vaidehi_agarwalla

/'vɛðehi/ or VEH-they-hee

I'm Product Manager at the EA Hub and a community builder based in Singapore. I have a BA in Sociology. I have a background in social movement theory and structural functionalism. Currently building career capital while doing EA projects on the side.

Current Projects:

  • Meta EA research

Sequences

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

Comments

Cause Area: Human Rights in North Korea

Sorry! Must have missed that hanging sentence. There is no guarantee of the timescale across when these changes would happen.

Edited :)

Fighting corruption in aid - embezzling

Hi Marc! This is an interesting topic that I hadn't thought much about, so thanks for posting! I have a few quick comments:

I have lived in a developing country for 6 years, I have reason to believe that embezzling could cut from 10% to 50% of donations received by charitable organizations in humanitarian and development settings. I can't back the statement because the data is really not there, but I am extremely confident about it.

Data on corruption numbers/scale of problem: Through A quick google search (<5 minutes) I found some interesting numbers on this by the Centre for Global Development which sugests the % is much closer to 10% than 50%. One thing that's interesting is they suggest using ‘the percentage of aid that delivers the impact it was designed to' to provide an upper-end figure for corruption  (of course, not all impact is lost due to corruption). But looking at something like this might reveal bigger issues in aid - for example, a charity choosing interventions that are not very effective. 

Additionally, it seems that the topic of corruption in NGOs is a pretty common concern (~5 million results), and there seem to be a number of proposed solutions. It may be useful to first evaluate existing interventions/organisations, and consider the benefits of supporting existing organisations or starting a new one in this space, and the value of focusing on this issues vs others. 

Cause Area: Human Rights in North Korea

Summary: My uncertainty about this post lies in how much your proposed interventions can contribute to the overall size of the problem, which interventions these are, and how neglected they are.  

  • Comparing the US prison population & NK: While I agree that the overall size of the problem is greater in NK, it does not help us to understand how much of the problem we can address. The US estimate are limited to prison reforms, but the NK estimate includes the losses from the general population's suffering, which is much broader and complicated.
  • Estimates of total GDP lost in NK: Comparing the $ lost from SK to NK is useful insofar as you're trying to estimate the effect of the communist regime on the prospects of NK. However, I don't think this is maybe the right number when thinking about the near-term gains made from "suceeding". Things that would affect your estimate:
    • What time-scale of gains are you looking at? For example, on the timescale of 50 years perhaps it is reasonable that eventually NK will catch up to SK but in the interim the gains would be less.
    • What solutions are you envisioning and what is the end goal?
      • It seems that a fair number of your proposals are to reduce the suffering but not try to make bigger changes to the overall regime. In that case, it seems that the overall GDP gains are going to be much smaller, and each solution may have a natural limiting factor.
        • e.g. Safe escape routes will have a limiting factor at which point authorities may crack down/make it harder to escape, and mass exodus of millions of people doesn't seem plausible without a breakdown of the entire state.
      • Some of your proposals could lead to regime change - e.g. the dissolution of the NK government or opening up of NK (e.g. lowering the price of exports), then the more appropriate reference  class would be to look at the various Eastern bloc/Soviet countries immediately after their independence. Many countries faced several years of economic recession followed by a slow recovery. Additionally, there is no guarantee, even if things go better than the ex-Soviet countries, what  timescale these changes would happen across. 
      • Does this sound right?
  • Neglectedness: Do you have an estimate range for the amount of funding currently in this space and the number of actors (e.g. organisations?).
  • Tractability: It might have been useful to get a little better sense of the track record of these interventions to date to help compare them better. E.g. how many NK's try and how many succeed to take a escape route?
  • Intervention - Capacity building: I think your point about improving coordination in capacity building is really interesting and I enjoyed reading the Attribution of Moloch post! You mention: "Metainterventions aiming at capacity building are said to be highly robust, and once a more coordinated space emerges, it will be easier for organizations to conduct research on further intervention in the open." - I'm curious what the source is for this?
Meta-EA Needs Models

Terminology comment: Although you refer to Meta EA throughout this post, it seems what you are really talking about is EA community building specifically, as opposed to other Meta EA efforts which could include infrastructure, cross-cutting services to the EA ecosystem, meta research (e.g. global priorities research) etc. Does this sound right, or do you actually also mean other Meta EA activities?

Nathan_Barnard's Shortform

I agree! I think there's some issue here (don't know if there's a word for it) where maybe some critical mass of effort on foreign powers is focused on china, leaving other countries with a big deficit or something. I'm not sure what the solution here is, perhaps other than to make some kind of "the case for becoming a [country X] specialist" for a bunch of potentially influential countries.

How much does performance differ between people?

On a meta-level and unrelated to the post, I very much appreciated the intro and the picture of the cat :)

Learnings from scaling the Effective Altruism and Consulting Network/ an EA group for one profession as umbrella for different workplace groups

Question for Jona/the founders of the groups at other consulting firms: What did you do in the first ~3 months when starting out to get the momentum going at your organizations?

And Jona specifically what did you do to actually create the "network"?

Learnings from scaling the Effective Altruism and Consulting Network/ an EA group for one profession as umbrella for different workplace groups

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