Lead Like A Gardener Part 2:
Events and the Stacks Foundation
  • Shannon Voight
    Event Strategy Lead
  • Mitchell Cuevas
    Director, Activation
This post is part of a series dedicated to articulating the strategies and working models leveraged by the Stacks Foundation as we continue to serve and steward the Stacks ecosystem. The series will provide the latest plain language breakdowns of our focus areas and the rationale behind how we prioritize and execute.
By now, you hopefully have read about our overall approach to our work here at the Stacks Foundation in the first post of this series. If not, you can jump into it here. This post will provide a closer look at how we approach events, a key building block of community, and a key function we support within the Stacks Ecosystem.

Here’s what we’d love for you to walk away with (and the TL;DR takeaway if you don’t make it through the rest of the post):

What we want you to leave with

The TL;DR Takeaway

A better understanding of our overall approach to events
We carefully choose events based on a number of factors and probable outcomes, as well as resource alignment requirements.
An understanding of why the Stacks Foundation is uniquely suited to assist builders and entities with events (and why you may want to remember to give us a shout when you’re planning something)
We often don’t have the same needs or restrictions related to our own brand, so we’re able to elevate and amplify other brands and builders nearly by default. Due to our structure and network, we can also often enable events that would likely be impossible or very difficult for builders to participate in and benefit from were they go at it on their own.
Further context for where you don’t see the Stacks Foundation when it comes to events
We can’t be everywhere, but you may be surprised to find out we supported an event you thought we didn’t - when we sponsor or produce on average several hundred events annually. Again, thanks to our unique position, we have a nearly endless array of ways we can support and enable events—sometimes that means our participation isn’t all that obvious, and it could be by design.
Our unique position
Being that we’re an NPO with a mission to serve Bitcoin builders, we’re in the unique position of not needing to push our own brand (Stacks Foundation) very often. This is helpful for us in a number of ways, but in particular with events where it affords us a great deal of flexibility when trying to find the best ways to feature Stacks as a whole and the ecosystem’s many amazing builders.
Event planning values and approach
We identify and research
Before anything begins, we compile a list of over 400+ events, hackathons, conferences, etc. from across the industry as a starting point each year, a list we refresh monthly to quarterly with new additions. We vet each event's criteria, from audience development, partners, speakers, speaking opportunities, workshops, event mission to activation opportunities, etc., and determine if it aligns with the Stacks Foundation’s goals.

Questions that are commonly asked in this process: Is the event reaching Builders, Investors, Developers, Founders, etc.; Is there a specific interest with the event: DeFi, NFTs, Building, Governance, etc.; How many attendees does the event attract?; Will attendees be receptive to learning about ‘Building on Bitcoin’ and if so, with Stacks? Does the event align with the Stacks Community Code of Conduct (to name a few). If it's in alignment and our own estimations based on the data shared with us and our own research indicate a great ROI, we work quickly to secure the opportunity before beginning to surface collaboration opportunities throughout the ecosystem. From there, all confirmed events are included in the Stacks Community calendar and shared via all the applicable social and written channels to create further awareness within the community.
We amplify and elevate
When it comes to events, we’re the last to eat, so to speak. We default to featuring other entities, their people, their brands, and the overall Stacks brand that unites us all. When strategic, we use the Stacks Foundation brand but again, generally prioritize the visibility of other builders or simply the ‘Stacks’ brand. Events can be huge opportunities for teams and people, so we defer these opportunities to folks in the ecosystem whenever it makes sense and we put the channels we manage to work amplifying their presence.

We coordinate and facilitate
We see our primary function as guiding (and facilitating) teams and individuals with aligned goals, to events that may be helpful in meeting those goals. With different events, we take a varying degree of execution responsibility depending on the situation and the partners involved. In many cases, most of the work we do on events actually happens behind the scenes. For example, we often help with speaker and sponsor placements at events run by other builders by leveraging our network. We also provide introductions to venues, vendors, and a whole range of other event-related vendors to make life easier for those hosting events in and around the ecosystem.

In many cases, we make it possible for a team to have a presence at an event they couldn’t possibly have had on their own without a warm introduction which helps to foster a sense of belonging in the ecosystem. We’ve done this consistently by connecting the right series of sponsors, speakers, and resources to bring down barriers to entry for small but growing Stacks teams and place speakers from the community. A great recent example is NFT.NYC; you didn’t see the Stacks Foundation logo in a single place, yet we helped lead on coordination before, during and after every event that featured Stackers in some way.

We collaborate readily
Again, thanks to our unique position, we default to collaborating where others, or teams with specific products and applications, may have to compete. We have built relationships with leaders at other Bitcoin-focused projects and protocols because we always welcome a diversity of speakers. We strive to bring together people and ideas that aren’t simply part of a Stacks echo chamber and do so because we believe this keeps the quality of dialogue and information high, serving the community best and increasing the audience that can ultimately experience Stacks.

We welcome
We make it a point to ensure our events are welcoming to all. Of late, that’s included new efforts to be more welcoming specifically to Bitcoiners. And, while I’d say that being welcoming has long been a hallmark of the community (and something we consistently get positive feedback on from new members joining from other ecosystems), we have only recently had the bandwidth to stretch beyond to bring Bitcoiners into the fold with the activations we do.

It was important in the earlier days of the Stacks Foundation and in the progression of the community, to prioritize Stacks people and things first and foremost. And while that isn’t changing, we have an awesome opportunity with the buzz that Ordinals has helped catalyze, to show more Bitcoiners what Stacks is all about and be part of moving innovative Bitcoin culture forward. This means you’re likely to see us involved in events that are designed to give all Bitcoin builders and layers a seat at the table to learn and grow together. Moreover, at events like these, you may see different-looking branding (or more directly, a distinct lack of blurple plastered everywhere and maybe a bit more orange). This doesn’t mean Stacks isn’t being represented or isn’t important, it’s simply so that we can welcome a wider audience we believe should know about Bitcoin layers and Stacks.

We’re confident that if more people come to believe building on Bitcoin is a good idea, it won’t be long before they find Stacks. Further, we believe that because our community is so strong, new connections made at these events with newcomers will result in an impact far greater than any short-term effort we could drive by forcing the Stacks brand somewhere that doesn’t make sense or where it alienates others. There are times when pushing Stacks less actually helps Stacks more and we’re embracing that when it comes to certain events.
Where you don't see the Stacks Foundation
This is probably in a lot of places and the chances are high it was by design. As noted above, we most often parlay any visibility arranged for the event to a team, another entity, a partner, etc. But by now, I hope it's obvious that this doesn’t mean we weren’t involved or didn’t care about the event. It’s very possible we contributed in a less-than-obvious or visible way for a strategic reason.

As for other places we are not, it may simply be by choice. For every great event in the industry, there are 10 more with dubious ROI and we always endeavor to spend wisely and efficiently. As outlined above, we take an expansive look at the full industry slate of events each year and choose strategic ones where we plan to ensure an activation that features Stacks or Stacks teams in one way or another. We choose carefully and take community feedback into account for the bigger events, while also being opportunistic with partners and speaker opportunities along the way. Going back to our values, it’s very likely that we helped another team or representative take the lead representing Stacks, or we decided based on the event goals that a less Stacks-heavy approach would be better for all involved. For each event, it’s a case-by-case decision but we stick true to the values outlined above.
Where you come in
We’d always love to hear from you if you’d like to see Stacks somewhere you don’t. We can either fill you in on the decision we made about our own participation, offer to advise you if you’re interested in doing something of your own, or otherwise connect you to people and resources that may be helpful in your efforts. At the end of the day, we’re a relatively very small foundation team, and it's impossible (and not necessarily desirable) to push Stacks at every event. This is where you come in: reach out to us if you are thinking about an event in any capacity. This could be anything from sponsoring a hackathon, to planning your own conference, to securing a speaking slot for a teammate. Yes, even those events you think might be a long shot! We may be able to make the right connections, connect you with the perfect venue, or put in just the right ‘good word’ that brings it all together.

For the latest events, check out the Stacks events calendar.

If you have an event inquiry, please email [email protected].