Posts

Announcing the Patient Philanthropy Fund 2021-10-27T15:44:32.176Z
Investing to Give: FP Research Report 2020-10-30T12:43:11.823Z
The case for investing to give later 2020-07-03T15:23:29.260Z
Long-term investment fund at Founders Pledge 2020-01-10T19:09:21.851Z
Women's Empowerment: Founders Pledge report and recommendations 2018-12-19T20:34:48.447Z

Comments

Comment by SjirH on The Future Fund’s Project Ideas Competition · 2022-09-02T09:19:48.291Z · EA · GW

Thank you!

Comment by SjirH on In current EA, scalability matters · 2022-03-09T21:09:34.303Z · EA · GW

I also think it's worth stressing that the best alternative to finding a great (above-bar) option to spend money on now is not to spend on options below the bar, but to wait / keep looking and spend it at an above-bar opportunity later (and ideally invest to give while you're at it).

In your example, this cashes out (roughly) in us using Research multiple times to find as many Alpha-like projects as possible and fund those, and to only start looking for and funding Beta-like projects when there are no more Alpha-like projects to find. Even if there is only one extra Alpha and one extra Beta to find, it's better (with the parameters as provided in your example) to find and fund that Alpha and find and fund Beta, than to find at fund only one of the two.

Cases somewhat akin to "you can only use Research for either Alpha or Beta" can occur, but only under very specific conditions, e.g. when opportunities are time-sensitive and/or when there is a very tight bottleneck on research resources (=strongly increasing marginal costs to doing research), which might in fact be the case currently.

(As a side point: given the option of investing to give, it's important to "set" the bar taking into account our expectations of how cost-effective future opportunities will be, investment benefits one can achieve in the meantime, value drift and expropriation risks etc.)

Comment by SjirH on In current EA, scalability matters · 2022-03-09T21:08:16.228Z · EA · GW

I would like to push back a bit, as I don't think it's true that scalability per se matters more now than it did in the past.

Instead, I think the availability of more funding has pushed down the cost-effectiveness bar for funding opportunities, thereby "unlocking" some new worthy funding opportunities, including some very scalable ones.

To see this, consider that the added value of discovering/creating any new funding opportunity for the community is roughly given by (not accounting for diminishing returns when spending at bar level):

"value created by adding a new funding opportunity" = ("average cost-effectiveness of the opportunity" - "current cost-effectiveness bar") * "room for funding of the opportunity"

I.e. what you're effectively doing by adding a new opportunity is improving the cost-effectiveness of money that would have otherwise been spent at the bar level.

This implies that any opportunity that is above the current bar in terms of its cost-effectiveness can be worth discovering if it's scalable enough. But that is nothing new: it was true as much in 2010-2014 as it is now. It's just that the bar was higher, so some very scalable but below-bar opportunities weren't worth discovering back then but are now.

Comment by SjirH on The Future Fund’s Project Ideas Competition · 2022-03-04T10:42:52.252Z · EA · GW

A social media platform with better incentives

Epistemic Institutions, Values and Reflective Processes

Social media has arguably become a major way in which people consume information and develop their values, and the most popular platforms are far from optimally set up to bring people closer to truthfulness or altruistic ends. We’d love to see experiments with social media platforms that provide more pro-social incentives and yet have the potential to reach a large audience.

Comment by SjirH on The Future Fund’s Project Ideas Competition · 2022-03-04T10:42:33.012Z · EA · GW

Institutions as coordination mechanisms

Artificial Intelligence, Biorisk and Recovery from Catastrophe, Great Power Relations, Space Governance, Values and Reflective Processes

A lot of major problems - such as biorisk, AI governance risk and the risks of great power war - can be modeled as coordination problems, and may be at least partially solved via better coordination among the relevant actors. We’d love to see experiments with institutions that use mechanism design to allow actors to coordinate better. One current example of such an institution is NATO: Article 5 is a coordination mechanism that aligns the interests of NATO member states. But we could create similar institutions for e.g. biorisk, where countries commit to a matching mechanism - where “everyone acts in a certain way if everyone else does” - with costs imposed to defectors to solve a tragedy of the commons dynamic.

Comment by SjirH on The Future Fund’s Project Ideas Competition · 2022-03-04T10:41:53.100Z · EA · GW

Experiments with and within video games

Values and Reflective Processes, Empowering Exceptional People

Video games are a powerful tool to reach hundreds of millions of people, an engine of creativity and innovation, and a fertile ground for experimentation. We’d love to see experiments with and within video games that help create new tools to address major issues. For instance, we’d love experiments with new governance and incentive systems and institutions, new ways to educate people about pressing problems, games that simulate actual problems and allow players to brainstorm solutions, and games that help identify and recruit exceptional people.

Comment by SjirH on The Future Fund’s Project Ideas Competition · 2022-03-04T10:41:25.329Z · EA · GW

Representation of future generations within major institutions

Values and Reflective Processes, Epistemic Institutions

We think at least part of the issues facing us today would be better handled if there was less political short-termism, and if there were more incentives for major political and non-political institutions to take into account the interests of future generations. One way to address this is to establish explicit representation of future generations in these institutions through strategic advocacy, which can be done in many ways and has been piloted in the past few decades.

Comment by SjirH on The Future Fund’s Project Ideas Competition · 2022-03-04T10:40:21.238Z · EA · GW

Scaling successful policies

Biorisk and Recovery from Catastrophe, Economic Growth

Information flow across institutions (including national governments) is far from optimal, and there could be large gains in simply scaling what already works in some places. We’d love to see an organization that takes a prioritized approach to researching which policies are currently in place to address major global issues, identifying which of these are most promising to bring to other institutions and geographies, and then bringing these to the institutions and geographies where they are most needed.

Comment by SjirH on The Future Fund’s Project Ideas Competition · 2022-03-04T10:40:00.155Z · EA · GW

A better overview of the effective altruism community

Effective Altruism

The effective altruism movement has grown large enough that it has become hard for any individual to have a good overview of ongoing projects and existing organizations. There is currently no central repository on what is happening across different causes and parts of the movement, which means many opportunities for coordination may be left on the table. We would like to see more initiatives like the yearly EA survey and a more detailed version of Ben Todd’s recent post that research and provide an overview of what is happening across the effective altruism movement.

Comment by SjirH on The Future Fund’s Project Ideas Competition · 2022-03-04T10:38:04.405Z · EA · GW

A public EA impact investing evaluator

Effective Altruism, Empowering Exceptional People

Charity evaluators that publicly share their research - such as GiveWell, Founders Pledge and Animal Charity Evaluators - have arguably not only helped move a lot of money to effective funding opportunities but also introduced many people to the principles of effective altruism, which they have applied in their lives in various ways. Apart from some relatively small projects (1) (2) (3) there is currently no public EA research presence in the growing impact investing sector, which is both large in the amount of money being invested and in its potential to draw more exceptional people’s attention to the effective altruism movement. We’d love to see an organization that takes GiveWell-quality funding opportunity research to the impact investing space and publicly shares its findings.

Comment by SjirH on The Future Fund’s Project Ideas Competition · 2022-03-04T10:34:35.636Z · EA · GW

More public EA charity evaluators

Effective Altruism

There are dozens of EA fundraising organizations deferring to just a handful of organizations that publish their research on funding opportunities, most notably GiveWell, Founders Pledge and Animal Charity Evaluators. We would like to see more professional funding opportunity research organizations sharing their research with the public, both to increase the quality of research in the areas that are currently covered - through competition and diversity of perspectives and methodologies - and to cover important areas that aren’t yet covered such as AI and EA meta.

Comment by SjirH on The case for investing to give later · 2021-12-08T14:11:26.543Z · EA · GW

Hi Imma, thanks for your comments, and happy to hear this post has been useful for you! The research project behind it actually resulted in this report, which also tackles some of your follow-up suggestions :). I'll make sure this is edited in at the top of the post, so people can more easily find it.

Comment by SjirH on Announcing the Patient Philanthropy Fund · 2021-10-29T09:06:15.989Z · EA · GW

Thank you Brian!

Comment by SjirH on Announcing the Patient Philanthropy Fund · 2021-10-29T09:06:00.161Z · EA · GW

Thanks for raising this Peter; I agree it would be great to have tax-deductible donation options from other countries as well, and we'd love for local EA groups to pick this up. It's unfortunately not something we as Founders Pledge can prioritize, as we'd expect the total size of these donations to be relatively small compared to those of our members (who can use the Founders Pledge Donor-Advised Funds) and of non-members living in the three geographies you mention.

Comment by SjirH on Announcing the Patient Philanthropy Fund · 2021-10-29T09:00:09.672Z · EA · GW

Thanks Kyle!

The growth targets will of course always be somewhat arbitrary, but they are based on a number of considerations:

  • $1m was based on what we thought was achievable (based on "market research"/early conversations) + is large enough for people to feel good about making $100k+ contributions post-launch, which is the ballpark we're aiming for among FP members + is a nice round target of course
  • $10m came from discussions in the FP investment committee on what is roughly a size at which you can start making private equity investments from a transaction costs, risk management and access perspective
  • $100m is based on all investment options being open at that point + a size at which a Fund could reasonably fund itself + a size at which the Fund is too much of a responsibility for the FP board to want to carry + a size at which it's too large a part of FP's overall product for it to make sense to stay within FP. The trigger for spin-out is either $100m or 10 years with minimum $10m at that point, because we wanted to be really clear about committing to spinning out the Fund at some point.

On the Fund's balance: we'll be sharing regular and milestone updates with the Fund's funders, on our blog and on the Fund webpage. I like the idea of having a (near-)live counter on the Fund's page at some point, and will raise this with our tech team to see if we can implement it.

Comment by SjirH on Event-driven mission correlated investing and the 2020 US election · 2021-06-18T10:06:41.765Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this post jh. It's an interesting idea that indeed seems worth exploring more. As an aside/Just musing, I wonder whether there are opportunities to correlate things that we'd like to be correlated with each other beyond philanthropy, e.g. in our careers or personal lives.

Comment by SjirH on Where are you donating in 2020 and why? · 2020-12-30T08:53:56.932Z · EA · GW

Hi George, thanks for sharing this! You wrote in your blog that you were considering investing your money, but that this was difficult in the UK. If you are referring to investing to give rather than just postponing for a year, FYI we'll likely have a Long-Term Investment Fund at Founders Pledge by the end of next year, which we might open up to the public and will likely be accessible from the UK. Do let me know if this would interest you, as knowing there is non-member interest might inform our decisions around opening it up.

Comment by SjirH on Investing to Give: FP Research Report · 2020-11-19T16:48:50.941Z · EA · GW

Good question! There certainly is a strong case for funding global priorities research now, but there are multiple reasons why investing to give could still be better:

  • Certain insights make other insights easier to have: there might be a certain order in which insights need to be had, or at least a certain order might make things easier, and this could take time.
  • Funding to achieve these insights might be done by someone else in the counterfactual, and this other person or institution might not otherwise give to (as) high-impact stuff. Note that I'm not just talking about "targeted" global priorities research here: new insights might also come from or be aided by work by non-EA institutions.
  • Money isn't directly fungible with research results/it takes time to build the field of global priorities research: just throwing more money at e.g. the Global Priorities Institute will hit strong diminishing returns, and it takes time for enough talented researchers to be trained so that the field can absorb more funding.
Comment by SjirH on The case for investing to give later · 2020-11-07T23:21:11.238Z · EA · GW

We certainly do, though we normally receive our funding from a small group of closely-connected funders rather than collecting donations publicly. But if you're interested in making a donation, please do reach out to info@founderspledge.com :).

Comment by SjirH on Investing to Give: FP Research Report · 2020-11-02T14:59:43.917Z · EA · GW

Thanks for your comment. Please note though that most types of "flow-through effects" (including those in your example, if I understand you correctly) are included in the analysis.

Investment-like giving opportunities (as defined in the report) are only a very small subset of interventions with substantial flow-through effects, namely those whose gains are reprioritised towards the highest-impact opportunities at a later point in time. Giving to them is similar to investing to give in that both can benefit from exogenous learning.

Comment by SjirH on The case for investing to give later · 2020-07-07T14:00:38.854Z · EA · GW
That is to say: if there's a sufficient compounding effect from movement building that we can't replace with money, then maybe we should spend a lot now on movement building.

I agree in principle, though it seems harder to ensure for other categories of movement-building that they will lead to prolonged compounding: encouraging investment seems the most straightforward way to make that happen, but not necessarily the only way.

Comment by SjirH on The case for investing to give later · 2020-07-07T13:49:41.967Z · EA · GW

Thanks both! I largely agree and have incorporated an updated estimate into the new model (see above).

Comment by SjirH on The case for investing to give later · 2020-07-07T13:48:40.747Z · EA · GW

Thank you MichaelA; happy to hear this was useful to you. I look forward to reading your post as well.

Comment by SjirH on The case for investing to give later · 2020-07-07T13:46:46.116Z · EA · GW

Thanks! I largely agree with your comment on the risk of loss and have incorporated it into the new model.

Comment by SjirH on The case for investing to give later · 2020-07-05T18:35:49.389Z · EA · GW
If (say) the total pool of EA-aligned funds grows by 50% over the next 5 years due to additional donors joining—which seems extremely plausible—it seems like that should make the marginal opportunity much more than 10% less good.

I'm not sure whether it would, considering, for example, the large room for funding GiveWell opportunities have had for multiple years (and will likely keep having) and their seemingly hardly diminishing cost-effectiveness on the margin (though data are obviously noisy here/there are other explanations).

But I do take your point that this is not a very conservative estimate. I'll update them from 1%/2% to 2%/4%, thank you!

but used 7% as your conservative estimate in the spreadsheet and in the bottom-line estimates you reported.

See the rest of the paragraph you refer to: the 5% is my conservative estimate for index investing, the 7% for investing more generally.

Comment by SjirH on Long-term investment fund at Founders Pledge · 2020-01-15T12:35:39.133Z · EA · GW

Thanks Siebe. On (3) the fund as we currently see it would indeed attempt to address both (e.g. via evaluation on both that FP would also do otherwise), but it's a useful distinction to make.

Comment by SjirH on Long-term investment fund at Founders Pledge · 2020-01-15T12:14:17.988Z · EA · GW

Thanks! These are useful examples.

Comment by SjirH on Women's Empowerment: Founders Pledge report and recommendations · 2019-06-06T14:29:04.841Z · EA · GW

Hi Habryka, just wanted to draw your attention to the update above, which is in part referring to some of your comments that have been incorporated in the new version of the report. Thanks for those!

Comment by SjirH on Women's Empowerment: Founders Pledge report and recommendations · 2019-02-14T12:10:37.254Z · EA · GW

Hi Habryka,

This is to thank you (and others) once more for all your comments here, and to let you know they have been useful and we have incorporated some changes to account for them in a new version of the report, which will be published in March or April. They were also useful in our internal discussion on how to frame our research, and we plan to keep improving our communication around this throughout the rest of the year, e.g. by publishing a blog post / brief on cause prioritisation for our members.

I also largely agree with the views you express in your last post above, insofar as they pertain to the contents of this report specifically. However, very importantly, I should stress that your comments do not apply to FP research generally: we generally choose the areas we research through cause prioritisation / in a cause neutral way, and we do try to answer the question 'how can we achieve the most good' in the areas we investigate, not (even) shying away from harder-to-measure impact. In fact, we are moving more and more in the latter direction, and are developing research methodology to do so (see e.g. our recently published methodology brief on policy interventions).

Some of our reports so far have been an exception to these rules for pragmatic (though impact-motivated) reasons, mainly:

  • We quickly needed to build a large enough 'basic' portfolio of relatively high-impact charities, so that we could make good recommendations to our members.
  • There are some causes our members ask lots of questions about / are extra interested in, and we want to be able to say something about those areas, even if we in the end recommend them to focus on other areas instead, when we find better opportunities there.

But there's definitely ways in which we can improve the framing of these exceptions, and the comments you provided have already been helpful in that way.

Comment by SjirH on Women's Empowerment: Founders Pledge report and recommendations · 2018-12-22T09:29:25.491Z · EA · GW

Very quick reply as I don't have much time now: note that this statistic is about intimate partner violence and sexual violence (where there is a clear difference between men and women), not about violence as a whole. This is clear in the body of the report; the statistic was shortened (though still correct) for the executive summary. Of course this doesn't fully change your point, but it does influence it a little bit. (I agree that when looking at violence generally we should compare the two) Note also, as noted in the edit to the main post, that this report was not arrived at through cause prioritization, and that is not what the introduction tries to do; it merely gives an overview of the problems one could solve in this area. The introduction/overview is hence not what should be most interesting to a cause-neutral reader; that should be the charity evaluations, as they can be compared to charities in other areas.

Comment by SjirH on Women's Empowerment: Founders Pledge report and recommendations · 2018-12-21T13:50:22.672Z · EA · GW

No problem, thanks for your comments anyway and please let me know if any part of your critique remains that I haven't engaged with. (Please see edit in main post which should have cleared most up)

Comment by SjirH on Women's Empowerment: Founders Pledge report and recommendations · 2018-12-21T13:44:01.237Z · EA · GW
Habryka: Did you see this line in the introduction of this post?

Thanks for pointing this out, Aaron! Happy that's cleared up.

On the other hand, it does seem like a specific GiveWell charity or two should have shown up on this list, or that FP should have explicitly noted GiveWell's higher overall impact (if the impact actually was higher; it seems like GiveDirectly isn't clearly better than Village Enterprise or Bandhan at boosting consumption, at least based on my reading of p. 5o of the 2018 GD study, which showed a boost of roughly 0.3 standard deviations in monthly consumption vs. 0.2-0.4 SDs for Bandhan's major RCT, though there are lots of other factors in play).
I think I've come halfway around to your view, and would need to read GiveWell and FP studies much more carefully to figure out how I feel about the other half (that is, whether GiveWell charities really do dominate FP's selections).

Please see my updates in the main post and let me know if you still have questions about this. (Do you now understand why we didn't recommend any other specific GW- or FP-recommended charity in this report, but referred to them as a group?)

On the other hand, I didn't like the introduction, which used a set of unrelated facts to make a general point about "challenges" without making an argument for focusing on "women's empowerment" over "human empowerment". I can imagine such an argument being possible (e.g. women are an easy group to target within a population to find people who are especially badly-off, and for whom marginal resources are especially useful), but I can't tell what FP thinks of it.

I hope the reason for this is now also clearer, given the purpose of the report.

Comment by SjirH on Women's Empowerment: Founders Pledge report and recommendations · 2018-12-21T12:10:18.956Z · EA · GW

Just to clarify, at FP we don't take existing priorities/preferences as a given, but we of course do take them into account to some extent when making recommendations (if only because otherwise nobody would follow those recommendations!). We currently use something called the value-discovery approach, which is about asking members about the underlying values driving their preferences (e.g. do you care about people living in the future?), and then making cause/charity recommendations based on those rather than on cause/charity preferences themselves. We also spend quite some time on educating our community on EA/effective giving principles, e.g. this is a main focus of our Programmes team.

Comment by SjirH on Women's Empowerment: Founders Pledge report and recommendations · 2018-12-21T12:00:17.742Z · EA · GW

Thanks for these questions Siebe! And I take your point on sharing context; I'll edit in some points in the main post.

1. We have internally compared these charities on something close to a DALY-equivalent to aid our decisions (similar to what GiveWell does in their cost-effectiveness analyses), but have not included this in the report. This is not because of any assumptions the report makes on empowerment (note that it defines empowerment simply as 'improving lives'). It's mainly because of time constraints: we didn't think it was worth putting in the time to present our estimates in a polished way, given the aims we have with this report (making high-quality recommendations to our members). This is also because internally we are still in the process of developing our views on how to compare across causes and outcome metrics.

2. In terms of cost-effectiveness estimates both do better than GiveDirectly (which we also recommend), and there is obviously large uncertainty in such estimates. Furthermore, Bandhan only accepts donations over $320,000 at this point. Last but not least, the organisations differ in marked ways (where they work, programme focus, target group, type of evidence) and might appeal to different people in our community.

3. We do have rough cost-effectiveness models on almost all of the other charities, but unfortunately I cannot make those public. This is partially for reasons of information sharing (I'd have to check with the charities that provided extra info), but also because these models aren't as worked out as the ones in the report, and a one-to-one comparison would in many cases be confusing rather than valuable. In fact, most initial cost-effectiveness estimates of the other charities are higher than the final estimates of the recommended charities, and we had to deprioritise them to a large extent because the evidence was weaker. Moreover, we find that as we do a more extensive cost-effectiveness analysis of a charity (as we did for our recommended charities), the numbers often go down rather than up, so it's likely that our 'final' estimates of the other charities would be much lower than the initial, rough estimates we have now.

Comment by SjirH on Women's Empowerment: Founders Pledge report and recommendations · 2018-12-20T21:40:23.420Z · EA · GW

I'd distinguish between two ways in which a report can 'be' cause-neutral:

1. Whether its domain of focus/cause area was chosen purely through cause prioritisation

2. Whether its contents are of value from a cause-neutral perspective

Now I agree that this report is not cause-neutral on (1): it was written at least partially because many of FP's community members are interested in women's empowerment.*

However, note that cause prioritisation is just a heuristic to restrict our domain of search: what you want to compare in the end are the (donation) opportunities themselves, not which cause/domain they happen to be in by some categorisation.

Maybe you don't think women's empowerment should be the first domain to check when you are looking for the highest-impact charities overall, but you should at least agree that it is valuable from a cause-neutral perspective to know what the best charities within this particular domain of search are. You might then be surprised that they are actually better than you thought, or you might find that your intuition of other areas having better opportunities is confirmed.

As the methodology of this report allows you to compare the charities to those in other areas (we don't use outcome measures that are restricted to women's empowerment/the analysis is done in a cause-neutral frame), I think it to be cause-neutral on (2). And I hence think it's very much worth discussing (from a cause-neutral perspective of course!) its contents on the EA forum, e.g. how do the recommended charities compare to other near-term welfare opportunities, such as those recommended by GiveWell?

Lastly, I don't think this research provides a post-hoc justification for women's empowerment: in my view it could have as much provided a justification to not donate in that area (if the best charities turn out to be worse than in other areas) as a justification to donate in that area. At FP we do research into areas not to justify our member's initial preferences, but to be recommend high-impact opportunities tailored to those preferences (if high-impact opportunities are available), as well as to be able to make a solid, justified argument to focus on other areas (if higher-impact opportunities are available in those other areas).

*This does not mean that the choice of writing this report was a non-cause-neutral choice: for FP to do the most good we obviously need to take our community's preferences into account. Neither does it mean that one couldn't arrive at women's empowerment as a high-potential cause area through cause prioritisation.