What is the NEAR Foundation?
NEAR Foundation (NF) is a Switzerland-based nonprofit foundation (Stiftung) whose mission is to enable community driven innovation to benefit people around the world. One of its core areas of focus is the NEAR ecosystem, which includes a fully operational decentralised blockchain-based platform for building decentralized applications.
NF carries out its mission primarily through the allocation of support and resources to other nodes in the NEAR ecosystem, rather than via direct intervention or operations. Unlike many organizations of its type, NF’s ultimate goal is to minimize its own scope and footprint by continuing to devolve functions and resources to the ecosystem; and support the development of decentralised infrastructure necessary for those ecosystem functions to operate in a self-sufficient manner.
The NEAR Foundation Council (NFC) is the governing body of NF (similar to a board of directors) which is responsible for ultimate control and oversight of NF and taking significant decisions for the organisation. The NFC is separate from NF’s executive team, which is empowered by the NFC to manage NF’s day-to-day operations and reports back to the NFC (and seeks NFC approval where necessary for significant decisions).
What is a Stiftung?
The Swiss “Stiftung” (German for “foundation”) structure, which the NEAR Foundation uses, is shared by some of the highest profile projects like Ethereum and Polkadot.
This structure is neither flexible nor simple to operate because there is very strict regulatory oversight within the highly regulated Swiss jurisdiction. Stiftungs are legally bound to pursue their Purpose and funds that have been given to them cannot be removed for any reason except the fulfillment of that Purpose.
Mona El Isa
As one of the larger nodes supporting the on-going growth and development of a decentralized ecosystem, NF’s function is unique (relative to organizations of comparable scale like for-profit corporations) and this is reflected in its activities where it limits itself to indirect support and intervention. The primary lever that NF has at its disposal to deliver on its mandate is the financial resources in its treasury (fiat and digital asset holdings).
Its operations are thus designed to be lightweight and directed primarily to the following activities:
Allocation of financial resources
Ensure financial resources are properly allocated and distributed throughout the ecosystem.
Support ecosystem functions
Ensure that ecosystem-level functions which might not yet have an ecosystem steward are appropriately supported (for example ecosystem-wide communication and coordination amongst ecosystem participants, development of governance infrastructure, and broadly scoped education efforts).
Support the continuing development of and (where relevant) devolution of functions and operations to the ecosystem.
Because the NEAR network is decentralized, NF does not (and in any case could not) control or directly intervene in the operation of the network.
Given the nature of its role, NF (and the NFC) deal with governance considerations at two different levels/scales:
- Internal governance considerations in respect of NF itself and its core activities (similar in nature to governance in other corporate/non-profit contexts).Because the NEAR network is decentralized, NF does not (and in any case could not) control or directly intervene in the operation of the network.
- External governance considerations in respect of the NEAR ecosystem writ large as it continues on its path to decentralisation. These ecosystem governance considerations, given the scale and number of stakeholders involved, are an order of magnitude more complex than typical corporation/nonprofit internal governance considerations.