TL;DR Inspire Altruism is a nonprofit that empowers the next generation of effective altruists through workshops at private high schools. Students participate in a Giving Exercise where they are given money to keep or donate to a charity of their choice. The Proxied Giving Leadership Program, a mentorship program that connects students with experienced donors, facilitates monthly meetings to make decisions on where to donate together.
My name is Harrison Kim and I am the founder of Inspire Altruism, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of effective altruists. I have been "EA-aligned" since 2018 in my personal and professional choices, but it wasn't until a serendipitous moment (found "Doing Good Better" in a trash bin in the streets of NYC) in March of 2022 that I officially discovered the Effective Altruism movement.
From that point on, I've been deeply invested in Effective Altruism and dedicated the bulk of my life to learning more about EA and figuring out the most effective ways to do good. And after much research and contemplation, I founded Inspire Altruism with the goal of educating, engaging, and empowering the next generation of Effective Altruists. I believe with high (epistemic) confidence that with the right execution, Inspire Altruism has the potential to make a significant culture-shifting impact on the future generation.
It's crucial to grasp the foundational beliefs that guide our organization to fully comprehend our approach. With that in mind, I'd like to take a moment to explain the underlying philosophies behind Inspire Altruism.
Our philosophy on modern education.
Modern education is great at teaching students how to be smart and how to work hard, but it often falls short of teaching them how to use their knowledge for good. Education is not a neutral act; it is inherently political because knowledge and power are inextricably intertwined. By giving students more intelligence and determination, it doesn't necessarily mean they will use that power for the greater good. The true challenge in education is how to empower students to use their education to make a positive impact on the world. Every student has the right to understand the purpose of their education and to be guided in building their 'why' in life, just as much as their 'how'.
Our philosophy on altruism/giving.
Our philosophy on giving and altruism is that it is a muscle that needs to be developed, much like physical fitness. Just as you need to regularly exercise and work on building your physical strength, you also need to regularly practice giving and developing your altruistic tendencies. Through regular practice and training, one can build a strong "giving muscle" and become more effective in making a positive impact on the world. This is a key principle of Inspire Altruism and is incorporated into our approach to educating and empowering the next generation of Effective Altruists.
We hold workshops at high-achieving private high schools. The reasoning behind targeting these schools is that students at these institutions often have more resources and opportunities at their disposal, which can be leveraged to make a greater impact in the world. Additionally, these schools tend to have a culture of achievement and excellence, which aligns with our mission to empower future leaders to lead purposeful and impactful lives.
At our workshops, we provide students with a comprehensive lesson on the principles of Effective Altruism and give them the opportunity to make real-life giving decisions through our Giving Exercise. We also invite speakers from various fields, such as climate change, animal welfare, AI safety, global poverty, and Earning to Give, to speak about the importance of their respective causes. Our goal is to expose students to different perspectives, rather than indoctrinating them with a specific set of beliefs. Additionally, we offer a follow-up mentorship program called Proxied Giving Leadership Program that matches students with mentors who are experienced donors or experts in a particular field.
Currently, our workshops are designed as a one-time, 1.5-hour experience. This format allows for easy integration into schools' curricula. However, our ultimate goal is to implement a more long-term program, with the aim of lobbying for the integration of Altruistic Education into the national curriculum.
The unique aspect of Inspire Altruism's workshop is our innovative "Giving Exercise" and "Proxied Giving Leadership Program."
Similar to Giving Games and Charity Elections hosted by Giving What We Can, we provide students with real money to make a donation to a charity of their choice. However, what sets our exercise apart is the added element of agency. In addition to the option to donate, we also give students the choice to keep the money for themselves. This allows for a more realistic simulation of the trade-offs involved in giving and helps students exercise their "giving muscles" in an authentic environment.
Before the Giving Exercise, the students are taught the principles of effective giving and provided resources like GiveWell to guide their donation strategies.
The rules of the exercise go as follows:
- Each student is given around $100 and they can choose to either donate the money to a charity of their choice or keep the money for themselves.
- If more than 20% of the class decides to keep the money, the students who chose to keep the money will split 20% of the total sum of money amongst themselves. For example, if 50% of a class of 30 chooses to keep the money, those 15 students will split $600 (20% of $3,000) which comes out to $40 per person. But if only 2 students decide to keep the money, each student will walk away with $100.
- Students who decide to keep the money for themselves are informed after they've made their decision, that they must volunteer 1 hour for every $10 they decided to keep. For example, if a student decides to keep $50, they must volunteer 5 hours at a local charity of their choice before they are able to claim the money. This ensures that even if students decide to keep the money for themselves, they are still contributing to the community and being exposed to real-world socioeconomic disparities.
Proxied Giving Leadership Program
The Proxied Giving Leadership Program is an extension of our workshops, where we pair each student with a mentor who has experience in charitable giving or expertise in a specific area of Effective Altruism. The program is open to all students, regardless of their background, and is not limited to students who have participated in our workshops. The mentor and mentee meet on a monthly basis to discuss giving opportunities and make joint decisions on where to donate money. The funds for these donations may come from the mentor or be provided by Inspire Altruism. The mentor acts as a guide and advisor for the student in their giving decisions, but it also serves as an educational opportunity for the mentor as we provide a comprehensive handbook to assist them in navigating the charity space and learning about pressing global issues.
Some examples of causes that students and mentors may consider in the Proxied Giving Leadership Program include:
- Global poverty and economic inequality
- Animal welfare and rights
- Climate change and environmental conservation
- Mental health and well-being
- Education and access to opportunity
- Human rights and social justice
- Medical research and global health
- Disaster relief and emergency aid
- Community development and empowerment
- Promoting Effective Altruism and rationality
Beyond Charity: Inspiring Altruistic Career Paths
Our mission at Inspire Altruism goes beyond just teaching students about the importance of donating and how to donate effectively. We also aim to help students think more critically about their career choices and to guide them toward finding a purposeful, altruistic, and impactful career path. We use concepts like marginal utility to challenge common misconceptions about the utility of certain professions (doctors, lawyers, etc.) and to help students understand the true impact that their career choices can have on society. Additionally, we introduce students to organizations like 80,000 Hours and career strategies like Earning To Give.
Donations and funding
Donating to Inspire Altruism is a win-win for those who already give to EA-aligned charities. By designating your donation to our "Charity Directed Fund", you can ensure that 100% of your donation goes towards EA-aligned charities chosen by our students through the Giving Exercise or Proxied Giving Leadership Program. Not only will you be supporting highly effective charities, but you'll also be playing a vital role in shaping the giving habits and altruistic behaviour of the future generation. And if you choose to donate to our "Operational Fund", your contribution will go towards the management and growth of Inspire Altruism, as well as supporting the money that the students choose to keep (which is a maximum of 20% of the money allotted to a classroom). Any extra funds in our "Operational Fund" will be directed to our "Charity Directed Fund".
Our vision and long-term goal
The ultimate goal of Inspire Altruism is to advocate and lobby for education reform that integrates Altruistic Education as a core component of the national curriculum. We believe this is one of the most impactful and effective ways to bring about lasting, systemic change.
We're currently in the start-up phase, so we're actively seeking to expand our network and connect with individuals who may be interested in collaborating or providing guidance. I am based in New York City and would be happy to meet for a coffee to discuss further or talk over Zoom. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also welcome any critiques or challenges to our ideas. Additionally, we are currently seeking funding opportunities, so if you have any leads, please let us know.
For a more in-depth understanding of our organization and mission, please visit our website at inspirealtruism.org - you'll find a compilation of research and evidence that supports our approach, as well as the registration form for our Proxied Giving Leadership Program.
Hey Harrison, very interesting project you are working on and I hope it becomes a success! I love the idea of getting high schoolers to think more altruistically!
I understand your stated explanation for only selecting private high schools, but have you thought of later expanding to charter or magnet high schools?
From EA forums and in-person meetups, I fear EA is already, and further going into, a kind of echo chamber due to it's demographic of wealthy, elite, intellectual circles. Your project can be a great way to expand EA’s demographic.
The Harvard economist Roland Fryer has done similar research and projects, but instead money was used to successfully incentivize underrepresented students to academically succeed in charter and public schools. I would suggest checking out his work.
Best of luck on your project!