I'm a contact person for the effective altruism community: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/hYh6jKBsKXH8mWwtc/a-contact-person-for-the-ea-community
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I work at CEA as a community liaison, trying to make the EA community stronger and more welcoming. I also serve on the board of GiveWell.
Besides effective altruism, I'm interested in folk dance and trying to keep up with my three children.
There's an old "Effective Zakat" group with some EAs on Facebook - you've likely posted it there already, but would be good to share there if not!
In the first case, I initially heard about the situation from a third party, but nearly all the information I knew came from Owen. (I asked the woman if she had concerns about the situation that she wanted to discuss, and I didn’t hear back.)
I should add something that I forgot to include.
I’ve talked about February 3rd as the date I told the boards of EV US and EV UK, because that’s when I told everyone who’s on the current boards.
As I said, I had previously discussed some but not all of the situation with Nicole Ross, who was my manager and who is on the EV US board. And one of the staff at FHI I informed in 2021 about the situation described in TIME was Toby Ord, who at that time was on the EV UK (then called CEA UK) board. He was no longer on the board by the time I informed both boards about the full situation earlier this month. Our conversation focused on how he could reduce risk at FHI of further problems, and I don’t remember to what extent (if at all) we talked about the board. (I’m avoiding talking with him to see if he remembers more in order not to compromise the investigation.)
The TIME article is what prompted me to realize I hadn’t properly dealt with everything here.
Can you clarify the extent to which not informing the EV UK board was a result of the victim explicitly requesting something along these lines
She did not request that I not tell the board - I don't think we discussed that possibility.
What actions did you take to reduce the risks associated with these events
what's the role of OCB's colleagues here? Were they complicit, or was this for harm-mitigating reasons?
As far as I know, they did not previously know about any of this. The goal was harm mitigation.
Are you also happy to comment on whether your CoI with OCB was disclosed with Nicole when you informed her of this situation, or with anyone else in the CH team at any stage? What details did you share with Nicole in 2021, when she became your manager?
We expect that we’ll be interviewed separately about what we recall of this conversation as part of the investigation, so I think it’s best if I don’t go into detail here.
Did the complaints from the woman in the Time article come before or after other feedback you heard about OCB?
The order was: I learned about one situation from a third party, then learned the situation described in TIME, then learned of another situation because I asked the woman on a hunch, then learned the last case from Owen.
I don’t have a clear answer about the ways various considerations played into my decisions. I expect this is the kind of thing we’ll be discussing as part of the investigation into our work here.
On Feb 3 I heard from Owen, I discussed the situation with Nicole, I informed Owen I'd be telling the boards, and I told the boards. I told Chana the following morning.
I hope I would have eventually recognized there was more to do here, including telling the board, but it’s possible I wouldn’t have recognized this.
I want to explain my role in this situation, and to apologize for not handling it better. The role I played was in the context of my work as a community liaison at CEA.
(All parts that mention specific people were run past those people.)
In 2021, the woman who described traveling to a job interview in the TIME piece told me about her interactions with Owen Cotton-Barratt several years before. She said she found many aspects of his interactions with her to be inappropriate.
We talked about what steps she wanted taken. Based on her requests, I had conversations with Owen and some of his colleagues. I tried to make sure that Owen understood the inappropriateness of his behavior and that steps were taken to reduce the risk of such things happening again. Owen apologized to the woman. The woman wrote to me to say that she felt relieved and appreciated my help. Later, I wrote about power dynamics based partly on this situation.
However, I think I didn’t do enough to address the risk of his behavior continuing in other settings. I didn’t pay enough attention to what other pieces might need addressing, like the fact that, by the time I learned about the situation, he was on the board of EV UK (then called CEA UK), or the areas where he could influence funding and career opportunities for other people.
No other women raised complaints about him to me, but I learned (in some cases from him) of a couple of other situations where his interactions with women in EA were questionable. None of these seemed as serious on their own from what I knew — one of the women summarized it as "He apologized to me then, and I accepted it and things were / are totally fine.” But they formed a pattern, and I should have taken that pattern more seriously.
A few months ago Owen told me about another more recent situation where, according to him, he had made another woman uncomfortable. I didn’t reach out to the woman about this at the time, which I now think was a mistake. I understand EV UK and EV US’s external investigation will look into what happened here.
I also didn’t seek adequate backup given that I was friends with Owen. (Owen and I live in different countries and were not close friends, but we and our families have spent social time together.) When the woman in the TIME piece told me that her concern was about Owen, I flagged to her that I was friends with him. She and I decided to proceed anyway because we couldn’t think of a better option, although she felt it was unhealthy for EA that people who had power were entwined in these ways.
If I had flagged the situation earlier and more thoroughly to others, they might have recognized the parts of the situation that I hadn’t handled adequately. I should have thought more about how to get more help here or how to hand off the situation to someone else.
After reading the TIME piece, I flagged my worries about Owen’s roles in EA to the EV UK and EV US boards. I had earlier flagged some parts of the situation to my manager, but not the whole picture.
I’m really sorry that I didn’t handle this better. It’s really important to me that women in the community can do their best work without wondering if they’ll be treated unfairly, be hit on in professional contexts, or worse.
I understand that EV UK and EV US will be working with external evaluators to assess my and my team’s processes here and evaluating the choices that I and my manager made in handling this situation. I will also be reflecting further on my own and with my team.
I’m guessing that my mistakes here may mean some people will feel less comfortable bringing problems to me. For unrelated reasons, over the last two months my team had moved most of our work on interpersonal harm to my colleague Catherine Low, who was not involved in this situation. If you’d like to get help from the community health team but don’t want me involved, please feel free to contact Catherine or my other teammates (and you can ask them to not share information about the situation with me.)
[Edited to add: more info added below]
Hey, I'm sorry to hear this has been hard. Alcohol problems are so common in general that there are certainly other EAs struggling with this.
Here's an overview I put together a while ago about some different treatment options: Resource on alcohol problems
If you think talking with others in EA would be helpful, the EA Peer Support group has had other posts about this and allows anonymous posting.
Sending you best wishes!
There are some important misunderstandings here. [Username redacted], I’ll reach out privately to clarify.
In 2021, the woman and I discussed who she wanted to know about the situation. Our focus was on his colleagues at that time and people he might have a mentorship relationship with. I’ve clarified here that this did include one person who was a board member of EV UK (then called CEA UK) at the time.
When the TIME piece publicly described the situation but not either of the people’s identities, Nicole and I decided that the board should know that the account was about Owen (but not the identity of the woman).