Posts now redirects to this forum 2015-05-03T15:39:04.785Z · score: 3 (3 votes)
Marketing Effective Altruism: What can we expect from book sales? 2015-04-10T15:11:36.582Z · score: 14 (14 votes)
Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! 2014-12-11T14:54:39.846Z · score: 14 (16 votes)
Help spread the movement! 2014-09-19T15:54:44.017Z · score: 8 (8 votes)
Good policy ideas that won’t happen (yet) 2014-09-11T12:29:10.708Z · score: 19 (19 votes)
'Special Projects' at the Centre for Effective Altruism 2014-07-07T15:47:40.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes)
Effective altruism outreach plans 2014-05-02T23:30:37.000Z · score: 1 (1 votes)
Career opportunities in effective altruism outreach 2014-02-21T00:25:40.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes)


Comment by niel_bowerman2 on now redirects to this forum · 2015-05-06T09:41:31.721Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Yeah, I imagine there's some version on the subdomain option that could work. I'll put this on Kerry Vaughan and Tyler Alterman's radars as they are now managing those domains.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Book-campaign in Norway - The plan and a request for input · 2015-04-08T08:37:55.518Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Jorgen, Great to hear that you guys are planning this. I'd be happy to chat with you about it sometime, and offer some thoughts. My availability is here: You should also talk with Chris Jenkins ( if you are considering doing a bulk order.
Looking forward to speaking.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on EA Advocates announcement · 2015-03-27T14:53:55.291Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

To clarify, while 'The Most Good You Can Do' is not a CEA project, in that we do not own rights to the book, it is a CEA project in that we are coordinating the global marketing campaign for the book with Goldberg McDuffie Communications (USA), Yale University Press (USA), Yale University Press UK (Europe), Text Publishing (Australia), and The Life You Can Save doing the bulk of the work. We will be playing a similar role for William MacAskill's book, except that the holding company for the rights for Will's book is contractually obliged to donate the royalties beyond the advance to CEA.

I imagine that EA Advocates will promote a range of both CEA and non-CEA projects, where the requirement is that the actions take by participants have a particularly high value.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Assessing EA Outreach’s media coverage in 2014 · 2015-03-19T16:24:45.065Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for these comments Peter. I think I agree with most of them. To respond specifically to the one I have additional information about:

In the interview with Tim Harford, Elie and Niel discussed SCI, and Tim Hartford decided to donate there at the end of the show. After the appearances, SCI contacted us to report that they had received several £1000s of donations as a result of our media. The exact amount SCI received as a result of this media attention was difficult for them to estimate relative to the variable background rate, but they suggested it may have been as much as £10,000.

That's pretty awesome. How does SCI estimate that? It does seem pretty difficult to me.

If I understood Alix at SCI correctly the rate of online donations in the few days after the show and associated article was many times higher than usual (perhaps even more than an order of magnitude higher - I can't remember exactly), and so they were estimating the difference between the increased rate and the background rate. This assumes that the spike and the additional donations were due to the media attention, which may well be a false assumption, but given the immediacy of the spike in donations, the scale of the spike, the prominence of the media attention, and the prominence of SCI in the media attention, I am inclined to think that most of the spike was probably down to the media attention. One other thing to note is that if I understand correctly this figure only includes donations direct to SCI, and does not include any donations made to SCI via GiveWell, who were also featured prominently in the media attention. Nonetheless I agree that it is difficult to estimate exactly how much additional donations went to SCI.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Announcing the Effective Altruism Newsletter · 2015-03-12T12:07:03.585Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

This would save me enough time that I'd happily pay £s per newsletter! Thanks so much for offering to put this together.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on $10k of Experimental EA Funding · 2015-02-26T16:04:01.890Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Will you make prices and projects public after the first round so that we can calibrate?

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Seth Baum AMA next Tuesday on the EA Forum · 2015-02-25T14:10:17.866Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

What is your assessment of the recent report by FHI and the Global Challenges Foundation?
How will your integrated assessment differ from this?

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Seth Baum AMA next Tuesday on the EA Forum · 2015-02-25T14:08:51.582Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

How many man-hours per week are currently going into GCRI. How many paid staff do you have and who are they?

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Seth Baum AMA next Tuesday on the EA Forum · 2015-02-25T14:07:59.847Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

I can't make it for the AMA, but I'm going to load up some questions here if that's OK...

  • What would you say is the single most impressive achievement that GCRI has achieved to date? (I'll put other questions in other threads)
Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-16T11:14:42.116Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

I agree they are relatively similar. We've been keeping the publishers up to date with the plans of the other authors and publishers that are publishing books on EA in 2015. Thus the publishers think that these dates are pretty optimal in terms of when we would want them all released: spaced out enough that each can get its own media coverage and attention, but close enough that people can write about the trend and broader movement of EA with so many books coming out around the same time. I am a little worried that they will compete for attention, which is part of the reason why I'm coordinating both Will and Peter's marketing, so that they can collaborate where possible. I've been thinking about this quite a bit recently, and I've settled on thinking that each book trying to maximise its own success is actually going to be really quite close to optimal, so I'm going to be adopting a strategy that is not far from that. Essentially, the chances of any one promotional push putting a lot of media attention on EA is relatively small, and so we want as many rolls of the dice as possible.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-15T12:57:40.149Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Chris,

This is a good question. Many of the sub-projects that we are doing are one-off opportunities which we are unlikely to seek funding for in future years (e.g. a publicist for Will and Peter). Other projects are experiments that we would like to repeat and/or expand in future years if they are successful, such as EA Global, the EA Fellows Programme, etc.

EA Outreach as a whole is also in this category - if it is successful (or more accurately if it looks in hindsight like it was a worthwhile bet) then we would like to continue working on it and funding it. On the otherhand if the project is not successful (or more accurately does not look like it was a worthwhile bet), then we would like to discontinue it. My guess at this stage is that we will want to seek further funding for EA Outreach activities in future years, as this seems to be an under-invested area within the EA movement and we seem to be well placed to execute on it, however much will depend on how much we achieve over the coming year.

I hope that answers your question, and let me know if you have any others.



Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-15T12:47:30.599Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

What do you see as the biggest risks and failure modes of EA Outreach?

Some of the most salient failure modes for EA Outreach are in the individual sub-projects:

  • For Will and Peter's books, the outside-view median outcome is that they don't make a splash in the media and don't sell very well. Unfortunately there are just so many books published each year (~1m per year) that the outside-view chances of ours being one of few that gain considerable attention and sell well is slim. Even when you account for the fact that we have a substantial advance and top-tier publisher, the outside view says that we'll only sell a moderate number of books and will be unlikely to make more than the advance. Inside view says that we'll do better than this because of the amount of resources going into the book, the fact that there is a movement behind the book, and because people seem pretty interested in EA-style questions at the moment. The reason we are doing this is not for the median case though, it's for the upper tail in which we become a best-seller and EA becomes well known enough that media hosts feel the need to include it in their discussions of charity, philanthropy, and doing good. The outside-view chances of this happening are slim, and the inside-view chances are better but not huge, though we have been told by publishers, publicists, etc. that it is a real possibility. I will be working very hard over the coming year to give these books the best possible launches I can, but unfortunately the risk is still probably the biggest one that we are taking.

  • My most salient worry for EA Global is that it doesn't sell tickets, people don't come, and it makes a major loss. We are going to be marketing it hard, and part of the reason for moving to a global model is that it makes it easier for more people to come as they won't have to travel as far.

  • My biggest worry for is that it doesn't get much traffic. There are now many popular sites that discuss EA, and though is ranked at no. 5 when I do an incognito search for 'Effective Altruism', my main worry is that it won't get enough traffic. My other worry is that we will never actually finish building it as other higher-priority projects will take precedent, but I don't see that as as much of a risk.

  • I suppose my worries can be put into two broad categories, either we fail to get enough attention for EA, or we get the attention and fail to convert it sufficiently into growth of the movement. I think both of these are very real possibilities that we are working every day to reduce the chances of.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-15T12:28:57.583Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Does the claim "We are currently due to run out of funding next month" include the £62,500 donation? It seems like not, but you didn't insert any caveats about that into your claim. At any rate, what's the situation for marginal funds? What do you anticipate getting cut if you don't meet your goal, and what would you do with funds over your budget (or will you just stop accepting donations)?

Unfortunately the £62,500 donation is only a ballpark figure at the moment and won't be confirmed until late December or January. Sorry that I didn't make this clearer.

The first thing that would be cut from the budget is an external publicist for Will's book. We would have to rely on Penguin to do much of the publicity, and we would do as much as we had time for in-house as well. I would probably want to fundraise additional funds to hire a summer intern to help with marketing and pitching media outlets in this case.

You can see the full list of everything that we could fund if money was available in this spreadsheet (which uses this now-outdated documentation). The budget that we are using to fundraise includes only a small fraction of these opportunities, as they are the ones that we most wanted to fund.

At time of writing, we need an additional £15k on top of our current pledges to be able to fund our top priorities except Will's publicist. Paying for Will's publicist would require another ~£19k on top of that.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-15T12:08:30.988Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Four. How does funding this related to funding CEA or other CEA sub-projects? It seems like part of your budget is actually a part of CEA central's expenses, so presumably donations are somewhat fungible between the two?

The 'Central Team' within CEA can be thought of as providing services to the projects that it incubates, and so the projects split the costs of 'Central' CEA according to a splitting algorithm. Historically, unrestricted donations to CEA have been split following an algorithm between the different projects that it incubates. In 2015, the use of unrestricted donations is likely to change somewhat, and is likely to include some fraction going to the different projects within CEA, as well as some used to support the creation of new projects, and potentially some to be assigned discretionarily by the trustees. If you were to donate to CEA unrestricted in 2014, approximately 11% of your donation would have gone to EA Outreach, with the remainder going to the Global Priorities Project, 80,000 Hours and Giving What We Can.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-15T11:19:39.997Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Two. What's the difference between Will and Peter's books? Their titles are extremely similar, so it's hard to tell...

While the books are on a similar topic, they approach effective altruism from slightly different angles. For example:

  • Peter's book is probably more focused on the altruism side of EA, while Will's focuses more on the effectiveness side.
  • Peter's book focuses slightly more on big giving and the good you can do with your money, whereas Will's takes in a wider range of topics from career choice to consumerism.
  • Will's book discusses a wider range of potential causes than Peter's book (I think, I'd have to double check to be sure)
Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-15T11:11:20.310Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Ben,

Great questions as always. I'm going to hand a couple of these over to Kerry Vaughan, but I'll take a shot at answering most of them. Again, I'm afraid my answers are too long to fit into a single comment, so I'll answer questions one-by-one.

  1. It's great that so many people are working on giving lots of people a positive initial impression of EA. But my sense is there's a pretty big gap between "initial impression of EA" and "EA is a big part of my life" that isn't being filled very well right now. Are there any plans to work on these later stages of the EA pipeline?

I agree that there is a need here. On p2 here I outline how our activities can be thought of as fitting into this pipeline. Some of them are earlier in this pipeline (making it easier for people to get up to speed on the ket ideas in EA at, while others are later (the EA Fellows Programme). The main activities targeting the later stages of this pipeline are:

  • EA Global, which is designed to allow lots of people to meet face-to-face to make it easy for people to dive into the community.
  • EA Fellows Programme, which is intended to provide an opportunity for a handful of high-potential people who are interested in EA to make it a much bigger part of their life.
  • And finally EA Ventures which we hope will providing funding for more people to work full-time on EA projects.

In my experience becoming very engaged in EA often comes about as a result of a large amount of one-on-one interaction with people in the community, so we hope to build some tools into to make this easier. I think that local chapters are likely to be a key part of how people become more involved, and I'm always interested to hear ways in which we might be able to help local chapters grow, so if you do have ideas let me know. I hear that you're doing great work in this area already, so perhaps you have some suggestions?

Ultimately I think there is so much work to be done in the area you've mentioned that I would hope that there are people dedicated specifically to this aim in the future, and this is something that we are hoping to develop in CEA in time.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-15T10:41:33.265Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

A lot of these learnings are written up in the various organisations' annual and six-monthly reviews such as and

Unfortunately I think that much of our learning in areas like marketing is not generally applicable enough to be useful to more than a dozen or so people in the world right now. We are talking with these people already and generally I find those conversations to be more useful than spending an equivalent amount of time writing up learnings because we can tailor the conversation to specific circumstances.

For example, writing up my policy learnings ( ) took me at least 1.5 days, and it is unclear to me whether this was better than having 15 one-hour conversations with interested people. This was a case where I had particularly well-organised thoughts and potentially novel insights, so I find it likely that in cases where I have less-insightful and worse-organised thoughts it would be better for me just to have the conversations instead, which is the route I am currently going down with a lot of this stuff.

I would be interested in your thoughts on this as someone who does take the time to write up substantial amounts of your thinking. How do you compare the trade-off against spending the same amount of time simply having conversations with people? I'm pretty open to the idea that I'm not spending enough time writing up my learnings, but at the moment I'm trying to focus my effort on conversations instead as I think that's where more value lies.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-14T11:16:57.307Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

These are more great questions Ben. Do you mind if I come back to you on them on Monday as I'm going to try and take today as a day off? Thanks in advance.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-13T13:08:24.223Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Yes, I believe so. Just contact and he can let you know the details. Thanks for showing an interest.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-13T12:22:38.369Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

It may also be worth mentioning that if anyone would like to track what EA Outreach are doing in more detail, we send out monthly updates on our activities which you can sign up for here:!forum/ea-outreach-updates

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-13T12:02:03.075Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · EA · GW

On question six:

6.) How does CEA know that Will's viral Ice Bucket articles generated £10K for SCI? What is being done, if anything, to track the impact of these outreach projects? Even if we can't understand well the impact of outreach overall, it would be nice to be able to compare projects against each other.

We got our money moved to SCI data from SCI. They ask where the donations came from and they saw a large spike in donations citing online media at the time when I did a national radio segment with Elie from GiveWell on why to donate to SCI rather than ALS in the ice bucket challenge, which was the reproduced on BBC online and in the Financial Times. They also asked a few of the donors and they said that our articles were the cause.

I agree with you that it would be nice to be able to compare the impact of the different projects. The impact metrics we are tracking for each of the projects are different in places, but we try and measure similar metrics across the projects such as direct money moved wherever we can. We have also been attempting to monitor whenever one of the projects leads to a new Giving What We Can member, and GiveWell have been giving us numbers on new traffic to GiveWell as a result of our media (we will set this up for other projects as well once they reach scale). For example multiple articles we have placed in the media have driven 1000s of new visitors to GiveWell (Approximately 1 in every 200 new visitors donates to GiveWell and the average donations size is $1000, though I imagine the visitors we sent over were substantially less likely than average to donate large amounts). We hope to use direct money moved as one indicator of the impact of each project, though this is quite an imprecise metric that doesn't capture many of the other benefits of the projects, so we will be monitoring others as well such as the number of people who sign up to an EA org as a result of these projects, the number of people who become actively involved in the movement because of these projects, etc.

I hope this answers some of your questions, and feel free to get in touch if you have further questions.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-13T12:01:31.003Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA · GW

On question five:

5.) Is there any danger in CEA increasing how central it is to the movement? We certainly do want more resources and CEA seems to be in a very good place to execute these projects in a way that no one else can. But it would be bad for CEA to become a single point of failure for the movement. Has there been any spot in spinning off more orgs out of the CEA umbrella? Any thought in putting some of these projects on hold and use EA Ventures to try to get some of them out instead?

I agree with you that CEA is becoming an increasingly key node in the EA movement, and that this is a potential failure mode, and it is one that we have been taking steps to address. We are currently in the process of finalising a governance reform package within CEA that would turn CEA into more of an incubator, which will make it easier for CEA to start and end projects. We have already successfully spun two projects out of CEA (Animal Charity Evaluators and Life You Can Save), and these reforms would also potentially make it easier for projects to spin out of CEA should they wish to. I won't go into the details of these reforms publicly until we are able to finalise the package and discuss it with the trustees, but we are certainly taking steps to make CEA more resilient, adaptable, and ultimately less likely to be a failure mode within the movement.

As for whether EA Ventures should try to start up some of these initiatives instead, I see CEA and EA Ventures as occupying two different roles. EA Ventures is a project to make it easier for projects to get financing, whereas CEA is an incubator of new projects. EA Ventures primarily provides funding, whereas CEA provides: office space, book-keeping, hr and logistics support, fundraising support, legal support, charity status, and mentoring and strategy advice. It would take a considerable amount of setup time for EA Ventures to be able to provide all of these services, and I don't think this would be the best use of resources. Similarly, projects at CEA are always welcome to spin-off from CEA and source these services independently, but they find it beneficial enough that they choose not to do this as it allows them to focus purely on their project and not on non-profit administration which is largely handled by CEA. For this reason I would like to continue using CEA's incubation services for the projects that I am starting and working on, at least until they reach sufficient scale, because it allows me to focus my attention directly on the project itself.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-13T12:00:46.905Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

On question four:

4.) Why is EA Ventures included in this? It doesn't even seem thematically related.

There are a number of ways of interpreting your question on EA Ventures. The benefits of the project (increased coordination, less matching costs for donors and projects, incentives for and ease of creating new EA projects, etc.) are outlined here: (note that the intended audience of this document is donors, and so it doesn't stress the benefits to entrepreneurs as much as it could)

I agree that EA Ventures is less thematically relevant to the rest of the programme than many of the other projects, but I think it is unfair to say that it is not thematically related: this project is about making it easier for EAs to get the funding they need to start new projects, and it is in the plan in the context of getting EAs access to the skills and resources they need to have impact.

The idea was suggested by a number of different EAs in a number of different forums, and multiple people asked whether we were interested in leading on the project as no-one else seemed to want to take the lead on it. We mentioned it to a couple of donors, who seemed pretty interested in the idea, and after writing it up in more detail and discussing its merits relative to the other things we would have been spending the time on, we decided to take it on.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-13T11:59:25.979Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA · GW

On question three (the forum keeps renumbering my answers to I'm writing the numbers in text):

3.) I like the program plan and a lot of individual projects, but it feels a bit like throwing everything but the kitchen sink, very loosely fit together by theme. There doesn't seem to be that much rationale for why some projects are taking place and others aren't. While it's good to try many things to learn lots fast, it's also good to focus on a few things to do them well. What thought has CEA given to this tradeoff?

I agree with you that there are a lot of different projects here (and the list used to be much much longer before we had to cut it down to what was more realistic to achieve!) The strategy that we tend to use at CEA is to experiment on a number of different things when we move into a new area and then scale up the things that work well. For example when we created 80,000 Hours we experimented with making it a campaigning movement, an online app, a community, and a lecture series, before settling on the current model of it being a service to help people choose their careers. Without this experimentation it is easy to commit too many resources to sub-optimal projects that we end up pivoting away from. This is why this list does look long, and why we expect it will narrow at the end of this year, and possibly even during the year if one or more of the projects seem particularly bad on closer inspection.

It is also notable that we have also taken one bigger bet, in the books that we are publishing. In including writing time, William MacAskill's book and marketing campaign will have at least one person-year of time put into it. This is because we were presented with a particularly good publishing deal - pretty much the best deal that it is possible to get as a non-celebrity first-time author.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-13T11:57:26.295Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

On question two:

2.) What, if anything, has EA Outreach learned from those who have already done outreach, such as CEA's own orgs, or others? Didn't, for example, GWWC already try VIP outreach?

2a. We've tried to talk with everyone who we think might have useful insights or learnings we might be able to use on EA Outreach. Kerry Vaughan in particular has been doing a lot of this (as he is coordinating the movement-facing side of our work) and he is regularly Skyping and talking with half a dozen people a day to ask for advice and feedback on things that he is working on. I won't bore you with a long list of everyone we are currently getting advice from, but I can assure you that it is extensive!

2b. On your questions about learning within CEA, I am fortunate enough to have led on outreach for Giving What We Can, VIP engagement for CEA, and outreach for 80,000 Hours in previous roles I've had at CEA, so much of the project plan ( is built off the back of things I felt I learned while in those roles, and I regularly discuss strategy and learnings with the current teams working on those projects. Finally, at CEA we have 'training lunches' which all the teams are invited to, in which someone presents on a topic that they have experience with, or a topic that they have recently been studying, and the group gets to discuss and give feedback. We regularly have these on outreach-related topics, and in fact on Wednesday Steph Crampin from GWWC will be giving one on what she has learned from the marketing diploma that she is in the final stages of getting.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-13T11:57:10.656Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · EA · GW

On question one:

1.) What will EA Outreach do, if anything, to coordinate with other people working on marketing EA? Will EA Outreach be transparent, or aim to produce research that is of value to typical EAs? Will there be any attempt to bring forward some "lessons learned"? While I know the Global Priorities Project has done a lot, I feel like there has been incredibly little that an EA can personally use and learn from (though I understand that may not have been the point).

1a. We would like to co-ordinate and collaborate with anyone who is working on marketing EA. Currently the only person we know who is working on this full time is Tyler Alterman from Leverage, and we work so closely with him that he practically feels like part of the team! We will be collaborating closely with LYCS, not least on Peter Singer's book, and we talk with Giving What We Can on a daily basis. We are teaming up with 80,000 Hours on the EA Fellow's Programme, and we have been working with CEA to create its own branding that will make it more relevant to the movement as an incubator. We've been talking with Tom Ash and looking for ways that we can best collaborate with, which hosts many .impact projects. As I mentioned in the plan we have been helping advise FHI on their efforts to make the discussion on AI in the media more accurate. We have also been advising the Norwegian EAs on media strategy, and they've been helping us think through movement branding. We've been talking with some of the German EAs about their plans to create "superteams" to work on new EA projects. We've also been collaborating with the Australian EAs on the EA Forum, and we are currently in conversation with them about their hosting of EA Global. If there are other groups that would like to collaborate with us, I'd love to hear from them!

1b. I won't speak for the Global Priorities Project (GPP) as I haven't been working on that project since August and so I'm not so up to date on their current plans. It is worth noting though that Seb Farquhar has been hired from McKinsey to join GPP as its director and project manager, so their plans and outputs may change substantially from January when he starts.

On EA Outreach though, we do indeed plan to write up some of our lessons learned. We have a draft post ready on our learnings from engaging with the media in 2014 that we hope to post soon. You have probably seen my post on what I learned from engaging in policy work earlier this year: Writing up these learnings takes quite a lot of time and so we probably won't be able to share everything we learn, but we try to pass on any particularly useful information to teams that might benefit from it. We love getting questions from different projects and people on their outreach strategies, and I really enjoy talking with all of these projects and helping them think through their work, so if there are people reading this who would be interested in talking through some questions about their EA project then please do get in touch.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-13T11:56:32.392Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Peter,

Great questions, thanks for asking them. I'm going to respond to your different questions in different comments as my response is too long to be accepted as a single comment.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-12T11:54:36.493Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

This is an interesting argument and one that I'd like to think about some more. I'll let Kerry respond in more detail as he is leading on EA Global, but IIRC the main reasons we had in mind were around fostering more of a sense of community, excitement, and illustrating the global scale of the movement. It might also make it easier to use the events to promote the books on EA that are coming out if they are near one of the book launches. Finally, having them simultaneously would make it easier to get pre- and post-event media coverage, especially if we have tie-ins with the books. I know that these sorts of benefits are hard to define, but I think that having the events simultaneously will help foster a sense, both within the movement and among the public, that EA is a rapidly growing, exciting and influential global movement, which I think could be quite helpful to us.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism Outreach needs your donations this Christmas! · 2014-12-12T11:39:47.568Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Ben, We can add your donations to the CauseVox page manually. Just let Rob or me know. Thanks, and let me know if you have any additional questions.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Open thread 5 · 2014-11-25T10:50:17.867Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Pbhyq lbh ng yrnfg pnyy vg fbzrguvat bgure guna "yvir orybj gur yvar". V jbeel gung fbzr crbcyr zvtug svaq vg bssrafvir, nf yvir orybj gur yvar vf gurzrq fb urnivyl nebhaq cbiregl. V qba'g frr jung rngvat gur fnzr purnc sbbq sbe n jrrx unf gb qb jvgu ZVEV/PSNE/PRN.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Open Thread 4 · 2014-11-07T10:41:08.336Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Additionally, GiveWell have to consider whether they have enough room for more funding for all GiveWell donors (i.e. $ millions per year), which is more difficult case to make than simply having room for more funding from a single donor (presumably $ hundreds or $ thousands per year)

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Tell us about your recent EA activities · 2014-10-16T17:30:58.441Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'd recommend reading the links offered here: They are some useful introductory articles to effective altruism.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Aim high, even if you fall short · 2014-10-16T17:24:57.843Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

In the UK I like "Swedish Glace" as a non-dairy ice cream. Not sure if they have it over the pond though.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on On Progress and Prosperity · 2014-10-16T17:18:58.036Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi Ilya, I think the reason that Paul is discussing this is because he values everyone equally, regardless of when they exist. And thus he is trying to figure out what actions people should take now in order to maximise the impact he can have on everyone in the world at all times. I agree with your sentiment that much academic work has had little to no utility to humankind (the median published paper is cited once apparently), however there are some questions such as "how can I do as much good as possible" that are significantly understudied, and so I think Paul is contributing there. Additionally I know many people who are pursuing technology entrepreneurship and so articles like this one will help them choose which areas they should be working in.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Effective Altruism is a Question (not an ideology) · 2014-10-16T16:35:55.757Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · EA · GW

I agree with this, and try (sometimes awkwardly) not to put the phrase "effective altruist" in materials whose intended audience is the general public, much as I do with the acronyms GWWC and 80k.

My worry though is that people will use "effective altruists" as a phrase to describe people in our movement unless we give them a better one to use. Other than "aspiring effective altruist", which I have used occasionally when talking with journalists, I don't find any of the others 'sticky' enough.

I would love to hear suggestions from others on a short memorable phrase that we can use to describe ourselves collectively and as individuals, because I worry that otherwise "effective altruists" will end up being used.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Your Good Deeds 2014 Thread · 2014-10-06T15:12:21.438Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

If your aim is tax-deductibility, and there are charities that you can't current get tax-deductibility to, then why not setup a charity that simply makes grants to overseas charities? This is what we have done in the UK with the Giving What We Can Trust, which has had hundreds of thousands of pounds donated through it to non-UK charities. This means that you can donate to any charity in the world rather than limiting yourself to Australian charities.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Why is effective altruism new and obvious? · 2014-10-02T13:49:16.966Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · EA · GW

I'm unsure whether these are the reasons why effective altruism started, or simply a compelling narrative, but I often think of EA as having come about as a result of advances in three different disciplines:

  1. The rise in evidence-based development aid, with the use of randomized controlled trials led by economists such as those at the Poverty Action Lab. These provide high-quality research about what works and what doesn’t in development aid.

  2. The development of the heuristics and biases literature by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. This literature shows the failures of human rationality, and thereby opens up the possibility of increasing one’s impact by deliberately countering these biases.

  3. The development of moral arguments, by Peter Singer and others, in favor of there being a duty to use a proportion of one’s resources to fight global poverty, and in favor of an ‘expanded moral circle‘ that gives moral weight to distant strangers, future people and non-human animals.

This gave rise to three communities: the rationalist (e.g. LessWrong), the philosophical (e.g. Giving What We Can), and the randomistas as they are often referred to (e.g. J-PAL and GiveWell)). These three communities merged to form effective altruism.

I wrote this up based on William MacAskill's arguments at but I would be interested to hear how much people think this explains.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Help spread the movement! · 2014-09-21T19:52:46.140Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Thos!

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Open Thread · 2014-09-19T13:55:28.364Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

II. Why Does Effective Altruism Neglect (Better) Policy Advocacy?

I'm not sure that this is necessarily the case among EA orgs with full-time staff. The Centre for Effective Altruism (in particular the Global Priorities Project, which is our collaboration with FHI), The Open Philanthropy Project and the Cambridge Centre on Existential Risk are putting considerable effort into policy work. For example, I and others at CEA put the majority of our time over the past week into policy research, and our trustees were at a meeting at No. 10 Downing Street yesterday. I have written up some of my thoughts on our early policy work at

I think that there are a few effects going on here which cause policy to appear under-neglected among the community at large...

  1. There is a relatively larger barrier to entry in policy work (compared to e.g. making a donation to a GiveWell recommendation), which means that policy work is often done by people working in this area full-time, or who have past experience in the area. This may be one of the reasons why the community at large isn't doing more policy analysis. I think it would be useful if the EA community did do more policy analysis, in particular making recommendations of policies that could feasibly happen (i.e. tweak this thing, not ban agriculture subsidies) and doing analyses of the type I outline in my post above (e.g. what are the benefits, what are the costs, who will be in favour, who will be against, how can we change the policy to make it more feasible while retaining most of the benefits, how would we actually make this change, and who do we ultimately need to convince about this to make it happen, etc.). I for one would find this useful in informing the work that I do in this area, and if the ideas are good enough they would likely be taken forwards.

  2. Policy work is often under-publicised unless there are major breakthroughs. In doing this work we are developing ongoing relationships with people, and if we were to publicise these relationships on the internet we could damage them. For this reason we often find it difficult to talk about our policy work extensively in public.

There may also be cultural and path-dependent effects at play here, which people have mentioned above/below and elsewhere, so I won't go into them in detail.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Good policy ideas that won’t happen (yet) · 2014-09-12T08:09:55.791Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks Nick. There seems to be a problem with the way the forum currently references the URL. I've directed the link to the post on the trikeapps site as a temporary workaround. It may break once the problem with the URLs is fixed.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Good policy ideas that won’t happen (yet) · 2014-09-12T08:04:17.333Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Have you put any thought in how to overcome the sorts of political obstacles that cause politicians to favor certain interest groups at the expense of a greater good (such as some agricultural subsidies)?

I find the 'political entrepreneur' model useful here. It predicts that a politician would be willing to make changes to these sorts of policies once the balance of costs to them and benefits to them weighs in favour of changing it.

For example, take the common agricultural policy in the EU. If you change it, then you have 26m very angry European farmers, and large scale unemployment that you are labelled as responsible for. So the politician would need to create a mass movement or economic benefits that are clearly greater than these downsides in order for it to go through. Unfortunately people make much more noise about losses than about benefits, and so this is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Of course the political entrepreneur model is very simplistic here. It would take a huge coalition of politicians to make this happen. And you would need to get around all of the nationalistic worries that would occur from vast quantities of the EU budget not being allocated to countries that it had previously been allocated to. These are just a few of the many additional obstacles that would need to be overcome.

There is much more to be said about this though. A rather non-evidence-based playbook on this that I used to use in my campaigning days is "How to win campaigns" by Chris Rose if you are interested in reading more about how to do this practically. On the more theoretical side, many of the books linked to in the article propose alternative models that can help illustrate the sorts of changes that would need to be made.

Comment by niel_bowerman2 on Good policy ideas that won’t happen (yet) · 2014-09-12T07:52:37.344Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I had previously assumed that political action in this area would be infeasible, but I'm happy to be wrong on this one.

To clarify, I'm not predicting that political action will be feasible. I'm merely predicting that it will be possible for us to gain access to policymakers again in the future. Especially once we have better responses and policy proposals.