James Özden

Director of Philanthropy @ Mobius
4220 karmaJoined Oct 2020


Currently grantmaking in animal advocacy, at Mobius. I was previously doing social movement and protest-related research at Social Change Lab, an EA-aligned research organisation I've founded.

Previously, I completed the 2021 Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program. Before that, I was the Director & Strategy lead at Animal Rebellion + in the Strategy team at Extinction Rebellion UK, working on movement building for animal advocacy and climate change.

My blog (often EA related content)

Feel free to reach out on james.ozden [at] hotmail.com or see a bit more about me here


The Farm Animal Welfare Newsletter


This is super interesting Jamie, thanks for writing it up! FWIW I would be interested in the marketing successes and failures of LEAF as well as pre-post cause prioritisation changes, if they weren’t too time intensive to write up.

(The former is for me thinking about podcast marketing and the latter is general interest)

THL's corporate campaigns is our best guess donation opportunity to maximise expected impact (alongside the AWF). If we thought we could have easily justified any one of ACE's other recommendations was better - or even just as good - from that perspective, we would have recommended them, but we currently can't. And please note that "justifying" here isn't about finding "certainty of positive impact": we are looking for the expected value case (as we do for the AWF and our other recommendations as well).

Based on your paragraph below from the ACE Report, I'm inferring that you only looked at three (out of 11) ACE recommendations, which only included charities evaluated in 2023, rather than 2022? So by default, GFI, Sinergia, Fish Welfare Initiative, Kafessiz and DVF were all excluded from potentially being identified (which seems illogical, as there is no obvious reason to think that charities evaluated in 2022 would be less cost-effective).[1]

ACE helpfully — and on very short notice — provided us with private documentation to elaborate on the cases for three of its 2023 charity recommendations [emphasis mine]. Unfortunately — potentially in part because of time constraints ACE had  — we still didn’t find these cases to provide enough evidence on the marginal cost-effectiveness of the charities to justify relying on them for our recommendations.

Given you only looked at three of the ACE 2023 recommendations (and you didn't say which ones), I'm wondering how you can make such a strong claim for all of ACE's recommended charities?

If we thought we could have easily justified any one of ACE's other recommendations [emphasis mine] was better - or even just as good - from that perspective, we would have recommended them, but we currently can't. 

On a slightly unrelated point: For the referral from OP, I would be curious to hear if you asked them "What is the most cost-effective marginal giving opportunity for farmed animal welfare" (to which they replied THL's corporate campaigns) or something closer to "Do you think THL is a cost-effective giving opportunity on the margin?"

This is a much stronger claim than we are making (THL's corporate campaigns being the "single best marginal giving opportunity"): we think it's one of the two best donation opportunities we can, from the information we have available, recommend to a broad set of donors to maximise their expected impact.

Fair enough! I should have said "One of the top 2 marginal giving opportunities" but I still think I stand by my point that many experienced animal advocates would disagree with this claim, and it's not clear that your charity recommendation work has sufficient depth to challenge that (e.g. you didn't evaluate groups yourself), in which case it's not clear why folks should defer to you over subject-matter experts (e.g. AWF, OP or ACE).


  1. ^

    You might say there is weaker evidence of their cost-effectiveness as it's been a year since they were evaluated but since you said you focused on the expected value case rather than certainty of positive impact, I assume this wasn't your issue.

One reason why we are moving more slowly is that our current estimates of the gap between marginal animal and human funding opportunities is very different from the one in your post – within one order of magnitude, not three. And given the high uncertainty around our estimates here, we think one order of magnitude is well within the “margin of error” .

I assume that even though your answers are within one order of magnitude, the animal-focused work is the one that looks more cost-effective. Is that right?

Assuming so, your answer doesn't make sense to me because OP funds roughly 6x more human-focused GHW relative to farm animal welfare (FAW). Even if you have wide uncertainty bounds, if FAW is looking more cost-effective than human work, surely this ratio should be closer to 1:1 rather than 1:6? It seems bizarre (and possibly an example of omission bias) to fund the estimated less cost-effective thing 6x more and justify it by saying you're quite uncertain. 

Long story short, should we not just allocate our funding to the best of our current knowledge (even by your calculations, more towards FAW) and then update accordingly if things change?

Agree with lots of the above. 

It also just seems very bizarre that the GWWC's animal fund pays out half to EA AWF and half to THL. Surely if you thought that EA AWF was a good evaluator or donation opportunity for donors, you would just let them manage the entirety of the fund? As then EA AWF would be able to distribute to THL if they actually thought THL was the most effective use of funds on the margin. And if not, even better, as they can give to more effective opportunities.

Also responding to the below points in your ACE evaluation report

We also think that recommending at least one competitive alternative to the AWF in the animal welfare space — if we transparently and justifiably can — is valuable. 

I'm also curious why you felt the need to recommend at least one competitive alternative to the AWF, when the AWF itself is a fairly diversified fund? Arguably, you marked ACE down for similar reasoning in your evaluation of their Movement Grants (that they were spreading their grants across many groups rather than focusing mostly on the most effective groups)

However, we still think funding them [THL] is likely highly cost-effective, and the most justifiable charity recommendation we can currently make, based on the available evidence and our limited time.

We decided not to make an explicit comparison between THL’s corporate campaign work and the AWF in terms of their marginal cost-effectiveness, as we thought we would be unlikely to find a justifiable difference between the two in the limited time we had available, including because the types of evidence we have for each are so different.

Statements like this make me worry that this evaluation focused too much on the certainty of some positive impact, rather than maximising expected impact (i.e. measurability bias). As mentioned in the comment above, you would struggle to find many experienced animal advocates who would confidently recommend THL as the single best marginal giving opportunity. In reality, they would likely either advocate for a spread of groups using different approaches or just simply give to a fund (e.g. EA AWF or ACE). 

Thanks for sharing this! It's great to have some honest and open conversations about the GWWC pledge. 

FWIW I think perceived wisdom is that around 6-12 months of living expenses is pretty good as an emergency fund, which might help in terms of your runway value curve. For example, that might look like £1.8k per month (which I think is roughly the UK average) x 6-12 = £10-20k. Ideally, this would be in instant access savings, rather than stocks (but this isn't true in my case). 

Other thoughts: I think unless you expect your situation to change dramatically in the next year (e.g. you leave your job), it seems reasonable that you could both save for an emergency fund (at least partially) and donate 10%? For example, if you have a salary of £50k, that's a takehome salary of £37k, which might be broken down like:

  • Living expenses = £1.8k x 12 = £22k (maybe this is slightly on the frugal side but I'm just indexing on this UK average, obviously it depends where you live)
  • Donations = £5k
  • Runway = £10k

This is a beautiful post - appreciate your transparency, honesty and (not least) your generosity!

Sorry Johannes, I can't believe I never replied to this! Better late than never I hope. 

In terms of how we selected these academics, we created a list of about 100 academics whom we had read their papers and thought they were high quality or they were the editors of top journals in the field (in Sociology and Political Science). We asked them to fill out the survey (just over 50% of this list replied) and we also asked them to send it to 2-3 other academics who they thought would be well-placed to do the survey too. 

Off-topic but asking for personal interest:

Would you be up for explaining (briefly) how you calculate your podcast metrics? E.g.

  • Total listening time estimate using March 2022 method (40% Apple up to Nov 2019 then '75% in the Big 3')
  • Big 3 subscriber estimate at end of period

(I couldn't figure out what Big 3 was in this context nor your March 2022 method)

With much of the $200B/year in Official Development Assistance going to interventions of question effectiveness and over a trillion dollars sitting in private foundations, the EA movement can and should open the aperture of how it thinks about what it recommends beyond the marginal donation. 

We're optimistic the movement could influence existing pots of money orders of magnitude larger than what it does today, thus doing even more good in the world. This could perhaps have been more clearly argued in the post, open to your thoughts / feedback! 

FWIW I think this is quite interesting and worth putting in the original post. Fundamentally, EAs might (reasonably) disagree with the best use of $500M in the realm of global health but I think the argument that direct cash transfers could be a cost-effective use of $200B/year in Official Development Assistance, where other interventions we've found aren't maybe that scalable, is one worth talking about. 

Similarly, I think the ambition to move past just influencing marginal EA dollars (very small relatively) to government aid funding is also exciting and gets around some of the critiques by folks on this post (e.g. it's much better than the counterfactual, more scalable than GiveWell interventions, governments can't/won't fund policy advocacy to improve their own aid, etc etc.)

You say it's upcoming but would very much love to hear your thoughts on influencing minor political parties vs working with dominant parties!

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