Psychology student wishing to one day be a professor of neurosociopsychology in order to provide broad and specific consulting for nonprofits.
Very interesting concepts! I have one comment and one contact offering which may be helpful in adding a new perspective to your core assumptions (primarily that systemic solutions, such as empowering the next generation of African economics students to help change legislation, would indeed be effective altruism):
I performed a broad and rather unrigorous quantitative overview of the strategic qualities of the top charities of GiveWell's top ten (OpenPhil, which is a major pioneer of bit-based giving, donates the most to GiveWell's suggestions), GiveWell's 'ineffective' charities (charities deemed not cost-effective or evidence-based enough) and Charity Entrepreneurship's incubated charities to determine what strategic qualities are most utilised by the highest-impact charities. What I found was that qualities relating to hit-based principles (primarily that of prioritising high reward, high risk interventions such as innovations and systemic solutions) didn't align with the high-impact charities and in fact the 'ineffective' charities aligned slightly more with the qualities of hit-based principles. The explanation I found most compelling was that the complexity necessary for high risk and high reward interventions (such as systemic wherein the results are fairly unclear) to success not only bumped up the costs considerably but also the resistance from donors to continue donating due to the complexity obscuring the direct effect of the charity ('how can we know it was helping the African economists which helped improve development? There's many other changes since then which could also have contributed'). And though there are a few statistical methods to try and tease out approximate benefit, systemic interventions may always be marred by unclear impacts, unforeseeable obstacles and undue resistance from donors and the system being changed. My documentation for this qualitative overview can be found here: https://6559c6fb-82b8-43c6-8296-70e9946338cc.filesusr.com/ugd/ed2a7c_e6005590c87341b1ac2e1d13d861d4d1.pdf with page 6 being the colour-coded summary spreadsheet.
The explanation above was mostly galvanised by the social innovator Andrew Benedict-Nelson (https://albnelson.com). Andrew's explanation was rooted in a history of successful systemic change from within the private sector such as Carnegie & Rockefella spending their private wealth to fund, among other creative means, medical conferences designed to increase the scientific approach within the medical industry. Andrew's suggestion was then to tie hit-based giving in with the private sector especially due to the private sector's openness to high risk, high reward investments. If you'd like me to connect you to pick his brain, I'd be happy to!
I know this is a bit contrarian but I'm asking just out of interest as opposed to critique. What's your thoughts on Neartermism and might it also require formalizing in order to provide a clear opposing theory to strength both Longtermism and Neartermism research?
Thank you for this comment!
Two quick thoughts...
My biggest concern is EA’s community of self assurance and potential lack of cultural integration when performing outreach (though not specifically related to Israel, more so what I’ve seen from a myriad of members and a lack of corrective advice from the head theorists of EA). Id hope for EA members and theory to approach from a ‘what do you believe and how do we integrate EA into it’ perspective rather than a ‘we know the best solution and here it is’ perspective.
Thank you for writing this and added the links at the end! Though this post has had little engagement, I want to thank you as it’s given me a great place to start learning more about other’s concerns with EA and helped me answer some questions for and be a part of helping Charity Entrepreneurship (https://www.charityentrepreneurship.com/).
Also, your charity is an inspiration, thank you for being part of the global solution, Peter!
There’s a potential to have the Charity Entrepreneurship Incubator program documented from the perspective of the participants. I’m currently in one of the last rounds and if I do go through I’ll see if the CE team like the documentary idea. I figured it would be helpful to have some EA document it’s involved if that goes through (if I don’t get in, I still intend on passing this idea into the CE team and any expressions of interest from EA documenters).
However this is just a convenient potential documentary given the incubator is starting soon. I’m currently writing a book about neartermist strategies in EA and thought documenting my testing of them would help engage EA members who align with Neartermism rather than Longtermism. But as a new avenue entirely, I think someone needs to get the ball rolling on EA documentaries and I figured there must be some eager EA documenters who want to express interest.
All of this is to say this isn’t a sure-fire project, but any documentary makers (or staff therein) who do express interest will get brought up as potential candidates during conversations about EA documentaries (these conversations are certain to happen but gauging interest seemed to be a good first step).
I found this fascinating but, as someone who found it too hard to read, memorise and utilise it all. Are some principles most important to prioritise in your opinion and some principles hardest/rarest to practice? Also, do you feel reading this book genuinely changed much in your life?
After speaking with a few charity entrepreneurs related to EA, it seems this book is the white whale of charity leaders; highly sought after but far too big to take on. Any summarising thoughts would be awesome to hear!
What progress is being made on any of these areas for improvement? Would be excited to help out!
If there's not much in the way of projects currently, it would be awesome to select just one of the concerns to start with and see if there's some systemic way within he EA community to tackle it. 'Reinventing the wheel' as an example would be a fascinating challenge to try and tackle. Solving it could mean more trust, investment, cohesion and effectiveness of the EA community.
I'd be keen to lend my statistical abilities to track and test some changes in the EA community. Perhaps a few EA chapters could test one potential solution such as gamification (adapted from 'How to Change' by Katy Milkman), and then the progress tracked over a period of time.
I have a simple list of powerful actions you can take right now. Because I'm in the same boat, even though I study psychology in uni, I have been thinking of how to do more good every day. I think the EA Forum can get a bit theoretical and I hope to change that because, indeed, we need practical activities to do in order to effectively be altruistic.
It seems like another lame piece of advice, but if you ask what the biggest challenges a charity/person faces, you can attempt to do some legwork for them. I learned how charities wanted help with getting their fundraising known and so every day I sent a single email to a different editor to let them know about the fundraiser campaign the charity was holding. 1:10 got back to me, but within the month that meant the charity had three new media articles written about them which they wouldn't have without my simple outreach.
This one makes charities really thankful! First, make sure the charity IS effective and that you DO like them. You can raise money for a charity via your own job, a small fundraising campaign (look up 'fundraising ideas') or something outside the box (I participated in a low-risk, paid clinical research trial to get money for a charity).
There's heaps. Recently, with covid, I have been thanking any essential workers I pass, "Thank you for being an essential worker." I have also tried complimenting all of my friends, family and strangers with something positive about them.
This is a type of action in business which secures a market, as if you hold a monopoly over it, think of it like cornering a chess piece. In person, it simply looks like sharing time with a powerful connection. If you have any career dreams or even passing interests in a hobby, reach out to pioneers of that field and let them know that they inspire you. If they reply, you can get to know them, as if you can have a short call/interview and then as they begin to like you, let them know about a charity you love. If they seem happy about it, ask if they might donate to complete a specific project (make sure you've done your research) of the charity's or, if the person doesn't seem interested, you can organise a few weeks later to do a fundraising idea and then ask for them to donate anything they can afford! It works!
My personal suggestion is to spend those five hours as a freelancing nomad by giving unsolicited support to any charity, business or individual which can provide career capital or simply philanthropic results from your work.
A project which both does good while also allows for the flexibility of reconnoissance and growing career capital. It sounds like you might be best freelancing. The book Surrounded By Idiots puts forth four professional personality types (https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2019/jul/surrounded-by-idiots-personality-types-at-work.html - a great system for simplifying choices and predicting business interactions!). I suspect you are mostly blue, in which case simply doing some freelance, unsolicited market research, data analysis or trend analysis for a charity are your best bets in terms of doing good while also maintaining the flexibility of growth (career capital) and autonomy (reconnoissance). You can freelance simply by researching -as you already are doing to answer your question- areas of interest for charities. You can make some assumptions (such as 'all charities need market analysis' and 'all charities lack effective partnerships', both have held true in my experience), or you can outright ask any of your favourite charities and give examples of what you might do for them.
However, if you/your friends are mostly yellow, like me, don't settle on one project; you won't thrive with repetition!
As someone who changes focus more frequently than is effective, I found traditional volunteering didn't work for me and, as I was finding my skills, I couldn't commit to long project stints. So I made my own opportunities by doing small favours for my favourite charities. Whatever interest I would be focused on at the time, be it journalism, networking, businesses analysis, marketing or graphic design, I'd do a piece of work for my favourite charities and email them my efforts. At times this wasn't well received but it was no effort on their part to say they didn't want my output. On the other hand, I found some great opportunities to do other odd jobs for charities and businesses and it lead to forming my identity as a networker of c-suite members and free gamification provider for charities; neither of which you can learn if you're committing to a single project for another organisation. However, being your own boss isn't for everyone.