Jeffrey Kursonis

230 karmaJoined Jun 2022Working (15+ years)



Jeffrey Kursonis built and co-built quite a number of non-profits in New York City, including The Haven, an arts and altruism collective with 300 people gathering weekly for ten years in Manhattan. A multicultural and altruistic faith community in Harlem, still going today. The New York City New Sanctuary Movement, one of two main hubs of the national network of faith communities giving sanctuary protection to undocumented families being pursued by Federal Immigration Law Enforcement. It’s a long list. 

After my work in NYC, a nascent national organization, Emergent Village, tapped me to lead their early growing network of local cohorts seeking to organize progressive religious leaders. I formed a team and we built it up to over 100 US cities, as well as many regional gatherings and other movement training and organizing (extremely similar to CEA). This “emerging church” movement changed the face of American religion by directly moving thousands of religious leaders and their congregations to the left, spawned a whole publishing genre, helped elect Obama, helped influence our Federal same sex marriage legal structure and sadly became a focal point of the conservative backlash unleashed by Trumpism. As a side note, Jeffrey is no longer religious but still deeply appreciates the proven training ground religion provides. Here is a video we produced about the national cohort network, note my name as producer in the end credits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-oaU29Z4dg

Jeffrey has been an active EA’er for over a year now, doing the Intro and Advanced Fellowships and working as a Meta-Moderator for Virtual Program trainings for new facilitators and actively posting on the forum. I recently applied to be on the CEA Virtual Programs new Advisory Board.  

How others can help me

I have a long career in the religious world, and now I'm no longer religious so I'm rebuilding in the regular world, it's a challenge. Religion is very good at movement building and at persuading people to change their views two things EA is trying to do...in the internet boom of the 90's the term "evangelist" became popular for basically marketing pro's communicating their vision. Many EA's might be surprised to learn that the word charity simply means love...in older English versions of the bible, like the King James, verses that we now use the word love for would then use the word charity. To give with no expectation of return benefit, the very core of EA, is essentially the act of charity which equals an act of love.  These less scientific and more artful human kind of expressions are more my style. Because I agree with the core EA notion of bringing scientific method into charity work, I want to see that happen, but implementing it can still be a very human and social and creative thing. I need help evangelizing this message. :) 

How I can help others

If you are a young EA and have any anxiety in your work and life, I am a lifelong coach and mentor to young activists, and from the culture of my long experience it has a pastoral quality...definitely not for everyone, but very good for some. 


This is wonderful. I’ve posted before that EA will be far more effective if they mix in some life veterans…and this seems the Successif pathway.

You have a lot of great ideas, the one trend I see that aligns with some of my thoughts is a general sense that "EA Culture" is not for everyone and how that informs our outreach. I personally love EA culture, but I'm also not a STEM person and I clearly see how some people might refer to EA culture as "borg-like" as Jenn reported in her forum piece, https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/5oTr4ExwpvhjrSgFi/things-i-learned-by-spending-five-thousand-hours-in-non-ea just the other day.  I also appreciate Vanessa's comments below and she seems to be killing it in her work.  Also below zchuang seems to hit it on the head that there's been a weird confluence of events; FTX, WWOTH dropping as LLM's hit the stage publicly, and Covid-19 changing things...if ever there was a time for re-thinking and pivoting on our direction, it's now. 

"Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" is a really great piece of wisdom...just because you have some new useful take on an old process, doesn't mean the old one doesn't have some really good stuff in it already. 

EA brings the scientific process to charity...charity was long overdue for this...but the collective wisdom of hundreds of years or more of charitable work is rich with effectiveness of it's own, it didn't come from testing, but it did come from evolutionary processes.

This is just another support for my thesis that EA needs more veteran's, sprinkling their evolutionary wisdom in our midst. I'm so glad Jenn that you got this huge amount of experience and were able to translate it back to us...how about a bunch more like Jenn around?

The UP series really moved me. The guy who struggled throughout his adult life with unemployment, homelessness and mental health and finally his life came together more in his forties and he became a local politician was so incredible. He was one of the most charismatic and articulate little boys at age 7 and then you're just hoping against hope for him as he begins to stumble and struggle in his twenties...then he finally creates a life for himself and it's like every altruistic desire for humanity coming together in one person. 

This is awesome. This is why I want to encourage more arts and humanities in EA. Not necessarily about EA but aligned, altruistic…in the same way people are moved by this film art moves people to do good…maybe through EA or maybe in some other channel…but the point to make to EA people is this: for as long as organized altruism has existed, back before EA made it more effective, art has always been a major force for impact. Many have been moved as this poster was via art to do good. EA was born of scientific ideas but all the greatest science voices use art to forward their good agendas. People who write books and make documentaries, who might have inspired you as a young student toward science or math or philosophy are actually artists and scientists. The reason Will MacAskill is more well known than others is that he speaks and writes more artfully…we need a lot more of that. It’s kind of normal.

I'm very excited to see this, looking forward to it. I have a strong desire to see more arts in EA.

John 17:20–24

[20] “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, [21] that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. [22] The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, [23] I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. [24] Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (ESV)

I think this famous passage in John 17, the whole chapter a long prayer by Jesus the night before he is betrayed and the events leading to his crucifixion, has a number of moments that speak of the connections between humans over the unending generations. Even though this is from 2,000 years ago, when he prays in verse 20, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word" as a young reader in a study group I remember we all noticed this meant Jesus was praying for us, we were the future people who would believe because others sent this story down through the generations. If we could feel that way after 2,000 years, why should it ever end? It implies all future humans. 

I included the whole passage because of how he keeps bunching everyone together saying we are all one. This also speaks of impartiality. All humans are one with God just as God and Jesus are one with each other. The moral circle never stops expanding.

Then also, the final he asks that we be with him to see his glory, given by God before the foundation of the world...So now he reverses and rather than speaking for all time forward, he goes back to all time already past...in this way it is all encompassing. Ancient people may not have had opportunity to help others far away, and thus to even think about it, but like many other moral issues, he sets a way of thinking that we can easily apply to the specifics as our thinking evolves over all time. 

There are innumerable new moral challenges as humans populations expand over time, many never mentioned in the New Testament, but timeless principles like this help us negotiate the new. So none of these things are specifically baked in, but the universal for all humans for all times principles are definitely baked in like fine pottery.  

I feel the need to mention, I am a universalist believing all humans are saved (within Christian beliefs) and then expanding out to all religions a Universalist believing all religions are equally from God, on the days I believe in God, there are many other days in which I don't believe in God. I like the conflict. 

I really appreciate this article. I think it's good to continually evaluate the structure and flows of things. But here's my problem, and probably it's because I don't have enough of a sense of how things flow amongst CEA and EV and other entities, maybe you could write more of how you see the energy flowing overall in EA and where these entities exist in that. People more aware probably find this article more helpful than me. 

From what I do know, here's how I see the flow; it appears that EA has a series of "funnels" or "channels" where people come in; the forum, university groups, virtual programs, EAG's, books, PR outreach, etc. and so these people flow in to EA through these various channels and then they decide to commit to giving money or to seek an EA job or 80K recommended job or charity job and become more an actual part of EA. 

So it seems to me that all the expansion of EA goes on beyond the funnels...more org's start, more org's expand and create more jobs and research contributions, more charities start...that expansion can go on forever, that's where the growth is...but the funnel remains the same. I think CEA is the funnel, they organize all the local groups, the Virtual Programs, the regional gatherings, the forum...that funnel will slowly grow and expand and adjust itself while the bigger EA world beyond the funnel continues to expand even more wildly. I think the Centre for Effective Altruism is a great name for the funnel. 

Of course the funnel doesn't control all the wild expansion of org's and charities, those each have their own visions and energies. The funnel just provides a stable front entrance anyone can easily find before they enter and go off in a million different directions. And for certain issues, like having a nurse station for EA's mind boo-boo's, or a principal's office to interdict bullies, it's good to have those by the front door, easy to find.

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