10

Brendon_Wong comments on Ideas for Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations - Effective Altruism Forum

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (36)

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: RyanCarey 10 July 2018 11:29:56AM 5 points [-]

Nice post, Brendon!

I've been of the view for the last couple of years that it'd be useful to have more dedicated effort put toward funding EA projects.

I have a factual contributions that should help to flesh out your strategic picture here:

  1. BERI, in addition to EA Grants are funding some small-scale projects. In the first instance, one might want to bootstrap a project like this through BERI, given that they already have some funding available and are a major innovator in the EA support space right now.
  2. OpenPhil does already do some regranting.
  3. EA Ventures attempted, over the course of some months, to do this a few years ago, which you can read at least a bit about here: http://effective-altruism.com/ea/fo/announcing_effective_altruism_ventures/. I think it failed for a range of reasons including inadequate projects, but it would be worth looking into this further.

Notwithstanding these factors, I still think this idea is worth exploring. As you suggest, I might start off by creating a grant application system. But I think the most important aspects are probably not the system itself as the quality of evaluators and the volume of funders. So it might be best to try to bootstrap it from an existing organization or funder, and to initially accept applications via a low-tech system, such as Google Doc proposals. I'd also emphasise that one good aspect of the status quo is that bad ideas mostly go unfunded at present, especially ones whose low-quality could damage the reputation of EA and its associated research fields, or ones that could inspire hamrful activity. There are more potentially harmful projects within the EA world than in entrepreneurship in general, and so these projects might be overlooked from people taking an entrepreneurial or open-source stance, and this is worth guarding against.

One meta-remark is that I generally like the conversations that are prompted by shared Google Docs, and I think that this generates, on average, more extensive and fine-grained feedback than a Forum Post would typically receive. So if you put out a "nonprofit business plan" for this idea, then I figure a Google Doc (+/- links from the Forum and relevant Facebook groups) would be a great format. Moreover, I'd be happy to provide further feedback on this idea in the future.

Comment author: Brendon_Wong 10 July 2018 04:50:47PM *  1 point [-]

Hi Ryan, thanks for sharing information and feedback! I completely agree, practically speaking, spending a long time building something without market feedback/validation is not a good idea, so using an existing way to process applications and operating under an established organization would be a great to way to get started effectively.

I am curious if you have any feedback on the fused proposal that I had in mind, and how to potentially improve the design in order to protect against the possibility of funding low-quality or harmful projects. I was imagining that since there is a discussion section for each proposal, anyone could mention potential problems that could arise from funding a proposal, and donors could check this section for feedback before contributing. Perhaps the benefits from this openness do not exceed the potential harm but it's difficult for me to assess this.

Comment author: RyanCarey 11 July 2018 11:07:25AM 0 points [-]

The concept starts with a website that has a fully digital grant application process. Applicants create user accounts that let them edit applications, and applicants can choose from a variety of options like having the grant be hidden or publicly displayed on the website, and posting under their real names or a pseudonym. Grants have discussions sections for the public to give feedback. Anonymous project submission help people get feedback without reputation risk and judge project funding potential before committing significant time and resources to a project. If the applicant opts to make an application public, it is displayed for everyone to see and comment on. Anyone can contact the project creator, have a public or private discussion on the grant website, and even fund a project directly.

What does this achieve that Google Docs linked from the EA Forum can't achieve? I think it should start with a more modest MVP that works within existing institutions and more extensively leverages existing software products.

The website is backed by a centralized organization that decides which proposals to fund via distributed grantmaking. Several part-time or full-time team members run the organization and assess the quality and performance of grantmakers. EAs in different cause areas can apply to be grantmakers. After an initial evaluation process, beginner grantmakers are given a role like “grant advisor” and given a small grantmaking budget. As grantmakers prove themselves effective, they are given higher roles and a larger grantmaking budget.

This sounds good.

While powered by dencentralized grantmakers, the organization has centralized funding options for donors that do not want to evaluate grants themselves.

I'm not sure what you mean by "centralized funding options"

Donations can be tax-deductible, non-tax-deductible, or even structured as impact investments into EA initiatives. Donors can choose cause areas to fund, and can perhaps even fund individual grantmakers.

This sounds good.