The Survival and Flourishing Fund grant applications open until August 23rd ($8m-$12m planned for dispersal)

by Larks1 min read4th Aug 20212 comments

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Survival and Flourishing Fund
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In the past the Survival and Flourishing Fund (SFF) has supported a wide range of charities and university-affiated researchers focusing on EA issues like existential risks, and has had a relatively high acceptance rate, so I encourage anyone working on related projects to apply.

From the announcement post:

SFF is organizing another S-Process grant round in collaboration with Jaan Tallinn and Jed McCaleb to distribute funds at the end of November 2021. We estimate between $8-$12 million will be distributed in this round.

Applications are due on August 23rd, via the following form: SFF-2021-H2 Grant Application.

Our largest funder in this round has given a statement of priorities for areas which he is more interested in funding:

More information about the grant round can be found on the application form above. If you have any further questions, please contact julia@survivalandflourishing.org or sff-contact@googlegroups.com.

NB! Late submissions are welcome, however the recommenders do not have an obligation to consider such applications.

You might also be interested in the innovative delegation system used to evaluate grant applications:

We call the recommendation process used in this grant round the “S-process”, for “Simulation Process”, because it involves allowing the Recommenders and funders to simulate a large number of counterfactual delegation scenarios using a table of marginal utility functions. Recommenders specified marginal utility functions for funding each application, and adjusted those functions through discussions with each other as the round progressed. Similarly, funders specified and adjusted different utility functions for deferring to each Recommender. In this round, the process also allowed the funders to make some final adjustments to decide on their final intended grant amounts.

Having been involved in the past I'm happy to attempt to answer any general questions you might have about how it works.

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The S-Process is fascinating to me! Do you know of any proper write-ups of how it works? I'm especially interested in code or pseudocode, as I might want to try applying something similar to one of my projects

Unfortunately I don't think so. Here is a rough summary, based on my recollections, but I was only involved in one part of it so my memory or understanding might be awry:

  • Charities etc. submit applications
  • Funders choose evaluators to deputise (can be paid or unpaid)
  • Evaluators read applications, do calls, read background, other due diligence etc.
  • Evaluators write up their notes and assign the following parameters for each grant they looked at:
    • Marginal Utility of the First Dollar to this application
      • The process is invariant under a linear transformation so this is less onerous than it sounds
    • Dollar at which Marginal Utility = 0
    • (Optional) convexity/concavity 
  • Evaluators read each others' notes and discuss, then make any final adjustments to their own inputs.
  • Funders read these notes and review recordings of the discussions.
  • Funders assign the following parameters to the Evaluators:
    • Marginal Utility of the First Dollar to this Evaluator
    • Dollar at which Marginal Utility = 0
    • (Optional) convexity/concavity
  • The simulation then basically waterfalls the dollars down, where each funder gives $1,000 to the evaluator they think has the highest marginal utility, who then gives it to the charity they think has the highest marginal utility. Then all the marginal utilities are updated, and the next $1,000 is allocated to an Evaluator, who again then allocates it to a charity.

There were also some other 'social' elements like disclosure and conflict of interest policies and the like.

This has a number of properties:

  • If an application is really liked by any one evaluator it will get funded, even if the others dislike it (unless they can persuade the one otherwise).
  • Not every evaluator has to look at every grant.
  • There is less incentive for evaluators to be dishonest than in other systems.
  • It can be counter-intuitive what individual evaluators end up funding, because all their favourite ideas might end up being funded by someone else first.