Written by Jamie Spurgeon and Greg Boese
This past February, we were appointed as co-managers to lead ACE’s research team. We are excited to guide ACE in this next chapter and to share how we intend to adjust our approach and proceed with our work.
When ACE was first established in 2012, we were one of very few organizations involved in what has now become known as the Effective Animal Advocacy (EAA) movement. At that time, there were not many other groups conducting research in the space so, in addition to our charity evaluation work, we also took on the role of producing research—most notably, our intervention reports—intended to be broadly applicable to the movement. Since then, however, several other research groups have emerged and proven themselves capable of producing high-quality research relevant to the movement as a whole, so we are now able to narrow our focus.
Adapting to this changing context, we intend to shift our research increasingly toward areas where we think we can have the most impact, namely, by focusing on research that directly improves our ability to evaluate charities and grant applicants. Going forward, our general approach will be to identify uncertainties we have about how to best evaluate charities and potential grant recipients and then to prioritize resolving those which seem most likely to influence our decision-making ability. Some examples might include: “What factors are important to consider when evaluating organizations that are expanding into new countries?”; “How tractable is corporate outreach when applied to aquaculture?”; or “How are resources allocated in the animal advocacy movement, globally?”
We think we are well-positioned to identify concrete uncertainties/research questions through our day-to-day work, and given that we are focused on identifying the most effective charities, we expect the uncertainties we identify to be at least somewhat correlated with uncertainties relevant to the movement as a whole. Thus we expect our research will continue to have external value, even if it is not primarily prioritized based on the needs of the movement as a whole.
With this shift in focus, we will also make adjustments to the structure of our research outputs. Since 2017, we have engaged in producing long intervention reports that aimed to describe interventions as comprehensively as possible. While we think there was value in this style of report at the time, we now prefer a more focused approach. We hope this approach will reduce the turnaround time needed for research projects and yield results that more reliably allow us to update our understanding of effective animal advocacy.
As part of a larger organizational transition, we are in the process of moving toward a Scrum/agile-based approach to carrying out our research projects. Rather than having several researchers working independently on different research projects over the course of a few months, we are now breaking down each research project into smaller parts and working on them collaboratively as a team over the course of one- to two-week sprints. While we are still in the early stages of adopting this model and adapting it to a research context, we are optimistic it will help us produce a more regular research output, as well as increase communication and exchange of ideas among our research team.
Finally, one area of improvement we have identified is to implement strategies to more systematically keep our team up to date on the most recent research being published in the movement. We have introduced some mechanisms to help with this—first, by running a weekly journal club during which a staff member presents a piece of recent research and facilitates a group discussion on that research, and second, by transferring our research library into a dedicated citation management software (SciWheel) to improve our efficiency when adding and categorizing the research we use.
Other than these strategic and logistical changes to our work, we are for the most part continuing as normal—you can expect to see annual updates to our Top and Standout charity recommendations, an Effective Animal Advocacy Fund that supports promising organizations and more novel advocacy approaches, and an Animal Advocacy Research Fund that continues to further vital research in the movement. Our values around effectiveness continue to be central to our work and include a continued emphasis on supporting the health and longevity of the animal advocacy movement, especially through capacity building, improving organizational culture, and supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
We welcome any feedback and thoughts in light of this update! We can be reached as follows: