We are excited to announce the launch of a new effective altruism training organisation, Training for Good (TFG).

trainingforgood.com

TFG aims to upskill people to tackle the most pressing global problems. TFG will identify the most critical skill gaps in the EA movement and address them through training. TFG was incubated by Charity Entrepreneurship in 2021.

This post introduces TFG, provides an overview of the problems we seek to tackle and presents our immediate plans for addressing them. The following is structured into:

  1. Overview of TFG
  2. TFG’s short term plans
  3. Decisions and underlying assumptions
  4. How you can help
  5. Ask us anything

We thank Brian Tan, Charles He, Devon Fritz, Isaac Dunn, James Ozden, and Sam Hilton for their invaluable feedback on this announcement. All errors and shortcomings are our own.

Overview of TFG

Why training?

Track record

Some EA organisations have experienced moderate success running training programmes and online courses. 

  • Animal Advocacy Careers ran a ~9 week online course, teaching core content about effective animal advocacy, effective altruism, and impact-focused career strategy. They recently published the results of two longitudinal studies they ran comparing and testing the cost-effectiveness of this online course and their one-to-one advising calls. Their results weakly suggested that while one-to-one calls are slightly more effective per participant, online courses are a slightly more cost-effective service
  • Charity Entrepreneurship’s two-month incubation programme aims to equip participants with the skills needed to found an effective non-profit. Through this programme, they have helped launch 16 effective organisations to date.
  • The Centre for Effective Altruism uses online courses as a high fidelity method of spreading EA ideas and growing the movement. They run an Introductory EA Programme which introduces the core ideas of effective altruism through 1-hour discussions over the course of eight weeks.
  • Other programmes offered by Peter Singer, the Centre for Applied Rationality, the Good Food Institute, and 80,000 Hours have also proved popular, suggesting that there is further demand for such courses.

Movement demographics

Movement demographics suggest that EAs are a promising audience for training. 80% are aged under 35 and a large proportion are still deciding what career to pursue or building up career capital. Over 50% of EAs also place career capital as a focus above direct impact. These demographic factors suggest a strong interest in gaining skills and participating in training programmes.

Cause neutral and flexible

Training is a cause neutral intervention. Cross-cutting programmes can be run which benefit several cause areas simultaneously or multiple targeted programmes can be run for different cause areas. 

Flexibility is particularly important when we consider that EA is a relatively young movement and that there may be cause areas which deserve our attention that we are currently neglecting. If information arises to suggest that we should switch our attention to another cause area (even temporarily), TFG could easily do so. Moreover, we believe that such organisational flexibility could help enable movement flexibility, as it creates the space for intellectual exploration to take place.

Comparative advantage

Our co-founding team has a relative amount of expertise designing and delivering training programmes. In particular, Steve has extensive experience in both the design and facilitation of large scale training and development programmes. He has spent over ten years in the corporate sector training and coaching across multinational firms. 

Cillian and Jan-Willem also have experience facilitating training programmes. Cillian has served as Training Officer for a mental health organisation, worked as a primary school teacher, and facilitated multiple EA Introductory Fellowships. Jan-Willem has also facilitated EA Fellowships and helped launch a 10-month long “Impact Challenge” to improve institutional decision making at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Collectively, we believe that we are a strong fit for founding an effective altruism training organisation.

The problems we address

The EA movement could benefit from more skills and talent. This manifests in a number of important ways, including a low rate of talent utilisation and skill bottlenecks.

Talent utilisation

The EA movement has a low rate of talent utilisation. According to the EA survey, there are over 6,000 committed EAs, the majority of whom want to pursue impactful careers. Yet lots of talented EAs are struggling to optimally put their skills to use. Some of the most upvoted posts of all time on the EA forum describe this concern in more detail. 

This issue of scalably using labour could be an important one to solve (and has often been discussed under the related concept of “Task Y”). At present, people struggling to find concrete opportunities to implement EA in their lives appears to be one of the main reasons for people becoming less engaged and leaving the EA movement. Concerns with low talent utilisation could also affect the impact of conducting outreach as the marginal impact of adding one extra EA could be low under these circumstances.

As we seek to grow the EA movement, it seems important to focus on increasing our rate of talent utilisation. Figuring out how we can efficiently allocate many people to impactful work could enable us to retain more dedicated EAs, usefully conduct more outreach and, ultimately, maximise our collective impact as a movement.

Skill bottlenecks

Funding for many EA cause areas has grown faster than the number of people interested in them. This had led to a “funding overhang” and an increase in certain skill bottlenecks.

Ben Todd places the amount of funding committed to EA meta and longtermist causes going forward at around $46 billion. This has led to some discussion of the need for projects that have the ability to deploy ~$100m and the skills that such projects will require. In particular, Ben identifies a number of specific skill sets which the EA movement may need:

  1. Researchers able to come up with ideas for big projects, new cause areas, or other new ways to spend funds on a big scale
  2. EA entrepreneurs/managers/research leads able to run these projects and hire lots of people
  3. Grantmakers able to evaluate these projects

The EA movement must start either attracting people with the relevant experience or training existing EAs to fill these roles. An organisation dedicated to building such talent pipelines could help the EA movement to effectively deploy billions of dollars going forward.

What we do

TFG will upskill people to tackle the most pressing global problems. We will deliver a broad range of training programmes with the following aims:

  • Raise the rate of talent utilisation within the EA movement by creating training programmes that enable large numbers of people to usefully contribute to the EA movement.
  • Solve skill bottlenecks in EA cause areas by developing targeted programmes that fill current skill gaps and develop the skills needed to deploy funds effectively in the future.
  • Upskill EAs in high value roles to increase their impact by identifying the limiting factors they face and designing programmes to address these.

TFG considers training to encompass a broad range of programmes, including skill-based programmes, knowledge-based programmes and plan-based programmes. 

  • Skill-based programmes will seek to build a specific skill or set of skills, such as a three month programme for EAs to develop grantmaking skills or a one day programme for Earning-to-Givers to improve their salary negotiation skills.
  • Knowledge-based programmes will seek to teach specific information or concepts, such as a week-long retreat introducing experienced professionals to core EA ideas.
  • Plan-based programmes will enable participants to develop a clear plan for achieving impact, such as a day-long career plan workshop for aspiring policy makers.

In practice, we imagine that most programmes will contain multiple elements, rather than being exclusively skill-based, knowledge-based or plan-based.

We recognise that such training programmes may not be the optimal solution to each of the problems we have identified. However, our goal is to test whether training can serve as an effective solution. Given the potential benefits if we succeed, we believe that the information value of this exploration is high. 

How we do this

TFG will diagnose the needs of the EA movement, design programmes to meet these needs and then deliver them to EAs.

  • Diagnose: We will diagnose the most pressing skill bottlenecks facing the EA movement (or specific subsets of it) using a combination of expert interviews, surveys, data analysis, and experimentation. We will balance the time cost of exploration with the practical benefits of experimentation by piloting programmes and learning by doing.
  • Design: We will design great programmes to fill the identified skill gaps. These may be skill-based, knowledge-based or plan-based programmes, depending on the need identified. We will source the best course material and partner with relevant experts to co-create programmes. To avoid “reinventing the wheel” we will adapt existing content where possible and create bespoke content only as necessary.
  • Deliver: We will deliver evidence-based training programmes to EAs. Where pre-existing material is used, we will often couch it in pre-readings, peer-based project work, and practical assignments. Where relevant, we will apply best practices from educational psychology, such as spaced repetition, retrieval practice, daily reviews, interleaving content and providing feedback. Typically, we expect to run programmes online. However, we will experiment with in-person training programmes in London and other programmes may have an initial in-person component, followed by several weeks of online training.

How we will know this is valuable

We allow ourselves until September 2022  to generate first signs of impact. By then, we expect to see the following results when comparing the outcomes of programme participants with similar control groups:

  • More trainees entering high impact career paths and/or promising signs that this will happen in the future (eg. the number of people getting to final stage interviews).
  • Trainees significantly improving their career plans.
  • EAs in high value roles increasing their impact. (A concrete example of this is that we expect our “Salary Negotiation for Earning-to-Givers” programme to result in an additional $20k - $22k being directed towards effective organisations counterfactually.)

If we do not see any of these indicators, we will explore pivoting away from training as a solution or closing down.

Our theories of change

In year one, TFG intends to pilot four training programmes in order to test three different approaches:

  1. Upskill under-utilised EAs to enter high-impact roles
  2. Draw experienced professionals into EA to address critical skill gaps
  3. Enable EAs in high-value positions to maximise their impact.

Upskill under utilised EAs to enter high-impact paths.

Year 1 Programme(s): “Grantmaking for Impact” and “Effective Careers for civil servants”.

Potential future programme(s): “Researching for Impact” (developing a pipeline of future EA researchers).

Draw experienced professionals into EA to fill critical skill gaps.

Year 1 Programme(s): “EA for Experienced Professionals”.

Potential future programme(s): “Leaders for Good” (drawing experienced CEOs into EA careers) and “EA Careers in India” (upskilling potential staff with regional expertise in EA concepts).

Enable EAs in high-value positions to maximise their impact.

Year 1 Programme(s): “Salary Negotiations for Earning to Givers”.

Potential future programme(s): “Noticing Impact Opportunities as a Civil Servant”, “Management skills for EA Leaders” (a leadership development programme for EA leaders) and “Internships for Good” (upskilling & connecting interns across all EA organisations).

Who we are

Our team met during Charity Entrepreneurship’s 2021 Incubation Programme and is currently composed of three people: Jan-Willem van Putten, Cillian Crosson and Steve Thompson* (*0.5 FTE).

Jan-Willem has previously founded multiple non profits and social enterprises in education, worked as a management consultant at OC&C and EY Parthenon, and is the former Director of EA Netherlands. 

Cillian studied Mathematics and English Literature at Trinity College Dublin, where he was awarded €35,000 in scholarships for academic excellence. He has five years experience delivering training programmes, including two years as a primary school teacher and one year as Training Officer for NiteLine Dublin, Ireland's largest student mental health organisation.

Steve previously co-founded the Entrepreneurs Academy in Ireland where he was the Head of Learning and Creative Director. He has worked across the corporate sector as a Senior Leadership Development Consultant for over ten years where he focused on creativity, EQ, and teamwork. He has extensive experience in both the design and facilitation of large scale training and development programmes.

TFG’s short term plans

TFG intends to pilot the following four training programmes in year one:

  • Salary Negotiation for Earning-to-Givers
  • Effective Careers in the Civil Service
  • EA for Experienced Professionals
  • Grantmaking for Impact

These programmes were chosen in large part because we consider them to be good test pilots which TFG can learn a lot from. We also based our decision partly on research conducted by Charity Entrepreneurship and our current, somewhat limited, understanding of the most critical skill bottlenecks facing the EA movement. We expect there to be a reasonable probability that, as we experiment and conduct further research over the coming months, we will pivot slightly and decide not to run at least one of these pilots (~65% likelihood).

Salary Negotiation for Earning-to-Givers

In November 2021, TFG is launching a training programme in salary negotiation, with up to 4 follow-up coaching sessions, to help E2Grs maximise their donation potential. Through practice and feedback, they will hone their salary negotiation skills while developing a concrete plan for negotiating a raise or promotion.

Upcoming programmes will run on the following dates:

  • (Beta) Online: Sat 16th Oct 2021, 10am - 4.30pm
  • London: Sat 20th Nov 2021, 10am - 4.30pm
  • Online: Sat 4th Dec 2021, 10am - 4.30pm

If you are an E2Gr and are interested in participating, please complete our application form by midnight on 7th November. Preference will be given to early applications and trainees will be accepted on a rolling basis.

Effective Careers in the Civil Service

In January 2022, TFG will launch a training programme for aspiring policymakers. At present, we expect this programme to focus on training EA-aligned university students and recent graduates to compare different career options in the civil service through an impact-focused lens and exploring their personal fit. We want to supplement this with interview skills to enter those paths. We are currently conducting a needs survey for current and aspiring policy makers to determine what (if any) trainable skill gaps exist for EA policymakers.

If you are a formerly aspiring, presently aspiring, former policymaker or current policymaker within Europe (including UK and other non EU countries), please complete our survey.

EA for Experienced Professionals

Around May 2022, TFG will host a week-long retreat, training corporate executives with 10+ years experience in basic EA concepts and connecting them to the EA movement. By training experienced professionals in EA principles and connecting them with senior staff at EA organisations, we hope to fill management skill gaps in key EA organisations.

Grantmaking for Impact

Around July 2022, TFG will run a training programme for aspiring EA grantmakers. By training EAs in grantmaking skills, we hope to help solve the grantmaker bottleneck within the EA movement, enabling more funds to be deployed effectively, and enable EAs to enter non-EA foundations, spreading EA ideas to influential institutions.

Decisions & underlying assumptions

Why we start with a broad focus rather than a narrow focus

We believe that organisations should adopt a narrow focus in order to excel. However, given the early stage of our organisation, we intend to experiment with different approaches to training before choosing where to narrow our focus. We consider year one to be an “exploration year”, in which the information value obtained from programmes takes precedence over the direct impact of those programmes This will allow us to learn what works and ultimately enable us to have a greater impact in the long term.

How we chose our pilot programmes

TFG used the following process for choosing which pilot programmes to run in year one:

  • Created a long list of 40+ potential programmes to run based on suggestions from Charity Entrepreneurship, EA Forum posts and internal brainstorming sessions.
  • Sorted our list using a weighted factor model based on the following criteria:
    • Trainability (27%) - how likely is it that we can successfully train people in this?
    • Ease of M&E (17%) - how clear and measurable are the metrics that we care about?
    • Personal fit for our team (15%) - given our co-founding team’s experience, how well suited are we to run this training programme?
    • Time of feedback loop (14%) - how long will it take us to learn whether our training programme was successful?
    • Backed by a robust theory of change (12%) - how much credence do we place in the theory of change underpinning this training programme?
    • Ease to get enough participants in (12%) - how straightforward will it be to attract enough suitable applicants to participate in this training programme?
    • Neglectedness (8%) - how well do existing organisations and resources adequately train people in this domain?
  • Created back-of-the-envelope calculations (BOTECs) to estimate the expected impact for the top 10 programmes. BOTECs for the four programmes we decided to run can be found here.

Why we take a “worldview diversification” approach

TFG strives to take a worldview diversification approach to cause prioritisation. We have strong epistemic and moral uncertainty about which worldviews are most reasonable and believe there are likely diminishing returns to putting resources behind any given worldview. Further reasons for our rationale and details of our method for adopting such a portfolio approach can be found here.

How you can help

What can you do if you want to contribute to our mission?

Apply for our “Salary Negotiation for E2Grs” training programme

We are running a Salary Negotiation for Earning-to-Givers training programme. Upcoming programmes will run on the following dates:

  • (Beta) Online: Sat 16th Oct 2021, 10am - 4.30pm
  • London: Sat 20th Nov 2021, 10am - 4.30pm
  • Online: Sat 4th Dec 2021, 10am - 4.30pm

If you are an interested E2Ger (or know of anyone who might be), please complete this application form by midnight on 7th November. Preference will be given to early applications and trainees will be accepted on a rolling basis.

Complete our “Needs survey for current and aspiring policy makers”

We have launched a survey aimed at all formerly aspiring, presently aspiring, former and current policy makers within Europe (including UK and other non EU countries).

If this applies to you, then please complete this survey to help us understand the bottlenecks that prevent aspiring and current policy makers from having the most impact possible.

Advisors

We are currently being mentored and advised by the Charity Entrepreneurship team, but are also seeking further advisors. Specifically, we are looking to connect with experts experienced in training & coaching, providing EA careers advice, conducting M&E for meta-EA organisations, policymaking, and grantmaking. If you have experience in any of these fields we would love to connect with you.

Follow our work

If you would like to hear about upcoming training programmes and be kept updated by our work then please follow us on Facebook, Linkedin and subscribe to our newsletter.

Get in touch 

If you, your local EA group or your organisation has a specific training need that you believe is high impact to address,  then we’d love to hear from you.

Ask us anything

Please ask us anything, question our plans, and propose ideas.

Additional Resources

TFG was incubated under Charity Entrepreneurship, an effective altruism organisation. Charity Entrepreneurship's seed network provided our initial funding with a $175,000 seed grant. Our current team members are co-founders Jan-Willem van Putten, Cillian Crosson and Steve Thompson.

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Around May 2022, TFG will host a week-long retreat, training corporate executives with 10+ years experience

Interesting. Do you have any data/anecdata about the tractability of getting 30+ year-olds to switch into EA careers? My current guess is that on the margin, although this seems valuable, week-long retreats teaching people about EA should be done for high-achieving high-schoolers (mostly because they would be more willing to change their career paths). Targeting high-schoolers makes less sense if you want to solve the management gap, though you could, for instance, target high-achieving entrepreneurial high-schoolers to help solve the entrepreneur gap (that I perceive there to be).

Hi Jack,

Jan-Willem here, one of the other co-founders of Training for Good. I actually have some data on tractability of outreach to an older generation. As chapter director at EA Netherlands we organised a serie of workshops targeted at a slightly older audience (average age ~35).

Three out of 25 people in this program comitted to considerable changes in their life (pledging large amounts of money and switching into high impact roles). We didn't use a control group, but it is a good sign of tractability.   

Thanks! This is the exact kind of thing I was interested in hearing about. If you don’t mind sharing, is there any significant way in which the 25 people were selected for? E.g. “people who expressed interest in a program about doing good” vs “people who had engaged with EA for at least N hours and were the top 25 most promising from our perspective out of 100 who applied.” I’m hoping for the sake of meta-EA tractability that it was closer to the former :)

"People who expressed interest in a program about doing good" seems to be the best description. Marketing was focused on Dutch speaking people that wanted to do more good. 

No prior EA knowledge was needed and most people heard about EA but had no real prior knowledge.

Your specific idea for an entrepreneurship training programme for high-schoolers sounds like a really interesting one.

I'm somewhat sceptical that such a programme targeting high-schoolers is the right approach to solving this skill gap though. The entrepreneurship gap seems like an important but difficult one to solve (eg. see Longtermist Entrepreneurship Project). Charity Entrepreneurship has had success in this area, but they've typically targeted graduates & people further along in their career. I would imagine that most high-schoolers would neither be in a position to found an organisation right away or have the necessary skills to do so. 

It's definitely possible that such a programme could help develop skills for high-schoolers (perhaps even by founding and running their own small-scale project) in the hope that they'd later use these to found an organisation. However, in this case, it seems very difficult to assess the success of the programme (as the feedback loops would be quite long) and I'd suspect that very few trainees would ultimately go on to found high impact organisations. 

I definitely could be wrong here though and would be interested to hear your thoughts?

Great question Jack! 

We don't have much data on the tractability of convincing mid-career professionals to switch into EA careers (though we'd be excited to see any evidence supporting or contradicting this if it exists).  Our main reason for targeting mid-career professionals over promising high-schoolers is that we think the information value of doing so is higher. This group possesses a lot of relevant skills and has typically been quite neglected by EA outreach, so we're excited to test out this approach. If we found that drawing experienced professionals into EA career paths was very tractable, we could envisage running similar programmes in the future to fill many other skill gaps.

I do agree that week-long retreats engaging promising high-schoolers seem really valuable though. There's quite a few programmes like this already (eg. SPARC, ESPR and Leaf ) and Open Philanthropy is excited to fund more such projects if others are interested in pursuing this!

Several of CEA's new hires over the past couple of years have been people older than 30 with no prior EA experience, who in at least some cases were responding to materials that were "broad" enough to include them in the discussion. This doesn't necessarily mean that we should be investing a lot of effort into reaching experienced people, but they do apply for first-time EA jobs!

Two examples of impressive older people switching into EA work (no comment on how much impact they've had in their roles):

  • Open Philanthropy's Beth Jones (led ops for Hillary Clinton's campaign, worked on Obama's staff)
  • ex-MIRI staffer Edward Kmett, one of the world's foremost Haskell programmers, who worked there for ~3 years

I imagine you can source entrepreneurial minded folks in more promising places than high schools - likely there are masters programs that teach a course on entrepreneurship, say as part of a environment, policy, or food systems related program, that would have early to mid range professionals who often graduate with less clarity/job leads than expected from a masters program (speaking from anecdotal knowledge). But connecting with a few professors at universities would likely shed much more light.

Great to see this initiative, it seems like there is probably valuable work to be done in this area. I would make extra sure not to conflate "EA jobs" with "jobs at EA orgs" (not implying that you do conflate them).  The latter just don't have that much capacity in the medium-term.

In a way, it's easier to offer specific training for skills that are needed by EA orgs, and maybe this is more tractable. But I'd also be very excited about programmes that equip many people with the resources  they need to pursue high-impact careers outside of the few main EA orgs (whatever these resources are: skills? personality traits? money? cultural shift in the EA community?).

What's the case for thinking that grantmaking skills is a bottleneck?