Catalyst through the lens of the Cynefin Framework

After Town Hall, 26th January 2022 - Stephen Whitenstall, QADAO

After Town Hall, 26th January 2022


This presentation is the latest of a series of community research initiatives in support of the F7 Community Governance Oversight Proposal.

Previous events have covered Antifragile Success criteria & How to nurture a listening culture in Catalyst ? And today we will look at oversight of Catalyst parameter changes through the lens of the Cynefin Framework.

The Cynefin Framework is a conceptual framework used to aid decision-making. It was created in 1999 by Dave Snowden when he worked for IBM Global Services. Cynefin is a Welsh word that can be translated as habitat but its meaning extends to the domains we live in and the places you come from.

Cynefin Overview

In this slide I will give an overview of the Cynefin Framework & then on the next slide apply this to Catalyst.

The Cynefin Framework seeks to locate systems in domains or spaces defined by causal relationships.

These domains are divided into structured versus unstructured systems.

In total there are 5 domains as follows:

On the right-hand side are Structured domains which include

The Obvious

Here live ordered systems with clear cause, and effect relationships. In this situation it is appropriate to

Sense - establish the facts


Respond – by following the rule or appropriate best practice

Obvious approaches are standard operating procedures such as completing a form or requiring a field be completed on Ideascale.

The Complicated

Here live ordered systems whose cause, and effect relationships are discoverable through analysis. In this situation it is appropriate to

Analyze – assess the facts


Respond – apply the appropriate good operating practice

Complicated approaches are where it is possible to rationally work towards a decision, but this requires research and technical expertise.

Moving to the left-hand side – here are Unstructured domains which include

The Complex

Here complex systems live, where the only way to understand the system is to interact with phenomena. In this situation it is appropriate to

Probe the situation

Sense what is occurring

And respond

With Complex approaches cause and effect can only be deduced in retrospect, there are no right answers. Rather instructive patterns emerge from sense making.

The Chaotic

Here live chaotic systems where turbulence prevails, and immediate stabilizing action is required.

In this situation it is appropriate to

Act to establish order

Sense where stability lies

And respond to turn the chaotic into the complex

In Chaotic situations cause and effect are unclear, but it is essential to act. So, a series of ad hoc actions may occur simply to establish order and restore some stability.


Finally in the center is the domain of disorder which can also be seen as a starting point. Here lives a cacophony of voices jostling for prominence – this situation is what assignment to the other domains or spaces seeks to resolve.

Cynefin Framework and Catalyst

So how might all this relate to what we do in Catalyst?

Returning to the domains

The Obvious

In this structured, Obvious domain the IOG Catalyst Team & the Catalyst community routinely apply straightforward solutions such as KPI reports, surveys, quantitative retrospectives & reports.

These standard operating procedures help support the day to day running of Catalyst and are essential to provide continuity of information.

A danger with the Obvious domain is complacency where standard procedures start to drift away from their intended purpose.

The Complicated

In this structured, complicated domain the IOG Catalyst research Team, the Technical Council & Catalyst Community academic research conduct in-depth analysis and research into discrete solutions.

The Technical Council, for example, Analyses data, make Sense of this through discrete solutions and Responds with completed research.

The Complex

In this unstructured, complex domain the Catalyst community, Catalyst Circle & IOG Catalyst Team innovate through the Catalyst experiment. This is an iterative process which probes for ideas, senses what is occurring and responds with community innovation.

This is where the complex systems of distributed governance emerge and the only way to understand what is going on is to interact with the experiment.

An emergent example is Catalyst Circle a “human sensor array” that monitors the current state and future plans regarding governance in Project Catalyst. Circle's function in the Cynefin context is to Probe, Sense and Respond.

The Chaotic

In this unstructured, chaotic domain the Catalyst community, Catalyst Circle & IOG Catalyst Team react to unforeseen events that cause turbulence or instability in the Catalyst experiment.

A recent example is the filtered-out CA assessments where urgent action was needed to establish reliable assessment scores. The vCA community acted spontaneously to sense how stability could be restored. And their response turned the chaos back into the complex domain of governance. Where decentralized voting could now proceed.


In Cardano this is where many newcomers find themselves. It is the latent potential to move to a space where they can realize their contribution. Guiding stars such as Quasar sometimes appear to guide people on their journey.

Catalyst Parameters – Governance Process


Catalyst Community - all stateholders in Catalyst - ADA Holders & Voters, Community Advisors, Proposers, Funded Co-Ordinators, Toolmakers & Maintainers and Stakepool Operators.

IOG Catalyst Team - Harris Warren, Kriss Baird, Daniel Ribar & team.

Catalyst Circle - A sense making group comprising representatives from the Catalyst Community (see above), IOG and the Cardano Foundation.

Catalyst Technical Council - he Catalyst Technical Council will comprise of Dor Garbash, Kevin Hammond and Professor Roman Oliynykov . These experts will initially be appointed by IOG with the intention that, in time, they will be elected and establish a bicameral governance system with Catalyst Circle.

Current process draft

This is a brief overview of a proposed Governance process drafted by Harris Warren to handle changes to Catalyst Parameters.

The original presentation may be viewed here.

From left to right.

1) The IOG Catalyst Team sends out a feedback survey to the Catalyst Community.

2) The surveyed feedback is shared with Catalyst Circle

3) Catalyst Circle deliberates the feedback and shares any consequent parameter change proposal with the Catalyst Technical Council.

4) The Catalyst Technical Council reviews the proposal and performs research drawing on feedback from the Catalyst Community.

5) The Catalyst Technical Council proposes a change to a parameter and passes this on to Catalyst Circle.

6) Catalyst Circle deliberates the proposed parameter change and shares opinions with the Catalyst Community to assess how this aligns with the feedback survey.

7) Catalyst Circle and the Technical Council puts the proposed parameter change to a vote.

8) Depending on the vote outcome the parameter change is either recommended for change or not and the community is notified.

9) The parameter change is or is not implemented in the next fund round.

Some questions about the current draft

Domain mapping

So what Cynefin domains does the current draft process cover ?

The Obvious domain -

Feedback surveys are used to source data about Catalyst Parameter changes & is initiated only from the IOG Catalyst team.

The Complex domain

The Probe, Sense and Respond function of Circle & the Community (Complex domain) is pre-empted by the "best practice" of Sense, Categorize and Respond (Obvious domain).

The Complicated domain

The Technical Council performs its Analyze, Sense and Respond role (Complicated domain) through research into discrete solutions and research conclusions.


1) Sensing what the community wants and acting ?

How should the unstructured, complex domain of Catalyst Circle and the Community initiate their own sense making ?

2) No provision for community interaction – e.g. workshops

How can the unstructured, complex domain of Catalyst Circle and the Community organize workshops to engage participants in the process in a relational sense ?

3) Sensing whether parameter change works in practice

How can the unstructured, complex domain of Catalyst Circle and the Community continue to monitor parameter changes after they are implemented ?

4) Technical monitoring of parameter change

How can the structured, complicated domain of the Technical Council continue to monitor parameter changes after they are implemented ?


Complexity, citizen engagement in a Post-Social Media time

David Snowden | TEDxUniversityofNicosia

Miro Board


19:06:04 From Tevo Saks : Will try to take notes on Miro Board

19:07:29 From Johnny Nguyen : does that mean, the DCF would be more aligned to the top right?

19:19:22 From Stephen Whitenstall :

19:20:47 From Lucas Counter : can someone please resend the miro link

19:21:06 From Dan Verowski :

19:21:20 From Lucas Counter : thanksss

19:21:25 From Dan Verowski : Hi Lucas (:

19:21:43 From Lucas Counter : hi dan! ;)

19:26:05 From Allison Fromm : Tevo I love your note taking!! Very cool.

19:28:29 From Allison Fromm : Your = you’re (silly typo)

19:29:05 From Allison Fromm : Disregard - I am getting tired -I had it right the first time

19:29:46 From Simon Sallstrom : 1. How to get link to this miro board? 2. (came in late sorry) seems like there is use of sequential voting. I support, in line with some stuff written by political scientist Bo Rothstein, having two votes on these important decisions.

19:29:49 From Dan Verowski : all good! Tevo is deep on the Miro anyway ^

19:30:02 From Dan Verowski :

19:31:18 From Simon Sallstrom : Also, one thing to consider in light of the Governance day on the 12th at 17.00 UTC.. having one single live meeting for voting effectively excludes some parts of the world, e.g. Australia in this case

19:31:42 From Simon Sallstrom : That might be a bit off-topic though hehe

19:32:11 From Allison Fromm : Simon - there has been a lot of Circle discussion about expanding the process for just that reason

19:40:30 From Poptart Caviar : can someone drop a link to this in my direct discord?

19:40:49 From Dan Verowski : sure

19:41:30 From Poptart Caviar : Ty

19:43:32 From Vanessa Cardui : @SimonSallstrom - I found the last Circle meeting interesting about the discussions on what the CCv3 voting process will be - it's here

19:47:01 From Poptart Caviar : Pic ur governance in hardforq

19:56:12 From Poptart Caviar : How to get funding for a mirror qatalyst

19:56:43 From Vanessa Cardui : what, like a dark mirror... the evil twin of catalyst...

19:56:53 From Allison Fromm : lol

19:57:42 From Poptart Caviar : Like a QatalystForQ

19:58:24 From Allison Fromm : Your honour I believe that Stephen is leading the witness…. ;-)

19:58:31 From Poptart Caviar : Can catalyst have an evil twin..... Whldefines evil

19:59:01 From Poptart Caviar : Who defines evil....

19:59:13 From Stephen Whitenstall : Guilty

20:00:08 From Poptart Caviar : What about the 832K Ada paid to voters

20:00:18 From Dan Verowski : word, pop

20:02:23 From Vanessa Cardui : Is that how much it is? what, for voting?

20:03:47 From Allison Fromm : Dan I’m so glad you mentioned the Rapid Funding Challenge - I was thinking the same thing about experimentation

20:04:17 From Dan Verowski : right! we just need a small pool of funds (catalyst started with 25k!)

20:04:36 From Poptart Caviar : For voting. One whale, 5M, get 1800 Ada...... Or so. I'd have to check

20:04:51 From Dan Verowski : but Catalyst is not digital gold but an experiment meant to break

20:05:00 From Poptart Caviar : I know it's 832K total

20:05:23 From Poptart Caviar : Haven't we broke catalyst already

20:05:34 From Dan Verowski : or is it breaking people? xD

20:06:09 From Poptart Caviar : It's broken me many times

20:06:29 From Dan Verowski : BreadMan

20:06:30 From Vanessa Cardui : i think i was broken when catalyst got here, to be fair :-)

20:06:49 From Dan Verowski : fair point Vanessa ^^

20:07:09 From Poptart Caviar : Lol

20:09:17 From Allison Fromm : Oh man that is such a tough issue

20:09:35 From Allison Fromm : Speaking as former resident of a US city with a terrible school district

20:09:58 From Vanessa Cardui : In a way I agree with Johnny on "too much change could break it" - for me it's all about who has a voice in deciding about that change.

If that's not sorted (if underrepresented people remain underrepped in the change process), then maybe any change is too much?

20:13:57 From Kenric Nelson :

20:14:33 From Johnny Nguyen :

20:14:54 From Johnny Nguyen :

20:15:11 From Johnny Nguyen :

20:16:17 From Poptart Caviar : Can someone send those links to me.... I'm driving

20:17:28 From Peter Wolcott : I got you

20:17:36 From Allison Fromm : This is awesome!

20:17:42 From Vanessa Cardui : sent via Telegram, Quasar

20:19:15 From Stephen Whitenstall : Floridi

20:20:26 From Poptart Caviar : FloridADA

20:20:48 From Poptart Caviar : should intro Josh and gingr

20:21:18 From Stephen Whitenstall :

20:22:05 From Melanie -Cardano4Climate : Anyone get split between rooms?

20:23:45 From Johnny Nguyen : it's interdisciplinary...

20:23:51 From Johnny Nguyen : we also need librarians

20:24:10 From Johnny Nguyen : curating knowledge... ontologies, taxonomies, metadata.

20:24:24 From Vanessa Cardui : hmmm - we need archivists and recordkeepers Johnny, I think - not librarians :-)

20:24:32 From Vanessa Cardui : they're different

20:24:36 From Johnny Nguyen : we need all three.

20:25:00 From Vanessa Cardui : disagree, sorry

20:25:12 From Johnny Nguyen : and that's okay. :)

20:25:22 From Vanessa Cardui : yup - I know it is

20:26:16 From Vanessa Cardui : byeKenric

20:27:38 From Vanessa Cardui : Out of curiosity Johnny - why do ya think we need librarians? And what do you feel the difference is?

20:28:13 From Poptart Caviar : Thanks Johnny.... GINGR is doing a masters at Oxford as well and has a proposal

20:28:24 From Allison Fromm : How did we go from Oxford academics to Pintrist?! I love Catalyst!!! ♥️

20:28:40 From Poptart Caviar : Mannnnnn, I almost got my degree in MLIS

20:29:28 From Poptart Caviar : Hahaha, imma protaxonomy fan as well

20:30:17 From Vanessa Cardui : Librarians essentially help people discover information. But for a distributed community, if we don't make our archives and taxonomies discoverable by people themselves, then we are sunk. 20:30:36 From Vanessa Cardui : bye Alliosn

20:30:37 From Johnny Nguyen : but librarians are so helpful! 20:31:50 From Dan Verowski : good governance if voting is unnecessary

20:32:15 From Stephen Whitenstall : For me it is the expression of meaning

20:35:39 From Peter Wolcott : Civilization is the distance that man has between himself and his functions

20:40:21 From Peter Wolcott : concrete

20:47:03 From Peter Wolcott : Everything is born and dies on this planet - except these structures, why - what the fuck is “too big to fail” - the bigger you get irl, the faster you die

20:47:21 From Johnny Nguyen : Unless you're a great redwood tree :)

20:47:45 From Peter Wolcott : thats true there are trees that last a really long time - good point

20:48:08 From Tevo Saks : TO me listening group and Education proposals and onboarding experiments are the "urban planning" of Catalyst

21:04:24 From Peter Wolcott : maybe relevant threads

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