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tl;dr Future Matters is a 3-year-old nonprofit strategy consultancy and think tank. We help clients in a growing list of cause areas, primarily climate, AI safety, biosecurity, and EA movement-building. We focus our paid and pro bono consulting on clients trying to create change through policy, politics, coalitions, and/or social movements. Future Matters offer a wide range of services, such as policy prioritization, communications, strategic planning, and influence mapping. You can help us expand our impact by referring potential clients for a free scoping call.

Brief History of Our Work

Future Matters[1] was founded in 2020 in Berlin. We started with the goal of providing people and organizations with essential tools for creating policy and social change. We initially focused on climate movement-building. Over time, however, we grew our client base to a variety of actors working on climate protection, ranging from high-ranking policy-makers to think tanks and philanthropists. 

We also worked to deepen our expertise in political and social change processes. We reviewed more than 4000 pages of scientific literature on movements and political change, created a replicable process for identifying high-leverage policies, and built a proprietary database of 300 social science techniques and mental models for political strategy and change-creation.

Over the past year, based on expressions of interest from multiple potential clients, we expanded our cause areas to include AI safety, biosecurity, and EA movement-building. We very occasionally also support projects in other cause areas, such as animal advocacy and global development. Our scope has also expanded internationally. We have clients concentrated in Europe and the United States, but also completed past projects focused on sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia. Due to this growth in EA-related cause area support, we think now is a good (probably overdue!) moment to introduce ourselves on the Forum.

Example Clients and Projects

We focus on clients trying to create change through policy, politics, coalitions and/or social movements. Our clients have included think tanks, advocacy organizations, government officials, companies, and movement volunteers. We work with clients who explicitly identify, or are associated, with effective altruism, and equally with those who don’t. However, we only work with clients who appear to be genuinely committed to reducing catastrophic and/or existential risk. Example organizations we have supported include International Center for Future Generations, AI Safety Communications Centre, and a Europe-based NGO working on AI and biosecurity.

Since our founding, Future Matters has completed approximately 80 client projects. Examples include:

  • Provided media training, and preparation for specific interviews, for an AI safety advocacy organization, helping them to feel more confident about engaging with the press
  • Reviewed and critiqued multiple organizations' strategic plans, offering ideas to make more impactful use of their limited resources
  • Trained hundreds of individuals in political strategy, communications and movement-building for climate protection, giving them tools to build more connected and effective advocacy networks
  • Wrote guides on normalizing AI risks and making use of AI “moments”, to help organizations strategically leverage recent AI news
  • Advised members of national legislatures on climate and AI policy, helping policymakers with limited expertise get up to speed quickly on key issues
  • Secured commitments from a group of German Social Democrat Members of Parliament for an open letter urging their party to take more ambitious climate action, accelerating the party’s internal consensus-building
  • Supported employees of a tech company working internally to advance AI safety, helping them refine their influence strategy
  • Helped write and edit AI op-eds for publications with circulations in the millions, influencing public opinion toward more AI regulation. We’ve also been quoted in other publications ourselves.
  • Advised the think tank Germanwatch on international climate finance, enabling it to speak more quickly to politicians and the media and to gain direct access to potentially allied stakeholders
  • We are researching and writing a large report on EU climate policy prioritization that we'll publish at the start of 2024

Services

Based on ongoing customer discovery, our most common services currently include:

  • Developing higher-impact theories of change and selecting organization or campaign goals
  • Deciding which decision-makers to try to influence
  • Choosing among competing policy options, considering political tractability, organizational fit, and likely future political and policy developments
  • Crafting persuasive communications and preparing people to speak to the media
  • Prioritizing target audiences and outreach formats
  • Creating strategic plans based on weighted factors like organizational competencies, competitive landscapes, and emerging opportunities
  • Aligning program structure and execution with organizational goals
  • Incorporating lessons from past policy efforts, political strategies, and social movement tactics
  • Conducting risk analyses, anticipating failure modes, and developing contingency plans
  • Improving group coordination, building coalitions, and fostering consensus   

We also complete consulting projects that fall outside the services above. Equally, we feel very comfortable turning down projects that we don’t think we can do well. In those cases, we are happy to refer other service providers to our clients. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to be considered for our referral list.

We deliver our services through a variety of formats, depending on what we and our clients judge will work best for their needs. Common examples include:

  • Partial, full-day or multi-day workshops and trainings, on-site or virtual
  • Short, iterative meetings over a period of weeks to months. A common format is a 1-2-hour meeting every 1–2 weeks, where we complete additional research and analysis between meetings
  • On-call advice, either via videoconference or email

Team

As of September 2023, our team has twelve people. We’re currently based in Europe and the United States. We have four departments: climate consulting; AI safety, biosecurity, and EA consulting; research; and fundraising/operations. Our consultants include:

Kyle Gracey, lead consultant in AI safety, biosecurity, and EA movement-building
Kyle brings 17 years of combined experience in consulting, policy, politics, and social movements. They previously held positions in the United States government and military, including serving then-Vice President Joe Biden. Kyle worked for the largest network of climate organizations in the world, and co-founded an advocacy coalition at the United Nations climate negotiations. Originally trained in computer science, they hold degrees in biochemistry and biophysics, economics, public policy, and geophysical sciences. Kyle previously oversaw nearly 100 consulting projects for Fortune 500 and other large companies, advising them on research & development in software engineering, biotech, renewable energy, and more. Their research has earned nearly 1,000 citations.

Justus Baumann, co-founder and consultant in AI safety and EA movement-building
Justus has completed more than 15 client projects at Future Matters. He studied political science and helped establish the Happier Lives Institute in Oxford as its first general manager. Happier Lives Institute studies the world's most effective wellbeing programs. Justus has also co-founded a mental health advocacy organization, and co-founded a German citizen lobbying group for climate protection with Vegard Beyer and Carl Luthin (see bios below). Justus has presented Future Matters work at EAGxBerlin.

Vegard Beyer, co-founder and consultant in communications and climate
Vegard studied communication design and consulted environmental organizations on communication strategy. He has completed more than 25 client projects with Future Matters.

Rosa Brandt, co-founder and managing consultant in climate
Rosa has overseen more than 10 client projects at Future Matters, which includes organizing the mass  dissemination of strategy trainings for climate movements. She is a social economist and former teacher.

Katie Schalmann, consultant in climate
Katie studied international politics, worked for an international development agency in New Delhi, and supported movements tackling Siberian brown coal mining. Katie is an expert in building broad societal coalitions. She trained hundreds of people in leading persuasive conversations with individuals of opposing political groups. She has completed more than 10 client projects for Future Matters.

Carl Frederick Luthin, consultant in climate
Carl has completed more than 15 client projects for Future Matters. Carl personally conducted more than 70 policymaker conversations for advocacy and background briefings. He studied environmental science and ecological economics.

Funding

Our funding comes from a combination of paid consulting, individual donors, and foundation grants. We intentionally chose this revenue model for several reasons. First, our core goal is reducing catastrophic and existential risk, not making profit. So, we chose a nonprofit structure. However, we are also concerned about the risk to our long-term impact if we become dependent on too few revenue sources. Thus, most of our current consulting projects are paid for by clients. At the same time, donations and grants allow us to support organizations who cannot otherwise afford consultants. This funding also allows us to support clients, such as government representatives, who are unable to easily contract for consulting. Example funders have included Effektiv Spenden, Doneer Effectief, Founders Pledge, and Grassroots Foundation.

Affiliations and Acknowledgements

Future Matters is a member of the EA Consulting Network and the EA Service Directory. We’re grateful for advice received through the High Impact Alliance Operations Fellowship and Magnify Mentoring. Part of our team works from the Teamwork co-working space in Berlin.

How You Can Help

We are constantly looking to assist more high-impact efforts. Please refer anyone you think might benefit from our support. We’re always happy to have a free scoping call to better understand whether and how we can help. Please contact us with a brief description of your needs, and we will follow up quickly!

Please email us at the same address, or just click here, if you are interested in donating to Future Matters, or know others who might want to support us. Donations help us offer more pro bono consulting.

 

Edited Feb 2024 to update URLs after we changed our domain name.

  1. ^

    Our name was Future Matters Project until spring 2023. We are not the authors of the Future Matters longtermism newsletter.

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:52 AM

(Full disclosure: I sometimes work out of the same coworking space as Justus and Vegard and we occassionally have team lunches. Given that they were a potential grantee for some time (and indeed became a grantee for a small grant in 2023), I've avoided further socializing beyond those office contexts. They also don't know I am writing this.)

This is an exciting broadening of work!

I haven't always agreed with the underlying theory of change of the climate work, but I've consistently experienced the team of Future Matters as quite thoughtful about policy change and social movements and cultivating an expertise that is quite rare in EA and seems underprovided.

FWIW, I am excited about Future Matters. I have experienced them as having great perspectives on how to affect change via policy and how to make movements successful and effective. I think they have a sufficiently different lense and expertise from many EA orgs that I'm really happy to have them working on these causes. I've also repeatedly donated to them over the years (one of my main donation targets)

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