Request for feedback on my career plan for impact (560 words)

post by tzuiop9c · 2020-02-21T14:42:30.609Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW · 3 comments


  The plan 

Dear Altruists,

I am in the process of making career choices for maximum impact and would love to ask for validation/invalidation of my reasoning.

My reasoning is based on this formula:

IMPACT = amount of causes i can help (A) x amount of people (B) x amount of time (C) x efficiency of methods (D)

In the following I will elaborate on my plan and then write about how the plan affects all 4 factors.

The plan

My plan(in two sentences) is to increase civic engagement by applying mechanics normally found in games (tabletop games, computer games, etc.) to the campaigns that organisations use to attract sympathisers’ money & time. Then I want to create an online-platform where organisations can post missions & mini-courses and volunteers can do them.

How this plan affects Factor A (amount of causes I can help)

Volunteer Engagement is not specific to one cause. Improvements here can help many organisations. To ensure that this knowledge spreads, I hope to make it available online. To make sure organisations are not dependent on me/my organisation’s cooperation, I will create the online platform. So an unlimited amount of organisations could use the techniques and the platform.

How this plan affects Factor B (amount of people)

Gamification (the use of game mechanics to achieve behavioural outcomes in non-gaming contexts) would, in my opinion, increase the amount of people willing to get involved with prosocial organisations.

Games can structure, optimise the experience of helping such an organisation. Guiding sympathisers through the process of learning about an organisation and doing first steps helps overcome barriers of information and uncertainty, which exclude low-intensity volunteers. Often only people with loads of time can understand and contribute to organisations.

I believe for every high-intensity volunteer there are 10 sympathisers that would like to act, but are excluded from participation by the previously mentioned barriers. Their experience needs to be structured, like a game designer would structure the experience of a player.

How this Plan affects Factor C (amount of time)

Sympathisers would spend more time volunteering if a) they are neither over-whelmed or underwhelmed and b) they are not kept passive.

Games/Structure allow creation of a gradual increase in challenge, which people like, because they are neither bored nor stressed. Also missions should make players active - people like being active, and taking actions for a cause increases emotional investment.

How this plan affects Factor D (efficiency of methods)

Humans tend to drift towards emotionally satisfying activities. Unfortunately for volunteering this means that often things are done which are emotionally satisfying, e.g. because they are drastic or get high publicity) but are not necessarily effective.

Inside the online platform, key lessons about efficiency could be taught along the way when supporters complete missions or in mini-courses. Also the designers of courses (experts from the organisations) can make choices about efficiency that are then followed by all their supporters.


My plan is teaching how to use gamification for civic engagement, and creating an online-platform where such gamified missions/courses can be hosted.

I hope that this is an impactful plan because it addresses the four above-mentioned factors.

I would love to hear any thoughts: Do you think there are flaws within the plan ? Do you think there is something outside of the plan, some consideration, which I have not made ?

Thank you for your time and attention !


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-03-10T23:49:39.642Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

In general, volunteers are less helpful [EA · GW] for most "prosocial" organizations than you might expect. GiveWell wrote at one point that they had essentially never gotten a good suggestion from a blog commenter (can't find the post on this at some point, would appreciate help if anyone remembers it). MIRI used to run a volunteer platform but shut it down at some point, and I'm not sure how much benefit they got from it while it was running.

I'd also guess that a lot of the volunteer work that charities could easily use would be fundraising help (people standing with signs, knocking on doors, making calls, etc.), which means that adding more volunteers would be zero-sum (charities are still competing for donations, but with more resources). 

I strongly recommend trying to test your idea before getting too caught up in a narrow plan. One way to do this would be to find a few charities you really like, reach out to them, and ask what they would do if they had, say, 1000 more hours of unskilled volunteer time to use in the next year. You may find that the time is less valuable than you'd expect. (Then again, maybe you'll find that it would be really helpful! But you'll only know if you ask.)

comment by Peter_Hurford · 2020-03-16T11:23:02.520Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

IMPACT = amount of causes i can help (A) x amount of people (B) x amount of time (C) x efficiency of methods (D)

In my personal opinion, I think you are missing or under-weighing the per person effectiveness (maybe that is counted in D). I also don't think there is any particular reason to maximize the number of causes helped and you certainly shouldn't treat all causes equally, given that there can be orders of magnitude differences in the value of causes.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-02-21T14:46:26.415Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

This is interesting. Do you have specific example in mind where this can be applied to an EA cause?