Governance challenges of blockchain and decentralized autonomous organizations

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The rise of blockchain has resulted in discussions on (new) governance models with multiple actors collaborating. Incidents and problems occurred due to flaws in blockchain protocols, smart contracts and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs). Often it is unclear how decisions are made concerning evolvement of blockchain applications. In this paper, we identify and analyze potential challenges regarding governance of blockchain initiatives in various types of decentralized networks using literature and case study research. The governance challenges are classified based on a framework consisting
of different layers (infrastructure, application, company and institution/country) and stages (design, operate, evolve/crisis). The results show that in various stages and layers, different challenges occur. Furthermore, blockchain applications governance and blockchain infrastructure governance were found to be entangled adding to the challenge. Our research shows a specific need
for further research into governance models for DAO applications on permissionless blockchains, linked to the products and services offered whereas in permissioned blockchains and other type of applications, existing governance models might often be feasible. For developing new governance models, we recommend learning from the lessons from the open source community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-417
Number of pages21
JournalInformation Polity
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Blockchain
  • Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO)
  • Governance
  • IT governance
  • Permissionless
  • Smart contracts

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