What is a delegate?

As a general definition, a delegate is a person selected by a group of people to represent them in a governing organization. Delegates are used to funnel the decision-making process of a large group to a smaller subset of representatives. This has benefits and drawbacks, some of which are described below.

In the case of the ICON network, a delegate can be and often is a group of people representing an organization. For example, the ICON Foundation itself runs for delegate status so that it can vote directly on decisions regarding the current and future status of the network.


  • It is often simpler to come to an agreement within a smaller group, because they can communicate more directly with a larger portion of the group
  • It is computationally more efficient to take a poll of a smaller group
  • By funnelling decisions from a large group into a smaller group, community members with a smaller stake may be able to directly communicate with a delegate to gain a larger voice


  • It is difficult to represent every party's opinions when delegates are used
  • Alternative methods, such as sharding (opens in a new tab), can eclipse the computational efficiency of delegated systems by taking a poll of small groups and also having a larger overall bandwidth

How are delegates incentivized and penalized?

ICON Network delegates are subject to the system of Rewards & Penalties for a balanced and fair group of delegates. This ruleset is voted upon by the delegates themselves.

Additionally, the delegates are voted upon by the general ICON community members. In this way, delegates are held accountable for their actions under the penalty of being voted out of their position.

Who should become a delegate?

The major prerequisite to becoming a delegate in the ICON network is that delegates are required to run a Validator node. These nodes should be highly-available (opens in a new tab) and reliable (opens in a new tab), and as such they may be prohibitively costly for certain groups or individuals to run. One efficient way to run a validator node would be to split the cost among a group of people and structure that group such that all members are given a portion of the decision-making power.

That being said, anyone may nominate themselves to be a delegate. A delegate should generally follow a set of guidelines that will lead to the healthy growth of the ICON ecosystem, for example:

  • Promote good communication practices and overall conduct. See the ICON Forum Contributor Covenant (opens in a new tab) for an example
  • Have a reliable way to manage a Validator node. See here (opens in a new tab) for an intro to cloud computing
  • Engage with both the ICON community and the general cryptocurrency community for topics and causes that interest you, including business development or open-source idealogies