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Evan_Gaensbauer comments on How to get a new cause into EA - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 16 January 2018 03:00:04AM *  1 point [-]

I think this is missing some prior steps as to how a cause can be built up in the effective altruism movement. For example, a focus on risks of astronomical future suffering ("s-risks), and reducing wild animal suffering (RWAS), both largely inspired in EA by Brian Tomasik's work, have found success in the German-speaking world and increasingly globally throughout the movement. These are causes which have both have largely circumvented attention from either the Open Philanthropy Project (Open Phil) or the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) and its satellite projects (e.g., GWWC, 80,000 Hours, etc.).

Since the beginning of effective altruism, global poverty alleviation and global health have been the biggest focus areas. I witnessed as the movement grew causes were developed through a mix of online coordination on the global level with social networks like Facebook, mailing lists, and fora like LessWrong, and locally or regionally with non-profit organizations focusing on outreach and research. This was the case for both AI safety and farm animal welfare, which proportionally didn't have nearly the representation in EA five years ago that they have now.

Certainly smaller focus areas like s-risk reduction and RWAS are receiving much less attention than others in EA. However, that across multiple organizations each of those causes is respectively funded by between $100k and $1 million USD, largely from individual effective altruists, is proof of concept a cause can be built up without being touted by CEA or Open Phil. And what's more it's not as if the trajectory of these causes looks bleak. They've been building up growth momentum for years, and they're not showing signs of slowing. So how much they achieve increasing success in the near future will provide more data about what's possible in getting a new cause into EA. What's more, at least RWAS is a cause that's on Open Phil's radar. So it's not like grants or endorsements of these causes from Open Phil or CEA couldn't happen in the future.

In general I think developing a cause within the effective altruism community is something which often precedes more focus from it by flagship organizations of the movement, and that the process of development often takes the form of following the kinds of steps Joey outlined above. Obviously there could be more to the process than just that. I'm working on a post to introduce a project which builds on the kinds of steps Joey pointed out, and you've already taken, to organize and coordinate causes in effective altruism.