Patrick Gruban, member of the organising team of EA Local Munich since 2020.

I've been an entrepreneur (currently textiles, previously software) for 25+ years and have been interested in EA since 2015. In the last years I've been giving to Give Well and ACE recommended charities and took the GWWC pledge in 2020.

I run the donation drive Knitters Against Malaria raising money for the Against Malaria Foundation yearly.


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Questions for Howie on mental health for the 80k podcast

I just recently read this meta-analysis of studies comparing the effectiveness of eCBT with CBT to treat depression and I was surprised how well they're doing. I was wondering if there are already resources listing self-help options where RCTs have been done in order to recommend them.  

There is a paragraph at the end of page 36 of this HLI report but as a potential user it can be hard to find this information. There is some information on EA Hub but it might be outdated as for example MindEase is listed as free, similar this document from the Mental Health Navigator Pilot. Both list tools but no evidence for the effectiveness. 

So in short my question would be what is the best resource as an EA to get up-to-date information about self-help options that have been proven to be effective? And if there is none, is this something the CEA community health team is working on or would this kind of research be good for a volunteer role?

Part 3: Comparing agency organisational models

Avoiding VAT losses: If you buy a service from an agency, they have to add VAT, typically around 20%

Can't charities get the VAT refunded  like businesses in the UK? In Germany they do, only government institutions and banks don't have this option as far as I know. 

Part 4: Intra-organizational and non-tech agencies

Thank you very much for this sequence! I've been thinking about the tech agency model for EA  and was even contemplating writing a post about it but I'm glad you did a much better job than I would have been able to.

  • Software developers: how appealing do you find the idea of working at a low bono vs donor-funded agency vs in-house at an EA org vs sticking with non-EA work?

I've worked as a developer in my own small agency and at a client for 10 years and started volunteering on two web development projects for EAs this year plus a bit of mentoring for a startup charity. From this experience a would very much welcome an agency approach.  For me the biggest upsides would be:

  • Having other developers to talk about projects
  • Having others to do code reviews (and vice-versa)
  • Having partners that can cover for me if I get sick or am on vacation (especially around DevOps issues)
  • Having people who both are EA-aligned and value high quality software development

I would love put my volunteer work under this model and could see the agency mixing different funding cases:

  • Doing work for (lower-end) market-rates for established EA orgs
    • If an org is good at getting funds that may be easier than fundraising for a new org
    • Just having EA-aligned people in it (with experience in working for non-profits) might be enough of an incentive for the org
    • For this case it would still be motivating for a developer to choose this path instead of a slightly higher paying company and stick around for longer
    • In addition to development this could also include recruiting, training and mentorship for developers working at orgs (also giving them a team to talk about tech issues)
    • Also I see consulting and business analysis as promising areas. Often companies are fast to request a software solution when the problem starts at the processes and coordination level. I expect EA orgs could have similar issues.
  • Donor-funded work on specific projects like
    • EA-wide infrastructure (resources several orgs would use but no single one would want to finance)
    • Mentoring of tech people in the community
    • Training for (non-tech) product owners in orgs on writing user stories etc.
    • Workshops and retreats for the EA tech community (including tech people from orgs)
  • Low-Bono work 
    • for EA charity startups that are still in the trial phase. This could also be seen as an investment as the org will be able to pay market rates if it gets funding.
    • for experimental projects to fill a funding gap
    • for anything developers think they'd donate to any way (although this is the weakest case for me)
  • Volunteer work
    • I'm over 40 and for my point in life doing an additional 10-20 hours per week as a volunteer seems best suited for me now. I expect there are more people in similar situations, especially among older EAs.

Also one model I like that wasn't mentioned is that of a cooperative of freelancers. I've been doing some work with one in Munich and for developers that want to stay independent while also sharing responsibility in a project seems like a good combination. The coop that I know chooses their clients based on their values and also does pro-bono work on the side and donates all their profits. They seem pretty happy with that.

How much difference would it make if you were involved in the prioritisation process at a donor-funded org with a remit to find the highest value tech projects?

I'd be personally happy to work for any cause areas, although I'd want to make sure that the project I'm working on has impact and is not a "nice to have". But the more the client pays the less I would want to interfere, so I could imagine some orgs paying market-rate for lower-value projects.

As an EA, Should I renounce my US citizenship?
Answer by grubanApr 19, 202111

I renounced my US citizenship two years ago (I still have a German one, living in Germany) because of the restrictions on opening bank accounts, the uncertainty on taxes on capital gains as well around inheritance taxes as well as the yearly cost of paying and additional CPA for the US return. The process was pretty straight forward (going to the consulate, paying the exit fee) and at that time they told me at the consulate that many people were doing this.I've since then travelled to the US once and wasn't questioned at the border.

Not having the option to work in the US is a significant downside so I wouldn't take the decision lightly. However once you start having more assets outside the US (especially if you start investing in companies) the risks and tax requirements can be significant.

If you can manage to open a bank account in the US it might be easier to invest there but usually you need a permanent address.

I short I think it's worthwhile to invest some time (and perhaps money in advisors) in further researching the options you have before making a decision that either reduces your work options or exposes you to unknown financial risks.

Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups

I think this post could have profited from explaining the word "deplatforming" as in the sentence "Recently, EA Munich decided to deplatform Robin Hanson" as described in "3 suggestions about jargon in EA".

As one of the organisers of EA Munich it would be helpful to know more clearly what is meant by this as I could read it as us trying to "shut down" a speaker. It could also just be a synonym of "disinvite". I think especially in criticizing members of the community we should be as precise as possible.

Larks was so kind to share this article with us before posting and I pointed out this objection as my personal opinion in my reply to him.

Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups

As one of the organisers of the EA Munich group this was the first thing I thought of when we heard about the press coverage of Robin Hanson: What can we learn from the EA association of the controversies of Peter Singer. I was thinking of your comment and of Ben Todd's quote "Once your message is out there, it tends to stick around for years, so if you get the message wrong, you’ve harmed years of future efforts." I think there is much harm that can be done in canceling but it should be weighed against the potential harm of hurting the movement in a country where values and sentiments can be different than in the english speaking world.

For me the Robin Hanson talk would have been the first event as a co-organiser and seeing a potential cooperation partner unearthing the negative press about Robin Hanson and telling us that they would not be able to work with us if we hosted him, was an indication that we shouldn't rush to hold this talk. Oliver Habryka summarised this pretty well:

Having participated in a debrief meeting for EA Munich, my assessment is indeed that one of the primary reasons the event was cancelled was due to fear of disruptors showing up at the event, similar to how they have done for some events of Peter Singer. Indeed almost all concerns that were brought up during that meeting were concerns of external parties threatening EA Munich, or EA at large, in response to inviting Hanson. There were some minor concerns about Hanson's views qua his views alone, but basically all organizers who spoke at the debrief I was part of said that they were interested in hearing Robin's ideas and would have enjoyed participating in an event with him, and were primarily worried about how others would perceive it and react to inviting him.

I just looked up what I wrote internally after the decision and still think this is a good summary:

In an ideal world we have known about the issues beforehand, would have talked them through internally and if we had invited him we would have known how to address them in a way that is not harmful to the EA community. However given the short time we saw more risks in alienating people than getting them interested in EA through the talk.

The monthly talks we host are public and posted on Meetup and Facebook so our audience consists of people who are new to the community. We as EA local groups are the first impression many people get of the community and are the faces of the community in our region so I would argue we should be well prepared and versed in potential controversies before hosting talks especially with prominent people and on a video platform where all statements can be recorded and shared. As a group that had just one female speaker in the last 15 talks I think this is especially the case if press coverage may seem that the speaker has views that may make women feel less welcome.

At the time it seemed riskier to try to assess and reduce the risks about the potential negative consequences around the talk then to cancel it. However my error was in not assessing risks around signaling in terms of Cancel Culture.