Brad West

Founder & CEO @ Profit for Good Initiative
1182 karmaJoined Nov 2021


Looking to advance businesses with charities in the vast majority shareholder position. Check out my TEDx talk for why I believe Profit for Good businesses could be a profound force for good in the world.



I'd mention Elliot Billingsley as an excellent, aligned coach.

I can only aspire to be as good a scout as you, Joseph. Cheers

I agree that advocacy inspired by other-than-EA frameworks is a concern, I just think that the EA community is already quite inclined to express skepticism for new ideas and possible interventions. So, the worry that someone with high degrees of partiality for a particular cause manages to hijack EA resources is much weaker than the concern that potentially promising cases may be ignored because they have an unfortunate messenger. 

Re fiscal sponsorship in the United States: I would definitely encourage small orgs in the U. S. to set up charitable corporations in the state they operate (relatively simple, quick step). From there, if your org anticipates getting 50k or less in funding, you can do an IRS 1023EZ form, which I will link below. It might require some back and forth with the IRS for a few months, but once you get the recognition letter, you can get donations and donors can deduct the amount, with no fees involved.

I don't have experience with fiscal sponsorship, but there are probably some hoops to jump through with that as well.

I would note a consideration in terms of impact. Orgs that are larger, have more resources for better perks, can offer higher pay, and are more prestigious are going to be able to attract stronger applicants, all else being equal. Consequently, your impact is going to be the delta between the world with you in that position in the org and that of the person who would occupy that position. Consequently, your expected impact might be small or negative (or it could be high if you are exceptional at it relative to the second best option). I think EAs in general tend to conflate the value that is actualized by an org's operation with their counterfactual impact by taking a job at such an org. 

I understand the concerns with small, new, organizations with less funding. Surely in some circumstances this can be a reflection of the merits of the organization, but in some circumstances, there is a promising project that needs help getting off the ground. The counterfactual  person who might occupy the position in question for that org might not exist at all or could be much less competent. If you have reason to believe an org is significantly underrated in terms of funding access, prestige, etc., helping in early stages might be the highest EV choice.

This also is probably more of a hits-based approach than joining an established, funded, prestigious org. If you join that org, you will have a high probably of seeing legible impact and feel good about being a part of it, although it is hard to surmise what difference you made versus the other person they would have counterfactually hired. On the other hand, joining a new organization that you think has a promising theory of change is much less likely to yield a legibly impactful outcome. Even if there is a sound theory, there are just a lot of variables that could prevent a new org from being impactful. On the other hand, if such an org does succeed and scales, your dedicated and competent support of the org may actually have been the but-for cause of its success, implying high utility gains. If you are talented, hardworking, bright, good at networking, organized, etc. and are good at assessing areas that might be undervalued, I think the highest impact work would be at such underrated orgs. I definitely think this approach is less likely to lead to more happy or secure lives, however.

I think a lot of the EA community shares your attitude regarding exuberant people looking to advance different cause areas or interventions, which actually concerns me. I am somewhat encouraged by the disagreement with you regarding your comment that makes this disposition more explicit. Currently, I think that EA, in terms of extension of resources, has much more solicitude for thoughts within or adjacent to recognized areas. Furthermore, an ability to fluently convey ones ideas in EA terms or with an EA attitude is important. 

Expanding on jackva re the Popperian insight, having individuals passionately explore new areas to exploit is critical to the EA project and I am a bit concerned that EA is often disinterested in exploring in directions where a proponent lacks some of the EA's usual trappings and/or lacks status signals. I would be inclined to be supportive of passion and exuberance in the presentation of ideas where this is natural to the proponent. 

I think there are a number of arguments that you could make regarding people choosing not to commit suicide despite life being net negative, like fear, not wanting to cause harm to loved ones, etc. But the mere fact that suicide rates are not much higher suggests that people are not exercising an exit option. If lives were consistently and significantly net negative, I'd expect much more suicide.

One way to be to evaluate how much compensation you could achieve from blood plasma donation. You could then donate the funds to charities addressing farmed animal welfare and consider whether those funds being donated has a higher net effect on farmed animal welfare than the harm you are causing by increasing demand for factory-farmed meat by resuming an omnivore diet, the benefit you are not generating by increasing demand for vegan products, and the benefit you are not generating by providing others an example of a vegan, thus helping normalize it.

Yep, I see that you're saying it's unreasonable for Zakat donors to expect their donations not to  influence other funders such that their donations counterfactually predominantly benefit Muslims.

I suppose I am just a bit surprised (and, if Kaleem is correct, gladdened) that such donations that may not have the the counterfactual effect of predominantly benefiting Muslims would still qualify as Zakat. 

I agree with your perspective expressed in the second perspective and further agree that a non-updating charity would be discriminatory and contrary to my values as well.

Not sure I agree with your characterization in the first paragraph. If the spirit of the rule regarding Zakat is that Muslims predominantly benefit, it seems reasonable to question whether an action whose value does not predominantly benefit Muslims (due to the reactions of other actors) is in line with that spirit. If the counterfactual of the world in which you have donated is one in which there are 80% less funds to non-Muslims and 20% less funds to Muslims, I can see why one might say your donation might not be Zakat. 

*Note I know very little about Islamic law, etc.

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