e19brendan comments on Introducing fortify hEAlth: an EA-aligned charity startup - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: e19brendan 29 October 2017 03:09:11AM *  8 points [-]


I decided to go down this path by carefully examining my priorities for what work I might do after a fellowship wrapped up, first considering how I might best approach the following year with respect to my values and goals. Having been quite interested in doing EA-aligned work, I surveyed some opportunities to work within EA organizations. Along the way, I spoke with Joey Savoie, who encouraged me to cofound my own charity startup rather than joining his (Charity Science Health). I was tentative given my limited experience, but as I considered the counterfactual impact of various alternatives, I grew more interested and took initial steps to find a cofounder (after speaking with a number of people within and outside of EA who encouraged me to proceed). There was a lot of interest; I interviewed a number of qualified candidates; and I was quite happy to find Nikita.

In parallel, I developed a shortlist of the jobs/kinds of jobs I might start this year, and applied to some. I considered factors such as learning/career capital, earning potential, lifestyle, and direct impact, consisting of quite a few weighted subfactors across a variety of opportunities I was considering. If anyone is particularly interested, I am happy to share this model, but I'm not sure I want it posted publicly at this point. This process left me with two rather different "best opportunities." After much deliberation and many conversations with mentors, I took the plunge into charity entrepreneurship. I'll let you know in a few months whether I think that was the right choice. Below is a non-exhaustive list of questions I'd recommend someone considering EA entrepreneurship ask themselves:

  • How should my values and long-term goals influence what I do next?
  • What alternative opportunities exist (including maintaining the status quo)?
  • How well do these opportunities and EA entrepreneurship align with the conclusions of the first point?
  • What qualities should an EA entrepreneur have? (This point may require a longer post, with some input from others)
  • What degree of expertise is necessary to have a decent shot at positive counterfactual impact? (Many EAs might suggest this bar is lower than your first instinct.)
  • Do I think I'd be relatively well-suited for EA entrepreneurship?
  • How much will what I'd learn and how I'd grow from such an initiative make my future endeavors more impactful?
  • Do other EAs think I'd be well-suited for EA entrepreneurship?
  • Are there somewhat specific projects identified (by others or myself) to be potentially high impact that appear feasible, interesting, and fulfilling?
  • Will somebody fund me, or am I confident enough and financially able enough to fund myself?
  • Do others outside EA think this is a good idea?
  • Is this the right time to do this?
  • Are the structures around me supportive of success? Will they guide me well? Will they complement my strengths and compensate for my weaknesses? Will I know whether I'm on the right track, when to re-evaluate, and when to move on?
  • Can I imagine a reasonable path forward, build a tentative plan, convince the appropriate critical people, and commit?
  • Do I have an exit strategy, and how much better or worse is it compared with alternative opportunities/exits?
  • Do I believe that people's lives may be better if we try this?
  • Do I still want to do this?

If it's of value, I could address my own answers to these questions and others, but it may be best to have more of a conversation - I'd be happy to skype (just email me). The answer to the last question on the list is still yes!

fortify hEAlth is the actual name, for now. We'll have to decide how we like seeming cute. For non-EA correspondences, we can just avoid the capitalization, but it may be worth changing this on our website or universally for the sake of the non-EA community (which may take more convincing than all of you supportive folks). Feel free to email us suggestions, but this is where we're at for now.

It is pretty hard for me to know now just how impactful we should expect this venture to be. Considering the counterfactuals, the expected value does seem worthwhile, but I'll humbly admit that the most likely outcome is nearly no direct impact, i.e. if we learn that we should stop before actually improving anyone's access to iron. So, please don't mistake risk tolerance for heroism. However, the scale of direct impact may be quite large if successful, and it so far doesn't seem too infeasible to advise against continuing. We need to learn more in order to assess the value of continuing or desisting.

Other factors influencing my own justification of this risk of failure include the value of motivating or deterring others in pursuit of EA entrepreneurship; my buy in to "doing good together," which might include a portfolio of activities with varying levels or risk across the movement; and the counterfactual learning possible here compared with alternatives. Plus, I'm excited about what we're trying to accomplish! Nikita may have a somewhat separate framework, so do reach out to her as well!