Applied Researcher at Founders Pledge


Campaign to protect 0.7% of UK GNI for global poor.

Hi Natasha, I'm really glad you guys are working on this! Thanks for the time and effort you've put in so far.

I wondered if you've discussed things people can do other than emailing MPs - maybe donating to orgs advocating against this change, or getting together to write an op-ed with a public figure?

I bet many people reading this post live in more liberal/urban areas with MPs who are already likely to vote against this measure (e.g. I'm in an incredibly safe Labour seat). I'm also struck and dismayed by the data that a majority of voters from each UK party support cutting the aid budget. Makes me think that efforts to sway public opinion might be important, too.

What is going on in the world?

Some things worth adding might be:

  • Several Asian economies are growing rapidly, and China is on track to become a major world power sometime this century (worth including since you mention the apparent decline of the US/West)
  • There is massive global inequality, and while many lower income countries are now growing more steadily they are not projected to narrow the north/south wealth divide anytime soon
  • Humans are raising billions of animals for food in very poor conditions
Mid-Career Professionals: Impact Landscape - Request for Feedback

Nice work Devon! This is a great collection of resources. I like the clarity and directness of the document. 

I understand that you want to meet people where they are and not push a particular view too hard, but I don't think it would hurt to put more emphasis on the things you think are most impactful. In particular, my guess is that getting a small number of people to change jobs or donate more is more important than getting a larger number of people to become mentors or something like that. So I think it would be good to add a couple of sentences in the career change and donating sections just emphasizing how much good one can do by taking these actions. Another way to do this without coming across too strongly could be to use concrete examples. Perhaps 80K has some go-to stories of people who have changed careers. You can also talk a bit about specific charities to make the idea of "doing good" more tangible.

I would also combine the "Take a Pledge" section with the earlier section about donating.

Can we drive development at scale? An interim update on economic growth work

Thanks for this great comment! I agree with you on neglectedness, I think the field is so broad that by looking at high-level funding we're probably counting a lot of stuff that isn't relevant directly to the question of "would there by impactful work that's currently unfunded?", which is waht we actually care about.

Agree also our list of potential orgs working in the space is a bit random and probably misses some good, relevant funding opportunities. Thanks for the info about ODI and IDinsight, too.

My concern with wading into specific evaluations is less about establishing a credible/plausible causal link, and more about collecting enough data to build a proper counterfactual. My impression is that substantial policy changes often involve many different organisations, departments, and people, and it's hard to work out whose presence made a difference. Our decision to stop short at this time was based heavily on our colleagues' evaluations for climate organisations, which required a huge investment to confidently work out whose impact was truly counterfactual.

In any case, I'd love to speak more about your experience in the field if we take this work further - if you're interested in that, please feel free to DM me so we can keep in touch.

Introducing High Impact Athletes

 Hi Marcus, congratulations on the launch of HIA! It looks like you've sourced some of your climate recommendations from us (Founders Pledge). This is great and we're excited for you to use our research, of course! It's worth noting that our 3 current climate recommendations are CATF, Carbon 180, and TerraPraxis. I just want to make sure you're using our most up-to-date research rather than the old report, which is a bit out of date now.

Please do reach out if you have any questions about this, or any of our other recommendations! If you'd like to speak more about how we think about pledging, including thresholds, escalating pledges, etc., I also might be able to help with that.

£4bn for the global poor: the UK's 0.7%

Hi Sanjay, agree this is important. I'll be curious to hear what the NGOs you've reached out to think is the best way to infuence this decision. Given the large Tory majority we'd have to flip quite a few individual MPs to defeat the vote - I wonder if media outreach would also be useful.

I can also think of a few people who are sympathetic to EA, supportive of aid, and might have ideas about waht strategy is best. e.g. might be worth reaching out to Sam Bowman for ideas.

Can we drive development at scale? An interim update on economic growth work

I think that's a bit too pessimistic! Founders Pledge has made some progress on this (link goes to pdf) and I think we can do pretty well by taking a kind of journalistic approach. For example, we can speak to charities, experts, and government officials and see if the charity's claims about who they spoke to and when are true, if the timelines match up, and if it seems like the government would have made changes anway. Check out pp. 8-10 of the linked doc.

I do recognize that this is much more difficult than looking at the results of an RCT. We'll never be as sure that the effect is causal and it takes a lot of time from both us and the organisation we're looking at. These costs are the main reason we're not continuing our growth work at this time.

Can we drive development at scale? An interim update on economic growth work

Thanks for this thoughtful comment! Thinking about x-risk reduction as giving us more time to grow the economy and alleviate poverty is really interesting.

While I agree the long-term effects are highly uncertain, I think it's important to distinguish catch-up growth from frontier growth. Most growth accelerations in low-income countries bring them from "super poor" to "still pretty poor". People in these countries live more comfortably, but they're usually not getting rich enough to develop geopolitical ambitions that increase x-risk. (China and maybe India being notable exceptions.)

I'm actually not sure it's true that "most of us have accepted longtermism." As we say in this post, the Global Health and Development Fund is still the biggest EA Fund. Last year's EA survey found that Global Poverty was still the most popular cause, and only 41% of respondents would choose the Long Term Future if they had to focus on one cause.

In any case, we might want to continue to have some EAs working on things other than longtermism in order to diversify in the face of moral uncertainty. And, as you say, having something useful and interesting to say about more mainstream causes is important for PR and movement growth. I thought the discussion of this point in the comments of this post was good.

Factors other than ITN?

I think it's probably the case that good heuristics for making career decisions are different than good heuristics for making donation decisions. We shouldn't necessarily expect a framework (ITN or otherwise) to be ideal for both.

If someone today decides to work on a certain cause, they strengthen the pipeline of good funding opportunities in that cause. But there's a time lag. Pivoting to work on biosecurity might be a great career decision right now. However funding a person to do that work might not be a great donation until a few years down the road, when they've gained the skills and credentials needed to make an impact.

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