Catherine Low

Community Liaison, Community Health and Special Projects Team @ Centre for Effective Altruism
3244 karmaJoined Jun 2015Working (15+ years)Oxford, UK


I'm one of the Community Liaisons for the EA community (alongside Julia Wise and Charlotte Darnell).

I'm a contact for community health support for EA groups, and I also works on assessing and mitigating risks to the EA community. 

I initially studied a lot of physics, then was a high school teacher for 11 years before moving full time into EA community building. I ran local and national EA groups and worked on EA outreach projects,  before joining CEA’s Groups Team in early 2020 to support EA groups worldwide. I started working for the Community Health team mid 2021. 


In case you missed it, and you're interested. I've put some updates relating to the the Community Health and Special Projects Team thinking and actions about concerns about Nonlinear on Ben's initial post

Some confidentiality constraints have been lifted in the last few days, so I’m now able to share more information from the Community Health and Special Projects team to give people a sense of how this case went from our perspective, and how we think about these things. 

Previous updates:

To give a picture of how things happened over time:

  • Starting mid last year, our team heard about many of the concerns mentioned in this post.
  • At the time of our initial conversations with former staff/associates of Nonlinear, they were understandably reluctant for us to do anything that would let on to Nonlinear that they were raising complaints. This limited our ability to hear Nonlinear’s side of the story, though members of our team did have some conversations with Kat that touched on some of these topics. It also meant that the former staff/associates did not give permission at that time for us to take some steps that we suggested. They also suggested some steps that we didn’t see as feasible for us. 
  • At one point we discussed the possibility of the ex-staff writing a public post of some kind, but at that time they were understandably unwilling to do this. Our impression is that the impetus for that eventually coming together was Ben being willing to put in a lot of work.
  • Over time, confidentiality became less of a constraint. The people raising the concerns became more willing to have information shared, and some people made public comments, meaning we were able to take some more actions without compromising confidentiality. We were then able to take some steps including what we describe here, and pointing various people to the publicly available claims, to reduce the risk of other people ending up in bad situations.
  • We had been considering taking more steps when we heard Ben was working with theformer staff/associates on a public post. We felt that this public post might make some of those steps less necessary. We kept collecting information about Nonlinear, but did not do as much as we might have done had Ben not been working on this.
  • We continued to track Nonlinear and were ready to prioritise the case more highly if it seemed that the risk to others in the community was rising. 

Catherine from CEA’s Community Health and Special Projects Team here.  I have a different perspective on the situation than Jaime does and appreciate that he noted that “these stories have a lot of nuance to them and are in each case the result of the CHT making what they thought were the best decisions they could make with the tools they had.” 

I believe Jaime’s points 1, 2 and 3 refer to the same conflict between two people. In that situation, I have deep empathy for the several people that have suffered during the conflict. It was (and still is) a complex and very upsetting situation.

Typically CEA’s Groups team is the team at CEA that interfaces most closely with EA groups. The conflict mentioned here was an unusual situation which led the Community Health team to have more contact with that group than usual. From the information we gathered after talking to several individuals affected, this was an interpersonal conflict. We made a judgement call about what was best given the information, which Jaime disagrees with. To be clear, based on the information we had, there were no threats of violence, sexual harassment, or other forms of seriously harmful behavior that would warrant us to take the steps that Jaime suggests.

Ultimately, I think both Jaime and I had the same goals of increasing the chances that the group thrives and continues to do its important work over the long term, but we had a different perspective on how to move towards that goal in this situation.

I don’t recognise the situation in 4. I’m not sure if that is because I’m unaware, or if I have a different understanding of the situation. If anyone reading knows and wants to share information or give us feedback I’d be very grateful. There are ways you can contact our community liaisons or managers Chana and Nicole anonymously. 

 Hey Morpheus. This comment provides a partial answer to your question. 

Thanks for the questions Morpheus_Trinity. I’m sorry but we are not able to give a response to most of your questions. This comment provides a partial answer. 

I understand your desire to know this information, Morpheus_Trinity. I’m sorry but we’re not in a position to share all that information here. This comment provides a partial answer.

Thanks for asking Yadav. I can confirm that:

  • Nonlinear has not been invited or permitted to run sessions or give talks relating to their work, or host a recruiting table at EAG and EAGx conferences this year. 
  • Kat ran a session on a personal topic at EAG Bay Area 2023 in February. EDIT: Kat, Emerson and Drew also had a community office hour slot at that conference
    Since then we have not invited or permitted Kat or Emerson to run any type of session.
  • We have been considering blocking them from attending future conferences since May, and were planning on making that decision if/when Kat or Emerson applied to attend a future conference.

I’m on CEA’s Community Health and Special Projects team, and I sometimes contribute to EAG and EAGx event admissions and speaker decisions. I can understand your concern Lauren Maria. I’d really like for EA events to be places where attendees can have a high level of confidence in the other attendees (especially the attendees in positions of power). CEA does a small amount of vetting of speakers and organisations attending the career fairs. We also have our regular admissions process, where we sometimes choose to reject people from attending the conference if we have reasons to think their attendance would be bad for others (the most common reason is getting complaints of poor behaviour from members of the EA community). This hopefully reduces the risk, but people will still attend who could cause harm.

My main advice is to encourage community members to not implicitly trust others at EA events. Do your own due diligence, and talk it over with trusted friends, family, or mentors before making large decisions.  

I’m one of the Community Liaisons for CEA’s Community Health and Special Projects team. The information shared in this post is very troubling. There is no room in our community for manipulative or intimidating behaviour.

We were familiar with many (but not all) of the concerns raised in Ben’s post based on our own investigation. We’re grateful to Ben for spending the time pursuing a more detailed picture, and grateful to those who supported Alice and Chloe during a very difficult time. 

We talked to several people currently or formerly involved in Nonlinear about these issues, and took some actions as a result of what we heard. We plan to continue working on this situation. 

From the comments on this post, I’m guessing that some readers are trying to work out whether Kat and Emerson’s intentions were bad. However, for some things, intentions might not be very decision-relevant. In my opinion, meta work like incubating new charities, advising inexperienced charity entrepreneurs, and influencing funding decisions should be done by people with particularly good judgement about how to run strong organisations, in addition to having admirable intentions. 

I’m looking forward to seeing what information Nonlinear shares in the coming weeks.  

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