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  • George Samuels

7 Community Management Lessons from Ancient Mongol Tribes

Past societies have a lot to teach us about building thriving communities. Whether you’re a solopreneur just starting out or a leader of a company looking to transform.

For example, nomadic tribes of the past (e.g. the Mongols) were highly focused on cooperation and sharing resources in order to survive in harsh environments. This spirit of collaboration is something that can be applied to today's online world, where we often face challenges that require us to work together in order to overcome them.

In a world that is increasingly interconnected, the ability to build strong online communities is more important than ever, especially in Web3. By learning from the past, we can create resilient and adaptable communities that can meet the challenges of the future.

Below are 7 ways the ancient Mongols used to organize their tribes, which can be applied to online communities today, including those found across blockchain, Web3, NFTs, and even DAOs.

1. The Great Khan

The leader of the Mongolian tribes was the Great Khan, who was responsible for organizing the tribes and keeping them together. The Great Khan was usually the most powerful and influential person in the community, and he or she had the final say in all decisions.

The “Great Khan” in Web3 communities could be compared to the CEO, project lead, community manager, or the person with the most social influence and power. This person is responsible for organizing the community and keeping everyone on the same page. The Great Khan is the one who makes the final decisions, and everyone else follows.

This may seem a bit at odds with the ethos of “decentralized” web3 communities. However, even in “decentralized” communities, some form of centralization is still necessary to prevent chaos and confusion. Because wherever humans are involved, centralized communications create a softer level of trust, which acts as supportive glue for all future decisions. Without this, you can see how many projects fail before they even have a chance to soar.

In 3 Ways to Deal with Web3’s Biggest Community Problems, stage one of the community maturity model involves using a hierarchical form of control at the beginning. This makes it easier to coordinate, plan, and set expectations. Then, over time, once the culture is set, you can ease up control. This is why the “Great Khan” role is necessary at that stage — because most humans require leadership. The problem with human societies has always been choosing the right leaders at the right time.

2. The Council of Elders

The second group in Mongolian tribes was the Council of Elders, or Kurultai (Mongolian: ᠬᠤᠷᠠᠯᠲᠠᠢ, Хуралдай, Khuraldai). This group was made up of the most experienced and respected members of the community, who advised the Great Khan on important decisions. The Elders were also responsible for dispensing justice and keeping the peace.

The Council of Elders in Web3 communities could be compared to the core team or the most experienced and respected members of the community (e.g. Ambassadors or Champions). This group advises the Great Khan on important decisions (e.g. user feedback), and they are also responsible for Dispute Resolution and keeping the peace (e.g. Community Moderators).

The Council of Elders is important because they provide a sounding board for the Great Khan, and they help to keep the community focused on its goals. They also help to diffuse tensions and conflicts, and they can provide valuable insights and perspectives that the Great Khan may not have considered. This is the equivalent of listening actively to your members.

3. The Clan System

The Mongolian tribes were organized into clans, which were groups of families who were related by blood. Each clan had its own leader, who was responsible for the welfare of the clan. The clans were very loyal to each other, and they would often cooperate in times of need.

The clan system in Mongolian tribes can be compared to DAO guilds in Web3 communities today. But instead of being related by blood, they are related by common interests or goals.

Each clan has its own leader, who is responsible for the welfare of the clan. And just like the Mongolian clans, DAO guilds can also be very loyal to each other and cooperate in times of need. Outside of Web3, think of these guilds as Worker Unions.

4. The Yurt

The yurt was the traditional dwelling of the Mongolian nomads. It was a portable home that could be easily assembled and disassembled. Right now, most Web3 communities adopt an agrarian style of online dwelling - fixed and owned by landlords (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, etc.).

With the attempts at more data decentralization, more and more users are opting for a digital nomad lifestyle. This means creating a “digital yurt” in the form of say a super wallet. Since blockchain-based projects are aiming to give users more ownership over their data, a “super wallet” could act like the equivalent of a Mongolian yurt. So whenever you decide to leave an environment (or a platform), you can pack up and take all your belongings with you.

In the future, this will mean communities won’t have to keep their belongings (data) in any one place (platform). They can take what they want when they want.

5. The Yassa Code

The Mongolian tribes were warrior societies, and they placed a great emphasis on honor and courage. There was a strict code of conduct (e.g. Yassa) that all members of the community were expected to follow. Those who broke the code were punished severely.

The equivalent of this code in modern online communities can be found in more generic “Code of Conduct” guidelines. The main difference is that these guidelines are just that, guidelines. Whereas in ancient societies, these codes would be taken on as words to live by. As they became embedded in community identity.

Such codes ensured the survival of many societies that were in constant threat of invasion, so they became values that worked well with the "law of the jungle."

6. The Law of the Jungle

Mongolian tribes lived in very harsh environments, and they had to be constantly prepared for war. The Law of the Jungle was a set of rules that governed the community's behavior in times of conflict. Similar to the Warrior Code, but more refined.

The Law of the Jungle could be applied to Crypto Twitter today. Why? Well, because it’s full of scammers, shills, and people trying to take advantage of others. The community needs to be more careful and vigilant in order to protect itself from such “predators.”

Very few today are actually trained adequately to deal with cyberbullying, online harassment, etc. And because there’s little repercussion for such behavior online, you have to learn how to navigate it wisely. Or find a place for your community where you can set and enforce your own rules. In blockchain-based communities, you can use things like smart contracts to embed your rules and consequences even further (programmatically).

7. The Nomadic Lifestyle

The Mongolian tribes were nomadic, and they would often move from one place to another in search of new grazing grounds for their animals. This way of life instilled a sense of wanderlust and adventure in the people. You see this taking shape with modern “digital nomads,” which have risen by 9% in 2022 (roughly 11.1 million workers globally). And so it’s no surprise that many digital nomads are open to Web3/crypto/NFT/DAO communities too.

Taking these trends into account, you can see how blockchain-based technology is enabling communities to break free from physical and geographical restraints, just like traditional nomads did too. Our world may be built for settlers, but technology may be returning some of us to our nomadic roots.

What’s old is new again.

Which of the 7 ways can see being applied to your own community? Is there something here that you can learn from the ancient Mongol tribes?