The Role of White Papers in the Governance of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations

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The informational content of white papers is traditionally of interest to investors and stakeholders. While whitepapers’ utility in outlining the technical specifications of investment proposals are well documented, their role in defining governance structures and shaping accountability measures in DAOs is rarely attempted. Thus, there is less agreement on the extent to which they are effective in promoting good governance practices. This thesis addresses that gap by examining 154 DAO white papers by combining qualitative research methods like the PRISMA protocol and sentiment analysis. This has led to a nuanced understanding of complex themes such as governance in DAOs in a multi-theoretic framework. Positive sentiments towards voting and proposals emerged as critical under the Principal-Agent theory, manifested through encouraging stakeholder engagement and explicitly outlining accountability procedures. Further links are found between the clarity of governance structures in white papers and the degree of alignment between principles and practices within DAOs. The evolution of DAO white papers from 2017 to 2023 highlights the increasing weight placed on transparent and enforceable dispute resolution mechanisms for aligning governance practices with white paper principles. By filling gaps in the limited literature on DAO governance, this thesis further contributes by identifying areas ripe for theoretical and empirical exploration while proposing the intricate task of reconciling democratic ideals with pragmatic governance in DAOs as a topic in need of urgent exploration.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen