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Denise_Melchin comments on Should there be an EA crowdfunding platform? - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Denise_Melchin 02 May 2018 10:24:25AM 1 point [-]

I don’t think of having a (very) limited pool of funders who judge your project as such a negative thing. As it’s been pointed out before, evaluating projects is very time intensive.

You’re also implicitly assuming that there’s little information in the rejection of funders. I think if you have been rejected by 3+ funders, where you hopefully got a good sense for why, you should seriously reconsider your project.

Otherwise you might fall prey to the unilateralist’s curse - most people think your project is not worth funding, possibly because it has some risk of causing harm (either directly or indirectly by stopping others from taking up a similar space) but you only need one person who is not dissuaded by that.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 02 May 2018 05:30:10PM 4 points [-]

I don’t think of having a (very) limited pool of funders who judge your project as such a negative thing. As it’s been pointed out before, evaluating projects is very time intensive.

I like the reduction of high time costs and specialization of trade, but a small pool of funders means that if (a) they don't have time for you, your project dies and (b) if they don't share your theory of change, your project dies.

On (a), it does seem like staff time bottlenecks have prevented a lot of funding from going to a lot of good projects (see EA Funds).

On (b), I admit that there's a fine line between "this person is wrong and their project just shouldn't happen" to "this person has a good idea but it just isn't recognized by the few funders". It does seem to me, however, that the current funding system does have some groupthink around certain policies (e.g., "hits based giving") that may not universally select every good project and reject every bad project. It would be nice for there to be somewhat more worldview diversification in what can get funded and I'm seeing a lot of gaps here.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 02 May 2018 05:34:51PM 4 points [-]

Maybe my view of the landscape is naive, but it appears to me that a lot of spaces these days have effectively just one or two funders that can actually fund a project (e.g., Elie for poverty interventions, Lewis + ACE for nonhuman animal interventions, Nick for AI interventions, and Nick + CEA for community projects and I imagine these two groups confer significantly). I don't think we need dozens of funders, but I think the optimal number would be closer to three or four people that think somewhat differently and confer only loosely, rather than one or two people.

Comment author: Denise_Melchin 02 May 2018 10:58:34PM 1 point [-]

We do not disagree much then! The difference seems to come down to what the funding situation actually is and not how it should be.

I see a lot more than a couple of funders per cause area - why are you not counting all the EtGers? Most projects don’t need access to large funders.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 03 May 2018 04:02:28AM *  0 points [-]

Glad to hear we agree! :)

why are you not counting all the EtGers?

I'm a bit out of the loop, but my assumption is that there are far fewer EtGers these days and that they're not easy to find. I'm unsold that a crowdfunding platform is a good solution, but I do think that identifying funders for your project is not an easy task, and there might be opportunity around improving the diversity and accessibility of this ETG pool.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 03 May 2018 03:57:00AM 2 points [-]

I think if you have been rejected by 3+ funders, where you hopefully got a good sense for why, you should seriously reconsider your project.

As Peter hints at below and which I've mentioned in another comment, the problem appears to be as soon as smaller donors receive info about a project having a funding application rejected by a more influential funder, such as the EA Grants, they reject them. So what some projects are experiencing isn't the serial rejection of three independent funders, but rejection after it becomes common knowledge the first funder rejected them. The problem appears to be the funders with the most money or best affective reputation in EA are implicitly assumed to have the soundest approaches for assessing projects as well, which shouldn't be the case.

Comment author: Denkenberger 02 May 2018 10:38:02PM 1 point [-]

At least in academia, success rate on proposals might only be 10% or 20%. And there is varying alignment between funders and your goals. So you would need to get a lot of rejections to have confidence that is not a good idea. But I can see it could be fewer rejections for aligned EA donors.