Season 4 Grants: RFG Roundup

The Season 4 grants process included a novel application of its own, the development of the Requests for Grants (RFG) process.

RFGs were born of a desire to create a new dimension to the grants program, demand-based granting. The bulk of Web3 grants programs are supply-based, meaning that protocols provide grants to the projects that show up and ask for grants. This can be limiting for an ecosystem that requires consistent innovation to achieve its vision. Some excellent projects may show up for the supply-based grants program, but the community can do even better if the grants process incorporates a feedback loop from the community to incorporate the highest-value applications at a given time.

RFGs are the preliminary effort to refine the feedback loop. In this Season, the RFG program truly was an experiment. The Council appointed an RFG manager (@jackanorak) to reach out to the community to figure out an answer to the question: what does the community need built right now?

The Season 4 charter included a budget for RFGs, which included a preliminary thesis that audits are an important need for the community. Whether it would be possible to create a successful audit RFG (or any others that would attract significant builder attention) was yet to be determined.

The RFG process began as any experiment should, slowly. Even after publishing a handful of RFGs, it was not clear there would be substantial interest in the program. However, the RFG program caught fire in Cycle 15. Across 8 published RFGs, the Council received 72 proposals. What the Council had worried might become a backwater of the grants program turned into a clear signal: this is the next generation of Web3 grants.

As proposers have been patient reading up to this point, here is a list of the Season 4 RFGs along with Finalists.*

RFG 1: Onchain Data Tools and UI

RFG 2: UI for Smart Contracts

RFG 3: Smart Contract Audits

RFG 5: RPC Subsidization*

RFG 6: Optimism Academics

RFG 7: Tooling for 6551 - Tokenbound Accounts

RFG 8: Cross-chain Interoperability Research

The Grants Council is hopeful that the work generated from this initial set of RFG finalists will push the ecosystem forward meaningfully. While this marks the end of the RFG program for Season 4, the Council encourages the community to consider carrying on an RFG process and potentially renewing some of the RFGs from Season 4 in the future.

The Foundation should be in touch with RFG Finalists in October to discuss KYC and any further steps. Certain projects, such as the RFG 3 and 5 projects may be required to work with the RFG manager to define final milestones that provide greater clarity to the community as to how the final programs will function with prospective grant finalists (in whatever form a future grants program might take, as that will be subject to governance votes).

*Listing a project as a finalist is not an explicit or implicit promotion or endorsement of the projects, their representations, or their underlying products but rather an acknowledgment that the projects’ applications were deemed most suited to receive a grant given the parameters applied by the mandate of Season 4 governance. Grantees accept grants subject to terms, including those outlined in the Internal Operating Procedures.

**RFG 4 was intentionally omitted as no projects were selected for RFG 4 for this Season.

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Excellent service.
And I loved the best web3 granting ecosystem.
Absolutely, all this new DApss are needed and make more transparency in the movements of every token and contract that it’s deployed. Maybe for the next generation of grant we can implement something similar as EIP-6968 since it could help the creators of this proposal and more sustainable and long term secured survival of the projects.
I think the new granting ecosystem could use more EIP to use more automation and less human being time and effort. And also it’s more decentralized and less related to Moloch traps.

There’s not much I can really add to what’s been discussed above, but I’d like to offer a few thoughts as the inaugural RFG lead and one of the main proponents of getting something like this started in the first place.

For governance to work in distributing resources, it must first resolve what we are trying to achieve as a collective and on how best to get there. Intents are a huge step in this direction, and I think RFGs are another. In both cases, these initiatives have helped push Optimism’s grants program toward a more proactive and forward-thinking orientation, something that is rare (and necessary) in the space.

Internally, RFGs focused on three core objectives, all intended to increase the number of active builders on Optimism:

  • decreasing startup costs (RFGs 2, 3, 5)
  • improving developer quality of life and advancing infrastructure (RFGs 1, 4, 8)
  • supporting developer communities across key verticals (RFGs 6, 7)

Several of these RFGs are effectively shifting the burden of responsibility from app developers to Optimism as a community, something no ecosystem fund to my knowledge has done; we’re going to be the first to, for instance, assist projects with audits and key infrastructural services, and that’s potentially a huge deal.

Pursuing this strategy was risky; we had no idea how many projects were even going to go for this. I’m happy to say that the response blew past our expectations, and I’m hopeful that this is going to yield some big things for Optimism in the near future.

I’m grateful to all the proposers who took the risk of partnering with us at this early, experimental stage. Although I’m not a badgeholder, I hope that Citizens recognize the leap some of these proposers have made when considering how to distribute RPGF this season; simply showing up to contribute is going to have big impact for us.

I’d also like to thank voters for trusting me to contribute to the grants council this season; special thanks go out to my fellow councilmembers who’ve been supportive through a challenging season, to @danelund.eth for the chance to give this new structure a shot, and to @lavande for being a tireless guide for us and for governance. It’s been a marathon, but I think we can be confident that at this stage, through RFGs and everything else we’ve been iterating on, we’re pushing the limits of what a decentralized community grant program can do.

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