Posts

AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators 2020-03-17T02:39:08.115Z · score: 35 (15 votes)
Easy Ways to Volunteer Effectively for Animals 2016-11-08T17:21:15.255Z · score: 6 (8 votes)

Comments

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T21:14:25.067Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Michael, this is a big question! It's getting a bit late but I want to give you some of my quick thoughts:

Research into reducing fish suffering (scale, promising interventions, tractability, etc.) is needed, and there are a few groups working in this area, such as our Top Charity Albert Schweitzer Foundation and newly-founded organizations Fish Welfare Initiative and Aquatic Life Institute.

Economic research, including research into economic interventions. We have an economist starting on our team in May!

Research into ways we can positively influence the welfare of wild animals, which is something that Wild Animal Initiative is researching (one of our EAA Fund grantees).

Research on estimating the effectiveness of intervention to improve the lives of farmed animals in general. This is something that ACE has worked on, as well as groups like THL Labs, Rethink Priorities, Open Phil, etc. We’d especially be interested in seeing research on how interventions support and interrelate to each other.

I also think it is important for us to look at considerations around longtermism in EAA.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:59:22.910Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

While I’ve been working in this space long enough that many of our ethical stances don’t feel counterintuitive to me anymore, I’m sure some of our stances come across that way to mainstream audiences. Farmed animal advocacy is still considered a very niche topic in society at large, even though it’s the primary focus of our work at ACE. Wild animal welfare is another topic that we find challenging to communicate about to mainstream audiences, even though it’s a high priority for many of us in the EAA community (I remember when it felt counterintuitive to me!). We adjust to that by being mindful in our communications to meet our different audiences where they are at, and not assume that everyone has the full context that we do from having been steeped in this topic for years.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:51:28.109Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

We seek to gather data about this question through our annual Donor Survey. Our most recent published data is from 2018, and we are planning to publish the results from our 2019 survey soon.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:40:58.169Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Ben, that’s a great question. We don’t have a lot of conclusive research on this topic, so what I’m sharing here are just my personal intuitions. I think that food technology will play a major role in the future reduction of farmed animal suffering. However, I wouldn’t consider this an “either/or” question. Many people who work in the food technology space around this issue view their work as advocacy. Additionally, many of the people focused on improving the welfare of animals currently living on factory farms see their work as complementary to the food technology space—some welfare improvements drive up the cost of animal products, perhaps making animal-free alternatives more cost-competitive. Additionally, welfare advocacy raises the importance of animal welfare in the public eye, which is often a strong motivator for those who choose to reduce their animal product consumption.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:23:54.911Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I would recommend that those who are trying to better understand their intuitions around which cause areas to prioritize try out 80,000 Hours' problem quiz.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:17:35.486Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this question. I answered it in the Q&A video recording.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:16:53.312Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Matt! Thanks for this question. I answered it in the Q&A video recording.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:16:29.063Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this question. I answered it in the Q&A video recording.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:16:10.476Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this question. I answered it in the Q&A video recording.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:15:47.285Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Saulius! Thanks for this question. I answered it in the Q&A video recording.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:15:08.136Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Lauren! Thanks for this question. I answered it in the Q&A video recording.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:14:29.479Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Misha! Thanks for this question. I answered it in the Q&A video recording.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:13:44.724Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Michael! Thanks for this question. I answered it in the Q&A video recording.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:13:21.005Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Hello! Thanks for this question. I answered it in the Q&A video recording.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:12:50.736Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Tobias! Thanks for this question. I answered it in the Q&A video recording.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:07:39.011Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

EAG attendees tend to be fairly familiar with ACE's work, but if I have to speculate, here are a few things that people may get wrong about ACE:

  • ACE's charity recommendations are heavily dependent on our CEEs. Please see this page on our use of cost-effectiveness estimates for more details.
  • ACE is a "watchdog" organization. I think that this misconception is less prevalent in the EA community, but it is one we encounter fairly often. We recently published a blog post explaining why ACE is not a watchdog organization to help clear up any confusion.
Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T20:05:31.735Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

We’ve seen a lot of change in our relatively short existence in the movement. Early on, ACE was one of few organizations working to synthesize the existing research, and now we’re in a position where there are lots of organizations doing really great research. This has led to a really positive collaborative spirit, and strengthened the body of research we have available to us in the movement. We are now seeing substantially more funding into research that is of a better quality and using stronger norms (e.g. use of the Open Science Framework). We think there is still room to improve—it can sometimes feel like there is a disconnect between organizations focused on direct work and those that are conducting research, in that it is hard to know what is best to prioritize to serve their interests, and to what extent they are utilizing that research. At ACE, this has caused us to realign our research aims towards conducting research that primarily improves our ability to conduct evaluations and evaluate grants in our Effective Animal Advocacy Fund, as we can be more certain of the impact that research has.

Regarding your question about using more sophisticated techniques in causal inference: Absolutely! We’d love to see more of this type of research.

Regarding your question about the allocation of resources in the movement: My intuition is that our balance is not terrible right now. To give a better answer, I would need to know exactly what the allocation currently is.

Regarding small sample sizes: we are worried about this too. It's important to consider the full range of evidence when RCTS aren’t an option.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T19:57:37.657Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

There are a few ways in which we see ACE changing and evolving in the future. Given the number of new research organizations that have entered the EAA space since our founding (yay!), we will likely narrow our focus to make sure we continue to add as much value as possible to the movement and don’t duplicate the efforts of others. In particular, we’ve chosen to narrow the focus of our non-evaluations/grantmaking research this year exclusively to questions that can help better inform our decision-making in those two processes. This is partially because other orgs are doing a great job working on some of the broader foundational questions facing our movement, and partially because we feel most confident in implementation of research that we know we can implement ourselves.

We are also making some changes to the way that we operate internally. This year we will be rolling out a new operating model, based partially on Scrum and Agile project management frameworks, with the goal of streamlining and speeding up our workflows, empowering all of our staff members, and alleviating high workloads for senior staff members. We call our in-house project management style “Scram”...

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T19:50:02.437Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I’d like to see more organizations focus on developing their management, leadership, and governance capacities. I know that your research at Animal Advocacy Careers on skill gaps in the movement identified this as a priority, and it’s something I hear repeatedly from other funders in the movement as well.

The reason this has become such a priority is a side effect of a great problem to have—our movement’s funding has grown significantly in the past several years, and organizations are growing larger than ever and able to take on more ambitious goals than ever before.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T19:48:54.639Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

How a charity performs on our seven evaluation criteria is the strongest determinant as to which charities receive a recommendation from us. When deciding whether to award a charity a Top or Standout Charity status, the charity’s room for more funding tends to be a deciding factor.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T19:43:42.515Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Louis! Thanks so much for your question. I feel that the movement's strategy should always be influenced by the holistic context in which we operate and current events. One quick example that comes to mind of a project working directly with farmers is Mercy for Animals' recently launched “Transfarmation” project, which helps support farmers in transitioning out of animal agriculture and into growing crops for plant-based products.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T19:42:13.192Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

My intuition on this is that our movement spends an appropriate percentage of our resources on research, but I’m sure others have different opinions on this question. I’d like to see the total budget of EAA increase dramatically though—both the amounts spent on direct work and the amounts spent on research.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T19:29:11.746Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Rescinding charity recommendations is not something that we take lightly. We have only done this in the case of serious issues that were brought to our attention, and because of this reason, I find it hard to recommend one universal course of action. In some cases, we have recommended that previous donors continue supporting a charity at a lower level in order to prevent the issue you described. In other cases, we have not done so.

In general, we feel that supporting our Top or Standout Charities, Recommended Charity Fund, and Effective Animal Advocacy Fund offer the greatest amount of impact, and that is the advice that I would give to donors who ask.

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T19:27:28.088Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Hey Peter! Thanks for your question! Historically we’ve not engaged too much with longtermism, and so we are yet to make any changes to our programming as a result. It is becoming increasingly clear that this is a cause area that deserves more of our time than we have given it. Recently we have started two projects that we hope will result in blog posts exploring how EAA overlaps with longtermism, hopefully with useful takeaways for those working in each cause area, so keep an eye out!

Comment by leah_e on AMA: Leah Edgerton, Executive Director of Animal Charity Evaluators · 2020-03-27T19:14:20.421Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the questions.

Regarding animal advocacy, some EAG attendees might assume that animal advocacy is all about direct care of injured animals, especially companion animals, and about changing the attitudes and opinions of the general public towards them. However, animal advocacy is a broad and diverse movement, where people carry out varied interventions targeting different animal issues, ranging from lobbying politicians to advocate for farmed animal welfare laws, implementing alternatives to animal products, developing research on how to help wild animals, and building alliances with other social movements.

Regarding effective animal advocacy (EAA), some might think that EAA is all about considering the quantitative short-term impacts of interventions, overlooking the importance of good management practices, and other factors that can indirectly affect the effectiveness of interventions. However, we believe that effective animal advocacy goes beyond a quantitative analysis of effects; it also consists of following good management practices and creating a healthy culture.

We published a blog post a few years ago where we outline some common misconceptions about effective animal advocacy, here is the link if you are interested in reading it.

Comment by leah_e on Concrete project lists · 2017-03-27T17:05:16.550Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Animal Charity Evaluators also has a post of Charities We'd Like To See.

Comment by leah_e on Easy Ways to Volunteer Effectively for Animals · 2016-11-10T19:53:30.617Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Hi David, here's a relevant quote from our latest interview with Paul Shapiro on effective volunteering:

"JB: Could you talk about how you feel grassroots efforts such as leafleting and pay-per-view contribute to the success of the movement?

PS: I’m respectful of it and I’ve done a lot of it myself. I think that can be a good use of volunteers’ time, but generally speaking it’s less efficient than policy and institutional reforms are. I would recommend to animal groups they try to think about ways they can engage their volunteers to be part of broader campaigns, whether that’s a campaign to get a major company to remove eggs from certain products or get them to offer plant-based options, or to be a part of a ballot initiative. I think this motivates people in a way other things don’t, because there’s a tangible end; you can actually win, as opposed to something that feels Sisyphean, as though there’s never an end in sight. That’s why so many people get involved in ballot measures. They form these amazing communities. It’s sad because they’re often not sustained once there’s no overarching campaign left. But while it happens, it’s truly amazing to see. I think groups ought to try to provide that for their volunteers. Or even encourage volunteers to try something like getting a local school to go adopt a Meatless Monday policy."

Comment by leah_e on Easy Ways to Volunteer Effectively for Animals · 2016-11-08T21:51:04.241Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for your question. We do have a Volunteer Advice page on our website that gives some ideas as well as links to in-person opportunities. We also will be publishing an interview on Thursday that touches on the topic.

Comment by leah_e on Accomplishments Open Thread - July 2016 · 2016-07-12T21:17:06.221Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA · GW

July has been an exciting month so far for ACE!

We updated our Survey Guidelines, providing resources for animal advocacy groups to evaluate the effectiveness of their own programs.

We worked with Huffington Post to get this fantastic article published, by Nico Pitney.

We launched our Animal Advocacy Research Fund, so academics and organizations can now apply for funding on research projects. We hope that this project will provide much-needed evidence to help all animal advocates be more effective in their work.

Comment by leah_e on Accomplishments Open Thread - June 2016 · 2016-06-10T17:44:37.068Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for sharing the post on CFAR workshop! It sounds like a valuable experience. Perhaps I will consider attending someday!

Congrats also on the success of your articles!

Comment by leah_e on Accomplishments Open Thread - May 2016 · 2016-05-12T17:23:05.296Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Gleb for the heads-up on this thread!

Lots going on at ACE over the past month that we are excited about:

-We've opened registration for Symposium on effective animal advocacy, happening at Princeton in November.

-We've completed our evaluation of undercover investigations.

-We published two new interviews on our website with David Wolfson and Will Potter, both of which have a lot of useful content for effective animal advocates.

-We created a Bequest Policy, to enable donors to give to effective animal charities in their wills.

-We've made new connections with some interesting people and are looking forward to conducting some great interviews and posting some new guest blogs soon on our website.

Comment by leah_e on Accomplishments Open Thread - April 2016 · 2016-04-08T17:42:19.121Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Gleb_T for encouraging me to post to this thread!

With some very helpful advice from Gleb, at Animal Charity Evaluators we were able to get a letter to the editor published about a recent bill proposed in Oklahoma.