april 22, 2021
Updates to the Stacks Grants Program & Policies, Part I
In Q1, we began the transition out of the Stacks Grants Beta Program. In addition to funding larger projects, we worked closely with grantees to learn how we could improve the Stacks Grants experience for existing and future applicants. Thanks to your cooperation and feedback over various 1:1 calls, roundtables, and webinars, we were able to make several improvements to the Stacks Grants Program. This post will break down our progress thus far, as well as provide updated policies and processes designed to make the Grants experience as fair and as seamless as possible.
Expansion of Grants Team and Mentorship

In late March, the Grants Review Committee added two new members: Alex Graebe (Product Lead, Developer Experience at Hiro Systems PBC) and Marvin Janssen (Co-founder of Ryder, current Stacks grantee, and now a Full Stack Engineer at the Stacks Foundation). Alex and Marvin have quickly become invaluable members of the review committee, providing unique perspective regarding the needs and experiences of Stacks developers. Their presence on the committee has also made it possible for us to host weekly office hours that applicants and grantees can jump on to ask both technical and non-technical support questions.

For those looking to scale their grants into successful businesses, the Stacks Foundation recently announced that it is supporting the Stacks Accelerator led by Trevor Owens, an intensive, mentorship-driven program investing in teams dedicated to building on Stacks. Not only does the accelerator program bring more talent and expertise to the ecosystem, it also provides another path forward for grantees interested in taking their projects to the next level.
Updated Policies for Grant Eligibility

We're excited to have Alex and Marvin join the review committee and Trevor and the Accelerator team join our ecosystem of builders. The expansion of our Grants team and resources means more support for the Stacks community overall. That being said, we understand that as more folks from across the ecosystem get involved with the Grants Program, the participation of community members like Marvin, who is both a grantee and now part of the Stacks Foundation team, may raise some questions regarding conflicting interests. We believe it's important to address these concerns and openly share our policies around grant eligibility with the community. We address these points below:
Can Stacks Foundation employees apply for grants?

  • We are open to grants from employees of the Stacks Foundation. However, the delineation of work should be clear: the grant must fall completely outside of the scope of one's work within the Foundation.
  • Employees should first see if they can spend or are already spending their time on the grant as part of their role. If this is not the case, then the project can be done in their spare time, and is thus eligible for a grant.

Stacks Foundation employees may apply for Stacks grants, but their grants must go toward projects that are not already covered in their day-to-day work for the Foundation. This policy is important in ensuring that funding is not going toward work for which employees are already compensated. To determine this, Foundation employees must discuss their grants with their managers to make sure that the subject matter of their projects fall outside the scope of their work.

At the Stacks Foundation, we encourage employees to pursue passion projects and want to support as many projects that add value to the Stacks ecosystem as possible. Despite this, grant applicants should not feel that Foundation employees are competing with or have an unfair advantage over other community members. The Grants team is committed to providing fair and equal opportunities to all grant applicants. We rely heavily on objective criteria when reviewing proposals, which we cover in detail below.
Can Grant Review Committee members receive grants?

  • Existing committee members may apply for grants, but they may not be present during the grant committee's discussion/review regarding their proposals and they may not participate in voting on their grant proposal.
  • Also, previous grant recipients are not precluded from joining the grants committee in the future, should the committee grow.
How do we assess grants?

  • To practice discipline and objectivity, we moved towards a rubric-based decision-making process that mirrors the qualification requirements shared on our website.
  • Currently, we assess the extent to which a grant achieves each of the criteria we have laid out:
  1. Community growth / potential to reach new people
  2. Makes participation in the Stacks ecosystem easier / more accessible
  3. Demonstrates the technical / mission-oriented possibilities of Stacks
  4. Feasibility based on where the Stacks protocol is; appropriateness of amount requested

Everyone on the committee reviews each grant proposal and assesses them according to the criteria above. We assign colors based on how well they meet each of the criteria (Red = Not At All, Yellow = Somewhat, Green = Strongly Agree) and share comments and feedback to drive discussion. If there are any doubts from the community about our good-faith on this, we would be happy to publish our anonymized rankings and comments for grant applications moving forward.
Are Stacks Foundation employees allowed to join the Stacks Accelerator?

  • At this time, full time employees of the Stacks Foundation are not permitted to participate in the Stacks accelerator.
What's Next for Stacks Grants

  • Grants paid out in STX
  • Upgraded application UX
  • More application support
  • Regular grantee mixers

Over the next few weeks, we will continue to share progress and improvements made to the Stacks Grants Program. Perhaps the most important update to be aware of is the Grants Program's transition from paying grants in USD to paying grants in STX. Currently, we're working on a process that should make STX payments simple and seamless for grantees. We'll be sharing resources to help onboard existing and future grantees for this soon. This is an exciting change that will only further fuel projects built on Stacks and we can't wait to get started.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding our policies, or suggestions for the Grants Program in general, feel free to share them in the Stacks Grants Discord channel or during our weekly office hours. Thanks again to our the Stacks Grants community for all your support so far—stay tuned for more updates soon!

Jenny Mith leads ecosystem development for Stacks, focusing specifically on facilitating community programs, growing the Stacks Grants Program, and developing governance for the Stacks ecosytem.

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