AA

Aidan Alexander

Director of Programs @ Charity Entrepreneurship
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39

I found going vegan very difficult so I relate to your experience but I think your argument for it not actually being the right thing for you to do on altruistic grounds is weak. It’s worth introspecting on the extent to which “focusing” on getting used to veganism entails a meaningful trade off with doing good. I think people’s lives and schedules have a lot more slack in them than we like to admit, and I think far from all of the time/energy put into being vegan would have otherwise been spent on altruism. Meanwhile, once you’re used to being vegan, you’re used to it forever. Is the amount of time/energy you’d need to invest (discounted for the fact that likely you wouldn’t otherwise be spending this all on altruism) not worth it to unlock the benefits for animals of being vegan for the rest of your life?

Lastly, this argument doesn’t account for the extent to which being vegan will actually fuel your altruism. Acting in accordance with your values is fulfilling in a way that can fuel you. Plus, your commitment to the belief that ‘helping animals should be a top priority’ will likely be stronger if your actions are in alignment with that belief, given our tendency to change our beliefs to be in harmony with our actions, reducing cognitive dissonance. I haven’t articulated this last point well, but I think it’s an important one. See Joey’s post on this concept here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/DBcDZJhTDgig9QNHR/altruism-sharpens-altruism

If you’re open to giving veganism a go again I’m always happy to share tips or just lend you my ear as someone who tried for years and found it very hard :)

Hi Bella, thank you for writing this up! Are you willing to share more granular performance data for the different marketing efforts to help other orgs estimate the expected cost and performance of paid advertising?

Hello! One point that seems important to make: "People in the space" being skeptical of a startup idea, or even being confident it's a bad idea, is not good evidence that it's a bad idea.

Whilst we can expect subject matter experts to be skeptical of ideas that turn out to be bad, we can also expect them to be skeptical of a lot of ideas that turn out to be good! 

This is true of many extremely successful for-profit start-ups (it's mentioned in Y-Combinator lectures a lot) and of non-profits as well, including many of CE's most successful incubated charities. If i'm not mistaken, it's even true of CE itself! When it's co-founders asked experts for their advice when considering launching the Incubation Program, the majority view was that it was a bad idea. I, for one, am glad they didn't listen! If you look around the room you're in now, you're almost certainly surrounded by a number of inventions that "people in the space" said were impossible or a bad idea. The job of an entrepreneur (or a researcher identifying start-up ideas for entrepreneurs) is to figure out when "people in the space" are wrong, or at least likely enough to be wrong for it to be worth trying.

So in conclusion: Track record of CE incubated charities -- good indicator. Whether or not people in the space were skeptical -- not a good indicator. 

Great that you’ve taken the time to write this up even though the conclusion was not to recommend

Also, as Karen Levy pointed out in her ep on the 80k podcast, adoption by LMIC governments effectively means the taxpayers of these countries are the ones to pay. Sustained service by an internationally funded charity represents a desirable wealth transfer to LMICs. Better than the charity graduating from being funded by EAs to being funded by LMIC governments would be for it to graduate to being funded by big funders with cheap counterfactuals like USAID.

(To play devil’s advocate to myself: If government adoption means capacity building in LMIC healthcare systems then that’s great compared to dependence on sustained service from international NGOs. Maybe the best of both worlds is government adoption with ongoing technical assistance and international funding?)

“There's no life bad enough for us to try to actively extinguish it when the subject itself can't express a will for that” - holding this view while also thinking that it’s good to prevent the existence of factory farmed chickens would need some explaining IMO.

Also, the claim that Michael’s line of reasoning is “weird and bad” seems to imply that it being “weird” should count against it in some way, just as it being “bad” should count against it. But why/how exactly? After all, from most people’s perspective caring about shrimp at all is weird.

Hello, member of the incubation program team here! There has been no change in our thinking on the optimal number of co-founders. This is a rare scenario where 3 makes sense :) The reasons it made sense in this case are idiosyncratic to the individuals involved and their career plans, so I won’t speak to that here, but I’m sure they’d be happy to explain the context 1:1 if you’re interested!

Fantastic work! It’s awesome to see a national EA chapter taking on such an ambitious project and having the follow through to make it happen.

I just want to clarify what you mean when you say “most of our research is empirical and quasi-experimental designed (and RCTs when possible) based on the outputs of each nonprofits”: I assume this means that your research uses existing empirical (preferably quasi-experimental or better yet RCT) evidence . You don’t mean you’re actually conducting or funding any primary research, right? I ask because that would be insanely cheap and fast

Manifold is a lot lower than I expected given it's a tech platform that presumably requires a bunch of dev hours!

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