Vaidehi Agarwalla

Product Manager @ Momentum
Working (0-5 years experience)



I'm a community builder based in the Bay. I previously worked in consulting, recruiting and marketing and have a BA in Sociology and focused on social movement theory and structural functionalism.

/'vɛðehi/ or VEH-they-hee


EA Career Advice on Management Consulting
Exploratory Careers Landscape Survey 2020
EA Survey 2017 Series
EA Survey 2018 Series
AI Alignment Literature Review and Charity Comparison
EA Survey 2019 Series
Towards A Sociological Model of EA Movement Building


Topic Contributions

I could be wrong, but I have a pretty strong sense that nearly everyone I know with EA funding would be willing to criticise CEA if they had a good reason to. I'd be surprised if {being EA funded} decreased willingness to criticise EA orgs. I even expect the opposite to be true.

I disagree, I know several people who fit this description (5 off the top of my head) who would find this very hard. I think it very much depends on factors like how well networked you are, where you live, how much funding you've received and for how long, and whether you think you could work for and org in the future.

Thanks for responding!

  1. I missed that link! Thanks for flagging. I think when I read that, it wasn't clear to me that this study had explicit examples of reduction in mortality.  I'll edit my first comment so that people know it was included. 
  2. That makes sense, and I think it could make a big difference to e.g. potential funders reading this to be more clear. 
  3. I think the thing I would see as most important is demonstrating that your specific implementation of the solution results in deaths averted, and this could be done for a lower cost. At that point, if there is evidence, it makes sense to scale up / professionalize the platform. 

Thanks for this! It's exciting to see people try out new things and experiment with ways to improve the world. 

Some thoughts on the information you present in this post, and what it seems to be missing:

  1. Based on the information presented in this post alone, I'm not confident in the theory of change you present, specifically the (crucial) link between "training HW's" -> "reduction in deaths", or your team's plans to measure the impact of training on: 
    1. The actual change in HW behavior (e.g. they are now giving better advice and treatment in real life / on the field)
    2. Whether the change in HW behavior actually saves lives (e.g. the improvement in advice/treatment leads to X lives saved)

[EDIT, Sep 13 2022: The paragraph after this one is wrong, see the excerpt below where Marshall links to the post about neonatal care, which includes studies of this kind of intervention directly measuring deaths averted.) 

My analysis of existing research studies shows that training HWs to properly care for newborn babies is likely to be highly cost-effective, with an average cost of $59 per DALY averted ($100 per DALY averted is sometimes cited as a benchmark for highly effective interventions)....

I still think my points apply to Marshall's teams specific implementation of the intervention.  

[End Edit]

The closest I found in this post was a discussion on evidence related to skill gains & knowledge retention. None of the following mention either a or b. 

  • Online neonatal care training leads to significant knowledge and skills gains among HWs.
  • The infection control training I’ve been working on has high completion rates, learning gains comparable to those seen in more resource-intensive in-person training, and very positive learner feedback.
  • Recent research shows that a short online training in blood pressure measurement improves HWs’ clinical skills.

The second study you cite doesn't mention actual skills change, which seems more important than knowledge retention. The third study you cite is the one above in a US context, and I don't know how much this evidence transfers to an LMIC context.

However, you mention a lack of evidence in a previous post "New cause area: training health workers to prevent newborn deaths" you mention that:

I was tempted to title this piece “New cause area: health workforce development,” but the reality is that there’s much better data to quantify cost-effectiveness on a dollars-per-DALY basis in the niche of neonatal care training.[3] I believe that this much narrower cause area is just the tip of the iceberg – it’s easy to see and quantify but also indicative of a much bigger underlying and unaddressed problem. Fortunately, modest investments in neonatal care training might be cost-effective on their own while also generating transferable lessons applicable to the bigger problem. 

2. Based on this post, it's not clear to me how you / your team is prioritizing which countries or regions to operate in, which health problems to work on first, and why. Based on what you wrote in the previous post, the next steps you outlined seemed very promising, and plausibly neonatal care could be good, but this is not mentioned in this post. 

3. Becaus the funding amount is quite large ($4 million), it would be good to explain why you think this is the right amount to ask for right now. Based on my knowledge of early-stage global health startup NGOs, I'd expect that you could probably create a strong case for impact (e.g. run an RCT) and create a strong case for impact for somewhere in the range of USD $100,000-$500,000 (very very rough estimate, someone please correct me if this is way off!). 

I really loved this speech, a lot. I had a lot of guesses on what the speech was going to be, but it ended up surprising & moving me. It takes a lot of courage to talk about your fears in front of 350 people, and more so to then post it on the internet. 

For context, I am from / grew up in Singapore, and want to add some more context for those reading this who didn't attend EAGxSingapore and would like to know more. 

(The majority, if not all, people raised their hands)

Someone who'd previously attended EAG's and EAGx's previously told me that EAGxSingapore was the most welcoming and warm conferences they had attended, and many other conference attendees had told them the same thing. 

EAGxSingapore had about 70% first-time attendees, many of whom could not attend EAG's due to visa issues. So you have this group of super engaged EAs, who are going to their first proper EA conference and are just super excited and grateful to be there. 

Something Dion didn't mention in the speech (or needed to) was that this was  (I believe) the most diverse EA conference ever. It was pretty cool to sit in the auditorium during her talk, and see a sea of black hair and people from cultures I grew up with. 

Two things stem from this: One, I think this might have made people more open to being open and learning from each other, because you can't assume shared context. Two, conversely, you get a bunch of people from Asian / African / LMIC backgrounds who get that your parents may be confused, suspicious or skeptical, the illegibility of trying to explain a movement doing 300 different things, the weirdness of becoming close friends with a bunch of internet strangers. 

What I'm trying to say is that EA can be hard. It can be very demanding of you and your worldviews. ... We emphasize taking the next steps when leaving a conference, but there will be many frustrations when you leave this room. You might want to apply for a high-impact job, but there's nothing on the job board you can apply to in your country. You might want to socialize or network with EAs, but there's no event in your time zone. You might even get offered a job or accepted into another conference but can't go because of visa issues. Many factors might keep you from being as effective as you want to be, and these might be circumstances beyond your control.

(Nothing to add, other than a very very strong +1)

There was a feeling of emptiness on the flight back to the real world where no one knew or cared about x-risks or longtermism. The jarring difference felt very destabilizing. Many of you here who don't live in EA hubs like me, and this might hit you the same way it did to me.

My past self resonated with this a lot. I'm sure many people have felt the pressure of being the "most EA" person in their city or country, and not feeling like others care as much about it. It can feel pretty lonely and hard, feeling like the most meaningful parts of your life are things you can't fully share with your friends and family because they don't "get" it.    

Ironically, this conference actually helped me to bridge that gap, to make EA feel more part of my "real" life. Being able to spend time with EAs in my home- eating local food and making new memories in old haunts, giving them tourist tips, meeting each others' parents and home friends - those moments were so wonderful and important. 

I think my favorite moment is that Dion, after meeting my mother, proceeded to tell everyone "I love Vaidehi's mother, I've never seen anyone insult someone so gracefully" (that someone was me, the insult was my mother calling me a "dum dum"). 

There's a lot more I could say, but I think I'll end there for now. 

Finally got the time to read this post - thank you both for putting this together, it's really helpful! This resonates with my observations & experiences of the ecosystem, and it was helpful to get a sense of who is working on which problems (and who isn't). 

Thanks for writing this, it's nice to see some thinking around US national strategy (something that's been really missing!). 

I think the main question that feels unanswered is: in a world where we agreed with / acted upon this claim, what changes?

It feels to me like Boston/NYC/Washington DC are all on their ways to becoming Hubs, with an uptick of coworking spaces, new organisations being founded, EAG(x)'s being hosted, and growing and more professionalised community building. It sounds the communities there are also thriving. 

The one exception is the "spend the summer in the Bay" meme for longtermists, I'm not sure to what extent people are spending time in the East Coast cities (perhaps you have more insight here?)

I'm grateful for all of the thoughtful, motivated and kind community builders from Asia, the middle east and Africa I've met them past few weeks. It's really hard to be an EA, and it's so much harder without an existing community.

  1. I'm a big fan of different "tracks" which are appealing to people in different stages of their EA journey. Let people self-select into things that are more valuable.

E.g. "career journeys"are more valuable if you're new to EA but interested in EA career paths, whereas a in-depth discussion on a obscure critique may be less interesting.

  1. how you advertise what the conference is probably matters - you probably want to think about the limitations of the EA brand to attract such people. Maybe we need a non EAG branded conference to get really promising people who are more skeptical of EA.

That being said, how can we build on the messaging to be more informative?

E.g. give a sample agenda, talk about the benefit people can receive (how can we frame the value of 1-1s to be more intuitive and attractive to newcomers)

  1. do a lot of pre-event programming that could be Q&As or just a sample of the conference to get people interested and excited to sign up (maybe 2 months before).

For accepted attendees, have some programming leading up to conference to prep them on what it's like, how to get value, make plans, engage in conversations.

Of the cuff, feel free to ping me for more!

I think EAGxVirtual 2020 came close to this - about 1400 attendees, a decent chunk had only recently heard about EA

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