Polkadot Pioneers Prize & Child Bounties

6 min readMar 16, 2022


The Web3 Foundation and Parity Technologies recently proposed the creation of a robust incentive prize program, called the Polkadot Pioneers Prize that will work to help propel technical innovation on the Polkadot network, as well as to model ways in which the community can achieve more agency and support in directing how on-chain treasury funds are spent.

Current Landscape

The on-chain treasury is underutilized and without active and ambitious ideating around what Polkadot can achieve, we, as a community, are undershooting the potential, both for the network, as well as for the network’s participants. Additionally, there is a technical argument for a prize program, particularly in areas in which bold innovation is possible.

But the Polkadot Treasury is on the path to finance a massive bounty for the further development of zero-knowledge scaling and network infrastructure. The 1st two challenges will be announced later this year and should cover zero-knowledge research and Polkadot infrastructure improvements. The expectation is also for the bounty to provide the Polkadot ecosystem with an influx of new talent. By organizing a well-coordinated marketing campaign around the program, we can act as a beacon for talented builders who, once engaged in our incentive prize program, will learn more about Polkadot and the surrounding ecosystem — thereby accelerating the growth of the Polkadot community. Additionally, this presents an opportunity to showcase the power of the on-chain treasury to support community projects.

Program structure

The program will be structured as a set of child bounties (to be included in the next runtime upgrade upon community vote) and managed by a general curator to be elected by the Council.

This is the 1st stage for the bounty: after approval and once the bounty status is “active”, a bounty curator will be elected: an expert in the scope of the bounty (even organised as a multisig) that will manage the funds, review developments and reward the pioneers.

More info on bounties spending can be found below:


Let’s dive deeper into the two different research and development categories that the program is trying to cover-

  • The first category in which we observe a need for creative and directed action is in the utilization of zero-knowledge (“ZK”) proofs, also known as ZK protocols. ZK cryptography ushers in a new way to protect users by bringing privacy to on-chain data, and so has a far reaching impact, not just for Polkadot, but for blockchain and Web 3.0 more broadly. The Web3 Foundation’s research team has begun looking into potential areas in which ZK technology shows the most potential to be applied on Polkadot, and this research will inform the first group of challenges we look to launch, which will be within ZK tech innovation.
  • The second area we deem impactful would be further development of Polkadot infrastructure. Specifically, we would like to offer attractive bounties to incentivise in the first instance the implementation and delivery of alternative implementations of Polkadot nodes: full nodes, authoring nodes, and/or collator nodes. With this, we hope to create a more resilient network, and to provide builders with more options to build and integrate with Polkadot in the languages they love. This challenge type serves to bolster the infrastructure that powers Polkadot directly. Organic development has not driven substantial enough engagement so far; as such, there is an opportunity to increase engagement via a prize program.

Leveraging The On-Chain Treasury

All of the prize funding occurs through Polkadot’s on-chain treasury. That is a core aspect of what makes Polkadot different from other ecosystems, and the network’s token holders manage it through on-chain governance. Polkadot’s treasury holds over 20 million DOT tokens which can be used to fund projects in the future. The Polkadot Pioneers Prize is one example of how such funding competitions may look in the future.

The proposal for the Polkadot Pioneers Prize aims to address the issue of how the on-chain treasury is underutilized. Even though it holds significant amounts of funds, there appear to be few active and ambitious ideas. Moreover, a prize program often brings out bolder ideas, pushing the ecosystem forward.

The $18 million prize pool will be split as follows:

  • $15 million in DOT is divided among the various zero-knowledge initiatives. That amount may increase depending on how many examples of ZK challenges are identified by the Web3 research team and the broader ecosystem.
  • $3 million in DOT is allocated to infrastructure initiatives. That amount may be amended, although it is less likely.
  • Further prize areas that Polkadot can benefit from can be submitted by the Web3 Foundation research team and community.
  • Payouts will occur 40 days after the final submission(s).

It is crucial to note neither the Web3 Foundation or Parity Technologies will receive funds. Instead, the Polkadot Pioneers Prize is designed to support and incentivize the community.

No installments will be due until completion of challenges, which will be determined by the curator/s. While the foundation may not time-bound these challenges or the program itself, in order not to sacrifice innovation impact or quality over speed, they will be doing bi-annual assessments of progress with the teams.

To help manage payouts and to assist in the challenge, prize, and winner selection process, the foundation proposed that the council elect an Administrative Curator group. The Administrative Curator group will be the primary bounty holder; will be responsible for coordination with the treasury council, and will retain the primary wallet address. The Administrative Curator group can then later decide to delegate child bounties to sub-group(s) that are more specific.

Understanding of the Child-bounty structure

  • Each bounty has a proposer(council member) and Executioner(Beneficiary)
  • A bounty may or may not have child bounties
  • If a bounty does not have any child bounty, the curator is the executioner
  • If a bounty has child bounties, each child-bounty will have a-
  • Curator
  • Executioner(Beneficiary)

With a motion approval, the bounty changed status to ‘Waiting for Bounty Funding’. After the current funding period ends, the network will earmark the funds in treasury for this purpose & the bounty will change to ‘Active’, then the foundation will be able to elect a curator.

A curator is an expert that will be in charge of structuring the categories, providing information about them to the community, accepting applications, reviewing, judging and rewarding the pioneers.

We believe that Exit-to-DAO as a business model will be a defining change of 2022 and onwards and by offering an incentive prize program that funds research in targeted areas, the organization hopes to advance the state of not just the Polkadot network, but of blockchain as an alternative infrastructure to Web 2.0 — ushering in Web 3.0.

We would also like to take this opportunity to share with you how, once the technical implementation of the child bounty is done by the parity team, Polkassembly will also implement a user friendly update to our platform, allowing projects to create, access and participate in curating posts’ contextual information and enabling the community to participate in the governance of those bounties. Some more designed will be shared once we get further details from the web3 foundation and parity team about the technical implementation of the program.

The Polkadot Pioneers Prize is launching soon and we can’t wait to see how community uses this opportunity to build some amazing products for the ecosystem.

Head to https://pioneersprize.polkadot.network/ and enter your Name and email to be the first one to be notified once the program goes live.




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