I really like the idea behind approval voting advocacy as done by The Center for Election Science (https://electionscience.org/approval-voting-faqs/). I think it could have more impact to change how our political system works, not just individual politicians or movements (however there might be an argument that individual politician or movements could effect systemic change).

Are there other charities that are working on this kind of thing besides The Center for Election Science? I'd like to consider donating to them.

If there is some way to find this information out by searching the forum for specific keywords, or referencing some list for effective charities, that I could've done instead of asking this question here, please let me know as well for the future.




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To answer with a sequence of increasingly "systemic" ideas (naturally the following will be tinged by by own political beliefs about what's tractable or desirable):

There are lots of object-level lobbying groups that have strong EA endorsement. This includes organizations advocating for better pandemic preparedness (Guarding Against Pandemics), better climate policy (like CATF and others recommended by Giving Green), or beneficial policies in third-world countries like salt iodization or lead paint elimination.

Some EAs are also sympathetic to the "progress studies" movement and to the modern neoliberal movement connected to the Progressive Policy Institute and the Niskasen Center (which are both tax-deductible nonprofit think-tanks). This often includes enthusiasm for denser ("yimby") housing construction, reforming how science funding and academia work in order to speed up scientific progress (such as advocated by New Science), increasing high-skill immigration, and having good monetary policy. All of those cause areas appear on Open Philanthropy's list of "U.S. Policy Focus Areas".

Naturally, there are many ways to advocate for the above causes -- some are more object-level (like fighting to get an individual city to improve its zoning policy), while others are more systemic (like exploring the feasibility of "Georgism", a totally different way of valuing and taxing land which might do a lot to promote efficient land use and encourage fairer, faster economic development).

One big point of hesitancy is that, while some EAs have a general affinity for these cause areas, in many areas I've never heard any particular standout charities being recommended as super-effective in the EA sense... for example, some EAs might feel that we should do monetary policy via "nominal GDP targeting" rather than inflation-rate targeting, but I've never heard anyone recommend that I donate to some specific NGDP-targeting advocacy organization.

I wish there were more places like Center for Election Science, living purely on the meta level and trying to experiment with different ways of organizing people and designing democratic institutions to produce better outcomes. Personally, I'm excited about Charter Cities Institute and the potential for new cities to experiment with new policies and institutions, ideally putting competitive pressure on existing countries to better serve their citizens. As far as I know, there aren't any big organizations devoted to advocating for adopting prediction markets in more places, or adopting quadratic public goods funding, but I think those are some of the most promising areas for really big systemic change.

I enjoyed reading your comment and the links you shared. I learned a lot, thank you. I found charter cities and New Science especially interesting since I'd never heard of those areas before.

I think the absence of other nonprofits focused on systemic change encourages me to love CES even more (I understand there may be some nonprofit neither of us have thought about, but it's encouraging to hear from someone more educated in the space that there isn't some big obvious one that I hadn't considered).

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Future Generations seems highly relevant:

We raise awareness of long-term issues, explore ways to internalise longer-term considerations into decision-making processes, and create space for cross-party dialogue on combating short-termism in policy-making.

We present cutting-edge research and bring together policy, academic and industry communities to discuss policy approaches to representing future generations. See our past and future events here.

We collate briefings on scientific research to better inform Parliamentarians on catastrophic risks and potential policy options. See some of our research here.

The moral relevance of future generations is explored more in https://80000hours.org/articles/future-generations/.

Yes they are! Good point.

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As someone who is super interested in EA and systemic change, my initial impressions:

  1. There's probably too much disagreement around what forms of systemic change are good, for EA community as a whole to align with one form of change. Even questions like - is science good or is economic growth good or is bigger population good - are questions without answers everyone in EA agrees with. So you can imagine it gets worse when you ask questions like economic / authoritarian left / right.

  2. Lot of EA is based on the idea of maximizing cost-effectiveness which seems to me like a fundamentally incomplete approach to systemic change. It's not that I dont think cost-effectiveness is less important here, it's that a) estimating cost-effectiveness in such exploratory domains requires so much modelling and uncertainty that perhaps the best way to maximise cost-effectiveness is to reduce uncertainty on questions that have almost nothing to do with cost. You need to optimise for different things instrumentally to get to your terminal goal of minimizing cost. (Some of these questions could be the questions mentioned in point 1) b) Beyond a certain amount of capital, capital isn't the binding constraint for what change can or cannot be brought. And even if more capital will help, there are things like peoples attention that can be directly captured for cheaper than it costs to buy it with capital.

There is a nascent field of global priorities research forming to answer such questions, it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

I think spreading democracy might be something that is a prerequisite for long-term EA gains in many areas. If there were effective organisation that spread or helped preserve democracy I might donate to them, but I would be skeptical of the benefits of changing voting systems in existing democracies.