List of possible EA meta-charities and projects

post by saulius · 2019-01-09T11:28:29.773Z · score: 56 (35 votes) · EA · GW · 17 comments

Contents

  Introduction
  Careers
  Helping charities/organisations
  Coordination
  Software platforms
  Spreading EA ideas
  Helping EAs
  Policy
  Research
None
17 comments

Introduction

There are many possible projects and organisations that could enable others to do more good. Only a few of them exist in reality at the moment. It’s easy to think that some ideas are bad just because current organisations haven’t implemented them. But it could be that many good ideas are not implemented simply due to a lack of capacity, or because the right person hasn't heard the right idea. That said, we should also be aware of the unilateralist curse and be careful not to implement ideas that many people think could be harmful.

To help people decide which EA meta-charities to found, we created a list of all the possible options we could think of. The list is a result of 5 people (David Nash, Jamie Harris, Nuzhat Jabinh, Samuel Hilton, and Saulius Šimčikas) brainstorming for a couple of hours in an event organised by Samuel Hilton. We later found out that a similar list was created during EA Summit. I merged the ideas for meta-charities from the EA Summit’s list to our list below. Note that the EA Summit’s list also contains ideas for research and non-meta-charities that were not merged into the list below. You can see our list without the ideas from EA Summit here.

Similar lists of ideas for EA charities and projects include:

Please comment about other ideas for meta-charities and projects that you have, and tell which ideas you are most excited about.

Careers

80,000 Hours is the only EA organisation (that I know of) that is focusing on careers. However, they are a small team and they are not doing everything that could be done in this vast space.

Helping charities/organisations

Coordination

Software platforms

Spreading EA ideas

Helping EAs

Policy

Research

17 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2019-01-09T20:12:50.459Z · score: 17 (8 votes) · EA · GW

In a recent post [EA · GW], I suggested that the current Good Ventures "splitting" policy may be making it much harder than it perhaps should to start up and get funding for new effective charities, because the top charities that OpenPhil / Good Ventures have identified but not fully funded are unnecessarily sucking up most of the donations from individual donors who might otherwise fund these riskier new opportunities, and the policy also perhaps incorrectly encourages people to contribute money instead of time to EA causes. I think it might be really high leverage for someone to investigate that question so that the policy could be changed if it in fact is suboptimal. (To be clear I don't think that person should be me because my comparative advantage probably lies elsewhere.)

comment by casebash · 2019-01-10T20:43:02.382Z · score: 9 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I have a few other ideas that aren't listed here:

  • EA Climate Change Co-ordination - a reasonable number of EAs are interested in climate change, but nothing seems to have happened in this domain partly due to a lack of co-ordination
  • EA Leadership program - leadership programs are very popular among students and so this could be a good (if high effort) way of spreading EA ideas
  • Regarding career workshops, instead of an organisation trying to run this itself, some group could create a training course for people who want to give career advice
  • A group to perform rationality outreach (spreading rationality ideas generally seems good for in EA as the rationality community produces new ideas for EA and also provides a source of potential recruits)
  • A project to aggregate ideas on different topics. It could get a bunch of EAs together to brainstorm like this and also allow public submissions. All of the ideas could be written up into a post like this
  • Media outreach - most EAs are quite negative on media outreach, but I can see value in writing articles that specifically aim to correct misperceptions about both EA and AI
  • A project to produce personal outreach materials. Some groups (like evangelical Christianity) focus heavily on growing through personal outreach. You don't want people to end up being pushy, but this is probably worth investigating more
  • Niche outreach was mentioned, but I expect niche outreach to Christians could be especially valuable
  • Religious organisations often send people to different cities in order to engage in movement building, this might be something that EA might want to experiment with as well
comment by saulius · 2019-01-10T21:47:26.955Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Hmmm, it would be interesting to organise another event like this where we brainstorm about possible new EA cause areas. Maybe I will do it sometime :-) Or someone else could do it.

comment by Jamie_Harris · 2019-01-12T10:19:11.057Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Note that an EA for Christians group exists, although I'm not sure if they've conducted active outreach much https://www.eaforchristians.org/

comment by cafelow · 2019-01-11T10:53:06.168Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Great ideas!

comment by Jan_Kulveit · 2019-01-15T07:03:36.672Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Just wanted to add that that while I think many of the listed ideas are in my opinion useful and should eventually turn into projects, some of them are quite sensitive to the way how they are executed, or who executes them, to the extent that creating negative impact is easy.

Also, often, there is some prior work, existing knowledge, etc. in many of the listed directions. That no project is visible in some direction may mean also that someone carefully considered it and decided it is not something which should be started now.

(For example: it's not like nobody thought about EA outreach to different demographics, Muslim, seniors / retirees, other cultures / countries. There is in part public, in part "internal" discussion about this, and the consensus seems to be this is in many cases delicate and should not be rushed.

Or: it's not like EffectiveThesis did not considered or experimented with different intervention points in the academic chain.)

comment by Jonas Vollmer · 2019-01-11T08:00:44.603Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

With respect to crypto / blockchain fundraising, EAF has considered launching something in that space, though we haven't launched, and it's currently deprioritized (see https://smart-giving.org/ for a mock-up). Get in touch if you'd like to work on this!

comment by saulius · 2019-01-11T08:21:29.169Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

https://www.effectivegiving.nl is also working on it. They are (or were) organising a weekend for them.

comment by Tee · 2019-01-11T16:27:22.480Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hey Jonas, RC might be interested in touching base with you about this soon!

comment by FlorentBerthet · 2019-01-14T18:01:20.376Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Great post. Here are some other lists of EA projects that were posted here a while back but can still be relevant:

comment by aarongertler · 2019-01-09T23:24:37.678Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I looked through this list to see which ideas might already exist, or be immediately feasible without building anything new. This caught my eye:

A vetting system for project ideas

What features would this system have that "posting a Google Doc on the EA Forum" doesn't have? Doing so allows you to choose who can or can't see it, present your idea in as much detail as you'd like, see how much the EA community likes it in general, get feedback from experts, etc. Would it be helpful to have a centralized space only for project ideas?

(There are, of course, project-management apps that are much better than Google Docs for actually implementing projects, but I'm not aware of any specialized software just for getting feedback on an initial idea.)

CEA is trying to make the Forum the best place to post EA content, in the sense that this is generally where you'll find the most readers and get the best feedback. We'd hope that "EA projects" are exactly the kind of thing that get posted here, so if there's a way in which we could add features to the Forum which would make that easier, we'd be interested in hearing about it!

comment by cafelow · 2019-01-10T09:59:27.793Z · score: 8 (7 votes) · EA · GW

I agree that the forum does already provide this function to get written feedback, however I'm not sure the written feedback makes it clear whether there is approval or lack of approval in general. Up and down voting helps, but I wouldn't want to construe a bunch of upvotes as widespread approval to start a project, nor the downvotes as suggesting I'm triggering some terrible unilateralist curse! My thought was not fully formed, but I was thinking a bit more of a rating system, where someone could have a pretty rough idea, gets it checked it over with a few EAs and if it is approved, then they flesh the idea out a bit, and then it gets checked over by more people with more experience. Ideally in a way where people don't feel uncomfortable sharing their ideas, and people feel okay about checking a box that says "This is likely to hasten catastrophe, don't do it!". I've been in a position where I've thought of starting a project, didn't feel all that comfortable asking for feedback on the forum or reaching out widely until I had befriended many EAs so I could quietly talk it over with them, and I guess that others might be in the same boat (Although that might be more about me, than about the systems we have in place!).

I'm not quite sure what forum features could be added to help that, or whether there is a market for that beyond me!

comment by agdfoster · 2019-01-09T18:04:02.982Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Nice list Saulius, thank you.

comment by AndyMorgan · 2019-01-18T10:07:27.457Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

If 'Coordination for EA researchers' is considered by enough people to be a worthwhile project to undertake, I'd be interested in working on that (in a project design capacity).

And on a related note, I think combining this project with others like the 'EA expertise board' or 'Build a platform to match projects with people who can do them' would enable the platform to reach a critical mass of active users, making it really worthwhile for the community.

comment by Matthew_Brown · 2019-01-09T12:33:39.692Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

It is really helpful to have all these ideas listed in one place, thank you.

I am involved in running a scheme similar to Year Here (Think Ahead) and have occasionally wondered if a similar scheme for EA would be worthwhile. Programmes like ours and Teach for America, Teach First, Frontline, Police Now etc. have proven extremely effective at attracting talented people into particular career paths. I haven't devoted much time/thought into how one might design something like this for the very diffuse career path of "being an EA", but I would be up for exploring it if anyone is interested.

I also think intervening further "upstream" in the graduate career trajectory, while students are still at university, could also pay off. I am dimly aware that there are already efforts underway here such as EA societies at universities. I have put some thought into how one might restructure the university experience more fundamentally so that courses themselves, and the general university ethos/community, gave people the understanding, motivation, and skills to pursue EA careers. But I'm unsure whether this would be the most cost-effective way to achieve the desired outcomes.

Thanks again.

comment by matthewp · 2019-02-10T21:23:23.539Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

"Making rationality more accessible."

Sounds great, and I've thought about this too. But what does it look like?

  • Seminar series. Probably in the workplace - this would not be so scalable but for me would be highly targeted.
  • Video lectures. Costly, probably get wide reach though. Maybe better done in short form, slick and well marketed.
  • Podcast. IMHO hard to beat Rationally Speaking. However, this content should be more introductory so perhaps more of an audio series than a podcast.

How to assess what the main topics should be though? I feel the pedagogy for rationality is lacking, because for many people who are interested they picked up the basics by osmosis before getting into it in a more organised way. I.e. what is the first thing someone should learn, the second etc. For me, everything revolves around an understanding of probability - but that's a long and somewhat indirect road to walk.

comment by Jamie_Harris · 2019-01-12T10:29:01.770Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Just a note that there was a useful post for discussing some of the potential gaps and issues around EA career advice a few months ago (subsequent to our discussion) here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/ej2v2wkExivqNghJ4/towards-better-ea-career-advice#YKQxGfmcxAMhYPboY