Problem analysis of the talent bottleneck in EAA's

by lauren_mee6 min read21st Sep 20197 comments

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Introduction

I feel a small introduction is necessary but I will share a full post on Animal Advocacy Careers at a later date once we have conducted the rest of our research and have a clearer idea of our trajectory for the next year, should anyone be interested. Animal Advocacy Careers is a new charity started under the Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program.

The initiative for Animal Advocacy Careers stemmed from initial research conducted by Charity Entrepreneurship that suggested one of the most promising interventions that a new organisation could do would be to experiment with methods to address the talent gaps in the farmed animal movement. As such we are now researching into ways to tackle this problem and the areas which most urgently need to be addressed. I am also looking for a co-founder to help us fulfil this mission and it would be great if they had some EA background, please do get in touch if you are interested.

Summary

The first objective of Animal Advocacy Careers (AAC) is to conduct some deeper research into this initial research and try to analyse what specific talent bottlenecks need to be most urgently addressed. In order to do this we have been interviewing hiring managers and CEO’s from Animal Charity Evaluators’ top-rated charities with a survey, to seek their recommendations and advice on what could be the most effective ways of addressing these bottlenecks and their learnings from trying to draw in talented individuals to the movement. This survey is going to continue and results and findings will be updated over the next month, on completion, we will be looking into key themes in the results and subsequently hope to experiment with interventions to address some of the largest and most tractable issues.


The following is a summary of the talent gaps most commonly observed by 9 animal organisations and their opinions on what skills might most benefit the animal movement more broadly. 

1. Leadership and management experience. 
When asking all interviewees what they thought were the 6 most needed skills in animal advocacy organisations in the next 5 years, the majority were in favour of management and leadership experience, followed by fundraising experience and economists. There was a common theme that there were not many people who are mission-aligned, have a good understanding of the organisation that they are applying to join, and have experience in a management role such as experience of managing a team or the systematic processes used in the private sector. 

2. Economists and social scientists 
A common misrepresentation in the animal advocacy space is that you need to be a fundraiser or an activist to impact change and contribute to the movement. However, when discussing what is most needed as a skill to help the animal movement in the next 5 years, the most referenced skill was economist. Encouraging disciplines such as economists or social psychology could help diversify the range of solutions in the movement and inspire new impactful solutions and ideas based on the success’ of these movements. An example of the historical success of social theorists/economist can be seen in other movements such as Henry George’s influence in the progressive movement.

3. Fundraising
8 out of 9 organisations agreed that their biggest bottleneck preventing them from scaling was a lack of funding. When we asked deeper into this 75% said they would prioritise hiring professional fundraisers in the future to help them with a more sustainable cash flow and pipeline.  

4. Experience and connections in government
The biggest industry talent gap identified by the majority was in government followed closely by legal expertise and academia. Throughout the survey, there were also further inferences of the need for more advocates in government and these skills internally. The second most needed skills in animal organisations for the next 5 years was policy and government experts. When asked deeper about this the need was for both people in their organisations who have this experience to help advise on strategy and a greater number of people in positions of power in government driving forward animal rights into government agendas. A good metaphor for how you might affect change for the animal movement from inside an established industry can be found here

5. Clear writing skills.
When asked what is the most common things candidates are missing, 60% of interviewees mentioned that candidates often lack the ability to write concisely. Interviewees suggested that these errors were correlated with a lack of attention to detail from candidates. 

6. Initiative and the ability to take on a range of different tasks
Over 75% of people asked, referenced agility and the ability to take on a range of tasks, alongside good prioritisation as being either fundamental or a key trait of those who could come into their organisations and be most immediately impactful.

7. Training. 
The most advocated solution from organisations on how to help fill gaps in their organisations was for additional training for either their staff or young advocates such as volunteers and candidates. When asking organisations how they felt we could help most with their skills gaps over 60% suggested training would be the preferred option and more effective than hiring additional people with these skills.

Broader issues that may be systemically affecting these organisations from attracting talent: 

8. Most people are recruited through recommendations and referrals through the movement.
Interviewees stated that their most successful methods historically for finding great staff have been through recommendations or referrals, with 6 of 9 interviewees stating this.  This makes sense as one of the most important qualities animal advocacy organisations look for seems likely to be mission alignment. However, it may also mean that we may be giving priority to those in the community who are more visible, it also means we might struggle to attract as much diversity of thought and critical debate into our community, which could be useful to help the movement progress. 

9. Compared to the US and UK, some countries are more neglected in terms of resources and the number of organisations working towards promoting animal advocacy, including Russia.
This makes it difficult for many talented individuals in those regions to actually get involved in animal advocacy in the first place, or to access resources to make positive changes happen for animals in these countries.  

10. Most animal organisations hire for their senior positions externally. 
Sadly, largely due to the above issues, a lot of organisations are looking externally for people with specific experience in relation to these above skills. Whilst it is important that these organisations remain as impactful as possible, one thing we would like to assist with at AAC is looking into how we might be able to empower individuals at these organisations to gain these skills so they are able to take on these more senior positions. 

All organisations unanimously agreed that if their quality-adjusted pool of applicants doubled for the next 3 years (vs staying constant), this would contribute more to enable them to do good as an organisation than a doubling of their funding over the same period. The majority agreed they would be able to double the amount of good but some more cautiously estimated 25% more good.


Implications for individuals considering careers in animal advocacy:

Impact-focused applicants to roles within the farmed animal movement can take steps to improve their skills in areas identified as lacking by our interviewees. Below are some preliminary resources that candidates can use to improve in some of these areas.

Recommendations for building skills in initiative:

  • Practice taking initiative
  • Read books such as The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey
  • Implement the advice from websites

Recommendations for improving writing:

Possible solutions AAC is considering to tackle the issue raised above:

It may well be that one of the most effective ways one can make a difference to the animal advocacy movement is to build career capital, alongside volunteering or donations, to gain specific skills like experience in management roles, or government expertise which are currently the most needed in organisations and the animal advocacy movement. This kind of structured approach to career planning is one we intend to look into supporting as an organisation and could well be one of the best ways individuals can contribute most to the animal advocacy movement long term and a good argument for this was written by https://80000hours.org/career-guide/career-capital/.

Raising awareness of the need for skills other than fundraising and research to contribute to the animal movement, e.g. the Humane League’s video on how you can use the skills you have to make a difference for animals as an economist.

One of the main focuses of AAC is likely to be trialling different methods to attract new advocates to the movement to increase both the diversity and the number of applicants with sufficient experience and ability to meet or exceed the expectations of the employer for their current and future jobs. Approaches to be evaluated include headhunting, creating new job boards or identifying communities which intersect with the mission. 

We could also look more deeply into training. We expect to research what kinds of training are most effective in helping, such as by looking into other professions that have invested in hiring and training talent to learn from experience and best practice in the corporate and non-profit sectors. Following this we hope to:

  1. Look to direct candidates to recommended workshops or create workshops around best practices for specific skills that are most needed in the future. 
  2. Finding people within given organization who want to gain skills in areas such as those listed above and support them. 

The results of this initial research suggest concentrating on trying to test out effective solutions to attract more individuals with these skills to these organisations is a worthwhile endeavour for AAC but also highlight the importance for individuals to think seriously about their own career path if they are looking to help high impact organisations and what might be the most effective ways to gain the skills that are most needed. However, please note this survey is restricted to only interviewed high impact animal charities and it may well be that the areas where individuals can contribute the most to the movement would be in supporting industries such as government, academia and for-profit organisations which we may also be looking to research further into later and understand how animal advocates can potentially have a high impact in these sectors.

This is a preliminary summary of our key findings from the research we have conducted to date, we will look to publish further results and data from this study on completion.

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