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MichaelPlant comments on Why founding charities is one of the highest impact things one can do - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: MichaelPlant 13 May 2018 11:05:26PM 13 points [-]

I appreciate the write up and think founding charities could be a really effective thing to do.

I do wonder if this might be an overly rosey picture for a couple of reasons.

  1. Are there any stories of EAs failing to start charities? If there aren't, that would be a bit strange and I'd want to know why there were no failures. If there are, what happened and why didn't they work? I'm a bit worried about a survivorship effect making it falsely look like starting charities is easy. (On a somewhat releated note, your post may prompt me to finally write up something about my own unsuccessful attempt to start a start up)

  2. One is that some of the charities you mention are offshoots/sister charities of each other - GWWC and 80k, Charity Science Health and Fortify Health. This suggests to me it might be easier to found a second charity than a first one. OPP and GiveWell also fit this mold.

  3. Including AMF is, in some sense a bit odd, because it wasn't (I gather) founded with the intention of being the most effective charity. I say it's odd because, if it hadn't existed, the EA world would have found another charity that it deemed to be the most effective. Unless AMF thought they would be the most effective, they sort of 'got lucky' in that regard.

Comment author: RandomEA 14 May 2018 04:56:20AM 6 points [-]

One is that some of the charities you mention are offshoots/sister charities of each other - GWWC and 80k, Charity Science Health and Fortify Health. This suggests to me it might be easier to found a second charity than a first one. OPP and GiveWell also fit this mold.

It's also worth noting that Animal Charity Evaluators started as an 80,000 Hours project and that the Good Food Institute was the brainchild of the Mercy for Animals leadership team.

Comment author: number42 14 May 2018 04:43:44PM 6 points [-]

Animal Charity Evaluators started as an 80,000 Hours project

More precisely, it was started by a student who came to volunteer in Oxford one summer, had the idea and then created it over that summer and afterwards as his brainchild, fundraising to start it as a staffed-up charity, etc. CEA hosted a number of students who came to do volunteer work over summers and other free periods. So while it was labelled an 80,000 Hours project, it's appropriate to use it as an example of someone with little relevant experience starting a charity.

Comment author: Joey 14 May 2018 05:19:01AM 3 points [-]

Would be keen to hear your story as I am working to develop better models around what makes projects have success (particularly nonprofits, but I think all data can be helpful).

1) I think this is fair. I have another post in the works on something along these lines. Super long story short though, a lot of the failures are small projects or at an earlier stage vs more like full scale charities. I think that is a problem/concern in its own right, and I think a pretty good case can be made that established charities should be shut down and considered failures more often.

2) I do think a case can be made that second charities are easier to start than first ones (although I would put Fortify Health as quite distinctive from CSH, as my involvement was quite modest in terms of hours). I still think however, there are lots of examples of first time successes.

3) My understanding of AMF from talking to them is that when making the decision that eventually lead to them choosing bednets, Rob M considered that it had to be 1) really big problems 2) really need help 3) might be fixable, as well as some other connected criteria like not tons of other people working on it. From my understanding, quite a few different interventions were considered (e.g. TB, freshwater, landmines). I do not get the sense it was like GiveWell-style shallow reports, but the concept of doing more good was definitely a big part of the decision making.