List of possible EA meta-charities and projects

by saulius9th Jan 201918 comments

69

Get InvolvedMovement StrategyEntrepreneurshipCommunity
Frontpage

Introduction

There are many possible projects and organisations that could enable others to do more good. Only a few of them exist in reality at the moment. It’s easy to think that some ideas are bad just because current organisations haven’t implemented them. But it could be that many good ideas are not implemented simply due to a lack of capacity, or because the right person hasn't heard the right idea. That said, we should also be aware of the unilateralist curse and be careful not to implement ideas that many people think could be harmful.

To help people decide which EA meta-charities to found, we created a list of all the possible options we could think of. The list is a result of 5 people (David Nash, Jamie Harris, Nuzhat Jabinh, Samuel Hilton, and Saulius Šimčikas) brainstorming for a couple of hours in an event organised by Samuel Hilton. We later found out that a similar list was created during EA Summit. I merged the ideas for meta-charities from the EA Summit’s list to our list below. Note that the EA Summit’s list also contains ideas for research and non-meta-charities that were not merged into the list below. You can see our list without the ideas from EA Summit here.

Similar lists of ideas for EA charities and projects include:

Please comment about other ideas for meta-charities and projects that you have, and tell which ideas you are most excited about.

Careers

80,000 Hours is the only EA organisation (that I know of) that is focusing on careers. However, they are a small team and they are not doing everything that could be done in this vast space.

  • An organisation solely focused on running career workshops
  • One on one career consulting
  • Provide recruitment support for high-impact projects
    "One constant bottleneck for high-impact projects is recruiting excellent people. Plus, each high-impact project must discover on its own how to source promising candidates for jobs resulting in duplication of effort. A project that discovered the tools of the best recruiters and helped high-impact projects recruit talented people might be especially valuable." (by Kerry Vaughan)
  • Research on what careers to go into:
    • Best careers if you are not focused on the far future
    • Best careers for those who are finishing a PhD
    • How to decide what to study
    • Career decisions for people part way through careers –
      For example, comparing switching costs and benefits like loss of career capital, leveraging your existing skills, etc.
  • Research on how to do good once you are working in:
    • Policy
      HIPE does it in UK but it could be done in other countries
    • Politics
    • Finance
    • Academia
    • Military
    • Etc
  • Effective thesis, but higher up the academic chain
  • Convince college career counsellors to distribute 80,000 Hours materials to interested students (by EA Summit Team)
  • An org that specialises in helping people with careers in one cause area (e.g. global health/poverty)
  • A cause prioritisation research camp (similar to AI safety camp)
  • Recruit and train AI-safety researchers
    "One bottleneck on the work done by AI-safety groups like MIRI is the difficulty of finding mathematicians and computer scientists suited to the task. Projects that increased the number of researchers available for this work would therefore amplify the work done across the entire field.” (by Kerry Vaughan)
    • Run an existential risk workshop
      For example, MIRIx workshops. (by Evan Gaensbauer)
    • Create AI Safety course (or other EA education course) study groups
      "An EA group leader/organize, either with a local group or online, could lead a study group for, for example, the 'Road to AI Safety Excellence' online course put out by EA Nederlands: http://aisafety.camp/study-group/." (by Evan Gaensbauer)

Helping charities/organisations

  • Services for charities
    • (Free) service that helps make charities more transparent
      e.g. software that makes it easy for charities to show all the incoming donations, spending, financial information etc. Some inspiration can be taken from AMF website. This would make it easier for people to trust and evaluate charities.
    • Charity auditor that assess effectiveness as part of the process
    • System for ‘industry self-regulation’ of the charity sector
  • EA organisation auditor
    An independent organisation that provides an audit service to EA orgs to offer an external evaluation on how effective they are and other things. Alternatively, EA self-regulator.
  • Charity incubator
    Charity Entrepreneurship is great but they only tackle one cause area every year. If we want many new organisations to be created in many cause areas (e.g. meta, far future, mental health, climate change, biosecurity, nuclear security, etc.), we may want to have another similar organisation.
  • EA odd job team
  • Diversity: like Encompass but for EA
    Encompass promotes diversity among animal rights organisations, could have something similar in EA.
  • Consulting to:
    • Foundations
      "While most donations come from individuals, the largest concentration of donations comes from large foundations. An organization that provides advisory services to foundations, especially to foundations that are being created might be especially high impact." (by Kerry Vaughan)
    • Companies
      to improve their corporate social responsibility programmes or volunteering
    • Charities and other organisations that want to do good directly
      • How to become more transparent
      • How to self-evaluate effectiveness
      • How to demonstrate the effectiveness and raise funds from the EA community
  • Create an EA projects advice group
    "Create a Facebook group or google email list where people do brief writeups of new EA projects they plan to work on and/or EA related life or career plans and others give feedback on how those project plans could be improved" (by Spencer Greenberg)
  • A vetting system for project ideas
    A system where someone could submit an idea out there and EAs (eventually including those who are very involved in EA) add their thoughts and considerations. It would help to avoid the unilateralist curse and could help promising projects with funding by showing potential funders that well-known EAs are excited about the project. Facebook pages have the capacity for brainstorming and discussion, but may be inefficient, and may not always have the people we most want weighing in on the discussions (by Catherine Low).

Coordination

  • Coordination for EA researchers
    Many organisations want many things to be researched and many people would like to try out EA research to see if that’s a career option for them. What is more, it's difficult to know who is working on what at any given time, which makes it likely for two researchers to work on the same topic without knowing about each other. I wrote about problems and possible solutions in more detail here.
  • Volunteer coordination
    • Pro bono time coordination
    • Resource provision
    • Mentoring
  • EA orgs coordinator
    • Like Institute of Directors but for EA
      offering support and resource sharing and training and ensuring EA views are taken into account when the government is reviewing policy or seeking opinions.
  • Improving Funding for Individual EAs, EA Projects, and New EA Organizations (click the link to see ideas about how to do it)
  • Funding redistributors within specific fields
    Like EA grants or EA funds but more specific
  • More post-impact funding provision (e.g. certificates of impact)
  • EA expertise board
    e.g. if you would need to speak to a climate change expert who is also an EA, you could find it there
  • Coordination of specific fields where networking is useful
    Currently, it’s done on Facebook but it’s not optimal

Software platforms

  • Build a platform to match projects with people who can do them
    (by Florent Berthet as part of Tech Initiatives)
  • Build untapt.com (connects qualified applicants to companies building great teams and great products) for nonprofits
    (by Michal Trzesimiech as part of Tech Initiatives)
  • Make an X-risks mapping platform
    "To list the current existential risk organisations (and their needs), probability estimates for each risk, papers and discussions" (by Florent Berthet as part of Tech Initiatives)
  • Build a platform or service to match EA mentors and mentees for coaching/advice via video calls
    "Focus on mental health / productivity for people already familiar with EA and provide career / donation advice for newcomers. Basically scale up http://effectivealtruismcoaching.com/ based on software that allows mentors/coaches to allocate timeslots and let mentees book timeslots. <calendly.com> + jitsi + X." (by Jan Kulveit as part of Tech Initiatives)
  • Consolidate EA wiki content
    "Negotiate with the various EA wikis to consolidate their content onto one site. Make sure you involve top researchers (e.g. at Openphil, 80k, FHI)." (by Max Dalton)
  • Peer to peer funding platform
  • EA decision making tools and apps
    Because nuanced EA can look difficult (start with a deep understanding of ethics, etc…). It can also look dictatorial (AI is the true answer, etc... ). E.g. How to decide on causes

Spreading EA ideas

  • Organisation/person solely focused on giving introductory EA talks
  • EA outreach to
    • Different demographics
      • Muslims
      • Seniors / Retirees
      • Other cultures / countries
    • Niche communities
      "Raising for Effective Giving has had success targeting a particular niche market (poker players) who are likely to be receptive to arguments for effective giving. There may be promising opportunities to develop similar projects targeting niche groups." (by Kerry Vaughan)
      • Machine learning students
      • Scientists in relevant fields
      • Crypto community
      • Etc.
    • Corporate giving officers
      "In the US 72% of giving ($241B) comes from individuals, yet since the average household only donates around $3,000, outreach on a household-by-household basis may not be as cost effective as other options. It may be possible to circumvent this problem by working with corporate social responsibility officers at large corporations to encourage them to advocate for effective charities at their companies. This would provide a way to influence many donors without needing to engage in outreach to each individual." (by Kerry Vaughan)
  • An organisation that sells/outreaches cause prioritisation
  • Effective inheritance
    There are people looking to start this. There is also a non-EA organisation that connects heirs.
  • PR agency for EA
  • Helping with EA workplace activism (assisting people to organise events, etc.)

Helping EAs

  • Making EA content more accessible
    • Central resource directory of EA materials
      Many important ideas are in blog posts spread around in multiple websites, with little categorisation. It’s not easy to find everything related to certain topic, especially for newcomers. A frequently updated resource directory could help to solve the problem. Attempts to organise ideas include EA Concepts and EA hub's resources for movement builders, www.priority.wiki. Similar projects could be done for more topics and eventually ,there could be a directory of directories.
    • Summarising of online discussions
      Many good points are made in Facebook and forum comments but are not read by most EAs and are not presented in an accessible way.
    • EA insider newsletter with more advanced materials
      It could include a possibility to filter what kind of topics do you want to be included in the emails you receive. Alternatively, there could be cause-specific EA mailing lists. For example, B.C.T.S mailing list summarizes news in Effective Animal Advocacy.
    • Making rationality more accessible
      Lots of rationality techniques and ideas are not written up in an easily understandable and concise manner. There should be something much shorter and more practical than Rationality: From AI to Zombies that newcomers could be linked to.
  • More EA hotels
    Although before founding new hotels, we may want to fund the existing one.
  • Organisation to support people in the EA community with mental health
    Many EAs have reported they would want to talk to a bespoke EA therapist rather than a standard therapist
  • More EA co-working and community hubs like REACH.
  • Tutors for EA students
  • Professional training for EA
    Guide people towards understanding impact and supports people interested in social enterprise, charity entrepreneurship or even earning to give effectively. (Maybe like Year Here but for EAs)
  • Build better long-term commitment-maintenance and donation tracking tools for following up with people who have taken the GWWC Pledge
    "I worry that a lot of potential may be lost when people move from the cities in which they first engaged with EA." (by Huw Thomas)
  • Develop further local infrastructure in most active 'EA cities'
    For example, Oxford and SF for supporting meeting, collaborating, co-working, etc. of EAs (by Huw Thomas)

Policy

  • HIPE global
    Global organisation to make civil servants more effective
  • Evaluation of policy interventions
  • EA lobby group(s)
  • EA activism coordination
    coordinate individual EAs to engage in effective activism actions
  • Lobby group for better policy making processes
    how to improve institutional decision making or global coordination in policy
    • A national or international lobbying organisation that is external to the government
    • Networks internal to governments who try to promote this by using their own expertise and careers.
    • An organization that researches this topic

Research

  • Charity evaluation
    • Of specific cause-areas (e.g. environment, preventing extreme human suffering, institutional decision making, etc)
    • Of global development, but in more depth
      With more focus on long term and follow-through effects and systemic change and less focus on RCTs. Possibly also with more consulting with people whom we are trying to help.
    • Of Meta-charities
    • Of AI safety research organisations
  • Cause prioritization research
    • For non-utilitarian or different groups
      what conclusions should people with different ethics or different religious/cultural backgrounds to reach?
    • With different things in mind: influence / political power / visibility
      mostly we have imagined you have money to give. If you are spending political influence (or something else), you might think other causes are more important.
    • To find new cause areas or cause X
    • How to explain / sell cause prioritization
  • EA community building research
  • GiveWell for impact investing (by William MacAskill)
  • EA academic journal
  • Writer who writes up articles for people embedded in EA
    Many EA organisation leaders have lots of very good ideas and in some cases lists of articles they would write if they have the time. Maybe a person could interview collate and write-up.
  • Run an EA-style research online course
    "Create an online course for doing EA-style research”. (by Max Dalton) Max also wrote that he’d be happy to mentor a sufficiently good person to do this
  • Research and revolutionise important fields
    For any of the below, you could do research on how to have an impact in that area, engage with people in the area and work out what levers to push to change how people in the area do good.
    • Activism
    • Grantmaking
    • Academia
    • Journalism
    • Etc.
18 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 5:05 AM
New Comment

In a recent post, I suggested that the current Good Ventures "splitting" policy may be making it much harder than it perhaps should to start up and get funding for new effective charities, because the top charities that OpenPhil / Good Ventures have identified but not fully funded are unnecessarily sucking up most of the donations from individual donors who might otherwise fund these riskier new opportunities, and the policy also perhaps incorrectly encourages people to contribute money instead of time to EA causes. I think it might be really high leverage for someone to investigate that question so that the policy could be changed if it in fact is suboptimal. (To be clear I don't think that person should be me because my comparative advantage probably lies elsewhere.)

I have a few other ideas that aren't listed here:

  • EA Climate Change Co-ordination - a reasonable number of EAs are interested in climate change, but nothing seems to have happened in this domain partly due to a lack of co-ordination
  • EA Leadership program - leadership programs are very popular among students and so this could be a good (if high effort) way of spreading EA ideas
  • Regarding career workshops, instead of an organisation trying to run this itself, some group could create a training course for people who want to give career advice
  • A group to perform rationality outreach (spreading rationality ideas generally seems good for in EA as the rationality community produces new ideas for EA and also provides a source of potential recruits)
  • A project to aggregate ideas on different topics. It could get a bunch of EAs together to brainstorm like this and also allow public submissions. All of the ideas could be written up into a post like this
  • Media outreach - most EAs are quite negative on media outreach, but I can see value in writing articles that specifically aim to correct misperceptions about both EA and AI
  • A project to produce personal outreach materials. Some groups (like evangelical Christianity) focus heavily on growing through personal outreach. You don't want people to end up being pushy, but this is probably worth investigating more
  • Niche outreach was mentioned, but I expect niche outreach to Christians could be especially valuable
  • Religious organisations often send people to different cities in order to engage in movement building, this might be something that EA might want to experiment with as well

Hmmm, it would be interesting to organise another event like this where we brainstorm about possible new EA cause areas. Maybe I will do it sometime :-) Or someone else could do it.

Note that an EA for Christians group exists, although I'm not sure if they've conducted active outreach much https://www.eaforchristians.org/

Great ideas!

Just wanted to add that that while I think many of the listed ideas are in my opinion useful and should eventually turn into projects, some of them are quite sensitive to the way how they are executed, or who executes them, to the extent that creating negative impact is easy.

Also, often, there is some prior work, existing knowledge, etc. in many of the listed directions. That no project is visible in some direction may mean also that someone carefully considered it and decided it is not something which should be started now.

(For example: it's not like nobody thought about EA outreach to different demographics, Muslim, seniors / retirees, other cultures / countries. There is in part public, in part "internal" discussion about this, and the consensus seems to be this is in many cases delicate and should not be rushed.

Or: it's not like EffectiveThesis did not considered or experimented with different intervention points in the academic chain.)

With respect to crypto / blockchain fundraising, EAF has considered launching something in that space, though we haven't launched, and it's currently deprioritized (see https://smart-giving.org/ for a mock-up). Get in touch if you'd like to work on this!

https://www.effectivegiving.nl is also working on it. They are (or were) organising a weekend for them.

Hey Jonas, RC might be interested in touching base with you about this soon!

I looked through this list to see which ideas might already exist, or be immediately feasible without building anything new. This caught my eye:

A vetting system for project ideas

What features would this system have that "posting a Google Doc on the EA Forum" doesn't have? Doing so allows you to choose who can or can't see it, present your idea in as much detail as you'd like, see how much the EA community likes it in general, get feedback from experts, etc. Would it be helpful to have a centralized space only for project ideas?

(There are, of course, project-management apps that are much better than Google Docs for actually implementing projects, but I'm not aware of any specialized software just for getting feedback on an initial idea.)

CEA is trying to make the Forum the best place to post EA content, in the sense that this is generally where you'll find the most readers and get the best feedback. We'd hope that "EA projects" are exactly the kind of thing that get posted here, so if there's a way in which we could add features to the Forum which would make that easier, we'd be interested in hearing about it!

I agree that the forum does already provide this function to get written feedback, however I'm not sure the written feedback makes it clear whether there is approval or lack of approval in general. Up and down voting helps, but I wouldn't want to construe a bunch of upvotes as widespread approval to start a project, nor the downvotes as suggesting I'm triggering some terrible unilateralist curse! My thought was not fully formed, but I was thinking a bit more of a rating system, where someone could have a pretty rough idea, gets it checked it over with a few EAs and if it is approved, then they flesh the idea out a bit, and then it gets checked over by more people with more experience. Ideally in a way where people don't feel uncomfortable sharing their ideas, and people feel okay about checking a box that says "This is likely to hasten catastrophe, don't do it!". I've been in a position where I've thought of starting a project, didn't feel all that comfortable asking for feedback on the forum or reaching out widely until I had befriended many EAs so I could quietly talk it over with them, and I guess that others might be in the same boat (Although that might be more about me, than about the systems we have in place!).

I'm not quite sure what forum features could be added to help that, or whether there is a market for that beyond me!

Nice list Saulius, thank you.

If 'Coordination for EA researchers' is considered by enough people to be a worthwhile project to undertake, I'd be interested in working on that (in a project design capacity).

And on a related note, I think combining this project with others like the 'EA expertise board' or 'Build a platform to match projects with people who can do them' would enable the platform to reach a critical mass of active users, making it really worthwhile for the community.

It is really helpful to have all these ideas listed in one place, thank you.

I am involved in running a scheme similar to Year Here (Think Ahead) and have occasionally wondered if a similar scheme for EA would be worthwhile. Programmes like ours and Teach for America, Teach First, Frontline, Police Now etc. have proven extremely effective at attracting talented people into particular career paths. I haven't devoted much time/thought into how one might design something like this for the very diffuse career path of "being an EA", but I would be up for exploring it if anyone is interested.

I also think intervening further "upstream" in the graduate career trajectory, while students are still at university, could also pay off. I am dimly aware that there are already efforts underway here such as EA societies at universities. I have put some thought into how one might restructure the university experience more fundamentally so that courses themselves, and the general university ethos/community, gave people the understanding, motivation, and skills to pursue EA careers. But I'm unsure whether this would be the most cost-effective way to achieve the desired outcomes.

Thanks again.

"Making rationality more accessible."

Sounds great, and I've thought about this too. But what does it look like?

  • Seminar series. Probably in the workplace - this would not be so scalable but for me would be highly targeted.
  • Video lectures. Costly, probably get wide reach though. Maybe better done in short form, slick and well marketed.
  • Podcast. IMHO hard to beat Rationally Speaking. However, this content should be more introductory so perhaps more of an audio series than a podcast.

How to assess what the main topics should be though? I feel the pedagogy for rationality is lacking, because for many people who are interested they picked up the basics by osmosis before getting into it in a more organised way. I.e. what is the first thing someone should learn, the second etc. For me, everything revolves around an understanding of probability - but that's a long and somewhat indirect road to walk.

Just a note that there was a useful post for discussing some of the potential gaps and issues around EA career advice a few months ago (subsequent to our discussion) here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/ej2v2wkExivqNghJ4/towards-better-ea-career-advice#YKQxGfmcxAMhYPboY