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

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Comment author: remmelt  (EA Profile) 10 July 2018 07:26:33AM *  7 points [-]

I’m grateful that someone wrote this post. :-)

Personally, I find your proposal of fusing three models promising. It does sound difficult to get right in terms of both technical web development and setting up the processes that actually enable users to use the grant website as it was set out to be used. It would probably require a lot of iterative testing as well as in-person meetings with stakeholders (i.e. this looks like a 3-year project).

I’d be happy to dedicate 5 hours per week for the next 3 months to contribute to working it out further with key decision makers in the community. Feel free to PM me on Facebook if you’d like to discuss it further.

Here are some further thoughts on why the EA Grants structure has severe limitations

My impression is that CEA staff have thoughtfully tried to streamline a traditional grant making approach (by, for example, keeping the application form short, deferring to organisations that have expertise in certain areas, and promising to respond in X weeks) but that they’re running up against the limitations of such a centralised system:

1) not enough evaluators specialised in certain causes and strategies who have the time to assess track records and dig into documents

2) a lack of iterated feedback between possible donors and project leaders (you answer many questions and then only hear about how CEA has interpreted your answers and what they think of you 2 months later)

Last year, I was particularly critical about that little useful feedback was shared with applicants after they were denied with a standard email. It’s valuable to know why your funding request is denied – whether it is because CEA staff lack domain expertise or because of some inherent flaws to your approach that you should be aware of.

But applicants ended up having to take the initiative themselves to email CEA questions because CEA staff never got around to emailing some brief reasoning for their decisions to the majority of the 700ish applicants that applied. On CEA’s side there was also the risk of legal liability – that someone upset by their decision could sue them if a CEA staff member shared rough notes they made that could easily be misinterpreted. So if you’re lucky you receive some general remarks and can then schedule a Skype call to discuss those further.

Further, you might discover then that a few CEA staff members have rather vague models of why a particular class of funding opportunities should not be accepted (e.g. one CEA staff member was particularly hesitant about funding EA groups last year because it would make coordinating things like outreach [edit] and having credible projects branded as EA more difficult).

Finally, this becomes particularly troublesome when outside donors lean too heavily on CEA’s accept/deny decision (which I think happened at least once with EA Netherlands, the charity I’m working at). You basically have to explain to all future EA donors that you come into contact with why your promising start-up wasn’t judged to be impactful enough to fund by one of the most respected EA organisations.

I’d be interested in someone from the EA Grants team sharing their perspective on all this.

Comment author: Brendon_Wong 11 July 2018 12:28:03AM 2 points [-]

Thanks for the insight Remmelt! A good way to start this would be to create an MVP much like Ryan Carey suggested so that we can get started quickly, with a prebuilt application system (Google Forms, Google Docs, a forum, etc) and possibly using a DAF or fiscal sponsor. The web app itself could take a while, but having public projects and public feedback in a forum or something would be reasonably close and take much less effort.

I am meeting with someone who has made some progress in this area early next week. Based on traction and the similarity between the other person's system and this system, I'll see if a new venture in this space could add value, or if existing projects in this space have a good chance of succeeding. One way or the other I'll be in touch!

Comment author: remmelt  (EA Profile) 11 July 2018 04:52:41AM 0 points [-]

Great! Cool to hear how you’re already making traction on this.

Perhaps EAWork.club has potential as a launch platform?

I’d also suggest emailing Kerry Vaughan from EA Grants to get his perspective. He’s quite entrepreneurial so probably receptive to hearing new ideas (e.g. he originally started EA Ventures, though that also seemed to take the traditional granting approach).

Let me know if I can be of use!

Comment author: Brendon_Wong 12 July 2018 05:08:30AM 0 points [-]

Hi Remmelt, have you joined the Rethink Charity Slack? I can't seem to find you on there.

I increased my speed of reviewing progress in the space of small project funding. There seems to be one major project related to improving centralized grant funding. 1–2 people are interested in implementing a "Kickstarter for EA projects" at some point in the future but have not started yet. The EA Peer Funding project is essentially "Kickstarter for making grants to individual EAs." This is the extent of my knowledge based on Skyping with several people in this space. No one has mentioned anything else in the comments section of this post or otherwise.

Since there doesn't appear to be others in this area yet, I believe moving forward with concept refinement and seeking additional feedback would be a useful next step. Let's coordinate this via Rethink Charity's Slack!