Executive Director at One for the World; chair of trustees at High Impact Athletes.
Thanks Tristan. I outlined these briefly above but I think they are things like:
Finally, I think there are some relationships that are highly likely to be de facto inappropriate (e.g. if I as CEO started a sexual relationship with a OFTW student volunteer), in which case X, Y and Z would include an investigation and disciplinary action. However, I am a little less certain of this, as I can see the 'but if they are both consenting adults...' line of argument.
Personally, I would definitely choose not to have any romantic involvement with a student, but I could imagine circumstances where this might happen with someone else and it might not be considered wrong (or not considered wrong by everybody). But in general I'm pretty unsympathetic to powerful people who sleep with people over whom they have power, so I tend to take a dim view of this sort of thing, and I'd be fairly comfortable saying this was inappropriate at OFTW.
Hi Robin - thanks for this and I see your point. I think Jason put it perfectly above - alignment is often about the median Board member, where expertise is about the best Board member in a given context. So you can have both.
I have also seen a lot of trustees learn about the mission of the charity as part of the recruitment process and we shouldn't assume the only aligned people are people who already identify as EAs.
The downsides of prioritising alignment almost to the exclusion of all else are pretty clear, I think, and harder to mitigate than the downsides or lacking technical expertise, which takes years to develop.
Isn't part of this considering whether Will's comparative advantage is as a Board member? It seems very unlikely to me that it is, versus being a world class philosopher and communicator.
So I agree with your general point that leaders who make mistakes might not need to resign, but in the specific case I can't see how Will is most impactful by being a Board member at really any org, as opposed to e.g. a philosophical or grant-making advisor.
Thanks for making the case. I'm not qualified to say how good a Board member Nick is, but want to pick up on something you said which is widely believed and which I'm highly confident is false.
Namely - it isn't hard to find competent Board members. There are literally thousands of them out there, and charities outside EA appoint thousands of qualified, diligent Board members every year. I've recruited ~20 very good Board members in my career and have never run an open process that didn't find at least some qualified, diligent people, who did a good job.
EA makes it hard because it's weirdly resistant to looking outside a very small group of people, usually high status core EAs. This seems to me like one of those unfortunate examples of EA exceptionalism, where EA thinks its process for finding Board members needs to be sui generis. EA makes Board recruitment hard for itself by prioritising 'alignment' (which usually means high status core EAs) over competence, sometimes with very bad results (e.g. ending up with a Board that has a lot of philosophers and no lawyers/accountants/governance experts).
It also sometimes sounds like EA orgs think their Boards have higher entry requirements than the Boards of other well-run charities. Ironically, this typically produces very low quality EA Boards, mainly made up of inexperienced people without relevant professional skills, but who are thought of as 'smart' and 'aligned'.
Of course, it will be hard to find new Board members right now, because CEA's reputation is in tatters and few people will want to join an organisation that is under serious legal threat. But it seems at best a toss up whether it's worth keeping tainted Board member(s) because they might be tricky to replace, especially when they have recused themselves from literally the single biggest issue facing the charity.
Great post, thanks.
I might elaborate on your last category to include a) well-intentioned high competence people accidentally creating bad systems; and b) well-intentioned high competence people put into bad systems by leadership (so not just leaders but e.g. a community health team trying to deal with sexual harassment by one of their own Board members).
I think your section header covers this, but the body focuses specifically on CEOs and Boards. Lots of people in EA, not just leadership, can end up making mistakes because the systems/policies they work within aren't fit for purpose.
I agree with your second point wholeheartedly.
Could you give some examples of the panics over minor incidents?