Arepo comments on EA Funds hands out money very infrequently - should we be worried? - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Arepo 01 February 2018 12:39:46AM 6 points [-]

I also feel that, perhaps not now but if they grow much more, it would be worth sharing the responsibility among more than just one person per fund. They don't have to disagree vociferously on many subjects, just provide a basic sanity check on controversial decisions (and spreading the work might speed things up if research time is a limiting factor)

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 01 February 2018 09:38:25PM 12 points [-]

I've received feedback from multiple points in the community the EA Funds haven't been as responsive in as timely or as professional a manner as some would prefer. It appears a factor for this is that the fund managers are all program officers at the Open Philanthropy Project, which is a job which from the fund managers' perspective is most of the time more crucial than anything that can be done with the EA Funds. Thus, doing a more than full-time work-equivalent(?... I don't know how much Open Phil staff work each week) may mean management of the EA Funds gets overlooked. Ben West also made a recent post in the 'Effective Altruism' Facebook group asking about the EA Funds, and the response from the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) was they hadn't had a chance to update the EA Funds webpage with data on what grants had been made in recent months.

Given that at the current level of funding, the EA Funds aren't being mismanaged, but rather are being more neglected than donors and effective altruists would like, I'd say it might already be time to assign more managers to the fund. Picking Open Phil program officers to run the funds was the best bet for the community to begin with, as they had the best reputation for acumen going in, but if in practice in turns out Nick, Elie and Lewis only have enough time to manage grants at Open Phil (most of the time), it's only fair to donors CEA assign more fund managers to the fund. What's more, I wouldn't want the attention of Open Phil program officers to be any more divided than it need be, as I consider their work more important than the management of the EA Funds as is.

If the apparent lack of community engagement regarding the EA Funds is on the part of the CEA team responsible to keep the webpage updated, as their time may also be divided and dedicated to more important CEA projects than the EA Funds at any given point in time, that needs to be addressed. I understand the pressures of affording enough money to project management it gets done very effectively, while as an effective non-profit not wanting to let overhead expand too much and result in inefficient uses of donor money. I think if that's the case for CEA staff dividing their time between EA Funds and more active projects, it'd be appropriate for the CEA to hire a dedicated communications manager for the the EA Funds overall, and/or someone who will update the webpage with greater frequency. This could probably be done at 1 full-time equivalent additional staff hire or less. If it's not a single new position at the CEA, a part-time equivalent CEA staffer could have their responsibilities extended to ensuring there's a direct channel between the EA Funds and the EA community.

In the scope of things, such as the money moved through EA overall, EA Funds management may seem a minor issue. Given it's impact on values integral to EA, like transparency and accountability, as well as ensuring high-trust engagement between EA donors and EA organizations, options like I've listed out above seem important to implement. If not, overall, I'd think there's greater need for adding external oversight to ensure anything is being done with the EA Funds.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 10 February 2018 07:16:21AM *  1 point [-]

This seems like a good point. OpenPhil has previously drawn analogies between the work it does and the work venture capitalists/angel investors do. One big part of the job of an angel investor is to spend lots of time networking so as to become aware of new funding opportunities. The fact that some fund managers are apparently not even socially engaged enough to explain why they aren't granting the money they've been given seems a little discouraging on this front.

This view also suggests that a good person to add to the EA Funds team might be someone who is already known as a super-networker within the EA community. (Somewhat disappointingly, I'm having a hard time thinking of anyone like this off the top of my head. Proposal: A few people should make it their business to go to every EA event they can possibly go to, monitor and contribute to all online EA discussion spaces, and get to know loads of people in order to introduce people who should know each other etc.)

Comment author: Henry_Stanley 01 February 2018 08:27:17PM 1 point [-]

I think this definitely makes sense – though I wonder to what extent the fund manager has the discretion to appoint other fund managers?

(Okay, it's a rhetorical question – they most likely have full discretion to do so – but it would be good if this was more clearly set out in the terms of the fund.)