Rebecca Kagan

834 karmaJoined


(I was previously a fund manager on the LTFF)

Agree with a lot of what Asya said here, and very appreciative of her taking the time to write it up. 

One complimentary point I want to emphasize: I think hiring a full-time chair is great, and that LTFF / EA Funds should in general be more willing to hire fund managers who have more time and less expertise. In my experience fund managers have very little time for the work (they’re both in part-time roles, and often extremely busy people), and little support (there’s relatively little training / infrastructure / guidance), but a fair amount of power. This has a few downsides:

  1. Insular funding: Fund managers lean heavily on personal networks and defer to other people’s impressions of applicants, which means known applicants are much more likely to be funded. This meant LTFF had an easy time funding EAs/rationalists, but was much less likely to catch promising, non-EA candidates who weren't already known to us. (This is already a common dynamic in EA orgs, but felt particularly severe because of our time constraints.) 
  2. Less ambitious funding: Similarly, it's particularly time-intensive to evaluate new organizations with substantial budgets, or novel theories of change. This meant that we were more likely to fund individuals, and had a harder time making large grants to new ambitious orgs. (We were also more likely to lean on OP’s evaluation of the person or org.)

I left the LTFF because of capacity issues related to being on the EV board post FTX collapse, but I didn't return because I ended up feeling pretty skeptical of a funding dynamic that moved money primarily within existing social circles with relatively little supervision, especially post FTX. I think full-time fund managers & more structure and support could help with this. In the past, I think we’ve been recruiting from too narrow of a pool — I think there are a fair number of people who could do this job well (and that the quality of work they can do improves if they have more time and more support), and moving in that direction could be good for the fund. (Though I haven't actually done the hiring for these roles, so I could be wrong.)

Really excited about EAF/LTFF potentially being more independent from OP & having more full-time staff. I think both of those are really great directions to move in, and I'm very appreciative to Asya & Caleb for putting in the time to think it through.

Hey Chana — good question! Answered above.

Who’s responsible if there’s a really big error? Good question -- it depends in part on the type of issue. 

  • Project Leads: The project leads (e.g. Luke Freeman) continue to be responsible for running their projects (Giving What We Can). If there’s a programmatic, strategic, or tactical error within a specific project, that reflects on the project lead. They’re still the ones in charge of their projects; the Interim CEO appointments don’t change that. 
  • Interim CEOs: The Interim CEOs are responsible for a different set of issues than project leads. They’re primarily responsible for charity-wide issues, including legal response, coordination, and org structures, etc (that is, things that span multiple projects: 80k, CEA, GWWC, etc). Some of their errors will be less visible to e.g. the average EA Forum user, but we expect to hold them responsible for things related to the smooth operations of the charities as a whole. 
  • Boards: In addition, the respective board is also responsible if there’s a problem anywhere within EVF US or EVF UK. At the end of the day, they’re the bodies that are responsible for those charities. This is a less direct responsibility; as is typical for boards we delegate most of that responsibility to executives (both project leads and CEOs). So if there’s a project-level error, this could both be a project lead error and also a board one. (For example, boards could have put the wrong person in charge of the project, done inadequate oversight, etc.). The same goes for Interim CEO error.

Relatedly, the project leads still report directly to the boards for most aspects of their roles. There are some exceptions, though, as Interim CEOs set charity-wide policies and systems that may affect project leads.

That’s how it’s working today. The roles are new, so we’re still in the process of fleshing out all of the details, and things may also change over time. Ultimately, though, this additional interim CEO role doesn’t significantly change the project leads’ authority.

Minor clarification: On a first read, I wasn’t clear if you were asking whether the CEO of CEA is responsible for all of EVF. I don’t think that’s what you’re saying, but just in case there’s any ambiguity here, that’s definitely not the case (and technically there is no CEO of CEA). Max Dalton is the ED of project CEA. He has control over that project but not the rest of EVF (just as e.g. Luke Freeman is ED over GWWC, and has control over that project but not the rest of EVF).

"the uncertainty of what the people would do" -->

Both groups were being funded for open-ended plans (in one case, a career transition, in the other "exploring EA field-building"), rather than a specific venture, hence the uncertainty.

"If you don't want someone to do something" -->

This isn't the case -- if the funders hadn't wanted the recipients to move forward, they wouldn't have given funding. In that case, the funder offered to support a different plan than the one that was originally pitched, namely instead of a venture, a career transition.

Hey Michael! I don’t know if more money would have changed their decisions, but I want to clarify that the funding panel wasn’t funding constrained (we actually had more than $300k set aside for this), and funders didn’t make the decision with that as a limitation.

The cases aren’t actually that similar — in one, the funding panel gave a low amount to discourage the individual from pursuing the idea and support a career transition, in the other they gave the individuals more than requested — but in both cases the uncertainty of what the people would do was the key cause in giving a relatively small amount of money, not being funding constrained.