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Become a Project Catalyst Proposer - Part II: Anatomy of a Proposal

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So you want to participate in Cardano by participating in Project Catalyst. You've read through the challenge Campaigns for the current funding round, and have identified where your ideas and skills may be of use. (If not, please review Part I of this series: "Becoming a Project Catalyst Proposer - Part I: The Right Challenge for You") The next step is to write a proposal that will win enough votes to secure funding for your project! Please note - having a great idea is not enough. The worldwide community of Cardano voters don't know you personally. They have no way of knowing if you can organize your way out of a paper bag, much less build the next amazing DApp. Your proposal needs to demonstrate your aptitude for organization, planning and execution of a potentially complex project. Here are some guidelines that will make your proposal the best it can be.

First, it’s helpful to understand that you have two audiences for your proposal. The biggest audience, as you know, is the voters. The other, and just as important, is the Community Advisors (CAs), who will review and rate your project before voting begins. These ratings have a huge impact on voting results - most voters won’t read into the details of each of the hundreds of proposals in each round. Instead, they will trust the CA ratings to a large extent, and vote for the top-rated proposals. As a proposer, you should know the criteria that CAs will use to rate your Proposal:

Impact: To evaluate impact, CAs need to see that your proposal effectively addresses the problems and goals set forth in the campaign it falls under. They will be checking that there is a specific problem defined, and that you are proposing a real solution to that problem. CAs will be favorably influenced if your solution addresses both the short-term need, and the need to scale and sustain for the future.

Feasibility: To evaluate feasibility, CAs need to understand the experience and expertise of your team. A great idea is only as good as your ability to deliver on it. Feasibility also includes an evaluation of your budget and timeline; you should demonstrate a realistic understanding of the time and money you will need to deliver a quality result.

Auditability: To evaluate auditability, CAs need to see measurable milestones and results in your plan. Winning proposals are not handed a fat purse and a farewell wave: funded proposers are accountable to the community to deliver what they have promised, based on clear timelines and deliverables. CAs will be looking for these to be clearly outlined in your plan.

CA reviewers are audited by “Veteran” CAs, and you will also have a chance to flag any review on your proposal that seems out of line. Nevertheless, your best bet is to impress your CA reviewers the first time around by speaking clearly to their review criteria.

Anatomy of a Proposal

There is not a single right way to write or organize your proposal. If you address the Challenge problem, demonstrate your ability to do the work, and define measurable deliverables or outcomes, that’s all there is to it! Another thing to note is that the “Form” and Structure that Project Catalyst provides for proposals may change over time. We just experienced a significant change in the form between Fund 7 and Fund 8; the driver of this change is encouraging proposers to submit more complete content, by making the form more clear. These iterations will continue as the project evolves.

The tips here reflect some specifics of the current round, but the focus is on principles that will likely help you with both current and future versions!

Short answer fields: First, there are some short text fields you will be required to fill out: Proposal Title, Problem Statement, Solution Description, and Relevant Experience. Two things that are important to know about these: They have strict character limits: 35 characters for the title, and 140 characters for the Problem & Solution, and 240 characters for Experience descriptions. These short entries are the ONLY thing that voters will see in the voting app. Of course they may log into Ideascale (or our Project Catalyst research page! -Link Below-) to read the full proposal - but many will not. So these brief headlines need to be clear and compelling - choose your characters wisely!

Detailed Plan: This is where you get to lay out your idea, and impress those CAs with your great plan for Impact, Feasibility, and Auditability. Start with a clear, compelling overview of your idea. Many Cardano projects are technical in nature - if that describes yours, you should speak to both technical and non-technical readers: Someone with your same level of technical skill should be able to see that you’ve got the chops to do the job. At the same time, a non-technical person should be able to understand conceptually what the problem is, and how you propose to solve it.

As mentioned above, the exact structure of the Form may vary between Funds, and even between Campaigns within a Fund! You will need to follow the specific structure of the form in your Campaign, but these are the elements you may look to include. Some of these are not strictly required, and if it does not apply in your case, simply omit. However, most proposals will be stronger when they include most of these elements:

Challenge Metrics: You should carefully read the Campaign Brief for the challenge you are submitting to, and the Key Metrics listed there. Your idea should directly address one or more of the goals laid out in the brief. Use this section to name the challenge metrics your proposal will address. You may even quote them to make it very clear: no need to make CAs and voters “Figure out” what problems you are solving - be explicit! Then describe how your proposal addresses each metric that is relevant.

About the Team: Describe yourself and your collaborators; relevant experience is the most important, but a personal element is ok too. Include links to your LinkedIn profiles, Twitter handles, GitHub page, Discord Channel, or other relevant social media or webpages. Participants in Project Catalyst should not expect anonymity or privacy in the process. Before the community gives you money, they will want to know who you are, where to find you, and how they can reach you with questions, follow ups, and collaboration requests. Including this information up front will strengthen your proposal.

Motivation & Values: Some people have never thought about the specific area that you are so passionate about. If you take a moment to describe why you think it’s important, they might decide they are interested too, and vote or rate in your favor!

How Big is the Market: A great idea is only as good as it’s ultimate potential impact in the world. Who are the end users, or the ultimate audience of your product or service? Is that audience especially large, or especially important? Define that audience. Explain how your proposal will reach them. Tell us how your work will help or affect that audience.

Budget: you will name your total requested amount in a separate number field, but your plan should include a detailed budget. Line items with dollar amounts and descriptions will help voters understand that your plan includes everything, and that the request amount is reasonable.

Definition of Success: When CAs rate your proposal for Auditability, they will be looking for measurable results. Define what “Done” looks like, including numbers in any way that makes sense. This is how the community will know that you did what you said, and it may also help you to know when you have crossed the finish line.

Roadmap: Defining the end point is important, but Rome wasn’t built in a day! In terms of auditability, the community wants to see that you know HOW to get to the finish line, and that your timeline makes sense. A good format here is to define goals and deliverables for 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months out. (You may adjust these time frames as needed to fit your project.)

Optional Fields: There is a field to enter your Website or GitHub URL, and there is also the option to attach additional links or images. These are optional and should only be included if they are relevant. However any websites, visual aids, or other resources that help CAs and voters understand your idea, your plan, or your experience will strengthen your proposal.

The opportunity we all have with Project Catalyst to participate in building and working together is really exciting. As you seek to engage with the experiment, remember that we are ultimately all in it together, and we will all succeed when we all succeed. We encourage you to reach out to friends and community members for advice and feedback - for help developing your idea, writing your proposal, or assembling a team. We think you will be encouraged by the positive and productive conversations and relationships that come as a result.

Related Links

  • Project Catalyst – the first winning proposals iog blog

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