Problem analysis of the talent bottleneck in EAA's

post by lauren_mee · 2019-09-21T10:26:14.164Z · score: 58 (28 votes) · EA · GW · 7 comments

Contents

  Introduction
  Summary
None
7 comments

Introduction

I feel a small introduction is necessary but I will share a full post on Animal Advocacy Careers at a later date once we have conducted the rest of our research and have a clearer idea of our trajectory for the next year, should anyone be interested. Animal Advocacy Careers is a new charity started under the Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program. [EA · GW]

The initiative for Animal Advocacy Careers stemmed from initial research conducted by Charity Entrepreneurship that suggested one of the most promising interventions that a new organisation could do would be to experiment with methods to address the talent gaps in the farmed animal movement. As such we are now researching into ways to tackle this problem and the areas which most urgently need to be addressed. I am also looking for a co-founder to help us fulfil this mission and it would be great if they had some EA background, please do get in touch if you are interested.

Summary

The first objective of Animal Advocacy Careers (AAC) is to conduct some deeper research into this initial research and try to analyse what specific talent bottlenecks need to be most urgently addressed. In order to do this we have been interviewing hiring managers and CEO’s from Animal Charity Evaluators’ top-rated charities with a survey, to seek their recommendations and advice on what could be the most effective ways of addressing these bottlenecks and their learnings from trying to draw in talented individuals to the movement. This survey is going to continue and results and findings will be updated over the next month, on completion, we will be looking into key themes in the results and subsequently hope to experiment with interventions to address some of the largest and most tractable issues.


The following is a summary of the talent gaps most commonly observed by 9 animal organisations and their opinions on what skills might most benefit the animal movement more broadly. 

1. Leadership and management experience. 
When asking all interviewees what they thought were the 6 most needed skills in animal advocacy organisations in the next 5 years, the majority were in favour of management and leadership experience, followed by fundraising experience and economists. There was a common theme that there were not many people who are mission-aligned, have a good understanding of the organisation that they are applying to join, and have experience in a management role such as experience of managing a team or the systematic processes used in the private sector. 

2. Economists and social scientists 
A common misrepresentation in the animal advocacy space is that you need to be a fundraiser or an activist to impact change and contribute to the movement. However, when discussing what is most needed as a skill to help the animal movement in the next 5 years, the most referenced skill was economist. Encouraging disciplines such as economists or social psychology could help diversify the range of solutions in the movement and inspire new impactful solutions and ideas based on the success’ of these movements. An example of the historical success of social theorists/economist can be seen in other movements such as Henry George’s influence in the progressive movement.

3. Fundraising
8 out of 9 organisations agreed that their biggest bottleneck preventing them from scaling was a lack of funding. When we asked deeper into this 75% said they would prioritise hiring professional fundraisers in the future to help them with a more sustainable cash flow and pipeline.  

4. Experience and connections in government
The biggest industry talent gap identified by the majority was in government followed closely by legal expertise and academia. Throughout the survey, there were also further inferences of the need for more advocates in government and these skills internally. The second most needed skills in animal organisations for the next 5 years was policy and government experts. When asked deeper about this the need was for both people in their organisations who have this experience to help advise on strategy and a greater number of people in positions of power in government driving forward animal rights into government agendas. A good metaphor for how you might affect change for the animal movement from inside an established industry can be found here

5. Clear writing skills.
When asked what is the most common things candidates are missing, 60% of interviewees mentioned that candidates often lack the ability to write concisely. Interviewees suggested that these errors were correlated with a lack of attention to detail from candidates. 

6. Initiative and the ability to take on a range of different tasks
Over 75% of people asked, referenced agility and the ability to take on a range of tasks, alongside good prioritisation as being either fundamental or a key trait of those who could come into their organisations and be most immediately impactful.

7. Training. 
The most advocated solution from organisations on how to help fill gaps in their organisations was for additional training for either their staff or young advocates such as volunteers and candidates. When asking organisations how they felt we could help most with their skills gaps over 60% suggested training would be the preferred option and more effective than hiring additional people with these skills.

Broader issues that may be systemically affecting these organisations from attracting talent: 

8. Most people are recruited through recommendations and referrals through the movement.
Interviewees stated that their most successful methods historically for finding great staff have been through recommendations or referrals, with 6 of 9 interviewees stating this.  This makes sense as one of the most important qualities animal advocacy organisations look for seems likely to be mission alignment. However, it may also mean that we may be giving priority to those in the community who are more visible, it also means we might struggle to attract as much diversity of thought and critical debate into our community, which could be useful to help the movement progress. 

9. Compared to the US and UK, some countries are more neglected in terms of resources and the number of organisations working towards promoting animal advocacy, including Russia.
This makes it difficult for many talented individuals in those regions to actually get involved in animal advocacy in the first place, or to access resources to make positive changes happen for animals in these countries.  

10. Most animal organisations hire for their senior positions externally. 
Sadly, largely due to the above issues, a lot of organisations are looking externally for people with specific experience in relation to these above skills. Whilst it is important that these organisations remain as impactful as possible, one thing we would like to assist with at AAC is looking into how we might be able to empower individuals at these organisations to gain these skills so they are able to take on these more senior positions. 

All organisations unanimously agreed that if their quality-adjusted pool of applicants doubled for the next 3 years (vs staying constant), this would contribute more to enable them to do good as an organisation than a doubling of their funding over the same period. The majority agreed they would be able to double the amount of good but some more cautiously estimated 25% more good.


Implications for individuals considering careers in animal advocacy:

Impact-focused applicants to roles within the farmed animal movement can take steps to improve their skills in areas identified as lacking by our interviewees. Below are some preliminary resources that candidates can use to improve in some of these areas.

Recommendations for building skills in initiative:

Recommendations for improving writing:

Possible solutions AAC is considering to tackle the issue raised above:

It may well be that one of the most effective ways one can make a difference to the animal advocacy movement is to build career capital, alongside volunteering or donations, to gain specific skills like experience in management roles, or government expertise which are currently the most needed in organisations and the animal advocacy movement. This kind of structured approach to career planning is one we intend to look into supporting as an organisation and could well be one of the best ways individuals can contribute most to the animal advocacy movement long term and a good argument for this was written by https://80000hours.org/career-guide/career-capital/.

Raising awareness of the need for skills other than fundraising and research to contribute to the animal movement, e.g. the Humane League’s video on how you can use the skills you have to make a difference for animals as an economist.

One of the main focuses of AAC is likely to be trialling different methods to attract new advocates to the movement to increase both the diversity and the number of applicants with sufficient experience and ability to meet or exceed the expectations of the employer for their current and future jobs. Approaches to be evaluated include headhunting, creating new job boards or identifying communities which intersect with the mission. 

We could also look more deeply into training. We expect to research what kinds of training are most effective in helping, such as by looking into other professions that have invested in hiring and training talent to learn from experience and best practice in the corporate and non-profit sectors. Following this we hope to:

  1. Look to direct candidates to recommended workshops or create workshops around best practices for specific skills that are most needed in the future. 
  2. Finding people within given organization who want to gain skills in areas such as those listed above and support them. 

The results of this initial research suggest concentrating on trying to test out effective solutions to attract more individuals with these skills to these organisations is a worthwhile endeavour for AAC but also highlight the importance for individuals to think seriously about their own career path if they are looking to help high impact organisations and what might be the most effective ways to gain the skills that are most needed. However, please note this survey is restricted to only interviewed high impact animal charities and it may well be that the areas where individuals can contribute the most to the movement would be in supporting industries such as government, academia and for-profit organisations which we may also be looking to research further into later and understand how animal advocates can potentially have a high impact in these sectors.

This is a preliminary summary of our key findings from the research we have conducted to date, we will look to publish further results and data from this study on completion.

7 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Jamie_Harris · 2019-10-25T16:28:08.359Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

(I didn't think this short post I wrote for my blog was worth a separate Forum post but is somewhat related to the content of Lauren's interviews, so I'm putting it here)

At EAG London, 2019, we encouraged the attendees of the farmed animal welfare meetup event to pick a smaller sub-group to join for the majority of the session. I hosted a sub-group discussing “movement-wide bottlenecks.” The 9 participants (including myself) included individuals working at 3 ACE-recommended “top charities,” 4 EAA researchers, and the 2 co-founders of a new animal advocacy organisation. I asked them the following question:

“To what extent is each of the following a bottleneck for the farmed animal movement? (1 is that this is never a practical limiting factor. 3 is that this is one of the most important limiting factors for the majority project ideas or plans. 5 is that this is not only preventing the movement from growing, but is causing it to down-size or reduce its most impactful activities.)”

The average scores awarded were:

  • A lack of leaders, co-founders, and engaged advocates in countries outside of North America and western Europe: 3.4
  • A lack of management experience and leadership “talent”: 3.2
  • A lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion: 2.8
  • A lack of awareness and engagement with existing EAA research among animal advocacy organisations: 2.6
  • A lack of funding: 2.4
  • A lack of coordination between those working on similar problems: 2.4

You can see the structure of the event here, and see the responses by participant here, including free form responses to a question inviting participants to write down their “favourite 1 to 3 suggestions” to “deal with these bottlenecks” (after paired discussion).

Two participants suggested other bottlenecks that could have been included in the list of options:

  • “Overabundance of generalists, lack of experts.”
  • “Insufficient resources for evaluating first-order charities.”
  • “Systematic + thorough research into how best to improve animal welfare.”
comment by MichaelStJules · 2019-09-23T03:30:57.686Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Is there any specific area of expertise in economics they're looking for, or is it mainly breadth in economics? Are they looking for more than an upper undergraduate background in any specific topic?

I'm thinking cost-effectiveness/benefit analysis, microeconomics, econometrics (including causal inference), behavioural economics, agricultural economics.

Are they looking specifically for PhDs?

comment by samaramendez · 2019-09-23T17:06:44.943Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm also interested in hearing the general survey replies to understand what specifics the movement as a whole is looking for.

Anecdotally, I'm the economist at The Humane League Labs, and I tend to get a broad range of questions about cost-benefit analysis, consumer preferences (and how to change them), market structures, impact analysis, etc. What I actually work on tends to be causal inference, which is a place where economists' skills could be very helpful for the movement.

I have my PhD, and I know that my education level plus my research interests plus my alignment with the cause were the main factors in my hiring. I believe that high-level undergrads or masters students would be well equipped to answer general cost-benefit analysis and causal inference questions, though more specialized questions like firm competition models and counterfactual analysis using structural models would likely not be covered in their training. I think that there is a lot of work for people with broad backgrounds and interests to do.

I've spoken to a few EAA researcher departments who are looking to hire economists, and behavioral and agricultural backgrounds come up most often.

comment by lauren_mee · 2019-09-23T18:50:43.803Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

😊 well Thankyou very much for your response and video.

I’d love to speak more with you about this actually and your experience of how your skills have been and good be beneficial to get a better understanding.

As said above unfortunately this was just to understand priority skill gaps so then we can do a deeper dive.

Also anecdotally I’m not sure all organisations would know in detail how someone with your credentials could help them to their full extent.

I would be really interested in speaking to you further if you wouldn’t mind.

comment by samaramendez · 2019-09-23T22:16:15.110Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I would be happy to speak with your further, especially to further the cause of getting more economists/social scientists hired! I'll send you a PM.

Thanks for sharing this article and opening this discussion.

comment by lauren_mee · 2019-09-24T10:28:49.586Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

@michael Sorry my initial reply didn't seem to go through on this.

Unfortunately this was just a preliminary study looking to identify which skills were needed by the majority and we didn't go into greater granularity than prioritising skill sets individuals could have which would benefit both the individual organisations and secondly the animal movement as a whole (the later is where the majority voted for economist skill set) and the inference was for breadth in economics.

It does look like Samara answered in more detail below on how it can be beneficial.

We will be continuing the survey and publishing full results approx 1 month later. From here should economics be a priority skill set we will look to do deeper research and hopefully i will have more details for you. Is there a specific reason for your question and perhaps i can be more helpful in future?

comment by MichaelStJules · 2019-09-24T15:58:48.511Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the response. :)

I've been considering further studies in economics, including a PhD or just more breadth, specifically for work in animal advocacy. I don't currently have very much background in economics (2nd-year micro, an essay-based health economics course, and some causal inference from graduate-level statistics courses, but these courses were more conceptual and not very hands-on).