Comment author: William_MacAskill 10 February 2017 07:43:48AM 4 points [-]

"On EA Ventures, points 1 and 2 seem particularly surprising when put together. You found too few exciting projects but even they had trouble generating funder interest?"

This isn't surprising if the model is just that new projects were uniformly less exciting than one might have expected: there were few projects above the bar for 'really cool project', and even they were only just above the bar, hence hard to get funding for.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 10 February 2017 11:16:55PM 4 points [-]

This is my read on what happened.

Part of the problem is that the best projects are often able to raise money on their own without an intermediary to help them. So, even if there are exciting projects in EA, they might not need our help.

Comment author: Larks 09 February 2017 11:18:08PM *  3 points [-]

However, since the OpenPhil program officers know what OpenPhil is funding it means that the funds should provide options that are at least as good as OpenPhil's funding. (See Carl Shulman's post on the subject.) The hope is that the "at least as good as OpenPhil" bar is higher than most donors can reach now, so the fund is among the most effective options for individual donors.

The article you link (quote below) suggests the opposite should be true - individual donors should be able to do at least better than OpenPhil.

Risk-neutral small donors should aim to make better charitable bets at the margin than giga-donors like the Open Philanthropy Project (Open Phil) and Good Ventures using donor lotteries, and can do at least as well as giga-donors by letting themselves be funged

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 10 February 2017 10:54:34PM 1 point [-]

The article you link (quote below) suggests the opposite should be true - individual donors should be able to do at least better than OpenPhil

We're making it easier for individual donors to at least be funged since our fund managers will have better information than most individual donors.

Comment author: HaydnBelfield 09 February 2017 06:22:44PM 7 points [-]

Very interesting idea, and potentially really useful for the community (and me personally!).

What's the timeline for this?

I'm presuming that the Funds would be transparent about how much money is in them, how much has been given and why - is that the case? Also as a starter, has Nick written about how much is/was in his Fund and how its been spent?

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 09 February 2017 09:35:55PM 4 points [-]

We hope to start rolling out a beta version of this in the next few weeks.

I'm presuming that the Funds would be transparent about how much money is in them, how much has been given and why - is that the case? Also as a starter, has Nick written about how much is/was in his Fund and how its been spent?

Nick has provided a list of where donations he's advised have gone in the past. I think it was included in his write-up for GiveWell's staff donation decisions post. That list will also be provided on the fund's website.

We're not yet certain how much communication the funds should provide to donors. On the one hand, we obviously want to let people know where their money is going. On the other hand, we don't want participation in the funds to place an undue burden on fund managers.

Please let me know If you have thoughts on what kind of communication you'd like to see given the tradeoffs involved.

Comment author: jimrandomh 09 February 2017 12:55:03AM *  7 points [-]

What will be these funds' policy on rolling funds over from year to year, if the donations a fund gets exceed the funding gaps the managers are aware of?

(This seems particularly important for funds whose managers are also involved with OpenPhil, given that OpenPhil did not spend its entire budget last year.)

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 09 February 2017 09:30:29PM 4 points [-]

Right now we're trying to give fund managers lots of latitude on what to do with the money. If they think there's an argument for saving the money and donating later we'll allow that (but ask for some communication about why saving the money makes sense).

I'd be interested in whether people would prefer a different policy.

Comment author: MarkBarnes 09 February 2017 06:12:15PM 14 points [-]

I strongly agree with- "One vision I have for the effective altruism community is that its members can function like a people’s foundation: any individual donor on their own might not have that much power, but if the community acts together they can have the sort of influence that major foundations like the Gates Foundation have. " Creating a structure which enables leaders of the EA community to heavily influence the manner in which non EA-charities and other organisations operate could be immensely beneficial. I believe some form of centralisation would help achieve this. I currently donate to AMF directly, but I think it would empower CEA more if all that money was funnelled through CEA itself. For example All EA members could be encouraged to pay into the EA trust (specifying their chosen charity or fund) and the trust then sends a monthly payment to each chosen charity. This way the community appears to act as one while still retaining freedom for individuals to choose the charities should they desire. EA Funds would in turn be a useful part of this structure.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 09 February 2017 09:27:33PM 8 points [-]

Creating a structure which enables leaders of the EA community to heavily influence the manner in which non EA-charities and other organisations operate could be immensely beneficial.

I would be mildly concerned about centralizing funding power in the hands of a small number of individuals, but strongly in favor of centralizing funding under the EA brand.

If EA Funds provides a stable, identifiable source of funding for nonprofits that focus on effectiveness I think we'll see more excellent nonprofits and more talented people working on improving the world.

Comment author: Fluttershy 09 February 2017 03:34:36AM *  9 points [-]

It’s not a coincidence that all the fund managers work for GiveWell or Open Philanthropy.

Second, they have the best information available about what grants Open Philanthropy are planning to make, so have a good understanding of where the remaining funding gaps are, in case they feel they can use the money in the EA Fund to fill a gap that they feel is important, but isn’t currently addressed by Open Philanthropy.

It makes some sense that there could be gaps which Open Phil isn't able to fill, even if Open Phil thinks they're no less effective than the opportunities they're funding instead. Was that what was meant here, or am I missing something? If not, I wonder what such a funding gap for a cost-effective opportunity might look like (an example would help)?

There's a part of me that keeps insisting that it's counter-intuitive that Open Phil is having trouble making as many grants as it would like, while also employing people who will manage an EA fund. I'd naively think that there would be at least some sort of tradeoff between producing new suggestions for things the EA fund might fund, and new things that Open Phil might fund. I suspect you're already thinking closely about this, and I would be happy to hear everyone's thoughts.

Edit: I'd meant to express general confidence in those who had been selected as fund managers. Also, I have strong positive feelings about epistemic humility in general, which also seems highly relevant to this project.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 09 February 2017 09:22:26PM *  1 point [-]

Thanks for the feedback!

Two thoughts: 1) I don't think the long-term goal is that OpenPhil program officers are the only fund managers. Working with them was the best way to get an MVP version in place. In the long-run, we want to use the funds to offer worldview diversification and to expand the funding horizons of the EA community.

2)

There's a part of me that keeps insisting that it's counter-intuitive that Open Phil is having trouble making as many grants as it would like, while also employing people who will manage an EA fund.

I think I agree with you. However, since the OpenPhil program officers know what OpenPhil is funding it means that the funds should provide options that are at least as good as OpenPhil's funding. (See Carl Shulman's post on the subject.) The hope is that the "at least as good as OpenPhil" bar is higher than most donors can reach now, so the fund is among the most effective options for individual donors.

Let me know if that didn't answer the question.

Comment author: Richard_Batty 09 February 2017 10:50:59AM *  12 points [-]

Small donors have played a valuable role by providing seed funding to new projects in the past. They can often fund promising projects that larger donors like OpenPhil can't because they have special knowledge of them through their personal networks and the small projects aren't established enough to get through a large donor's selection process. These donors therefore act like angel investors. My concern with the EA fund is that:

  • By pooling donations into a large fund, you increase the minimum grant that it's worth their time to make, thus making it unable to fund small opportunities
  • By centralising decision-making in a handful of experts, you reduce the variety of projects that get funded because they have more limited networks, knowledge, and value variety than the population of small donors.

Also, what happened to EA Ventures? Wasn't that an attempt to pool funds to make investments in new projects?

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 09 February 2017 09:13:51PM *  11 points [-]

Hi Richard,

Thanks a lot for the feedback. I work at CEA on the EA Funds project. My thoughts are below although they may not represent the views of everyone at CEA.

Funding new projects

I think EA Funds will improve funding for new projects.

As far as I know small donors (in the ~$10K or below range) have traditionally not played a large role in funding new projects. This is because the time it takes to evaluate a new project is substantial and because finding good new projects requires developing good referral networks. It generally doesn't make sense for a small donor to undertake this work.

Some of the best donors I know of at finding and supporting new projects are private individuals with budgets in the hundreds of thousands or low millions range. For these donors, it makes more sense to do the work required to find new projects and it makes sense for the projects to find these donors since they can cover a large percentage of the funding need. I think the funds will roughly mimic this structure. Also, I think Nick Beckstead has one of the better track records at helping to get early-stage projects funded and he's a fund manager.

Donor centralization

I agree with this concern. I think we should aim to not have OpenPhil program officers be the only fund managers in the future and we should aim for a wider variety of funds. What we have now represents the MVP, not the long-term goal.

EA Ventures

I was in charge of EA Ventures and it is no longer in operation. The model was that we sourced new projects and then presented them to our donors for potential funding.

We shut down EA Ventures because 1) the number of exciting new projects was smaller than we expected; 2) funder interest in new projects was smaller than expected and 3) opportunity cost increased significantly as other projects at CEA started to show stronger results.

My experience at EA Ventures updated me away from the view that there are lots of promising new projects in need of funding. I now think the pipeline of new projects is smaller than would be idea although I'm not sure what to do to solve this problem.

Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 09 February 2017 04:15:39AM 10 points [-]

Awesome!

Is there a difference between donating to the Global Health and Development fund and donating to GiveWell top charities (as Elie has done with his personal donation for each of the last four years)?

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 09 February 2017 08:54:52PM 7 points [-]

In practice, I expect a high probability that the Global Heath and Development fund goes to GiveWell-recommended charities. However, the fund leaves open the possibility that Elie will donate it elsewhere if hey thinks better opportunities in that space exist.

The goal is that the fund is at least as good as donating to GiveWell's recommendations with some possibility of being better.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 01:10:59PM 0 points [-]

suggesting that they provide some additional disclaimers about the nature of the recommendation.

I most certainly wouldn't suggest that, I would suggest that they cease recommending both of these organisations, with the caveat that Cosecha is the worse of the two and first in line for being dropped.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 29 January 2017 08:27:13PM 1 point [-]

I most certainly wouldn't suggest that, I would suggest that they cease recommending both of these organizations, with the caveat that Cosecha is the worse of the two and first in line for being dropped.

As far as I can tell, nothing in your post or subsequent comments warrant that conclusion. If the issue is making sensitive recommendations seem like the opinion of EA, then better caveating can solve that issue. If the issue is that the charities are in fact ineffective, then you haven't provided any direct evidence of this, only the indirect point that political charities are often ineffective.

I'd find it hard to believe that there is something problematic in transmitting a recommendation along with your epistemic status with regards to the recommendation in a post. It seems like 80K could do a better job of transmitting the epistemic status of the recommendation, but that's not an argument against recommendation the charities to begin with.

Comment author: Larks 29 January 2017 04:02:52PM 1 point [-]

We could debate whether 80K should trust this kind of quick recommendation, but asking that Chloe explores the issue in significantly more details seems unfair given the context.

That is precisely what I am asking! This post is addressed at 80k, not Chloe. It's entirely reasonable for random experts to give brief opinions. It is not at all reasonable for 80k to present the brief views of one expert as the views of the movement.

If these groups had a long history of support among EAs, including a substantial amount of publicly available cost-effectiveness analysis, things would be different. Then we could point to Chloe's paragraph as an example of the reasons people support them. But as it is the paragraph seems to provide the entirety of the evidence 80k has, and in this light it is entirely insufficient.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 29 January 2017 08:22:52PM *  1 point [-]

It is not at all reasonable for 80k to present the brief views of one expert as the views of the movement.

I think we agree: 80K should make the nature of the recommendations more clear. I believe they've already made an edit to the post that accomplishes this goal.

Presumably you now withdraw your objection?

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