EA Funds has appointed new fund managerspost by Jonas Vollmer, SamDeere · 2021-03-23T10:55:29.535Z · EA · GW · 30 comments
Summary Rationale for appointing new fund managers Our process Appointment decisions Guest managers Current fund managers Welfare Fund Kieran Greig (chairperson) Alexandria Beck Lewis Bollard Marcus A. Davis Mikaela Saccoccio Karolina Sarek Future Fund Asya Bergal (chairperson) Adam Gleave Oliver Habryka Further information and plans: Infrastructure Fund Max Daniel Michelle Hutchinson Buck Shlegeris None 30 comments
- Effective Altruism Funds has appointed new fund management teams, composed of both existing and new fund managers, to the following funds (new roles bold):
- Animal Welfare Fund (AWF): Kieran Greig (chairperson), Lewis Bollard, Alexandria Beck, Karolina Sarek, Marcus Davis, Mikaela Saccoccio
- EA Infrastructure Fund (EAIF): Max Daniel, Buck Shlegeris, Michelle Hutchinson, with Jonas Vollmer as the acting interim chairperson until we appoint a chairperson later this year
- Long-Term Future Fund (LTFF): Asya Bergal (chairperson), Oliver Habryka, Adam Gleave
- To expand our grantmaking capacity, we ran a private appointment process from December 2020 to February 2021. Existing fund managers were given the opportunity to re-apply if they wished, and new candidates were sourced through our networks. We received 66 applications from new candidates. Fund managers were appointed on the basis of their performance on work tests, their past experience in grantmaking or other relevant areas, and formal and informal references.
- These fund managers have been appointed for a two-year term, after which we will run a similar process again.
- We still have a larger application load than our regular fund manager team can support, so we plan to appoint further fund managers over the coming months. We are also considering setting up one or several additional funds (primarily a legible longtermist fund [EA(p) · GW(p)]). As a result, we still expect significant changes to fund management over the coming months.
- We’re also experimenting with a new system of guest fund managers, allowing people who might be a good fit to provide input to the fund for a single grant round. We hope that this will give more people in the community an opportunity to improve their judgment, reasoning, and grantmaking skills, add additional viewpoint diversity to the grant evaluation process, and build a bank of strong candidates to potentially appoint as regular fund managers when we need more capacity.
- We hope that these changes will substantially increase each fund’s capacity to evaluate grants. In addition, we expect the following improvements:
- The Animal Welfare Fund plans to communicate more proactively about its priorities.
- The Long-Term Future Fund has increased its leadership capacity and will increasingly focus on proactively creating new grant opportunities (active grantmaking [EA(p) · GW(p)]).
- The EA Infrastructure Fund aims to do more active grantmaking, build long-term funding relationships [EA · GW], fund more small or medium-sized projects rather than established organizations, and more clearly define its priorities.
- We would also like to extend our thanks to the previous fund managers, for their work in evaluating grants and improving our grantmaking processes, done entirely on a volunteer basis.
Rationale for appointing new fund managers
EA Funds has historically appointed fund managers in a somewhat ad hoc way, and we’ve never had a defined length of time that they’ll serve for. In 2020, we began consultations with existing fund managers to make the process of appointment more clearly defined.
We decided that fund managers should serve for a defined period of time (currently two years), after which they can reapply for another term. New fund managers start with a trial period, so that we can assess their skills and collaboration with their colleagues.
Considerations that we took into account included:
- Increasing overall capacity: Our November 2020 grant round received a record number of applications, and all three funds were limited by the time the fund managers had available to consider applications. (We again broke that record with an even higher number of applications in March 2021.) Also, a number of the existing fund managers had decided that they were likely to leave soon in order to focus on other projects. Maintaining and increasing our overall grantmaking capacity was an urgent bottleneck for EA Funds.
- Giving talented grantmakers discretionary funding: In an ecosystem that’s somewhat constrained by grantmakers, it seems helpful to appoint fund managers who don’t already have access to a discretionary funding pool (e.g., large-scale personal giving or a program officer role at a large foundation).
- Improving grantmaking: Appointing new fund managers for limited terms gives us an opportunity to periodically evaluate fund manager performance, and introduce new, talented grantmakers into the mix, while striking a reasonable balance between continuity and minimising the operational costs of running hiring rounds.
- Clarifying expectations: A more defined process allows us to set clear expectations about the criteria for remaining a fund manager and the relationship between EA Funds, the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA, the legal entity that EA Funds is part of), and fund managers. We think this will further empower fund managers to feel comfortable voicing opinions that others (at EA Funds or CEA) may not share.
- Moving towards active grantmaking: The EAIF and the LTFF are constrained by the need for more high-quality grant applications. We thus aim to help create new funding opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist – e.g., by getting new projects off the ground or proactively offering more funding to existing projects. This requires somewhat different skills.
- Improved transparency for donors and the community: The process for appointing fund managers at EA Funds has historically been somewhat ad hoc. We want to ensure that donors can trust the process we’ve used to appoint fund managers going forward.
The AWF, EAIF, and LTFF operate on a committee model. They all underwent a similar process for appointments, and all references to appointments in this post should be taken to be covering these three funds. By contrast, the Global Health and Development Fund will continue to be headed by GiveWell’s CEO Elie Hassenfeld and managed by GiveWell staff (James Snowden in particular).
In December 2020, we opened applications for the positions of fund manager and fund chairperson at each of the relevant funds. We asked existing fund managers, trustees, and other advisors to nominate potential candidates, and the job description and application form were circulated among these candidates. Candidates were also given the opportunity to nominate additional candidates in their own networks.
We decided to run a private process (rather than a public one) for the following reasons:
- Fund managers control large and fast-growing pools of money and have access to sensitive data. We want to feel confident in their judgment and trustworthiness based on their track record. We felt that it would be considerably harder to sufficiently vet these qualities in candidates who weren’t familiar to us or informal advisors.
- We believe that fund managers with a large network in the relevant areas do substantially better. Given that we weren’t expanding into new areas, we thought we would likely learn about the strongest and most well-networked candidates through our extended networks. This seems to have been borne out in practice: applicants who were recommended directly to us on average performed substantially better on our anonymized work tests than applicants who were recommended by other candidates or community members.
- Public hiring processes tend to be more effortful, both for us and the applicants. By reaching out to people who we thought might be a good fit, we hopefully saved a lot of time for ourselves and others.
We received 66 applications from new candidates, and some fund managers chose to reapply as well. Candidates were asked to complete our work tests or submit a relevant existing work sample (e.g., from a previous application to Open Philanthropy). These work tests included a grant evaluation, a document outlining their active grantmaking ideas, and (for chairperson applicants only) a document explaining their strategic outlook for the fund. Work samples were blinded and graded by two or more reviewers in most cases.
We then attempted to resolve any remaining uncertainties through a combination of interviews with candidates, formal and informal references, and internal discussion.
Our decisions were largely informed by the quality of the work samples and prior relevant experience. We also took into account the overall composition of each team, aiming to ensure that a range of viewpoints and backgrounds was represented.
When making the final appointment decisions, we faced some tricky judgment calls:
- We found it difficult to know how to trade off an applicant’s performance on work tests with information from references (both formal and informal). Relying too heavily on the work test could mean that we missed candidates who had just had an off day when completing the task or were unfamiliar with the specific type of work, but relying too heavily on informal references could lead to echo-chamber effects. We ultimately opted to take a middle route, but we aren’t sure whether this was the right judgment call.
- Similarly, it was hard to balance the time commitments an applicant was willing to agree to with their skills and experience. Typically, more experienced candidates also had less time available to commit to being fund managers.
- It was also difficult to balance candidates’ judgment of grant evaluations with the quality of their ideas for active grantmaking. Some candidates did excellently on one of the work tests, but below-average on the other one. We ended up giving slightly more weight to grant evaluation judgment, and are planning to reach out to the best active grantmakers and involve them in different ways.
- The process of appointing new fund managers also raised important questions about which funds should exist in the first place. We decided to mostly postpone this discussion, but informed some candidates that we are interested in appointing them to potential new funds.
The appointment decisions were made by a committee composed of some CEA trustees and the EA Funds Executive Director: Claire Zabel, Owen Cotton-Barratt, Nick Beckstead, and Jonas Vollmer. Committee members recused themselves from some discussions and decisions in accordance with our conflict of interest policy. We appointed the new fund managers for two-year terms, with the first grantmaking cycle in March–April 2021 serving as a probationary period.
We decided to experiment with appointing guest fund managers, who will serve for one or more grant rounds. We see the following benefits to this:
- Increased viewpoint diversity: By rotating in new people, we can ensure that people with different viewpoints and thinking styles can contribute to our grantmaking, and build a network of informal advisors who can assist with grant decisions in a wider range of areas.
- Improving the EA talent pipeline: Enabling more people to try their hand at grantmaking is an important part of improving the EA community’s overall talent pipeline. Guest managers will develop judgment and critical reasoning skills that will be useful not just at grantmaking organizations such as EA Funds and Open Philanthropy, but also in many other EA-relevant roles.
- Trialling talented candidates: We plan to hire further fund managers, and would like to build a bank of strong candidates to potentially appoint as we need more capacity. In particular, having guest managers allows us to trial promising candidates with less experience.
However, there are also a few downsides:
- Time cost: The fund chairperson and the EA Funds team have to spend a substantial amount of time evaluating and onboarding guest managers. In addition, because guest managers tend to be less experienced, their grant recommendations will require additional evaluation by the other fund managers before a final decision can be made.
- Transparency: Donors and grant applicants will have less ability to know in advance who will be serving on the team. To reduce our effort and maintain flexibility, we currently prefer not keeping a continually updated list of guest managers on our website. However, we have transparently outlined our process above, and intend to publish the guest managers’ names as part of our periodic payout reports.
Our process for appointing guest managers is very similar to the process for permanent fund managers outlined above. The March–April 2021 grantmaking cycle will help us decide to what extent we will continue our guest manager program in the future.
Current fund managers
Animal Welfare Fund
Kieran Greig (chairperson)
Kieran Greig is the Director of Research for Farmed Animal Funders, a group of large donors who each give over $250,000 annually to end factory farming.
He previously worked as a researcher at Animal Charity Evaluators, and prior to that was a co-founder of Charity Entrepreneurship and Charity Science Health. He has written about topics like improving the welfare of farmed fish and supporting plant-based alternatives to animal products [EA · GW]. He has a B. Sc. from Monash University and a Masters from La Trobe University.
Alexandria is the Director of the Open Wing Alliance (OWA) at The Humane League. She oversees a global coalition of more than 70 organizations working to end the abuse of chickens worldwide, with a focus on institutional campaigns to ban battery cages for egg-laying hens. Since 2017, Alexandria has led the coalition's growing grant program and overseen the distribution of over 3.7 million dollars to support OWA groups’ corporate cage-free and broiler welfare campaigns.
Lewis Bollard is the Program Officer responsible for farm animal welfare at Open Philanthropy. He leads Open Philanthropy’s strategy for Farm Animal Welfare. Before joining Open Philanthropy, he worked as Policy Advisor & International Liaison to the CEO at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Prior to that, he was a litigation fellow at HSUS, a law student, and an associate consultant at Bain & Company. He has a B.A. from Harvard University in Social Studies and a JD from Yale Law School.
Marcus A. Davis
Marcus A. Davis is the Co-Executive Director and co-founder of Rethink Priorities, a think tank dedicated to figuring out the best ways to make the world a better place. He leads their research and strategy, focusing on animals. Prior to that he was a co-founder of Charity Entrepreneurship and Charity Science Health.
Mikaela Saccoccio is the Executive Director of Farmed Animal Funders (FAF), a donor learning community whose members donate USD $250,000 or more annually to charitable initiatives fighting factory farming. She brings together 35 foundations and high-net-worth individuals to build connections, foster collaboration, and amplify impact. Previously, Mikaela worked at The Humane League to end the abuse of animals raised for food.
Karolina is co-founder and Director of Research at Charity Entrepreneurship. There, she creates a research agenda and processes and leads the research team, aiming to find and compare the most evidence-based, cost-effective, and neglected interventions in multiple cause areas. She also serves as a board member and advisor for various EA nonprofits and think tanks, such as Fish Welfare Initiative, WANBAM, and Legal Priorities Project.
Before Charity Entrepreneurship, she co-founded an organization to improve the impact of nonprofits and social enterprises; worked on measurement and evaluation; and was a researcher for IBM and the Jagiellonian University (JU). At the age of 22, she became a university teaching fellow, lecturing at JU’s Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science.
Long-Term Future Fund
Asya Bergal (chairperson)
Asya Bergal works as a researcher at AI Impacts and occasionally writes for the AI Alignment Newsletter. Previously, she worked as a trader and software engineer for Alameda Research, as a Fall Research Analyst at Open Philanthropy, and as a research fellow at the Centre for the Governance of AI at the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI). She has a BA in Computer Science from MIT.
Adam Gleave is an AI PhD candidate at UC Berkeley, working on technical AI safety with the Center for Human-Compatible AI (CHAI). His research focuses on improving the evaluation of deep reinforcement learning systems. Adam previously worked as a quantitative trader. He has been researching and donating to effective charities since 2014, including making several grants as part of the 2017 donor lottery.
Adam studied Computer Science at the University of Cambridge, where he led the 80,000 Hours: Cambridge group.
Oliver Habryka is the current project lead for LessWrong.com, where he tries to build infrastructure for making intellectual progress on global catastrophic risks, cause prioritization, and the art of rationality. He used to work at the Centre for Effective Altruism US as strategic director, ran the EA Global conferences for 2015 and 2016, and is an instructor for the Center for Applied Rationality. He has generally been involved with community organizing for the Effective Altruism and Rationality communities in a large variety of ways. He studied Computer Science and Mathematics at UC Berkeley, and his primary interests are centered around understanding how to develop communities and systems that can make scalable progress on difficult philosophical and scientific problems.
Advisors: Nick Beckstead, Nicole Ross, Matt Wage.
Further information and plans:
- Three guest managers are joining the LTFF in March and April 2021: Daniel Eth, Ozzie Gooen, and Evan Hubinger.
- To increase our capacity, we plan to appoint several additional fund managers over the coming months.
- Asya Bergal, who has been appointed as the chairperson, has also recently accepted a role at Open Philanthropy. We have considered the implications, and we expect the benefits to outweigh the downsides of this dual appointment.
- The current fund managers predominantly have expertise in AI and macrostrategy. For grant evaluations related to other existential risks or longtermist causes, we plan to continue to get external advice. We may also appoint fund managers who are experts in those areas, but given that the number of applications in other individual categories is relatively small, we tentatively prefer appointing fund managers with a generalist longtermist background.
EA Infrastructure Fund
Max is a Project Manager for the Research Scholars Programme at Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute (FHI). Previously, he was a Senior Research Scholar at FHI, where his research focused on macrostrategy and AI governance. Max holds a master’s in mathematics with a minor in philosophy from Heidelberg University. Before joining FHI, he led the research wing of the Effective Altruism Foundation (now the Center on Long-Term Risk), where he still serves as a board member.
Michelle is Assistant Director of the One-on-one team at 80,000 Hours. Before that, she set up the Global Priorities Institute, did the operational set-up of the Centre for Effective Altruism, and ran Giving What We Can. She has a PhD in global priorities research from Oxford University.
Buck splits his time between EA movement building and research related to the impact of emerging technologies. He worked at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute between 2017 and 2020 on alignment research, AI safety movement building, and recruiting. He previously worked as a software engineer, occasionally working on EA-related projects such as a computational model of theories of consciousness as a contractor for Open Philanthropy. Buck has a degree in computer science from the Australian National University.
Advisors: Luke Ding, Nick Beckstead, Nicole Ross, Matt Wage.
Further information and plans:
- A guest manager is joining the EAIF in March and April 2021: Ben Kuhn.
- To increase our capacity, we plan to appoint several additional fund managers over the coming months.
- We’ve struggled to round out the EAIF with a balance of neartermism- and longtermism-focused grantmakers because we received a much larger number of strong applications from longtermist candidates. To better reflect the distribution of views in the EA community, we would like to add more neartermists to the EAIF and have proactively approached some additional candidates. That said, we plan to appoint candidates mostly based on their performance in our hiring process rather than their philosophical views.
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