PIG: Plurality in Practice

Plurality in Practice

Team Members:

Rich McDowell
Martin Benedikt Busch

Short summary of the improvement idea:

An experimental validation of more plural approaches to quadratic voting, particularly collection-oriented cluster match

What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance?

Community decision making and resource allocation via quadratic voting

What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?

Quadratic funding mechanisms [1] are designed to facilitate collective decision making and optimize provisioning of resources. Although they improve over simpler mechanisms (e.g., linear token-based voting, one person one vote), they still fail to balance incentives and capture all the relevant dynamics. In particular, naive quadratic mechanisms do not consider overlap between voters – be they financial, cultural, political – with regards to the decision at hand. This can lead to suboptimal outcomes when heavily aligned voters converge on a decision.

More plural improvements to a pure quadratic approach have been developed, most notably Connection-Oriented Cluster Match (COCM), first introduced in Ohlhaver et al. (2022) [2] and concretized in Miller et al. (2022) [3]. COCM uses social information to assign users into groups, and provides bridging bonuses when voters from a diverse range of groups can find consensus.

However, these new mechanisms have seen limited experimental validation, and some open questions remain. For example, which grouping dimensions best capture the similarities and differences between voters. How many grouping dimensions should be applied simultaneously? Should all grouping dimensions be weighted evenly? How should initial vote power be allocated?

Our core insight is that many of these questions can be experimentally tested and validated, providing general evidence for the superiority of plural mechanisms over other protocols for collective decision making, as well as specific evidence for how best to establish and govern a community relying on plural mechanisms.

By leveraging simulation frameworks, we aim to identify bottlenecks, assess the impact of different parameters, and explore fine-grained voting power attenuation mechanisms. Subsequently, through experimental field tests conducted in real-world scenarios, we intend to validate the protocol’s performance under practical conditions and gather empirical data to refine its design. This iterative approach ensures that theoretical insights are translated into actionable improvements, ultimately leading to a more robust and effective protocol aligned with real-world dynamics and requirements.

What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol?

To investigate the current state of the quadratic funding/voting protocol, we will employ theoretical analysis, simulation-based assessment, and experimental evaluation. The methodology comprises the following steps:

  1. Literature Review and Theory Development

A comprehensive literature review will be conducted to understand the foundational principles and existing research on Quadratic Funding (QF) and Quadratic Voting (QV) and its subsequent iterations. We will analyse the theoretical underpinnings of the base protocol introduced in 2018 [1] and its extensions [2][3], particularly focusing on assumptions of atomized participants with perfect rationality. We will identify key limitations and challenges in the current protocol, including but not limited to disproportional power accumulation due to pre-existing participant relationships.

  1. Simulation Framework Development

We will develop a numerical simulation framework to validate the calculations and functionalities of the current protocol. This simulation framework will be used to illustrate the impact of different parameters and variables on decision outcomes, as well as comparisons to simpler mechanisms such as naive QV, one person one vote, etc. These simulations will also be used to identify potential bottlenecks and areas for improvement within the protocol.

  1. Attribute Collection and Evaluation

An Open Source online tool will be used to collect pertinent attributes of participants in a diverse community, such as affiliation, education and other relevant variables. We will then evaluate the feasibility and significance of incorporating each of these attributes into the model to enhance its effectiveness and accuracy. These data will inform simulation scenarios and theoretical analyses.

  1. Fine-Grained Attenuation Analysis

We will explore the concept of fine-grained attenuation of voting power, particularly in the context of collusion-resistant Quadratic Voting [2]. We will then assess the feasibility and implications of implementing a more finely grained attenuation mechanism within the protocol. Theoretical analyses and simulations will be carried out to determine the effectiveness and collusion resistance of such an approach.

  1. Experimental Evaluation

We will collect data to assess the validity and performance of the improved protocol under real-world conditions. Community members will be surveyed to assess their opinions of the actual and simulated results across a variety of dimensions (e.g., fairness, legibility, impact).

How will you field-test your improvement idea?

To field-test the potential protocol improvements we will conduct experimental validation aimed at assessing their real-world performance and viability. This involves the following steps:

  1. Utilise Simulation Baselines and Theoretical Frameworks

Use the theoretical and simulation-based baselines established in earlier stages to inform the experimental design and evaluation criteria. This ensures that the field test is grounded in established theoretical principles.

  1. Implementation in Real-World Scenarios

Implement the protocol in diverse real-world settings, such as online platforms or community projects. This enables us to observe the protocol’s functionality and effectiveness in practical contexts where it will be utilised.

  1. Data Collection

Gather empirical data on the operation and outcomes of the protocol during the field test. This includes collecting relevant metrics and observations to assess the protocol’s effectiveness, accuracy, and alignment with desired objectives.

  1. Analysis of Collected Data

Analyse the collected data to identify any discrepancies or challenges encountered during the field test. This process helps in understanding the protocol’s performance in real-world conditions and highlights areas for further refinement or adjustment.

  1. Iteration and Improvement:

Use the insights gained from the field test to iterate and improve the protocol. Refine its design and functionality based on empirical evidence and feedback obtained from real-world implementation.

Who will be able to judge the quality of your output?

Puja Ohlhaver, independent plurality researcher
Matt Prewitt, RadicalXchange

How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea?

Our experimental results will be published as a research paper. We will reach out to communities who currently use more naive consensus reaching mechanisms to persuade them to adopt some or all of the mechanisms under investigation. The tooling we used to gather the data and conduct the experiment will be made freely available under Open Source licence to all communities who might wish to run similar consensus-reaching experiments.

What is the success vision for your idea?

The success vision for our idea is to develop mechanisms for community decision making that are not only theoretically sound but also empirically validated and widely adopted in real-world settings. We envision a protocol that effectively addresses the challenges of disproportional power accumulation, fosters collaboration across diverse social connections, and promotes pluralistic decision-making. Success would entail the protocol being recognized as a reliable and transparent mechanism for allocating resources and making collective decisions in various domains, ranging from community projects to online platforms and beyond. Ultimately, our goal is to contribute to the democratisation of resource allocation processes, empowering participants and facilitating the equitable distribution of public goods.


[1]: Buterin, V., Hitzig, Z., & Weyl, E. G. (2019). A flexible design for funding public goods. Management Science, 65(11), 5171-5187.

[2]: Ohlhaver, P., Weyl, E. G., & Buterin, V. (2022). Decentralized Society: Finding Web3’s Soul. Ohlhaver, Puja and Weyl, Eric Glen and Buterin, Vitalik, Decentralized Society: Finding Web3’s Soul (May 10, 2022). Available at SSRN 410 5763.

[3]: Miller, J., Weyl, E. G., & Erichsen, L. (2022). Beyond Collusion Resistance: Leveraging Social Information for Plural Funding and Voting. Available at SSRN 431 1507.


I’m on the governance council at Synthetix (a DAO) and we have tossed and turned around voting mechanisms. Let me know if you want to do some research with us!

1 Like

Hi. That would be amazing! Feel free to message me here and we can connect.