Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 11 March 2018 11:06:31PM *  1 point [-]

This sounds like a really good project. You clearly have a decent understanding of the local political issues, a clear ideas of how this project can map to other countries and prove beneficial globally. And a good understanding of how this plays a role in the wider EA community (I think it is good that this project is not branded as 'EA').

Here are a number of hopefully constructive thoughts I have to help you fine tune this work. These maybe things you thought about that did not make the post. I hope they help.




As far as I can tell the CCC seems to not care much about scenarios with a small chance of a very high impact. On the whole the EA community does care about these scenarios. My evidence for this comes from the EA communities concern for the extreme risks of climate change ( and x-risks whereas the CCC work on climate change that I have seen seems to have ignored these extreme risks. I am unsure why the discrepancy (Many EA researchers do not use a future discount rate for utility, does CCC?)

This could be problematic in terms of the cause prioritisation research being useful for EAs, for building a relationship with this project and EA advocacy work, EA funding, etc, etc.




Sometimes the most important priorities will not be the ones that public will latch onto. It is unclear from the post:

2.1 how you intend to find a balance between delivering the messages that are most likely to create change verses saying the things you most believe to be true. And

2.2 how the advocacy part of this work might differ from work that CCC has done in the past. My understanding is that to date the CCC has mostly tried to deliver true messages to an international policy maker audience. Your post however points to the public sentiment as a key driving factor for change. The advocacy methods and expertise used in CCC's international work are not obviously the best methods for this work.




For a prioritization research piece like I could imagine the researcher might dive straight into looking at the existing issues on the political agenda and prioritising between those based on some form of social rate of return. However I think there are a lot of very high level questions that I could be asked first like: • Is it more important to prevent the government making really bad decisions in some areas or to improve the quality of the good decisions • Is it more important to improve policy or to prevent a shift to harmful authoritarianism • How important is it to set policy that future political trends will not undo • How important is the acceptability among policy makers . public of the policy being suggested Are these covered in the research?

Also to what event will the research be looking at improving institutional decision making? To be honest I would genuinely be surprised if the conclusion of this project was that the most high impact policies were those designed to improve the functioning / decision making / checks and balances of the government. If you can cut corruption and change how government works for the better then the government will get more policies correct across the board in future. Is this your intuition too?


Finally to say I would be interested to be kept up-to-date with this project as it progresses. Is there a good way to do this? Looking forward to hearing more.

Comment author: Lukas_Gloor 25 February 2018 12:55:52PM 3 points [-]

EA London estimated with it's first year of a paid staff it had about 50% of the impact of a more established EA organisation such as GWWC or 80K per £ invested.

Are they mostly counting impact on Givewell-recommended charities? I'd imagine that for donors who are mostly interested in the long-term cause area, there'd be a perceived large difference between GWWC and 80k, which is why this sounds like a weird reference class to me. (Though maybe the difference is not huge because GWWC has become more cause neutral over the years?)

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 11 March 2018 10:21:09PM *  1 point [-]

EA London estitated counterfactual "large behaviour changes" taken by community members. This includes taking the GWWC pledges and large career shifts (although a change to future career plans probably wouldn't cut it)

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 06 March 2018 05:19:59PM 3 points [-]

It's my impression most policy efforts coming out of EA in most countries are from experienced, professional organizations which work with or hire policy experts. The Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) has worked with university institutes at Cambridge and Oxford to produce policy reports of global catastrophic risks for European governments. The Effective Altruism Foundation (EAF) has in Germany and Switzerland done policy advocacy, initiated by philosophy post-docs and the like. Before involvement in EA, they weren't particularly experienced in philosophy, but their efforts haven't backfired in any sense. I haven't tracked what portion of their campaigns succeeded at the ballot box, but being able to start things like referendums on animal rights/welfare without opposition and backlash from the public could be considered successes in themselves.

There isn't centralization across the EA community worldwide for work in the policy sector, so technically a group some country could start doing policy work in the name of EA without any kind of external assessment. So a culture of pursuing policy work much more cautiously can definitely still be worth promoting within EA. I notice the examples I gave were about causes like animal advocacy and global catastrophic risks, compared to your example of international development. My examples are of sectors which aren't already as common in academia and policy. So the EA community has been able to effectively break a lot of new ground in policy research and advocacy regarding these causes. Fields like international development and others with a history of more extensive institutional support are more complicated. They require more specialization and expertise to do effective work upon.

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 09 March 2018 03:24:45PM 2 points [-]

My point was not trying to pick up policy interventions specifically. I think more broadly there is too often an attitude of arrogance among EAs who think that because they can do cause prioritisation better than their peers they can also solve difficult problems better than experts in those fields. (I know I have been guilty of this at points).


In policy, I agree with you that EA policy projects fall across a large spectrum from highly professional to poorly thought-out.

That said I think that even at the better end of the spectrum there is a lack of professional lobbyists being employed by EA organisations and more of a do-it-ourselves attitude. EA orgs often prefer to hire enthusiastic EAs rather than expensive experts (which maybe a totally legitimate approach, I have no strong view on the matter).

Comment author: arikr 02 March 2018 06:10:34PM 1 point [-]

You note that CEA and 80K don't seem to be struggling for funds.

What makes you say that? (Not saying I don't agree, just am unsure)

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 09 March 2018 02:57:56PM 1 point [-]

Unfortunately I do not have a single easily quotable source for this. Furthermore it is not always clear cut - funding needs change with time and additional funding might mean an ability to start extra projects (like EA Grants). However, unlike Rethink Charity or Charity Science Health, there is not a clear project that I can point to that will not get funded if CEA 80K do not get more funding this year.

If you are donating in the region of £10k+ and are concerned that the larger EA orgs have less need for funding, I would say get in touch with them. They are generally happy to talk to donors in person and give more detailed answers (and my comment on this matter has been shaped by talking to people who have done this).

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 05 March 2018 07:32:32PM *  8 points [-]

Good article Ben!


I think similar risks arise with translating effective altruism to new domains or new audiances with particular expertise.

I've felt this when interacting with people looking to apply effective altruism ideas in policy. Such exercises should be approached with caution: you cannot just tell policy makers to use evidence (they've already heard about evidence) or to put all their resources to whatever looks most effective (wouldn't work) etc.

Similarly I suspect there is something to the fact that I find EA materials have had limited acceptance among experts in international development.


I would go a step further and say that the aim should not solely be one of translating EA ideas but also of improving EA ideas. Currently EA is fairly un-diverse in terms of cultures, plurality of ethical views, academic background, etc. I think we can learn a lot from those we are trying to reach out to.


(Minor aside I think mass outreach efforts done well have been are still are valuable and this article underplays that)


Where I am donating this year and meta projects that need funding

  In this post I cover: How to be the best donor I can be. Some high-level thinking on where to give to have the biggest impact as a medium size donor who is clued up on EA ideas and interested in meta charities. Where I am giving and why.... Read More
Comment author: casebash 23 February 2018 03:35:54AM 2 points [-]

Out of curiosity, how many local groups already have paid organisers and how do you think this compares with an additional employee at a non-local EA org?

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 25 February 2018 12:23:26PM 0 points [-]

how do you think this compares with an additional employee at a non-local EA org?

EA London estimated with it's first year of a paid staff it had about 50% of the impact of a more established EA organisation such as GWWC or 80K per £ invested.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the non-monetary costs of ' an additional employee' are higher than the non-monetary costs of a grant (eg, training, management time, overheads, risks, opportunity costs)

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 26 January 2018 05:13:05PM 1 point [-]

Awesome job! :-) Is it possible to see the list of the volunteering opportunities you found and considered?

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 22 December 2017 03:19:17PM *  1 point [-]

This is fantastic. Thank you for writing up. Whilst reading I jotted down a number of thoughts, comments, questions and concerns.



I am very excited about this and very glad that CEA is doing more of this. How to best move funding to the projects that need it most within the EA community is a really important question that we have yet to solve. I saw a lot of people with some amazing ideas looking to apply for these grants.


"with an anticipated budget of around £2m"

I think it is quite plausible that £2m is too low for the year. Not having enough funding increases the costs to applicants (time spent applying) and you (time spent assessing) relative to the benefits (funding moved), especially if there are applicants above the bar for funding but that you cannot afford to fund. Also I had this thought prior to reading that one of your noted mistakes was "underestimated the number of applications", it feels like you might still be making this mistake.


"mostly evaluating the merits of the applicants themselves rather than their specific plans"

Interesting decision. Seems reasonable. However I think it does have a risk of reducing diversity and I would be concerned that the applicants would be judged on their ability to hold philosophise in an academic oxford manner etc.

Best of luck with it




"encouraging more people to use Try Giving,"

Could CEA comment or provide advise to local group leaders on if they would want local groups to promote the GWWC pledge or the Try Giving pledge or when one might be better than the other? To date the advise seems to have been to as much as possible push the Pledge and not Try Giving


"... is likely to be the best way to help others."

I do not like the implication that there is a single answer to this question regardless of individual's moral frameworks (utilitarian / non-utilitarian / religious / etc) or skills and background. Where the mission is to have an impact as a "a global community of people..." the research should focus on supporting those people to do what they has the biggest impact given their positions.

5 Positives

"Self-sorting: People tend to interact with others who they perceive are similar to themselves"

This is a good thing to have picked up on.

"Community Health"

I am glad this is a team

"CEA’s Mistakes"

I think it is good to have this written up.


"Impact review"

It would have been interesting to see an estimates for costs (time/money) as well as for the outputs of each team.



Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 19 December 2017 09:20:15PM 6 points [-]

Good question. I agree that the process for Individual outreach is mysterious and opaque. My feeling is that this is because the approach is quite new, and we don't yet know how we'll select people or how we'll deliver value (although we have some hypotheses).

That said, there are two answers to this question depending on the timeline we're talking about.

In the short run, the primary objective is to learn more about what we can do to be helpful. My general heuristic is that we should focus on the people/activity combinations that seem to us to be likely to produce large effects so that we can get some useful results, and then iterate. (I can say more about why I think this is the right approach, if useful).

In practice, this means that in the short-run we'll work with people that we have more information on and easier access to. This probably means working with people that we meet at events like EA Global, people in our extended professional networks, EA Grants recipients, etc.

In the future, I'd want something much more systematic to avoid the concerns you've raised and to avoid us being too biased in favor of our preexisting social networks. You might imagine something like 80K coaching where we identify some specific areas where we think we can be helpful and then do broader outreach to people that might fall into those areas. In any case, we'll need to experiment and iterate more before we can design a more systematic process.

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 22 December 2017 02:53:33PM 2 points [-]

I have a very similar concern to Michael's. In particular it looked like, to me, that participants picked for this were people with whom CEA had an existing relationship. For example picking from CEA's donor base. This means that participants were those that had a very high opportunity cost in moving to direct work (as they were big donors). I expect that this is a suboptimal way of getting people to move into direct work.

Look forward to seeing:

something much more systematic to avoid the concerns you've raised and to avoid us being too biased in favor of our preexisting social networks

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