I think we have (whether accidentally or on purpose) conflated and synonymised the “philosophy of EA” with the “EA community”. 

The philosophy of EA is using evidenced-based reason to lead the most effective life possible. This is typically achieved through two main concepts (in my opinion): 

  1. Effective giving: donating funds to the most effective charities. 
  2. Effective careers: contributing to work that can have a large benefit to society. 

The EA community (as described by the CFEA) is comprised of individuals who participate in the EA movement and engage in the community.  

This is means that being an “effective altruist” can mean two different things: 

  1. That you subscribe to the philosophy of EA. 
  2. You are a part of the EA community. 

While (hopefully) most members of the EA community subscribe to the philosophy of EA, not everyone who subscribes to the philosophy is (or feels like) a part of the community.

Therefore, I think it would be beneficial to refrain from using the term “effective altruism” when trying to influence policymaking or spread the concepts of EA (i.e., effective giving and effective careers). I think focus should be made on the concepts themselves, rather than the movement of EA. 

This prevents alienating those who may agree with the concepts behind EA but are not members of the EA community.  

I think there are a few barriers to engagement with the EA community. I think there is an issue of elitism is the EA community. (In some circles), EA groups or meet-ups are purposefully kept insular, or engagement is allowed on a selection-only basis. For example, to be selected to go to an EAGX conference, you must list how often you engage with the community and if you have participated in an EA program. Allowing participation only if you meet certain selection criteria can have its benefits (i.e., if engaging in the material requires a certain level of pre-knowledge), but can have a consequence of depicting EA as an elitist and insular movement. 

The community has also recently received a lot of bad press. This may give members of the general public, policymakers and organisations a skewed image of what EA actually is. I also think that because the EA community is still relatively small, those who know nothing about EA are biased to believe that EA might be a radicalised movement. Further, EA might seem like a political movement to organizations and policymakers, which may prevent them from endorsing policies that incorporate EA terminology. 

I enjoy being a part of the EA community. However, I also understand that not everyone has the same desire or capacity (e.g., time) to be a part of the EA community. 

Therefore, to effectively (no pun intended) and inclusively engage the general public, policymakers and organisations with the principles of EA, it may be best to avoid using the label "effective altruism" and instead focus on promoting the concepts of effective giving and having an effective career. 




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