Animals, Policy & Biosecurity. Start a high-impact charity with CE’s 2023 Incubation Programs

Applications are now open to the Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Programs! As part of our scale up, Charity Entrepreneurship will now run two Incubation Programs in 2023. That means twice as many ideas and twice as many career opportunities. 

  • The first program will run from February 6 to March 31, 2023. The charities we’re most excited to launch are:
  • The second cohort will run throughout July and August 2023. The focus of this incubation program will be launching evidence-based charities in the biosecurity/health security space (more below) as well as highly scalable global health & development ideas.

Your first thought might be that you lack the relevant experience in the specific fields above. That’s okay, our training and launch model doesn’t require you to be an expert. Lucia and Jack (Lead Exposure Elimination Project) weren’t experts in lead elimination, and Nikita and Brandon didn’t know much about food fortification before they started Fortify Health. Yet both of these organizations, and many more we have launched, are on track to becoming field leaders or GiveWell recommended. 

[Apply now]

The deadline for applications is: October 31, 2022.

What we do

Charity Entrepreneurship launches high-impact nonprofits by connecting potential founders like you with effective ideas, training, and funding. This means we spend thousands of research hours to identify highly-effective interventions in chosen cause areas. We then provide you with a two-month intensive training program (all costs covered) to teach you how to run effective charities. We help you pair with a co-founder that will best complement your skills and personality. You finish the program with a proposal for funders that we deliver to our seed network. They grant up to $200,000 USD per project. You can learn more about the program at our Incubation Program website

Top animal welfare charity ideas for the February- March 2023 Incubation Program

For the February-March 2023 Incubation Program, we currently recommend three animal welfare charity ideas: ban low-welfare importsban the use of live-bait fish, and milkfish welfare in the Philippines. A deeper report on each of these will be released in the coming months; this post is intended only to give a sense of what the final ideas will look like for applicants to the Incubation Program.

Our top three ideas are the result of an intensive nine-month research process designed to identify the interventions most likely to succeed as high-impact start-up charities. The process began by listing nearly 275 ideas and gradually narrowing down, looking at the options in more and more depth. In order to assess how promising interventions would be for future charity entrepreneurs, we use a variety of different decision-making tools such as group consensus, weighted factor models, cost-effectiveness analyses, quality of evidence assessments, case study analyses, and expert interviews.

You can see the full initial list of about 275 ideas, along with a summary of our prioritization process here.

This process was exploratory and rigorous – but it was not comprehensive. We did not research all 275 ideas in depth, nor do we think the initial 275 ideas are the only good ideas Therefore, there are still potentially good interventions that have not been recommended. You are welcome to apply to the program with your own idea if you can make the case that it is as impactful as our top options.

Ultimately, we recommend the three ideas you can read about below as the most promising ideas in the animal welfare space. You can view our final decision-making spreadsheet setting out the key factors considered to reach this conclusion here.

Ban low-welfare imports

Description: Animal welfare standards differ greatly across the globe and as a result, we find countries with high animal welfare standards importing animal products that would be illegal to produce locally. Local producers and consumers are starting to question the fairness and morality of this and are beginning to ask for changes to be made.

We think that trade could be an interesting and useful mechanism to address this discrepancy with high-welfare countries. Places such as the EU, the UK, New Zealand, and Switzerland could attempt to increase the welfare standards in typically low-welfare countries through restricting access to their markets unless specific animal welfare standards are met. This could be achieved through a ban on imported animal products that do not meet the high-welfare country’s animal welfare standards.

World Trade Organization case law suggests that import bans based on animal welfare concerns are compliant with its rules under the public morals exemption provided for in GATT Article XX. 

There is also evidence that advocacy leads to policy change in this space. Looking at 74 case studies of previous advocacy efforts for import bans on animal products across the globe, we found an average success rate was ~18%, with 13 of 74 campaigns resulting in policy change in an average of 5.2 years. Moreover, with support from farmers and the general public growing, now may be a particularly good time for advocacy on this issue.

We think that New Zealand is the most promising country for this intervention. New Zealand is a country with high animal welfare standards that, due to its geographic location, trades more with lower-welfare countries than other high-welfare countries such as the EU, the UK, or Switzerland whose trade is mostly intra-European. Work in New Zealand is also more neglected than in these other high-welfare countries, with no one working full-time on this issue. We think that this work may be particularly tractable in New Zealand, as stakeholder support for this issue has grown following the recent announcement that farrowing crates are being phased out by December 2025. As the pork industry is already made up of 60% imports, farmers and consumers fear that this farrowing crate ban will mean that imported products will further outcompete local production, forcing some farmers out of business and leaving consumers forced to consume lower-welfare pork products that would be illegal to produce locally. 

Modeling this intervention in New Zealand, we have found that it could be very cost-effective. Our cost-effectiveness estimate yielded an estimated impact of 23.08 welfare points affected per dollar when considering both charity and government costs, and 185.99 welfare points affected per dollar considering only charity costs. We believe that this intervention could be more impactful than is captured in this cost-effectiveness estimate, as a lot of its impact would also come from precedent setting which is hard to capture in a CEA. It is common to hear from governments that they are concerned about tackling this issue as it is not clear whether it is compatible with the World Trade Organization’s rules. Success in New Zealand could be a clear case study that progress can be made in this space. This could have a big impact in other high-welfare countries and may encourage them to also make progress in this space.

Our biggest remaining uncertainty for this intervention is around its scalability. We have identified the EU, the UK, Switzerland, and maybe some US states as other high-welfare places that this intervention could be implemented in beyond New Zealand, but work in any of these places has limitations.

Based on these findings, we recommend founding an organization advocating for an import ban on low-welfare products in high-welfare countries, in particular New Zealand.

Personal fit: As this is a policy issue, co-founders will need to be comfortable with policy work, ie., a focus on building connections and influencing, an acceptance of a significant risk of failure yet higher payoff, and long feedback loops. A legal background could be a useful "nice to have" for this intervention but is not a necessity.

Ban the use of live-bait fish

Description: Bait fish are small fish farmed or caught for use as bait by recreational and commercial fishermen to attract large, predatory fish. Bait fish production in most countries is either small-scale, incidental, or simply serves to sell fish that are too small to meet food fish market requirements. However, there are several countries where bait fish farming is conducted on a large scale, with poor welfare conditions and intensive aquaculture practices. This is most prominent in the US, where bait fish represents a large-scale, commercial industry. The USDA estimates that there are 1.3 billion bait fish sold in the US alone, annually. The welfare conditions of bait fish raised on this larger scale are likely to be quite similar to factory-farmed fish, and therefore likely to be very low with extremely high rates of disease, morbidity and mortality.

This charity would be advocating for a ban on the use of live-bait fish (likely to be specifically phrased as the use of live-bait fish farmed or caught in other bodies of water) in USA states. 

There are several states and countries that have introduced strong regulations or bans on bait fish, and there are several organizations that have managed to secure successes in curtailing this industry, suggesting that this is a tractable policy to advocate for. However, this area of advocacy is highly neglected and we could not identify any active  organization working on this in the US.

Modeling this intervention in Ohio, USA, we have found that it could be extremely cost-effective. Our cost-effectiveness estimate yielded an estimated impact of 440 welfare points affected per dollar when considering both charity and government costs.

One potential concern about this idea is that instead of using live-bait fish, anglers may choose to use invertebrates (such as maggots, worms and leeches) as bait, and depending on how many anglers switch to invertebrates over non-animal bait alternatives, and how any invertebrates they use, there is potential for harm to be caused. Despite this, in our models and with the help of survey data collected with Rethink Priorities, we feel confident that this charity is likely to be net positive in expectation (our 95% confidence interval was -95 to 1,035 welfare points affected per dollar). However, this is an important consideration that charity founders should be aware of when starting the charity and when operating.

Personal fit: This is an intervention that would likely benefit from co-founders who are interested in policy-related interventions, and who are happy to work within the USA. We also think this would be a good fit for co-founders with a keen awareness of downside risks and strengths in monitoring and evaluation.

Milkfish welfare in the Philippines

Description: The scale of fish suffering is huge with an estimated 51-167 billion fish alive at any given point. These fish suffer greatly in farms where they are exposed to constant pain, stress, and high mortality rates due to disease, poor water quality, crowding, and the inability to display natural behaviors. The scale of suffering is only projected to increase as aquaculture continues to grow rapidly across the globe.

Although existing animal advocacy organizations have started to focus more on fish welfare campaigns since our incubation program launched Fish Welfare Initiative (FWI) in 2019, work on fish welfare is still relatively neglected, particularly in the most important regions. For example, Asia accounts for roughly ~90% of the global tonnage of farmed fish produced, but very few organizations are working there on this issue. Therefore, we would like to see more fish welfare work being done here. 

We think that the Philippines could be particularly promising because of the unique talent base that can be found, relative to other neglected geographies, given the work of Animal Empathy Philippines and the strong EA presence due to the work of EA Philippines.

Our best guess is that water quality and stocking densities on fish farms should be the problems tackled by this charity. However, the “how” - i.e., the best ways to address these problems - is a question that needs to be answered by an organization working in the field and iterating solutions. Determining strategy based on desktop research would be very difficult to do, and we believe that co-founders will be better able to make informed strategy decisions once they have done country-scoping visits and have visited many farms as this will give them access to information not available to researchers and this experience on the ground is likely to reveal information about tractability, as well as expanding the list of potential leverage mechanisms for change. We think a good starting point could be working at the farmer level for one to three years before pivoting to/exploring other approaches.

In our cost-effectiveness analysis, we have modeled the farmer-level approach in the Philippines and this looks quite cost-effective with an estimated impact of 24.39 welfare points affected per dollar. As the intervention still looks cost-effective under this approach (where the costs are expected to be the highest and the number of fish affected are the lowest of all other approaches considered) then we can conclude that this intervention is likely to be cost-effective under any approach. 

Is this already covered by Fish Welfare Initiative?: No, this work is not already being done by Fish Welfare Initiative (FWI). FWI are primarily focused on improving the lives of carp species (Rohu, Catla, and Mrigal) farmed in India in large, semi-intensive earthen ponds, whereas this new organization would be focused on improving the lives of milkfish farmed in the Philippines in brackish water ponds.

FWI is doing great work, but we favor starting a new organization over scaling FWI for two main reasons:

  1. Even if FWI find a scalable ask and approach to improving fish welfare in India, it is not obvious that they would be able to easily apply the same ask and approach outside of India. The local context and conditions on farms, the species of fish being farmed, the type of farming system being used, the size of ponds, what farmers are willing to implement, whether you should even be working with farmers at all (or working at a different level such as with corporations or doing policy work), etc. will be completely different between different countries.
  2. Expanding FWI would stretch the directors’ focus, shifting some attention away from their project in India, which they think should be getting all of their attention right now.  FWI has endorsed us starting a new charity in the space and has confirmed that they wouldn’t scale to the Philippines in the next couple of years. 

Personal fit: We think that the founders of this charity will have to be especially resilient and impact-focused, as working in this space is very challenging. Founders will be working on something completely novel, without a lot of relevant evidence and research. There are a lot of questions that will need to be answered on the ground in terms of what the local context is and what will work there, and why farmers do things the way they do, and what they would be willing to implement, etc. You will have to be able to run appropriate surveys and tests to answer these questions, as well as being mindful of all the things you don’t know and how to identify and answer them.

We would also recommend that going into the project, this organization has strong monitoring and evaluation so that they can properly assess the progress they are making.  

Top global health & development ideas for February-March 2023 Incubation Program

Tobacco taxation

Policy advocacy work on increasing tobacco taxes to reduce tobacco consumption. Promising countries for this intervention: Mongolia and Lebanon. Read the full report on this intervention.

Road traffic safety 

Policy advocacy work for road traffic safety improvements such as reducing existing speed limits and improving and introducing seat belt legislation. Promising countries for this intervention: Brazil, Egypt, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. Read the full report on this intervention.

Top research areas for June- August 2023 Incubation Program

Biorisk/health security: 

We are currently in the process of researching the top interventions in the space of biorisk and health security. We will publish the list of projects we recommend later this year, but you can apply in October for either or both 2023 programs.  

Broadly we are focusing on three areas: 

  • Pandemic prevention, including both natural and engineered pandemics
  • Pandemic preparedness, including both natural and engineered pandemics
  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Highly-scalable global health:

We are also looking at highly-scalable global health ideas. Our research into this topic is still at an early stage but our aim is to find ideas that can quickly scale up to absorb $10m+ a year whilst remaining highly cost-effective. To date we have incubated organizations such as:

  • Fortify Health – that works on food fortification
  • Suvita – that works on vaccine delivery

We may also look for ideas that can have an impact on health security as well as a direct health impact on the people affected, for example: 

  • Expanding access to clean water and sanitation in low and middle-income countries
  • Infection prevention and control interventions

If you have a suggestion for an idea we should look into, you can submit it here.

Application process

Apply here
Application deadline: October 31, 2022
Program date: February 6 - March 31, 2023 or June- August 2023
Costs: All costs covered, including a post-program stipend if you do not end up founding a charity 

Our application process has been improved year by year to be predictive, quick, and valuable. We select on the basis of potential, not track record alone. We are experienced in spotting those that, with training, will likely succeed in starting a high-impact charity, so the application process itself is the best indicator of potential fit

The first stage consists of uploading a CV and undertaking a bespoke psychometric assessment specifically designed in cooperation with leading researchers to predict fit for entrepreneurship. All applicants will receive personalized feedback on their potential as a nonprofit founder, even if they do not progress to stage two. 

Next, candidates will be given a robust framework and methodology to compare and contrast their top career options, and are invited to explore and detail their own priorities and tradeoffs. Candidates repeatedly report how practical and clarifying this exercise is for them.

Stages three, four and five consist of two interviews and a written test task where we explore motivations, rationales, and relevant experience. Each successive stage is more challenging and time consuming. We only ask participants to invest more in the process if we believe it is well worth their time. Those who don’t progress will be informed within four weeks of the application deadline at most.  

For those who make it far into our process but don’t quite make it into the cohort, we provide resources and recommendations for growth, suggest alternative options and paths to impact, and even make introductions to opportunities. 

For those who make it to final interviews, the total time investment will be 10 hours over no more than six weeks. 

As we expect to accept around 10-20 candidates per program, we encourage early applications and we recommend exploring resources like our bookblog and videos
 

What are we looking for? 

Ambitious altruism: Striving to maximize impact and aiming high in the pursuit of making the world a better place
Consequentialism: Focusing on results, with a high level of integrity and commitment to these results
Startup culture fit: Being agile, lean, and flexible in our approach, iteratively improving through quick experiments and fast feedback loops
Scientific mindset & good epistemics: Belief that empirical and systematic evidence is the most important for coming to key conclusions
Collaborative personality: Valuing a warm and connected community that is highly collaborative

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8 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:22 PM

And if you want to learn what it is like in the CE Incubation Program, you can watch our new video and learn more from the participants: 

Thank you for mentioning about the work of Animal Empathy Philippines and EA Philippines in the write up!  We definitely support this program, promote this locally, and nudge individuals to apply! 

Thank you so much for your amazing support. We really hope that one of the charities is launched by EAs from the Philippines. 

Hello! I am running the blog page of The Polish Foundation for Effective Altruism. We are planning to publish a blog post about your Incubation Program to promote it within our Polish community. 

Would CE mind if we directly translated or paraphrased fragments of their website, newsletters and this forum and include them in our article? We would be happy to let CE (its Polish speaking employees) read it before publication. 

Thank you in advance! We really want to make this Program known more widely in our country. 

EDIT: by the way, the article is already complete, we just want to wait for your approval. 

Hi Ewelina! Thanks so much for asking. In general, feel free to translate any piece of content that we produce now and in the future as long as you mention CE. 

It will be nice to read something about it in my native language. :) There is no need to send it to us ahead of time; I will read it after you post it. 

Thank you, Karolina!

You can read the article here: https://efektywnyaltruizm.org/blog/program-inkubacyjny-ce/. Please let me know if you find anything misinformative.

It would be great to illustrate the text with some graphic material, so if you wish - we can happily add some illustrations from CE. 

I want to make sure: are we also allowed to translate whole articles from CE's blog page and post it on our own, as long as we cite and link to the source? We would be happy to use this opportunity.

More of a methodological question, but as I know you are doing quite rigorous analysis in idea selection I would be very curious to learn how you model the multiplier from policy advocacy vis-à-vis more direct forms of work.

Hi - sorry for the belated response! 

For policy obviously the overall scale of the number of people/animals you can help is much bigger, but then we have to discount this based on the expected enforcement rate and also by the fact that we expect the overall probability of success of policy advocacy to be lower on average.

For the expected enforcement rate we look at existing enforcement rates of the policy in similar/neighbouring countries (if applicable) and the existing enforcement rates of similar policies (eg. when estimating the enforcement rate of seatbelt legislation we may look at the enforcement rates of speed limit legislation by looking at that % of people stick to the speed limit). This can be easier or more difficult to do depending on the intervention and the availability of information. In cases where there is less relevant information we might use proxies such as the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index

For the probability of success we usually try to do a case study analysis of advocacy efforts by other organisations in other countries and take the average success rate of these campaigns, with a note that we are more likely to find information on successful campaigns so this might be somewhat of an overestimate on the overall probability of success.