy, and unhelpfully decentralized. In our success, we were starting to lose sight of the mission and get bogged down in open-ended divergence and introspective governance.
Then, the floor fell out from under the market. Suddenly nothing felt certain or guaranteed. Cabin’s treasury diversification set us up to weather a bear market and our physical infrastructure makes our community more resilient than most of modern society. But a bear market—even if not existential—is a good time to re-examine your approach, focus on what’s important, and prepare for the winter ahead.
The theme of our Cabin retreat, hosted by Zakk and Chalice, was “In Frame”. What should be in frame for Cabin? What should be out of frame? How could we ensure that we were focused on the most important goal for the season? How could we rise to a moment that demanded convergence, practicality, and a unity of purpose?
There’s nothing like a market meltdown to bring a sober-headed realness to such discussions. Over the course of the retreat (and a much appreciated jaunt out to Minnesota from newly minted father Phil), the focus became abundantly clear:
Cabin is a network of neighborhoods
When we talked about “the DAO”, we realized we were falling into a mental trap. We were putting ourselves at the center of a growing, monolithic organization. We knew Cabin needed to grow by breaking itself apart in a constellation of smaller organizations, but we were focused on what that meant for us as contributors. We spent too much time working on the work and lost sight of the goal itself: building a network of neighborhoods.
We realized that we, as contributors, are not the core of the DAO we were building. We are merely a service provider to the DAO. And our online community, while an important part of the organization, is also not—in and of itself—the DAO.
The DAO is the network of neighborhoods that make up Cabin. The physical neighborhoods and the communities built around them, are at the center of Cabin’s story and mission. Those neighborhoods are connected together via Cabin’s online community and the tools we build as contributors.
Anything we do that does not directly contribute to neighborhoods and their development is probably not “in frame”. This is why Cabin’s city council voted to allocate our entire Summer 22 budget to a single Objective: Neighborhood Development. And it’s why all of the core contributors decided to band together into a single Fellowship, a One Sauna Team focused on Neighborhood Development.
With this clarity of purpose, organizational structure, and focus, I am feeling more excited than I have since our very first core team retreat. It feels like we have come through an organizational looking glass, and the nature of our network topology is clear in front of us.
Cabin is a network of independent neighborhoods developing shared culture, economy, and governance structures. We will do everything we can to help these neighborhoods develop, grow, and thrive as communities. Small fellowships of service providers will go on quests to build the incentive, trust, and growth mechanisms to help neighborhoods realize the communities they want to create.
The pace layers of society are bending towards us. If we band together into small groups, focus relentlessly on the mission, and work hard to make it a reality, we have the opportunity to give millions of people a new way of living and working together. It’s time to build.