Animal Welfare Fund AMA

post by Jamie_Spurgeon · 2018-12-19T14:48:39.036Z · score: 21 (8 votes) · EA · GW · 20 comments

Hi, we’re the management team for the Animal Welfare Fund. We’re here to answer any questions about our grant making.

We recently made this set of grants, and are planning another set in February 2019. We are keen to hear from donors and potential donors about what kind of grant making you are excited about us doing, what concerns you may have, and anything in between.

Please feel free to start posting your questions from now and we will be available here and actively answering questions between 7am and 1pm PT (with some breaks) on 20th December. 

Please ask different questions in separate comments, for discussion threading.

Added 1:52pm PT time: This concludes the "official" portion of the AMA, but feel free to post more questions; we may be able to respond to them over the coming week or two!

20 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by redmoonsoaring · 2018-12-19T19:04:02.121Z · score: 22 (10 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Quite a few people in the animal welfare and EA spaces are concerned that the two parties ACE and OpenPhil, i.e., ACE staff and Lewis Bollard, control the vast majority of funding in the EAA space, and a very large portion of funding in the farm animal space as a whole.

I had hoped that expanding the Animal Welfare Fund to a committee would address this concern, but 3/4 members are with either ACE or OpenPhil. This seems especially disappointing given criticisms of ACE in the EAA community: 1 [EA · GW] ,2 , and 3 .

Why were more non-ACE/non-OpenPhil members not added, and are there plans to diversify in the future?

comment by LewisBollard · 2018-12-20T18:59:08.511Z · score: 1 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the feedback on this. I explained my thinking on selecting ACE staff for the fund here [EA · GW]. I wrote, in part:

"On reflection, I think I made a mistake in delegating two seats on the Fund to ACE, rather than picking Toni and Jamie independently. My intention was to increase the Fund’s ideological diversity (ACE researchers have a range of viewpoints, and I wanted to avoid the natural bias to pick those who shared mine). But I now think this benefit is outweighed by the harm that the Fund could be misperceived as reflecting ACE’s organizational views or being based on ACE research.

...

More importantly, I don’t think your criticisms of ACE reflect on Toni and Jamie’s ability to help the Fund accomplish the goals we established: a wider range of views, a deeper resource of time, and more capacity to monitor impact. Both are smart, have different ideas on how to most effectively fund animal groups within an EA framework, and have much more time than I do to identify new giving opportunities. And both have an open-mindedness and commitment to truth that I think is critical for objectively assessing impact. I agree that the Fund benefits from having a diverse team, but disagree that criticism of ACE is the right kind of ideological diversity. Both Toni and Jamie bring quite different perspectives on how to most cost-effectively help animals within an EA framework (see, for instance, the charities they’re excited about here). The Fund won’t be funding ACE now they’re onboard, and my guess is that we’ll continue to mostly fund smaller unique opportunities, rather than ACE top or standout charities. So I don’t think people’s views on ACE will be especially relevant to our giving picks here. I see less value to bringing in critics of EA, as many (though not all) of ACE’s critics are, as we'd have trouble reaching a consensus on funding decisions. Instead, I encourage those who are skeptical of EA views or the groups we fund to donate directly to effective animal groups they prefer.

...

I agree that the Fund benefits from having a diverse team, but disagree that criticism of ACE is the right kind of ideological diversity. Both Toni and Jamie bring quite different perspectives on how to most cost-effectively help animals within an EA framework (see, for instance, the charities they’re excited about here). The Fund won’t be funding ACE now they’re onboard, and my guess is that we’ll continue to mostly fund smaller unique opportunities, rather than ACE top or standout charities. So I don’t think people’s views on ACE will be especially relevant to our giving picks here. I see less value to bringing in critics of EA, as many (though not all) of ACE’s critics are, as we'd have trouble reaching a consensus on funding decisions. Instead, I encourage those who are skeptical of EA views or the groups we fund to donate directly to effective animal groups they prefer."

That's still my view, but other members of the team may have different perspectives. We don't have any immediate plans to add more people to the Fund, but I'm always open to it. In the meantime, I appreciate the feedback we've gotten from the EA community on this, and the constructive manner in which it's been framed.

comment by redmoonsoaring · 2019-01-10T17:32:57.190Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for the comment. I didn't reply because I had hoped other Animal Welfare Fund representatives would respond to the substance of the concern (concentration of power). I don't think we need critics of ACE on the fund committee. I simply believe it would be beneficial to have less concentration of funding in the two entities of ACE and OpenPhil. I believe this is a concern even if one believes ACE and OpenPhil are competent.

comment by Peter_Hurford · 2019-07-13T00:14:39.019Z · score: 17 (10 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Question: How funding constrained do you feel like the Animal Welfare Fund is? Do you feel like you get to make essentially every grant you think you'd reasonably want to make or are there more awesome grants you would've made if only the fund had raised more money?

comment by Tee · 2018-12-19T16:53:07.422Z · score: 14 (7 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hey Jamie, I don't have a directed question on AWF per say, but I deeply appreciate this level of transparency and hope it exerts pressure to raise the water level on grant making transparency more broadly

comment by Jamie_Spurgeon · 2018-12-20T21:52:34.662Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks!

comment by Natalie Cargill · 2018-12-20T20:16:42.349Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you!

comment by LewisBollard · 2018-12-20T19:06:42.936Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks Tee!

comment by Peter_Hurford · 2018-12-19T21:45:56.595Z · score: 12 (8 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

What new research would be helpful to finding and/or evaluating opportunities?

comment by LewisBollard · 2018-12-20T19:02:42.087Z · score: 12 (8 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Good Q Peter. I'm hoping to put out a set of research Q's that I'd find useful in the new year. But I'm most excited about Q's you and other EAs come up with independently because they're more likely to identify opportunities we're not thinking about or scrutinize claims we take for granted.

comment by Jamie_Spurgeon · 2018-12-21T09:50:56.945Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Great Question! Similarly to Open Phil, ACE will also be putting out a set of research questions in January, we have solicited views from several groups in the movement to help inform our own research direction over the next year.

One particular question I'm interested in, is the trade-off that seems to exist between promising interventions and more neglected regions. i.e. countries where animal advocacy is less developed typically have organizations that are working on less effective interventions, but a grant there to build the movement may be substantially more impactful in the longer term than funding to more established regions. The combination of uncertainty of impact in different regions and across different interventions can be hard to separate out, which is why I think we're taking the right approach currently by funding a spread of smaller opportunities.

So I would say profiles of promising countries (e.g. at ACE we're currently looking into the BRIC countries) to better understand the opportunities and limitations of advocacy in different regions would be really useful, as well as further intervention-specific research.

Another issue is identifying good funding opportunities. In my own experience, I've found utilizing existing networks to be more fruitful than searching from scratch when identifying promising new funding opportunities, however I'm aware that this can lead to a bias particularly towards opportunities in N America/Europe.

comment by Halstead · 2018-12-24T11:15:48.315Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

What stance do you all take on the best approach to helping animals? You have given grants to movement building stuff, animal advocacy research and to meat alternative research. Have you tried to model which of these approaches is likely to be most effective? I personally think research into meat alternatives will be better than anything else, and am concerned that so much EA money is going/has gone into corporate campaigns and animal advocacy work without any explicit attempt to prioritise which intervention is best. (I also think the probability of negative impact for corporate campaigns is >5%.)

comment by JoshYou · 2018-12-20T01:29:09.665Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

This fund has seemingly taken a very "hits-based" approach to funding small, international grassroots organizations. How do you plan on evaluating and learning from these grants?

comment by LewisBollard · 2018-12-20T19:04:55.125Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the Q Josh. Yes that has been the primary approach to date. At Open Phi we've been following up with almost all of the grant recipients to see (a) if they're ready to graduate to larger Open Phil grants (~5 already have), (b) whether they did roughly what they said they would (~80-90% seem to be), and (c) anything else we can learn (I hope to share some of these learnings when we have the time to collate them, perhaps via a research newsletter).

comment by Jamie_Spurgeon · 2018-12-20T20:08:22.917Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

To add to Lewis' response, I think this is a crucial part of the grant-making process, especially as we are granting to some organizations with more novel approaches, or in as yet neglected regions. At ACE we use 6 months as the point at which to check in with grant recipients, typically through a survey or call, and I would expect a similar process would work well for the Animal Welfare Fund.

comment by Natalie Cargill · 2018-12-20T20:02:45.787Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks Josh. I agree our approach was 'hits based', and I expect we will follow up on the grants informally within 6 months or so of making them. As Lewis mentioned, we hope to be able to share what we learn from the follow-up at some point.

comment by KevinWatkinson · 2018-12-20T10:09:58.563Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Given the EA animal welfare fund appears oriented around two organisations (Effective Giving also utilises research from Open Philanthropy and ACE to find exceptional opportunities to do good), what efforts are being made to include different value systems and perspectives that are found in effective altruism more generally?  And how ought those perspectives be valued?

What are the similarities and differences between the new ACE fund and the EA animal welfare fund?  

It also seems to me that some of the organisations that receive EA funds could graduate to multi-year funding from Open Philanthropy.  So i wonder what progress is being considered there?

comment by LewisBollard · 2018-12-20T19:06:27.278Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks Kevin. I think the fund aims to integrate different perspectives but not necessarily different value systems.

I'll let Toni or Jamie speak to differences with the new ACE fund.

And yes, definitely some of the orgs that receive EA funds should graduate to multi-year funding from Open Phil. About 5 have already, and I'm optimistic that another 10 or so will in the next year.

comment by Jamie_Spurgeon · 2018-12-21T10:09:56.667Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks Kevin! The funds are similar in that they are both trying to identify promising EAA funding opportunities, and I would expect ACE's EAA Fund to have a somewhat similar focus on capacity/movement building opportunities. However, there are a few differences that I can think of: (i) the ACE fund will select opportunities predominantly via an open application process (currently open). (ii) I would expect that any excess funds remaining, after smaller opportunities have been identified, would be allocated to Top and Standout charities, in the case of the ACE EAAF, or saved for future grant rounds, in the case of the AWF. (iii) The ACE EAAF will operate on a 6 month basis.

I imagine there will be more differences that become apparent once the EAAF has gone through it's first funding round, but I hope that answers your question for now.

comment by Natalie Cargill · 2018-12-20T20:16:13.379Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for this, Kevin. I'll let Lewis and Toni or Jamie address your other questions, but would like to clarify how Effective Giving uses research. While we do draw on the work OpenPhil and ACE when advising some donors, I conducted independent research and worked with external advisors and researchers when shortlisting potential grants for the EA Animal Welfare Fund (external to OpenPhil, ACE, and Effective Giving!). I hope this is helpful.