not approved
Evaluating Democratic Pluralism Security via Catalyst Testnet
Current Project Status

Complete Catalyst testnet experiments evaluating the security of a range of voting methods from corporate, pluralism, and democracy. Communicate results with scientific presentations and publications.


Catalyst has no means to improve the decentralized security of its decision-making process. A lack of flexibility prevents plural to democratic voting. Sybil resistance is the bottleneck requirement.

Impact / Alignment
Value for money
Evaluating Democratic Pluralism Security via Catalyst Testnet

Please describe your proposed solution.

How we perceive the problem we are solving

In November 2022 the Voltaire era of Cardano was initiated with the submission of CIP-1694. A Tripartite system of governance was proposed between a Constitutional Committee, Delegated Representatives and Stake Pool Operators.

Subsequently, as part of a wide ranging process of consultation and feedback, Photrek and QA-DAO produced a paper “CIP-1694: Can Decentralized Communities make Superior Decisions” which highlighted four quadrants of threats to decentralized communities. The most significant vulnerability for Cardano was identified to be its dependence on corporate-style voting of one-coin one-vote (1c1v). This is a threat to decentralization because with widely held coins and a power-law distribution of wealth only 10%-20% of the coins are necessary to establish a near dictatorship of decision-making influence.

Fortunately for the Cardano Community, the Catalyst program has funded Snapbrillia to develop Plural Voting (F8) and Sybil Resistance methods (F9).

The Catalyst program has provided leadership in the experiment of decentralized governance. As Cardano transitions to Voltaire, Catalyst must stay at the fore-front of improving the ability of the Cardano Community to evolve a healthy ecosystem. Implementing Plural Voting and determining the requirements for Democratic Voting is a critical component of Catalyst System Improvements.

Our solution

Photrek in partnership with QA-DAO & Snapbrillia intends to deliver a prototype secure system for voting based on the principle of democratic pluralism. Democratic in that, participants in the Cardano community have a reasonable expectation to be treated equally and fairly. Plural in that, individuals with significant ADA holdings have the ability to use those holdings to express strong opinions at fair price for influence. This will comprise a testnet design and experiment together with a research paper on security systems for a flexible voting system that can adjust between corporate (current Catalyst), plural (quadratic), and democratic voting. Our solution will include non-identity and decentralized identity security systems.

The reasons for our approach

A community developed test net solution will demonstrate the maturity of the Cardano ecosystem and the capability of its stakeholders.

Who we will engage with our solution

Our solution is in the spirit of Catalyst experimentation and includes a broad collaborative effort across a range of skill sets. This includes Photrek (technical theory and design), Snapbrilla (test net development) and QADAO (extensive documentation and tracking). More broadly we are engaging with experienced contributors such as Wolfram and other community members who wish to participate.

How does your proposed solution address the challenge and what benefits will this bring to the Cardano ecosystem?

The Photrek proposal team aims to address this Challenge by demonstrating improvements in the following areas -

1) Engineering of decentralization and/or distribution of decision-making advances for the Catalyst Voting System

We will engineer an approach that provides a full range of voting approaches. This will be achieved by setting the votes for a wallet to ADAx, where the power x is 0 for democracy (1 wallet 1 vote), ½ for pluralism or quadratic voting, and 1 for corporate or the current Catalyst approach. Furthermore, research will be completed to determine the requirements for the Plural Voting to facilitate a voters ability to express degrees of preference rather than simply yes or no. The engineering design will focus on the Sybil resistance needed to enable non-plutocratic voting.

2) Systemic improvements (Technical or Procedural) that streamline or otherwise enhance Project Catalyst processes.

We aim to systematically improve the security of Catalyst voting by designing a suite of approaches to Sybil resistance. Whilst there is no silver bullet to governance security and cybersecurity we believe a layered defence can provide assurance that democratic plural elections can be held securely and safely.

3) Academic research that clearly defines a known Catalyst-specific problem-space

We intend to submit an academic paper to a peer reviewed journal that clearly defines a known Catalyst specific problem space.

The Photrek team has led research projects for the Catalyst community for two-years. We will now bring those efforts together with QA-DAO and Snapbrillia to consolidate an academic understanding of the insecurity of corporate voting and the Sybil resistance methods necessary for plural and democratic voting. Technological Forecasting and Social Change has been identified as a candidate journal for the submission.

4) Community assent to promote a previously completed Catalyst System Improvement project

Photrek intends to achieve community assent by submitting follow-on proposals that will support the transition to pre-production testing and production implementation.. The goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of implementing Plural Voting and to assess the security requirements for Democratic Voting.

How do you intend to measure the success of your project?

We intend to measure the impact on Cardano’s productivity and growth by widening the franchise of meaningful voting in Catalyst. This will be done via the following quantitative and qualitative metrics:

  1. Use the Banzhaf Power index to provide accessible metrics of the distribution of influence in the Cardano Community; [Metric = distribution of influence];;
  2. Document conversations with the community to understand the significance of democratic principles and how that translates into voting design; [Metric = qualitative documentation];
  3. Leverage the Banzhof Voting Power and the principles of Pluralism to provide a determination of qualitative and quantitative measures of the price of influence; [Metric = determination of qualitative and quantitative measures of the price of influence];
  4. Utilize the cost of influence to evaluate the security of different voting solutions; in other words, is their a common metric to evaluate the difference between 1c1v and Sybil attack other voting methods?; [Metric = cost of influence as proxy for security];
  5. Provide an assessment of which security measures (non-identity and identity) provide the highest cost on influence for the lowest development cost; [Metric = assessment of security measure cost / benefit];
  6. Gather feedback on these metrics from reviews of our presentations and publications. [Metric = Qualitative documentation].

Please describe your plans to share the outputs and results of your project?

Our outputs and results will be captured using the Open Source solution of capturing high level deliverables as issues on a GitHub project board. (See this example of the SingularityNet Archive Working Group project board here - <> ). A public board will allow for full transparency and accountability as the project progresses. As well providing a means of referencing specific milestone deliverables.

Quantitative measurements -

Quantitative outputs for all the following milestones will be captured in the first instance in each deliverable issue (on our Project Management GitHub repository). This information will then be refined for presentation in our Project’s GitBook (mirrored to a backend repository). This will provide ease of access to the outputs and results of our project in a digestible format.

We intend to measure the success of our project by recording the following outputs and results (for further detail on outputs see the [CAPABILITY/ FEASIBILITY] “Please describe the deliverables, outputs and intended outcomes of each milestone” section below ).

A - Engineering Milestones

1 - Non-identity Sybil Resistance Design => GitHub repository [code] / or Whitepaper / project Issue / GitBook presentation

2 - Identity Sybil Resistance Design => GitHub repository [code] / or Whitepaper / project Issue / GitBook presentation

B - System Improvement Milestones

3 - Testnet code developed => GitHub repository [code] / project Issue / GitBook presentation

4 - Testnet experiments completed => GitHub repository [data] / project Issue / GitBook presentation

C - Research Paper & Close Out Milestone

1 - Research paper drafted, reviewed and completed => GitHub Issue / Research paper / GitBook presentation

2 - Research paper submitted to journal => Research paper

3 - Close-out report submitted => Close out report

Qualitative measurements -

  • Assessed by community review and engagement with our test net results and research paper. Significant milestones will be shared with the community at After Town Halls where community feedback will be sought and documented.
  • We may also monitor informal community discussion in relation to this project in channels such as Discord, Telegram and Twitter.

What is your capability to deliver your project with high levels of trust and accountability?

Photrek has put an exceptional team together of collaborators who have delivered high value for two years on Cardano Catalyst projects. The Principal Investigator, Kenric Nelson, initiated scientific research on voting power in Fund 6. During F7 he served on Circle v2 with QA-DAO co-founder Steven Whitenstall. Whitenstall and his co-founder Venessa Cardui have strengthened the Catalyst community through their work leading Community Governance Oversight projects. Ninh Tran, co-founder of Snapbrillia, raised the bar in writing exceptional proposals and executing on high-value projects starting in F8 with their Plural Voting project.

The Photrek team will bring a depth of research experience and technical leadership insights to spearhead the effort. QA-DAO will ensure the highest quality deliverables. Snapbrillia will bring impeccable execution on software development. Additionally, Eystein Hansen is a well-respected SPO and infrastructure developer, and Stephen Macurdy leads the Wolfram Blockchain Labs.

What are the main goals for the project and how will you validate if your approach is feasible?

The main goals for this project are to evaluate the security of non-corporate style voting methods using non-identity and identity Sybil Resistance.

We will achieve measurable results through a staged process that encompasses research, design, development and testing. The key metrics to validate the results will be the cost of influence and the distribution of influence.

Please provide a detailed breakdown of your project’s milestones and each of the main tasks or activities to reach the milestone plus the expected timeline for the delivery.


This project will be implemented and managed from monthly meetings where milestone status will be decided. Each meeting will be recorded and/or documented to track the progress of the project.

The project implementation plan is as follows -

A - Engineering Milestones

1 - Non-identity Sybil Resistance Design

  • Main tasks and key activities - Engineer a non-identity Sybil Resistance design
  • Success or acceptance criteria - A successful solution for Sybil resistance to enable non-plutocratic voting.
  • Proposed cost - ₳ 89,964
  • Expected timeline October 2023

2 - Decentralised Identity Sybil Resistance Design

  • Main tasks and key activities - Engineer a decentralised Identity Sybil Resistance Design
  • Success or acceptance criteria - A successful solution for Sybil resistance that improves a metric of fair price on influence
  • Proposed cost - ₳ 89,964
  • Expected timeline November 30, 2023

B - System Improvement Milestones

3 - Testnet code developed

  • Main tasks and key activities - Develop Testnet code
  • Success or acceptance criteria - Successful delivery of Testnet code
  • Proposed cost - ₳85,746
  • Expected timeline January 2024

4 - Testnet experiments completed

  • Main tasks and key activities - Conduct Testnet experiments
  • Success or acceptance criteria - Successful completion of Testnet experiments
  • Proposed cost - ₳85,746
  • Expected timeline February 2024

C - Research Paper & Close Out Milestone

5a - Research paper drafted, reviewed and completed

  • Main tasks and key activities - Draft research paper. Identify likely journals for submission. Review paper and sign-off.
  • Success or acceptance criteria - A completed research paper.
  • Proposed cost - see 5b
  • Expected timeline February 2024

5b - Research paper submitted to journal

  • Main tasks and key activities - Submission of complete research paper to journal
  • Success or acceptance criteria - A successful submission
  • Proposed cost - ₳ 91,729
  • Expected timeline March 2024

3 - Close-out report submitted

  • Main tasks and key activities - Submit close out report
  • Success or acceptance criteria - IOG acceptance
  • Proposed cost - ₳ 91,729
  • Expected timeline April 2024

Please describe the deliverables, outputs and intended outcomes of each milestone.

A - Engineering Milestones

1 - Non-identity Sybil Resistance Design - October 2023

  • Deliverables / outputs produced - Non-identity Sybil Resistance Design
  • Outcomes - Use of DRep deposits, voting correlations, and other contributions to incentivize resistance to wallet splitting
  • Documentation - The Non-identity Sybil Resistance Design will be documented and signed-off at the monthly project meeting.

2 - Identity Sybil Resistance Design - November 30, 2023

  • Deliverables / outputs produced - Identity Sybil Resistance Design
  • Outcomes - Use of Atala Prism to register DIDs; evaluation of status of validation within Cardano ecosystem and in other networks
  • Documentation - The Identity Sybil Resistance Design will be documented and signed-off at the monthly project meeting.

B - System Improvement Milestones

3 - Testnet code developed - January 2024

  • Deliverables / outputs produced - Testnet code developed
  • Outcomes - Ability to run a spectrum of voting methods on Catalyst testnet
  • Documentation - The Testnet code will be documented (in a repository) and signed-off at the monthly project meeting.

4 - Testnet experiments completed - February 2024

  • Deliverables / outputs produced - Testnet experiments completed
  • Outcomes - Evaluation of security vulnerabilities for executing democratic plural elections
  • Documentation - The Testnet experiments will be documented and signed-off at the monthly project meeting.

C - Research Paper & Close Out Milestone

5a - Research paper drafted, reviewed and completed - February 2024

  • Deliverables / outputs produced - Draft, review and sign-off research paper
  • Outcomes - Research paper draft that documents approaches to and threats to decentralized governance
  • Documentation - The Research paper will be drafted, reviewed and completed. And signed-off at the monthly project meeting.

5b - Research paper submitted to journal - March 2024

  • Deliverables / outputs produced - Research paper submitted to journal
  • Outcomes - First Cardano community led submission to a peer-review publication
  • Documentation - The Research paper .

6 - Close-out report submitted - April 2024

  • Deliverables / outputs produced - Video, presentation, and paper reports
  • Outcomes - Ability for Cardano community to review strengths, weaknesses, and security of Democratic Plural governance methods
  • Documentation - The Close-out report

Please provide a detailed budget breakdown of the proposed work and resources.

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Nelson will serve as the Principal Investigator and contribute to each portion of the project. The Photrek team members (Hess, Thistleton, & Juana) will work closely with Nelson and the partners to execute the project. Hess, as Photrek Communication Lead, will work with QA-DAO on the project reporting. Thistelton, as the scientist currently leading efforts on Community Contributions Scoring, will advance the R&D for secure voting. Attieh will focus on how to make the security solutions user friendly. Snapbrillia will oversee the Catalyst Testnet programming and the development of the security methods. QA-DAO will coordinate the research publication in collaboration with Nelson and Thistleton. Macurdy will volunteer as a co-author on the research paper.

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

Kenric Nelson, Principal Investigator, President of Photrek

Stephen Whitenstall, Project Oversight & Reporting, Co-founder of QA-DAO

Ninh Tran, Testnet Development Lead, CEO and Co-founder of Snapbrillia

Photrek Team Members: Megan Hess, Juana Attieh, William Thistleton

QA-DAO Team Members: Vanessa Cardui

Snapbrillia Team Members: Frank Albanese and 2 Rust Developers

SPO Infrastructure Development: Eystein Hansen

Wolfram Blockchain Lab: Stephen Macurdy

Dr. Kenric Nelson is Founder and President of Photrek, LLC which is developing novel approaches to Complex Decision Systems, including dynamics of cryptocurrency protocols, sensor systems for machine intelligence, robust machine learning methods, and novel estimation methods. He served on the Cardano Catalyst Circle governance council and is contributing to designs of decentralized governance. Prior to launching Photrek, Nelson was a Research Professor with Boston University Electrical & Computer Engineering (2014-2019) and Sr. Principal Systems Engineer with Raytheon Company (2007-2019). He has pioneered novel approaches to measuring and fusing information. His nonlinear statistical coupling methods have been used to improve the accuracy and robustness of radar signal processing, sensor fusion, and machine learning algorithms. His education in electrical engineering includes a B.S. degree Summa Cum Laude from Tulane University, a M.S. degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Ph.D. degree from Boston University. His management education includes an Executive Certificate from MIT Sloan and participation in NSF’s I-Corp program.

Stephen Whitenstall is the co-founder of Quality-Assurance DAO, <> , and has provided project management consultancy for many Catalyst projects since Fund 4 including Catalyst Circle, Audit Circle, Community Governance Oversight, Training & Automation (with Treasury Guild), Governance Guild and Swarm. A Circle V2 representative for funded proposers. Also engaged in cross chain collaboration with SingularityNET managing an Archive project. He has 30 years experience in development, test management, project management, social enterprises in Investment Banking, Telecoms and Local Government. A philosophy honors graduate with an interest in Blockchain governance.

Role in this project is facilitating and documenting meetings, outputs over 6 months and scoping a research paper.

Ninh Tran is the CEO and Co-founder of Snapbrillia and Google alumni. Ninh brings his expertise in product management, business development, and startup execution. As UC Berkeley alumni, Ninh founded Trucksome to empower emerging local food economies to thrive and create jobs for the previously incarcerated. After joining Google, Ninh co-founded an executive search firm HireTeamMate placing hundreds in a year while building HireEZ (formerly Hiretual), an AI recruiting platform used by Google, Facebook, Amazon, and thousands of others, to hire millions of people every year. Reach Ninh anywhere: <>

Juana Attieh, a graduate of Management Engineering from the University of Waterloo, is the co-founder of FLUUS, a solution unlocking Instant Settlements for Emerging Markets. Alongside her role at FLUUS, Juana established LALKUL, a Cardano Stake Pool with a mission to integrate blockchain technology in the MENA region. Furthermore, as a co-founder of the Cardano MENA community, Juana is committed to fostering decentralized governance and contributing towards optimal solutions for self-organizing systems. With her work, Juana seeks to reimagine societies, unlock untapped potential, and provide inclusive opportunities to those who need them most.

Frank Albanese is the Chief Scientist and Co-founder at Snapbrillia and Y Combinator alumni. He is a Solidity, Rust, and Haskell researcher, Henry Ford Health System alum, and Co-founder of the Ucratic DAO, an organisation founded to accelerate the innovation of interoperable Open Metaverse tools, to allow anyone to design, mint, transport, and own virtual space and avatar across multiple Metaverse ecosystems like Cryptovoxels, The Sandbox, Dreams, and Decentraland. Ucratic DAO combined Three.js with web3.js and Hardhat to mint composable ERC-721 NFTs of 3D models in virtual spaces to Polygon and IPFS. With Ucratic, Frank also helped research ways to bring self-hosted virtual spaces to the Internet Computer and Dfinity canisters. Frank admires Gitcoin’s utility in the Web3 space and feels this architecture could thrive in Cardano’s ecosystem along with an eLearning and immutable, composable Practical Resume standard that serves as Proof of Reputation. Frank is also interested in the applicability of zero-knowledge proofs, and their potential role in Proof of Reputation and Proof of Identity solutions. Reach Frank on LinkedIn: <>

Eystein Hansen runs the staking pool Ada North Pool and has been a Cardano staking pool operator since the first incentivized testnet of Cardano as well as private testnets before this time and has been active in the community since the end of 2017. Eystein Has a master’s degree in Psychology as well as a master’s degree in Law both from the university of Tromsoe, Norway. Eystein’s passion in the Cardano ecosystem is governance and he has held, and attended multiple workshops and summits on the topic.

How does the cost of the project represent value for money for the Cardano ecosystem?

Photrek is a Massachusetts, USA Limited Liability Company. The owner (Kenric Nelson) and the contracting staff are paid rates reflective of the professional services they directly contribute to projects. For the Catalyst F10 projects, the staff will be paid a small premium to compensate for the currency risk associated with being paid in ADA approximately 9 months from now. The direct costs include funding to pay for an open peer-reviewed publication. The indirect charges are based on guidance from the US government. These include general & administrative, management reserve for unplanned requirements, and a fee to support investment in development of the Photrek team.

The rates used for the project are based on the low end of US and European averages for scientific, engineering, and managerial staff. The amounts are calculated for each milestone based on the hours to complete. For example the chart for engineering and scientific salaries in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is provided here:

For the Evaluating Democratic Pluralism Security via Catalyst Testnet project in addition to the named individuals, Snapbrillia will employ 2 Rust software developers for the testnet experiments. The total level of effort of the project is estimated to be slightly more than 6 person-months.



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