Why did three GiveWell board members resign in April 2019?

post by Milan_Griffes · 2019-04-03T21:32:23.408Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · EA · GW · 11 comments

This is a question post.

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  Answers
    19 Habryka
    8 Sanjay
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7 comments

See here: https://www.givewell.org/changes-in-board-membership (a)

Answers

answer by Habryka · 2019-04-03T21:49:41.703Z · score: 19 (6 votes) · EA · GW

I thought Elie's letter states the rationale quite clearly:

I understand their concerns and agree with them that it is crucial that GiveWell has a board that plays a serious role in its governance. After discussing alternative board constructions with staff, current GiveWell board members, and my counterparts at other nonprofits, I believe that the direction we have chosen (which means a smaller board for now) is the right one for GiveWell. In a nutshell, I believe it will mean a more focused, intensely engaged board, and ultimately a more robust, more impactful GiveWell. I recognize there is room for disagreement on this point, and the board will continue to revisit this decision over the coming years. We will expand in the future if we believe doing so will help us further GiveWell’s mission most effectively.

Seems like Givewell had a sense that the current board was large, and this made it harder for the board to serve its function, so they decided to reduce it in size.

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-04-03T21:53:29.364Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW
Seems like GiveWell had a sense that the current board was large, and this made it harder for the board to serve its function, so they decided to reduce it in size.

Sure, though I think it gets strange to think about what "GiveWell" decided to do for decisions like this, as the Board of Directors is an important constituent part of the GiveWell construct. (And some of the former board members seem to disagree with the decision.)

I'm guessing that Elie (& perhaps Holden also?) decided that the current board was too large. But that's just my speculation.

comment by Habryka · 2019-04-03T23:10:59.720Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Ah, yeah. That's also roughly my model.

answer by Sanjay · 2019-05-22T20:59:28.694Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW

You may also be interested to see the thread about this on the EA facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/permalink/2209495562440122/

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comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-04-03T21:47:53.013Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Relatedly, I'm curious to learn more about how the decision procedure around who would resign was structured.

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-05-22T18:18:19.732Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Last month, I asked about this on GiveWell's most recent open thread.

They haven't replied yet; I just checked about it again on the same thread.

comment by Ben Pace · 2019-05-22T19:02:02.723Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I may be misremembering, but I have the cached belief that GiveWell records and publishes something like all meetings including board meetings. If so you could listen to the last board meeting to see how things were at.

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-05-22T19:34:59.240Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Good thought.

It looks like they haven't published a recording of the April 2019 meeting: https://www.givewell.org/about/official-records#Boardmeetings

(archived version, archived on 2019-5-22)

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-05-31T23:21:03.143Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Continuing with this... Catherine of GiveWell replied on the open thread, pointing me to Elie's letter.

I followed up with this:


Thanks, Catherine.

I took a look at the letter – some questions I have after reading it:

- Why wasn't the recording of the April 2019 board meeting made public? (As far as I can tell, recordings of all previous board meetings have been made public.)

- Was there a catalyzing event that led to the decision to reduce the number of board members? If so, what was this event?

- Did Rob, Brigid, and Tom volunteer their resignations, or were they asked to resign?

- Which current member(s) of the board is most likely to provide an accountability function to GiveWell's executive leadership?

- Going forward, under what conditions will GiveWell decide to expand the number of board seats?

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-06-04T15:57:03.670Z · score: 6 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Catherine's reply:


Hi Milan,
I’ve responded to each of your questions in turn:
– Why wasn’t the recording of the April 2019 board meeting made public? (As far as I can tell, recordings of all previous board meetings have been made public.) We plan to share the recording of the meeting publicly, as we typically do. In the past, we have often had a lag of multiple months between the meeting date and publishing the recording.
– Was there a catalyzing event that led to the decision to reduce the number of board members? If so, what was this event? There was no catalyzing event. Senior leadership and the Board regularly discuss the Board’s role and state.
– Did Rob, Brigid, and Tom volunteer their resignations, or were they asked to resign? We are not planning to share this on their behalf, as we consider this private information between the individual Board members and GiveWell.
– Which current member(s) of the board is most likely to provide an accountability function to GiveWell’s executive leadership? The role of the Board is to provide accountability for GiveWell’s work, and so we expect all current members of the Board (other than Elie) to serve that function.
– Going forward, under what conditions will GiveWell decide to expand the number of board seats? We will consider expanding the number of seats on a case-by-case basis, and make decisions by weighing the benefit of adding the person to the Board relative to the cost of doing so.