Jakob

Consultant at McKinsey and researcher at McKinsey Global Institute. Follow me on Twitter at @jgraabak

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Why scale is overrated: The case for increasing EA policy efforts in smaller countries

Hi Ryan, thanks for your comment!

1) "The title should clarify that it's "national scale" rather than scale generally that's overrated."
We did not use “national scale” because we cover policy making on both national-, subnational- and multinational scale. However, we agree that "scale" is very useful as a parameter in cause prioritization frameworks. You're right that our claim is more narrow - only that it's overrated in this specific setting.


2) "US and China are probably more likely to copy their own respective states & provinces than copy the Nordics, right?"
This is a valid point. For this reason, our logic can also be used to argue that EA should increase policy efforts in US states, or other sub-national policy entities. However, there are some policy domains that are mostly relevant on the national level (e.g. foreign policy), and there are examples where foreign examples work as better motivators (see e.g. this commercial which uses US patriotism to advocate for accelerated EV uptake in the US). 
 

3) "Being unusually homogenous, stable, and trusting might mean that some policies work in the Nordics, even if they don't work elsewhere."

You're right that some policies that work in the Nordics won't work elsewhere! This is analogous to how some (small-scale) startups will pass a Series A round funding but not succeed at larger scale. Startups typically start with little funding and unlock increasing amounts of money. This way, if the startup fails, it fails in the cheapest possible way. Similarly, by testing new policies first in the most ideal governance environments and gradually scaling them to trickier environments with larger costs of failure, the policies that fail will do so in the least costly wa

 

4) "If we're worried about whether govt pursues certain tech (like AI) safely over the coming 1-2 decades, then we should favour involvement in the executive over legislating, and the former can't really transfer from the Nordics to the US. Diffusion may be rather slow."

You're right that if your main concern is linked to specific, urgent causes, you may prefer more direct routes to impact in the countries that matter most

EA needs consultancies

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the link - I was not aware of this but have added my name to it. 

To your question, I don't know if it would be helpful. I haven't tried to do consulting for EA orgs yet, and I know that some who have tried to do this have found it hard because of lack of demand. To the first point in your comment: Maybe a document like this and a forum post could unlock some demand, but I'm not sure. The best way to learn would be to simply test it! 

EA needs consultancies

+1 to all Jona writes here - with the caveat that consulting firms like McKinsey or BCG can also help you scope the project and prioritize what’s most important to work on. This of course requires some level of trust (like in all professional services where the client may not know their exact needs), which strengthens the case for using EA consultants at least for pilot projects until norms around using consultants are well-established.

EA needs consultancies

Posting as an individual who is a consultant, not on behalf of my employer

Hi, I’m one of the co-organizers of EACN, running the McKinsey EA community and currently co-authoring a forum post about having an impact as a management consultant (to add some nuance and insider perspectives to what 80k is writing on the topic: https://80000hours.org/articles/alternatives-to-consulting/).

First let me voice a +1 to everything Jeremy has said here already - with the possible exception that I know several McKinsey partners are interfacing with the EA movement on particular causes like Animal Welfare, Governance of AI, pandemic preparedness and climate change. However I don’t know the exact scope of our client work in either field and haven’t heard of projects for EA orgs (I’ve worked with several of these topics for the McKinsey Global Insitute, see e.g. this report: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/climate-risk-and-response-physical-hazards-and-socioeconomic-impacts?cid=app)

Second, I’m happy to jump on a 30-60 minute call in July/August to discuss if the EACN or some of its members can be helpful in making something like this happen - you can reach me at jakob_graabak[at]mckinsey[dot]com. (Luke, Ozzie, any of the Peters, any others?)

One example of how we could help: for “Talent Loans” I can imagine that we could use the McKinsey EA Community to find the right people in a more efficient way than described above. I of course understand that most EA orgs likely won’t become regular McKinsey clients, but I can try to talk to some of our partners about how we could run 2-3 pilot projects with e.g. Open Phil in a mutually beneficial way. Perhaps that would also work as a proof of demand and would drive more people into this space.