I'm Product Manager at the EA Hub and a community builder based in Singapore. I have a BA in Sociology. I have a background in social movement theory and structural functionalism.
Currently building career capital while doing EA projects on the side.
Hi Marc! This is an interesting topic that I hadn't thought much about, so thanks for posting! I have a few quick comments:
I have lived in a developing country for 6 years, I have reason to believe that embezzling could cut from 10% to 50% of donations received by charitable organizations in humanitarian and development settings. I can't back the statement because the data is really not there, but I am extremely confident about it.
Data on corruption numbers/scale of problem: Through A quick google search (<5 minutes) I found some interesting numbers on this by the Centre for Global Development which sugests the % is much closer to 10% than 50%. One thing that's interesting is they suggest using ‘the percentage of aid that delivers the impact it was designed to' to provide an upper-end figure for corruption (of course, not all impact is lost due to corruption). But looking at something like this might reveal bigger issues in aid - for example, a charity choosing interventions that are not very effective.
Additionally, it seems that the topic of corruption in NGOs is a pretty common concern (~5 million results), and there seem to be a number of proposed solutions. It may be useful to first evaluate existing interventions/organisations, and consider the benefits of supporting existing organisations or starting a new one in this space, and the value of focusing on this issues vs others.
Summary: My uncertainty about this post lies in how much your proposed interventions can contribute to the overall size of the problem, which interventions these are, and how neglected they are.
Comparing the US prison population & NK: While I agree that the overall size of the problem is greater in NK, it does not help us to understand how much of the problem we can address. The US estimate are limited to prison reforms, but the NK estimate includes the losses from the general population's suffering, which is much broader and complicated.
Estimates of total GDP lost in NK: Comparing the $ lost from SK to NK is useful insofar as you're trying to estimate the effect of the communist regime on the prospects of NK. However, I don't think this is maybe the right number when thinking about the near-term gains made from "suceeding". Things that would affect your estimate:
What time-scale of gains are you looking at? For example, on the timescale of 50 years perhaps it is reasonable that eventually NK will catch up to SK but in the interim the gains would be less.
What solutions are you envisioning and what is the end goal?
It seems that a fair number of your proposals are to reduce the suffering but not try to make bigger changes to the overall regime. In that case, it seems that the overall GDP gains are going to be much smaller, and each solution may have a natural limiting factor.
e.g. Safe escape routes will have a limiting factor at which point authorities may crack down/make it harder to escape, and mass exodus of millions of people doesn't seem plausible without a breakdown of the entire state.
Some of your proposals could lead to regime change - e.g. the dissolution of the NK government or opening up of NK (e.g. lowering the price of exports), then the more appropriate reference class would be to look at the various Eastern bloc/Soviet countries immediately after their independence. Many countries faced several years of economic recession followed by a slow recovery. Additionally, there is no guarantee, even if things go better than the ex-Soviet countries, what timescale these changes would happen across.
Does this sound right?
Neglectedness: Do you have an estimate range for the amount of funding currently in this space and the number of actors (e.g. organisations?).
Tractability: It might have been useful to get a little better sense of the track record of these interventions to date to help compare them better. E.g. how many NK's try and how many succeed to take a escape route?
Intervention - Capacity building: I think your point about improving coordination in capacity building is really interesting and I enjoyed reading the Attribution of Moloch post! You mention: "Metainterventions aiming at capacity building are said to be highly robust, and once a more coordinated space emerges, it will be easier for organizations to conduct research on further intervention in the open." - I'm curious what the source is for this?
Terminology comment: Although you refer to Meta EA throughout this post, it seems what you are really talking about is EA community building specifically, as opposed to other Meta EA efforts which could include infrastructure, cross-cutting services to the EA ecosystem, meta research (e.g. global priorities research) etc. Does this sound right, or do you actually also mean other Meta EA activities?
I agree! I think there's some issue here (don't know if there's a word for it) where maybe some critical mass of effort on foreign powers is focused on china, leaving other countries with a big deficit or something. I'm not sure what the solution here is, perhaps other than to make some kind of "the case for becoming a [country X] specialist" for a bunch of potentially influential countries.
EA organizations that have "effective altruism" in their name or make it a key part of their messaging might want to consider de-emphasizing the EA brand, and instead emphasize the specific ideas and causes more. I personally feel interested in rebranding "EA Funds" (which I run) to some other name partly for these reasons.
This makes a lot of sense to me if there's a cap on donations due to branding, especially for the neartermist funds and if you create a legible LTF fund, then that as well.
How big of a priority is it for the EA Funds plan to grow the donor base to non-EA donors, and on what time scale?
Copying Bob Jacob's suggestion here so that people can vote:
Right now most sequences are still displaying my name, even though I didn’t write them. The mods have thankfully already changed the name for the “moral anti-realism” sequence, but ideally the other sequences should be properly credited too. Maybe the whole sequence should just be handed over to the authors themselves, since they might not like the descriptions and images I have created (I did message them). That way they can also just add new posts to the sequence without having to contact me first.
Perhaps it would be useful to have a "Sequence author" tag or something? I have also created a few sequences I didn't write just to reference the group of posts, but it would be good if the author was somehow credited.
It seems reasonable that sub-tags and hierarchies might cause too much confusion
However, it might be helpful to make it easier to relate tags together, right now the process is a bit cumbersome.
Suggestion 1 : Instead of sub-tags, it would be helpful to just have a "Related Tags" section where you can search and add a related tag, and have the option to provide a sentence explaining why/how it's related
Suggestion 2: Make it easier to link to tags in all forum text (e.g. in comments, posts & tags) by @'ing them or somehow making it easy to link to other tags (and possibly even other users, tags & posts). I think this is probably more useful and would add more value than Suggestion 1.
Has anything like these two suggestions been considered?
Maybe related is that when we talk about charity we are implicitly talking about aid, but there are also charities that could advocate for policy interventions etc. So something to separate aid from other kinds of charity work could be useful, although I don't know if that's a question so much as a clarification.
To give an anecdote on this concern: We had an Effective Animal Advocacy group at my college which, after the founding organizer left, was renamed to remove the effective and the focus shifted from more EAA related topics to general animal welfare.
I would be curious if you have any thoughts on the handover process and how you would mitigate this risk?
In general, I do like the idea of having a byline "part of the EA network" for a clearly aligned EA project, group or organisation.
Thanks for this post! I agree with Cristina's comments on the way you've written the post.
Regarding the EA Hub (I'm the Product Manager) what changes would you suggest?
Currently you can register your group with any name and people can filter and find your group. You can add a group type (uni, national/regional etc) and a description so it's clear that your group is an EA group and people know what to expect.
I'm not sure what other changes you are envisioning, but I'd be curious to hear more :)
I have another question, regarding Let's Fund's strategy: although you said you will still be doing fundraising in the near future, you mentioned wanting to move more towards a think tank.
Does this mean you're considering fading out the fundraising aspect of your work? If so: why do you think this is a better trajectory for Let's Fund? Would the research still be funding-oriented, or more similar to the Randomista article?
If not, is it because of uncertainties around what the best giving opportunities may be? Or something completely different?
I have a few questions on how the fundraising worked:
How many total donors did you have for each grantee?
What marketing strategies did you engage in?
What were the top ways donors found out about the giving opportunities? I know you mentioned the Vox article & Bill Gates' tweet, but I'd be interested to know how much traffic was driven through there, vs other sources
Was there anything unintuitive or interesting that you learnt about the crowdfunding market ?
A question from Dominika Krupocin and myself - it would be great to get more than one response if you have different experiences!
Do you have any experience with implementing a new system (project / task management, CRM, other enterprise software). If so:
1.1. What advice would you give to those who are embarking on this process?
1.2. What were the main bottlenecks / difficulties that you came across?
1.3. What would you have done differently?
If you haven't yet but are considering it:
2.1 What is your current approach?
2.2 What are your main challenges or uncertainties?
I think the use of Facebook vs Google/Slack is somewhat different and there's probably a whole separate case to be made for whether we should be on Facebook or not for non-privacy related reasons. (Since Facebook isn't trying to be secure/private platform), but we still use it anyways.
I started brainstorming and wrote a shortform about it here in case anyone is interested :)
Reasons for/against Facebook & plans to migrate the community out of there
Epistemitc Status: My very rough thoughts. I am confident of the reasons for/against, but the last section is mostly speculation so I won't attempt to clarify my certainty levels
Reasons for moving away from Facebook
Facebook promotes bad discussion norms (see Point 4 here)
Poor movement knowledge retention
Irritating to navigate: It's easy to not be aware that certain groups exist (since there are dozens) and it's annoying to filter through all the other stuff in Facebook to get to them
Extremely high switching costs
start-up costs (see Neels' comment)
harder to pay attention to new platform
easier to integrate with existing scoial media
Offputting/intimidating to newer members
Past attempts haven't taken off (e.g. the EA London Discussion Board, but that was also not promoted super hard)
Existing online space (the Forum) is a bit too formal/initimidating
How would we make the switch?
In order of increasing speculativeness
One subcommunity at a time. It seems like most EA groups are already more active in their spaces other than Facebook, but it would be interesting to see this replicated on the cause area level by understanding what the community members' needs are and seeing if there's a way to have alternatives.
Moving certain services found on Facebook to other sites: having a good opportunities board so people go to another place for ea jobs & volunteer opportunities, moving the editing & review group to the forum (?), making it easier for people to reach out to each other (e.g. EA Hub Community directory). Then it may be easier to move whatever is left (e.g. discussions) to a new platform.
Encouraging ~100 active community members to not use Facebook for a week as an experiment and track the outcomes
Make the Forum less intimidating so people feel more comfortable posting (profile pictures? Heart reacts? Embedded discord server or other chat function? Permanent Walled Garden?)
Things I'll be tracking that might update me towards how possible this is
LessWrong's experience with the Walled Garden
The EA Hub is improving our Community Directory & introducing some other services in 2021 possibly including 1-1 Matching and an Opportunities Board.
Cause area Slacks
Effective Environmentalism Slack group (not very active right now, but we haven't done a lot of active efforts to encourage people to use the Slack yet. Might do this later in the year).
IIDM & Progress Studies Slack
Changes in Forum culture over time
If there are any EA groups or subcommunities already moving away from Facebook, please let me know so I can track you :)
Comment by vaidehi_agarwalla on [deleted post]
I suggest that the last bullet of the patient altruism tag be removed as there is already the Personal Finance tag which covers the same content.
There is also a tag now for the Timing of Philanthropy which seems a more neutral phrase for most for/against discussions.
Perhaps this tag could be more limited to posts discussing the concept patient altruism in particular, (and also broader in that it covers more than altruism)
Thanks for writing this! I don't have fully formed thoughts right now, but I have a very small meta request: it would be great if you had subheadings for the 3 domains (EA as social science, EA as hits-based altruism, EA as trajectory change) for easy linking/referencing :)
I've been working on a model somewhat similar to the aspects you mention, but with a bird's eye view of the movement to try and figure out coordination challenges. It's not finished yet but here's a relevant section:
1. Willingness to coordinate
a. Belief in Goals
b. Belief in the success of actions
c. Sense of belonging to the community
2. A suitable opportunity structure
Together I term 1 & 2 "organisational discipline" within the movement - the conditions necessary for the movement to coordinate and achieve it's goals.
Mapping your suggestions loosely
"belief in/alignment with EA principles" -> 1a/b
"Action alignment with EA principles"-> 2
"level of engagement/interaction with the EA community," such as "to what extent do they attend events, etc.?" -> Not modelled explicitly because this isn't a community focused model, but probably 1c) may come closest.
"action to support the community"-> not modeled explicitly
Hi Nuno, sounded adversarial, that was not my intention.
What I meant to say is we will be speaking with who the other people and organisations working in this space are, and see if there's a good chance that another actor would start a similar charity or do similar work. This may make starting an additional charity in this space less impactful for the whole movement if those resources were used elsewhere.
Thanks for the link, it's definitely relevant. We'll be compiling a comprehensive list of resources that the org could use to start their research, and posts like this will be part of that resource list.
The Case for the EA Hotel by Halffull. Kind of a summary of the above constraints, explaining how the EA hotel could fill the need for the lack of mobility in the middle (what OP calls a “chasm”), trying to explain the vetting and talent constraints in the EA community. The first part is especially useful for outlining this underlying model.
My mistakes on the path to impact by Denise Melchin. Another highly upvoted post talking about the emphasis on working at EA organisations and direct EA work. There were 161 unique upvotes. Resonated comments (1,2,3,4,5)
Effective Altruism and Meaning in Lifeby extra_ordinary. A personal account of the talent gaps, and why the OP moved away from this because too much of their self-worth was associated with success in EA-related things. 4 comments in support of the post. Resonated comments (1,2). There were 55 unique upvotes.
Pricing estimate if we pay for an event conferencing app: Swapcard, recently used by CEA for EAGx events costs approximately USD$7 per user.
Using my previous estimate, the total cost over 10 years would be between USD $168,000-420,000 without any discounting. Discounting 50% for technology becoming cheaper, and charity discounts, we could conservatively say $84,000-$210,000 total cost.
Not sure what to do with this information, or how to compute the value of this money saved (assuming our benevolent EA ally / app creator gives us access for a heavily discounted price, otherwise the savings are not that important).
I'd just like to make a quick clarification for anyone reading this that the list of organisations is in the Hub Resources, which is independently managed from the Hub by the CEA Groups Team/Catherine Low.