Effective animal advocacy movement building: a neglected opportunity?

Dis­claimer: I am an em­ployee of Sen­tience In­sti­tute but this post rep­re­sents en­tirely my own views, rather than those of my em­ploy­ers or those pro­vid­ing feed­back on the post. Thank you to Joey Savoie and Mar­i­anne van der Werf for their com­ments on an ear­lier draft of this post.


Or­gani­sa­tions such as the Cen­tre for Effec­tive Altru­ism and 80,000 Hours, as well as the in­di­vi­d­u­als in­volved in lo­cal effec­tive al­tru­ism (EA) groups, have con­ducted ex­cel­lent work sup­port­ing as­piring EAs to do good. How­ever, these or­gani­sa­tions and many of the in­di­vi­d­u­als in­volved in lo­cal EA groups fo­cus pre­dom­i­nantly on sup­port­ing work on re­duc­ing ex­is­ten­tial risk (x-risk), ei­ther di­rectly or in­di­rectly, es­pe­cially ex­tinc­tion risk.[1] The com­mu­ni­ties of other cause ar­eas, such as the effec­tive an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy com­mu­nity (EAA, i.e. the in­ter­sec­tion of effec­tive al­tru­ism and an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy) have com­pa­rably less ac­cess to move­ment-build­ing ser­vices than do those in the EA com­mu­nity who pri­ori­tise re­duc­ing ex­tinc­tion risks. There is likely sub­stan­tial un­met de­mand for move­ment build­ing ser­vices in EAA.

EAA move­ment build­ing pro­jects are sug­gested that might meet this de­mand. Some of these pro­jects may be best-suited to vol­un­teers, some to new, tar­geted or­gani­sa­tions, and some to ex­ist­ing EAA or­gani­sa­tions. Some gen­eral con­sid­er­a­tions of the ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages that each of these has for tak­ing up EAA move­ment build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties are listed.

The ne­glect­ed­ness of EAA move­ment build­ing work

Con­cep­tu­al­ised broadly, sev­eral or­gani­sa­tions play im­por­tant roles in grow­ing the EAA move­ment, such as An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors and Sen­tience In­sti­tute. Th­ese or­gani­sa­tions are pri­mar­ily re­search or­gani­sa­tions and much of the move­ment-build­ing work that they have un­der­taken has fo­cused on pro­mot­ing en­gage­ment with this re­search.[2] They have not fo­cused as much on the growth of EAA as some non-an­i­mal-spe­cific or­gani­sa­tions have fo­cused on the growth of the EA com­mu­nity. Some EAA or­gani­sa­tions have or­ganised events aimed at sup­port­ing an­i­mal ad­vo­cates to be effec­tive (ex­am­ples in­clude CEVA, ProVeg, and Open Cages), though there may be more op­por­tu­ni­ties for us­ing events to build a com­mu­nity fo­cused on max­imis­ing its im­pact.[3]

The Cen­tre for Effec­tive Altru­ism (CEA) and 80,000 Hours are or­gani­sa­tions that fulfil spe­cific func­tions for the EA com­mu­nity but do not pri­ori­tise sup­port­ing the EAA com­mu­nity as highly as much as some other cause ar­eas.

CEA notes that it “as­signs spe­cial im­por­tance to re­duc­ing ex­is­ten­tial risk… While we think that there are pos­i­tive long-term in­di­rect effects from, e.g., in­ter­ven­tions to re­duce global poverty or pro­mote an­i­mal welfare, we think that those effects are grad­u­ally re­duced with time and hence won’t have a large per­ma­nent effect on the world.” This view pre­sum­ably af­fects pri­ori­ti­sa­tion de­ci­sions within each of CEA’s pro­jects. For ex­am­ple, in this list of EA grants re­cip­i­ents in Fall 2017, only 2 of 21 re­cip­i­ents (5.2% of the to­tal money granted) went di­rectly to EAA work.[4] Ad­di­tion­ally, the first draft of the sec­ond edi­tion of the EA Hand­book re­ceived crit­i­cism that it was ex­ces­sively fo­cused on x-risk, es­pe­cially AI safety and ex­tinc­tion risks. In con­trast, Effec­tive Altru­ism Funds is also a pro­ject of CEA and in­cludes a fund fo­cused on an­i­mal welfare.

80,000 Hours states that they are per­suaded that “the most im­por­tant challenge of the next cen­tury is to re­duce ‘ex­is­ten­tial risk’… Cur­rently, we’re most con­cerned by the risk of global catas­tro­phes that might lead to billions of deaths and threaten to per­ma­nently end civil­i­sa­tion.” In ad­di­tion to ex­plicit state­ments about the or­gani­sa­tion’s views on cause pri­ori­ti­sa­tion, there is ev­i­dence to sug­gest that 80,000 Hours does not pri­ori­tize EAA as much as some other cause ar­eas:

  • Of the recorded im­pact-ad­justed sig­nifi­cant plan changes that 80,000 Hours is re­spon­si­ble for, the or­gani­sa­tion notes that “all of the rated-100 plan changes, and most of those rated-10, are fo­cused on global catas­trophic risks or ‘meta’ prob­lem ar­eas.”[5]

  • Of their 57 pod­casts, only 5 in­cor­po­rate an ob­vi­ous fo­cus on an­i­mal is­sues, al­though many of the oth­ers will be use­ful for as­piring EAAs.

  • Although 7 of their 12 listed “pri­or­ity paths” that they offer ca­reer coach­ing for could plau­si­bly in­volve peo­ple who fo­cus on an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy, a ded­i­cated cat­e­gory is not listed in the way that “AI policy and strat­egy re­search and im­ple­men­ta­tion” is.

  • Their cause pro­file on fac­tory farm­ing has not been up­dated since April 2016.

  • On their high im­pact job board, fac­tory farm­ing is not listed un­der “top recom­mended prob­lems” but un­der “other press­ing prob­lems.”

At the lo­cal level, one of the main mechanisms through which EAs en­deav­our to grow the com­mu­nity is through run­ning lo­cal EA groups. In the 2018 EA sur­vey, 1,018 re­spon­dents (39.1% of the to­tal) re­ported be­ing “mem­bers” of a lo­cal group. There are, how­ever, very few lo­cal EA groups that have sub-com­mu­ni­ties fo­cused speci­fi­cally on sup­port­ing the growth of EAA. To my knowl­edge, Effec­tive An­i­mal Altru­ism Lon­don was the first group with such a com­mu­nity. I am aware of or­ganisers in Brighton (UK), Swe­den, the Nether­lands, and France who have ei­ther set up such groups or who have con­sid­ered do­ing so. I am un­aware of the pro­por­tion of lo­cal EA groups that have in­di­vi­d­u­als who have offi­cial or un­offi­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity for fo­cus­ing on sup­port­ing the growth of EAA.

I don’t want to ex­ag­ger­ate the ne­glect­ed­ness of EAA move­ment build­ing work. Sev­eral EA move­ment build­ing, “meta,” and other multi-causal or­gani­sa­tions in­clude an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy as part of their work and seem to con­sider it a high pri­or­ity:

  • Open Philan­thropy Pro­ject con­sider farm an­i­mal welfare a “fo­cus area.”

  • Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship are fo­cus­ing pri­mar­ily on an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy this year.

  • Re­think Pri­ori­ties’ re­search agenda is cur­rently ex­plic­itly fo­cused on “pri­ori­ti­za­tion and re­search work within in­ter­ven­tions aimed at non­hu­man an­i­mals” and “un­der­stand­ing EA move­ment growth.”

  • Founders Pledge have a re­search re­port on “Cor­po­rate Cam­paigns for An­i­mal Welfare” and their ser­vices are ad­ver­tised as be­ing tai­lored to the “unique val­ues” of the founder, al­though I’m not sure of the ex­tent to which FP tries to en­courage founders to sup­port par­tic­u­lar causes and the ex­tent to which an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy is pri­ori­tised within that.

  • EA Foun­da­tion lists their fo­cus as “efforts to re­duce the worst risks of as­tro­nom­i­cal suffer­ing (s-risks) from ad­vanced ar­tifi­cial in­tel­li­gence.” How­ever, my im­pres­sion is that, given their in­ter­est in s-risk, EAF is sym­pa­thetic and sup­port­ive of EAA efforts. For ex­am­ple, Wild An­i­mal Suffer­ing Re­search was pre­vi­ously a pro­ject of EAF, though I am not sure of the cur­rent re­la­tion­ship be­tween EAF and Wild An­i­mal Ini­ti­a­tive, which has re­placed WASR.

Un­met de­mand for EAA move­ment build­ing services

It is the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble that the EAA com­mu­nity is too small to have much need for move­ment build­ing ser­vices, in con­trast to the EA com­mu­nity more broadly. This seems un­likely to be the case, how­ever.

Ev­i­dence sug­gests that there are prob­a­bly a large num­ber of in­di­vi­d­u­als and EAA or­gani­sa­tions that could benefit from EAA move­ment build­ing ser­vices:

  • Nearly 39% of 2,455 re­spon­dents to the 2018 EA sur­vey ranked an­i­mal welfare as the “top” or “near top” pri­or­ity cause area, though by this mea­sure it was the fifth largest cause area. Of the 1,891 pro­vid­ing some in­for­ma­tion about dona­tion, 89 noted hav­ing donated to an­i­mal welfare or­gani­sa­tions, with a mean dona­tion value of $10,975.

  • Open Philan­thropy Pro­ject gave out just un­der $28 mil­lion to farmed an­i­mal welfare op­por­tu­ni­ties in 2018, with CEA’s EA Funds and and ACE’s EAA Fund hav­ing given fur­ther funds.

  • The an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy com­mu­nity more widely con­tains other or­gani­sa­tions that at least par­tially al­ign with EA val­ues, co­or­di­nate with EAA or­gani­sa­tions, and have em­ploy­ees who en­gage with some EAA re­search. Some of these or­gani­sa­tions have ac­cess to sub­stan­tial re­sources; for ex­am­ple, the Hu­mane So­ciety of the United States had $142.4 mil­lion in rev­enue in 2017. This all sug­gests that there is a large num­ber of in­di­vi­d­u­als who are us­ing their ca­reers to ad­vo­cate for an­i­mals; of these in­di­vi­d­u­als, some may be in­ter­ested in move­ment build­ing ser­vices to sup­port them to max­imise their im­pact for an­i­mals, even if they are not cur­rently in­ter­ested in the ser­vices cur­rently offered to the EA com­mu­nity.

Ev­i­dence sug­gests that there are prob­a­bly a large num­ber of in­di­vi­d­u­als and EAA or­gani­sa­tions that could benefit speci­fi­cally from EAA ca­reers ser­vices:

  • 80,000 Hours have noted that there is sub­stan­tial un­met de­mand for their own one-to-one ca­reers ad­vis­ing ser­vices. Pre­sum­ably, some pro­por­tion of this de­mand rep­re­sents in­di­vi­d­u­als fo­cused on or in­ter­ested in EAA. Ad­di­tion­ally, other in­di­vi­d­u­als whose ap­pli­ca­tions for ad­vis­ing ser­vices have been re­jected by 80,000 Hours may have been ac­cepted by a com­pa­rable or­gani­sa­tion that pri­ori­tised an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy more highly.

  • 6 of 42 peo­ple sub­mit­ting their in­for­ma­tion to join the effec­tive an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy com­mu­nity di­rec­tory (14%) said that they had ca­reer de­ci­sions com­ing up in the next three months. 8 (19%) said a con­ver­sa­tion about their ca­reer plans with some­one with sev­eral years ex­pe­rience in the effec­tive an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy com­mu­nity would be “Likely to be very helpful.”[6]

  • In a sur­vey of “30 lead­ers and re­searchers in the an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy move­ment” con­ducted by Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship (CE), “In­crease tal­ent pipeline to orgs” had a weighted av­er­age rat­ing of 2.6 (raw av­er­age 2.2), and “In­crease tal­ent pipeline to fo­cus­ing on China and In­dia” had a weighted av­er­age rat­ing of 2.7 (raw av­er­age 2.2), where 1 rep­re­sents “low promis­ing­ness” and 4 rep­re­sents “high­est promis­ing­ness.” “Helping NGOs work across bor­ders” had a weighted av­er­age rat­ing of 1.8 (raw av­er­age 1.7). For any one pos­si­ble in­ter­ven­tion, the high­est weighted av­er­age score was 3.0, the low­est was 1.5, and the mean was 2.2.

  • Anec­do­tally, some spe­cific sets of skills or ex­pe­riences are lack­ing in the EAA move­ment, and hiring for these sorts of roles is difficult. For ex­am­ple, David Co­man-Hidy and An­drea Gunn, pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­dent of The Hu­mane League re­spec­tively, sug­gested at a Q&A event that man­age­ment ex­pe­rience was a key bot­tle­neck for EAA.[7] They also listed other sets of skills or ex­pe­riences that were in de­mand, such as in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, PR, de­sign, and le­gal ca­pac­i­ties.

  • Many coun­tries lack much an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy work when com­pared to coun­tries like the US, given the scale of suffer­ing caused by an­i­mal farm­ing in those coun­tries. Notable ex­am­ples in­clude China, where the abil­ity for in­ter­na­tional non-prof­its to ex­pand to China is limited, and In­dia. Devel­op­ing EAA in these coun­tries seems likely to de­pend in part in iden­ti­fy­ing and sup­port­ing po­ten­tial lead­ers who already live there.

  • In­clud­ing both in­tern­ships and full-time work, The Hu­mane League has 7 va­can­cies listed on their web­site, The Good Food In­sti­tute has 6, and An­i­mal Equal­ity has 18. Pre­sum­ably, other po­ten­tially highly im­pact­ful or­gani­sa­tions in EAA have fur­ther va­can­cies. The 80,000 Hours job board lists 72 op­por­tu­ni­ties fo­cused on fac­tory farm­ing.[8]

  • A sur­vey of EA or­gani­sa­tions by 80,000 Hours pro­vided var­i­ous ev­i­dence that tal­ent was more of a con­straint than fund­ing, al­though An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors and Sen­tience In­sti­tute were the only in­cluded or­gani­sa­tions that fo­cused pri­mar­ily on an­i­mal is­sues, rep­re­sent­ing 2 re­spon­dents out of 36.

Ev­i­dence sug­gests that EAA or­gani­sa­tions, es­pe­cially re­search or­gani­sa­tions and those con­duct­ing move­ment build­ing /​ meta work, could benefit speci­fi­cally from in­creased fund­ing:

  • Although OPP gave out just un­der $28 mil­lion to farmed an­i­mal welfare op­por­tu­ni­ties in 2018, an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy or­gani­sa­tions that are par­tially or not at all al­igned with EA val­ues have ac­cess to much more sub­stan­tial re­sources; for ex­am­ple, the Hu­mane So­ciety of the United States had $142.4 mil­lion in rev­enue in 2017 and Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals had $44.6 mil­lion.

  • Any of the char­i­ties recom­mended by An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors are recom­mended be­cause ACE be­lieves they have room for more fund­ing.

  • From a limited num­ber of con­ver­sa­tions, my im­pres­sion is that EAA re­search or­gani­sa­tions get sev­eral high qual­ity ap­pli­cants dur­ing hiring rounds; progress seems likely to be slowed more by a lack of fund­ing, which would oth­er­wise per­mit them to hire more re­searchers, than by a lack of good can­di­dates. [9]

EAA or­gani­sa­tions could benefit from greater di­ver­sity, equity, and in­clu­sion, es­pe­cially in the medium to long term[10]:

  • Although women make up a large pro­por­tion of US farmed an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy or­gani­sa­tions (70% at the 4 groups sur­veyed by Open Philan­thropy Pro­ject), but 40% of CEOs/​ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors.

  • In their April 2018 sur­vey, “En­com­pass found that only 38 in­di­vi­d­u­als out of ap­prox­i­mately 330 peo­ple iden­tify as peo­ple of color across 11 of the largest farmed an­i­mal pro­tec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions.”

Many in­di­vi­d­u­als and EAA or­gani­sa­tions could prob­a­bly benefit speci­fi­cally from greater aware­ness and en­gage­ment with ex­ist­ing EAA re­search:

  • Some or­gani­sa­tions seem to op­er­ate in a man­ner that is con­trary to the recom­men­da­tions of EAA re­searchers. EAA re­searchers seem to be fairly con­fi­dent that re­sources should be di­rected to­wards in­sti­tu­tional tac­tics, rather than in­di­vi­d­ual tac­tics, yet many or­gani­sa­tions con­tinue to fo­cus pre­dom­i­nantly or ex­clu­sively on in­di­vi­d­ual out­reach.

  • I would guess that the num­ber of in­di­vi­d­u­als with sub­stan­tial de­ci­sion-mak­ing power at EAA or­gani­sa­tions who reg­u­larly read new EAA re­search is un­der 20.

  • In CE’s sur­vey of 30 an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy lead­ers and re­searchers, “Spread­ing re­search to NGOs” had a weighted av­er­age rat­ing of 2.0 (raw av­er­age 1.9).[11]

EAA or­gani­sa­tions could prob­a­bly benefit speci­fi­cally from greater co­or­di­na­tion be­tween those work­ing on similar prob­lems:

  • Anec­do­tally, I am aware of a small num­ber of in­stances where pro­jects by an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy or­gani­sa­tions have some­what over­lapped, and this has cre­ated fric­tion.

  • EAA re­searchers have no cen­tral­ised pri­ori­ti­sa­tion sys­tem apart from monthly calls to dis­cuss planned and on­go­ing pro­jects.

  • I am not aware of many shared re­sources that are spe­cific to cer­tain types of role within EAA, such as shared re­sources for in­sti­tu­tional out­reach to en­courage bet­ter pro­vi­sion of an­i­mal-free foods, or shared re­sources to sup­port strate­gic de­ci­sion-mak­ing in cor­po­rate welfare cam­paigns.

  • In CE’s sur­vey of 30 an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy lead­ers and re­searchers, “Im­prov­ing NGO co­or­di­na­tion” had a weighted av­er­age rat­ing of 1.8 (raw av­er­age 1.8) and “Con­fer­ences” had a weighted av­er­age rat­ing of 2.2 (raw av­er­age 2.2).[10]

My com­ments in this post are quite spec­u­la­tive, based off limited ex­plo­ra­tion of these is­sues. Small, in­de­pen­dent pro­jects could have in­for­ma­tion value, en­abling the EA com­mu­nity to bet­ter as­sess whether there gen­uinely is much un­met de­mand for EAA move­ment build­ing work, and how tractable it is to meet that de­mand.

Ideas for po­ten­tial pro­jects in EAA move­ment building

The lists be­low are in­tended as a start­ing point for brain­storm­ing po­ten­tial pro­jects in EAA move­ment build­ing. I en­courage read­ers to sug­gest fur­ther pro­ject ideas in the com­ments. I have not in­cluded re­search pro­jects where the main goal is bet­ter un­der­stand­ing, but have in­cluded some re­search pro­ject ideas that seem more about ad­vo­cacy or build­ing con­nec­tions. The sug­ges­tions are or­ganised by the fol­low­ing six bot­tle­necks in EAA:

  1. A lack of lead­ers, co-founders, and en­gaged ad­vo­cates (with an EAA mind­set) in coun­tries out­side of North Amer­ica and west­ern Europe.

  2. A lack of fund­ing, es­pe­cially for re­search or­gani­sa­tions and move­ment build­ing /​ meta work.

  3. A lack of man­age­ment ex­pe­rience and lead­er­ship “tal­ent” in or­gani­sa­tions do­ing di­rect work.

  4. A lack of di­ver­sity, equity, and in­clu­sion.

  5. A lack of aware­ness and en­gage­ment with ex­ist­ing EAA re­search among an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy or­gani­sa­tions.[12]

  6. A lack of co­or­di­na­tion be­tween those work­ing on similar prob­lems.

Pro­jects to iden­tify and sup­port lead­ers in coun­tries out­side North Amer­i­can and west­ern Europe:

  • Co­or­di­nate closely with EAA or­gani­sa­tions that might be in­ter­ested in sup­port­ing pro­jects in these coun­tries to cre­ate pri­ori­tised lists of po­ten­tial pro­jects in those coun­tries. In­vest in tra­di­tional re­cruit­ment ap­proaches (e.g. on­line ad­ver­tis­ing) for those roles and pro­jects in those coun­tries, act­ing as an um­brella re­cruiter for EAA.

  • If you live in one of these coun­tries, cre­ate or sup­port a lo­cal EAA group or run an EAA con­fer­ence. If you don’t live in one of these coun­tries, you could con­sider mov­ing to one and do­ing the same, though this might be challeng­ing to do well with­out gen­er­at­ing hos­tility or dam­ag­ing the rep­u­ta­tion and op­por­tu­ni­ties available to the EAA move­ment longer-term.

  • At­tend con­fer­ences on ad­ja­cent top­ics of in­ter­est (such as other non-profit work) in these coun­tries, to iden­tify po­ten­tial lead­ers and con­nect them with ideas and op­por­tu­ni­ties.

  • Look through the effec­tive an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy di­rec­tory and EA Hub and see if there is any sup­port that you can offer to in­di­vi­d­u­als liv­ing in those coun­tries, es­pe­cially if they are already en­gaged in work re­lat­ing to these tasks.[13]

  • Run an EAA pod­cast that in­vites guests work­ing in those coun­tries and helps to bring aware­ness of the is­sues that they face to a wider EAA au­di­ence.

  • Do ex­plo­ra­tory re­search into the differ­ent con­texts in those coun­tries.[14] Us­ing this re­search, write up blog posts or EA Fo­rum posts about how con­clu­sions from EAA re­search might differ in those coun­tries. Note, how­ever, that there are risks in­volved with do­ing this, and ACE took down their in­tern’s re­port on an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy in China.

Pro­jects to sup­port fund­ing to be di­rected to EAA or­gani­sa­tions, es­pe­cially to re­search or­gani­sa­tions and move­ment build­ing /​ meta work:

  • Donate di­rectly.

  • Con­duct some form of out­reach to a wider au­di­ence (e.g. ex­ist­ing fun­ders of an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy groups, lo­cal EA groups, or grant-mak­ing foun­da­tions) about the value of re­search in EAA. This could range from Face­book posts to speaker events to writ­ing up blog posts with de­tailed mod­els of the ex­pected value of cer­tain types of re­search com­pared to cer­tain types of di­rect work.

  • Write an an­nual post eval­u­at­ing differ­ent EAA re­search or­gani­sa­tions, per­haps us­ing ACE’s char­ity eval­u­a­tions and the an­nual AI al­ign­ment liter­a­ture re­view and char­ity com­par­i­son posts on the EA fo­rum as in­spira­tion.

Pro­jects to iden­tify and con­nect man­age­ment ex­pe­rience and lead­er­ship “tal­ent” to or­gani­sa­tions do­ing di­rect work:

  • Run ex­per­i­ments to iden­tify what works in hiring and train­ing in the an­i­mal move­ment. Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship have sug­gested that “Ex­per­i­ments could be con­ducted in 3 differ­ent ar­eas: find­ing, train­ing, and sort­ing.”

  • Provide ca­reers ad­vice similar to that offered by 80,000 Hours, but tar­geted speci­fi­cally to­wards EAA.

  • Ca­reer coach­ing calls for those who seek it. Although I think this work would be bet­ter suited to a new EAA move­ment build­ing org, some vol­un­tary work could be done through the EAA di­rec­tory by those with ap­pro­pri­ate knowl­edge and ex­per­tise. When peo­ple in­putted their re­sponses, I col­lected re­sponses to a ques­tion about whether peo­ple would benefit from ca­reers ad­vice now or in the near fu­ture which could be made ac­cessible to se­lected in­di­vi­d­u­als.

  • Be­come very knowl­edge­able and fa­mil­iar with ex­ist­ing job op­por­tu­ni­ties in EAA, and then 1) post a com­pre­hen­sive list of these at a fixed in­ter­val (I’ve started to do this on the EAA dis­cus­sion Face­book group and my per­sonal blog’s monthly newslet­ter, but don’t have enough time to do this very com­pre­hen­sively) and/​or 2) con­nect promis­ing can­di­dates to rele­vant ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties.

  • Do some­thing that gets EAA ideas and aware­ness of the ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties re­lat­ing to EAA out to a wider (rele­vant/​ex­pe­rienced) au­di­ence. Ex­am­ples in­clude a pod­cast, giv­ing lo­cal talks, or writ­ing op-eds. Ob­vi­ously, if these can be tar­geted to­wards peo­ple with the rele­vant ex­pe­rience needed, then this is prefer­able.

  • Lo­cal events that con­nect in­di­vi­d­u­als to op­por­tu­ni­ties, or reach out to tar­get au­di­ences with po­ten­tially rele­vant ex­per­tise. Ex­am­ples in­clude uni­ver­sity lec­tures hosted by EA, an­i­mal, or ca­reers groups through to work­shops with em­ploy­ees of an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy or­gani­sa­tions or en­gaged EAAs.

Pro­jects to im­prove di­ver­sity, equity, and in­clu­sion:

  • Sup­port ex­ist­ing ini­ti­a­tives such as those by En­com­pass.

  • En­sure or­ga­ni­za­tions have proper poli­cies on ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion, and that they en­force these poli­cies.

  • Make a con­scious effort to net­work with and men­tor peo­ple from de­mo­graph­ics who are un­der­rep­re­sented in the EAA move­ment.

  • Fol­low recom­men­da­tions for in­clu­sive pro­cesses re­lated to staff.

  • Create and dis­tribute men­tal health re­sources for an­i­mal ad­vo­cates.

Pro­jects to build aware­ness and en­gage­ment with ex­ist­ing EAA re­search among an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy or­gani­sa­tions:

  • Create a pod­cast that pro­vides an ac­cessible re­source and dis­cusses EAA strat­egy and re­search.

  • Or­ganise lo­cal events for em­ploy­ees of an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy or­gani­sa­tions.

  • Give talks to em­ploy­ees of an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy or­gani­sa­tions.

  • Fund the cre­ation of roles at ex­ist­ing EAA or­gani­sa­tions where en­gag­ing with EAA re­search, dis­sem­i­nat­ing it to ap­pro­pri­ate in­di­vi­d­u­als within the or­gani­sa­tion, and pos­si­bly not­ing/​eval­u­at­ing how far this re­search af­fects the or­gani­sa­tion’s prac­tice, are part of the em­ployee’s job de­scrip­tion.

Pro­jects to sup­port co­or­di­na­tion be­tween those work­ing on similar prob­lems:

  • Ex­pand the EAA di­rec­tory and sup­port its use more widely for this pur­pose (get in touch if you’re in­ter­ested in do­ing this).

  • Con­duct tar­geted in­ter­views with peo­ple of par­tic­u­lar role types and write up the find­ings.

  • Help to run a con­fer­ence tar­geted to spe­cific type of in­ter­ven­tion or role (e.g. here).

  • Create a spread­sheet that lists cur­rent EAA re­search work that is planned or cur­rently be­ing un­der­taken. It is im­por­tant that the spread­sheet has buy-in from all the rele­vant or­gani­sa­tions and its use is made to be a reg­u­lar fea­ture of in­di­vi­d­u­als’ re­search plan­ning,

  • Create a sys­tem for pri­ori­tis­ing re­search across effec­tive an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy that can be used by all the rele­vant re­searchers, de­spite their slightly differ­ing val­ues and or­gani­sa­tional goals.

  • Offer fund­ing for or­gani­sa­tions that is con­di­tional upon them buy­ing into par­tic­u­lar mechanisms for co­or­di­na­tion.

Should vol­un­teers, new or­gani­sa­tions, or ex­ist­ing or­gani­sa­tions take up EAA move­ment build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties?

Some par­tic­u­lar pro­jects may be es­pe­cially poorly suited to be­ing con­ducted by vol­un­teers, but for smaller, less am­bi­tious, less risky pro­jects, I cur­rently be­lieve that there are mul­ti­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties for vol­un­teers to con­tribute to­wards EAA move­ment build­ing. Gen­eral con­sid­er­a­tions for whether vol­un­teers or em­ploy­ees of EAA or­gani­sa­tions are bet­ter placed to take up EAA move­ment build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties are listed be­low.

Ar­gu­ments that vol­un­teers are bet­ter placed to take up EAA move­ment build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties:

  • I would guess that the next best use of time for some­body who does not work full time for an EAA or­gani­sa­tion is, on av­er­age, less use­ful for an­i­mals than the next best use of time for some­body who already works full-time in an EAA or­gani­sa­tion.

  • If a vol­un­teer has suffi­cient sources of in­come from out­side EAA and is will­ing to do un­paid EAA move­ment build­ing pro­jects, then the coun­ter­fac­tual fi­nan­cial cost for an­i­mals will be lower if these pro­jects are com­pleted by that vol­un­teer.

  • The ca­reer cap­i­tal gained by com­plet­ing EAA move­ment build­ing work may be more use­ful on the mar­gin for vol­un­teers than to those already work­ing for EAA or­gani­sa­tions. If they are seek­ing to work in EAA or­gani­sa­tions in the fu­ture them­selves, then this may help to in­crease the pool of good can­di­dates for EAA roles.

  • By al­low­ing vol­un­teers to com­plete these tasks, the pool of peo­ple who could work on any one pro­ject is much larger. Some vol­un­teers may have more rele­vant and ap­pli­ca­ble skills, knowl­edge, and con­nec­tions for cer­tain pro­jects than do the em­ploy­ees of EAA or­gani­sa­tions.

Ar­gu­ments that EAA or­gani­sa­tions (ei­ther new or ex­ist­ing) are bet­ter placed to take up EAA move­ment build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties:

  • Con­cen­trat­ing move­ment build­ing ser­vices into a sin­gle or­gani­sa­tion means that a sin­gle point of con­tact can ac­cu­mu­late rele­vant knowl­edge and more eas­ily co­or­di­nate be­tween a large num­ber of com­mu­nity mem­bers.

  • I would guess that, on av­er­age, vol­un­teers have less rele­vant and ap­pli­ca­ble skills, knowl­edge, and con­nec­tions than em­ploy­ees of EAA or­gani­sa­tions do.

  • I would guess that, on av­er­age, EAA or­gani­sa­tions have bet­ter sys­tems in place for pro­vid­ing sup­port and feed­back on pro­jects than vol­un­teers would have ac­cess to.

  • I would guess that, on av­er­age, em­ploy­ees of EAA or­gani­sa­tions are more likely to be well in­te­grated into the ex­ist­ing EAA com­mu­nity, and more likely to be at­ten­tive to the risks of do­ing some of these pro­jects badly.

  • If a pro­ject ends up re­quiring more time in­put than is ini­tially ex­pected, I would guess that, on av­er­age, a vol­un­teer is more likely to leave the pro­ject un­com­pleted (and the time in­put there­fore be wasted) than are the em­ploy­ees of ex­ist­ing EAA or­gani­sa­tions.

  • I would guess that, on av­er­age, vol­un­teers are more vuln­er­a­ble to value drift than are those already work­ing for EAA or­gani­sa­tions; this sug­gests that any valuable ca­reer cap­i­tal ac­crued from work­ing on the pro­jects is less likely to be used for al­tru­is­tic pur­poses if the pro­jects are done by vol­un­teers.

  • If the vol­un­teers are man­aged by ex­ist­ing EAA or­gani­sa­tions, this may take up time and re­sources that could have been used more pro­duc­tively el­se­where (per­haps just by do­ing the pro­jects di­rectly).

If op­por­tu­ni­ties are to be taken up by em­ploy­ees of or­gani­sa­tions rather than vol­un­teers, it is also im­por­tant to con­sider whether ex­ist­ing or­gani­sa­tions or new, tar­geted or­gani­sa­tions are bet­ter placed to do this. This ques­tion has some ur­gency given that Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship has recom­mended a new move­ment build­ing or­gani­sa­tion fo­cused on tal­ent cre­ation (as well as a new or­gani­sa­tion fo­cused on pri­ori­tis­ing and co­or­di­nat­ing EAA re­search) be founded by the in­di­vi­d­u­als at­tend­ing their in­cu­ba­tion pro­gram this Sum­mer. My cur­rent guess is that ex­ist­ing EAA or­gani­sa­tions would be bet­ter placed to take up most EAA move­ment build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties (such as work sup­port­ing co­or­di­na­tion or pri­ori­ti­sa­tion be­tween those work­ing on similar prob­lems, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing EAA re­search), but that there are some ex­cep­tions to this (such as found­ing a new or­gani­sa­tion to fo­cus on pro­vid­ing ca­reers ser­vices). Gen­eral con­sid­er­a­tions for whether ex­ist­ing EAA or­gani­sa­tions or new, tar­geted or­gani­sa­tions are bet­ter placed to take up EAA move­ment build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties are listed be­low.

Ar­gu­ments sug­gest­ing that ex­ist­ing or­gani­sa­tions are bet­ter placed to take up EAA move­ment build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties:

  • Set­ting up new or­gani­sa­tions re­quires large re­source in­puts for op­er­a­tions tasks such as char­ity reg­is­tra­tion, ac­count­ing, and hiring. If ex­ist­ing or­gani­sa­tions take up op­por­tu­ni­ties for EAA move­ment build­ing, some of these costs can be avoided.

  • Ex­ist­ing or­gani­sa­tions are likely to have more ex­per­tise, knowl­edge, and con­nec­tions within EAA that will sup­port them to com­plete EAA move­ment build­ing tasks suc­cess­fully.

  • Ex­ist­ing or­gani­sa­tions may have more se­cure fund­ing and pos­si­bly greater re­sources over­all.

  • Ex­ist­ing or­gani­sa­tions may have a greater abil­ity to pivot away from a pro­ject if it turns out to be un­suc­cess­ful or in­tractable.

Ar­gu­ments sug­gest­ing that new or­gani­sa­tions are bet­ter placed to take up EAA move­ment build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties:

  • The em­ploy­ees of new or­gani­sa­tions can spe­cial­ise very deeply on spe­cific tasks and so can build up rele­vant skills, knowl­edge, and con­nec­tions. Hiring can also be more speci­fi­cally tar­geted to op­ti­mise for the skills, knowl­edge, and con­nec­tions that will be most use­ful for move­ment build­ing work.

  • In­di­vi­d­u­als who are well-placed to work on par­tic­u­lar EAA move­ment build­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties can start do­ing so in­de­pen­dently (or per­haps with the sup­port of Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship) and don’t need to con­vince ex­ist­ing or­gani­sa­tions that those op­por­tu­ni­ties are worth pri­ori­tis­ing. Similarly, they don’t need to en­sure that they are hired by ex­ist­ing or­gani­sa­tions.

  • Hav­ing more tar­geted or­gani­sa­tions that fo­cus speci­fi­cally on EAA move­ment build­ing make it eas­ier to fund this work be­cause there will be less con­cern about fun­gi­bil­ity.

Next steps

If you are in­ter­ested in tak­ing on any of these op­por­tu­ni­ties, I’d be happy to chat fur­ther; add a com­ment to this post or con­tact me di­rectly at james_a_har­ris@hot­mail.co.uk if you would like to ar­range a time for a call.

I would es­pe­cially wel­come feed­back on the idea of start­ing an EAA pod­cast, as it is quite likely that I will start to do this within the next few months.

I will also start a com­ments thread be­low, so that peo­ple can com­ment on there if they are in­tend­ing to look into or start one of the pro­jects listed here.


[1] Note that for as­piring EAs who agree that in­ter­ven­tions that af­fect the long-term fu­ture should be pri­ori­tised, as I do, then fo­cus­ing on an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy can be jus­tified by a con­cern about the risk of as­tro­nom­i­cal suffer­ing (s-risk, it­self a form of x-risk) in the far fu­ture, and the po­ten­tial to re­duce s-risk through moral cir­cle ex­pan­sion.

[2] Not all move­ment build­ing work by these groups has fo­cused on out­reach re­lated to re­search find­ings. See, for ex­am­ple, ACE’s EAA Fund; the last round was ex­plic­itly fo­cused on ca­pac­ity build­ing.

[3] Note that ACE has or­ganised two events fo­cused on effec­tive­ness.

[4] I couldn’t eas­ily find the most re­cent list. Sev­eral other grants listed as af­fect­ing the “Effec­tive Altru­ism Com­mu­nity” could plau­si­bly sup­port EAA.

[5] In 2018, rated-100 and rated-10 plan changes made up 73% of 80,000 Hours’ self-re­ported im­pact through im­pact-ad­justed sig­nifi­cant plan changes, if the re­sults of nega­tive changes are ex­cluded.

[6] Th­ese two ques­tions aren’t dis­played pub­li­cly on the di­rec­tory, but are in­cluded on the form through which in­di­vi­d­u­als join. The ques­tion of most in­ter­est asked was “Would you find it helpful for some­one with sev­eral years ex­pe­rience in the effec­tive an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy com­mu­nity to reach out to dis­cuss your ca­reer plans with you?” 16 (38%) said this was “Un­likely to be much help,” 10 (24%) said “Pos­si­bly helpful later on, but I wouldn’t pri­ori­tise mak­ing time for this in the near fu­ture, e.g. in the next three months,” and 8 (19%) said “Likely to be some­what helpful.” Note that most of the re­spon­dents are in­volved in a for­mal ca­pac­ity already with an EAA or­gani­sa­tion, so this hasn’t cap­tured many tal­ented peo­ple hop­ing to move into the space, or peo­ple in other roles that may benefit EAA (such as by earn­ing to give, or by work­ing in policy roles).

[7] This was at an event I ran in Lon­don, 16th May, 2019. In re­sponse to a ques­tion about whether The Hu­mane League speci­fi­cally or EAA more widely was lack­ing spe­cific skills, David Co­man-Hidy sug­gested that “the biggest is­sue over­all… is [that] the move­ment in gen­eral is very, very young.” De­spite em­pha­sis­ing some pos­i­tives of this, David noted that “it means a lack of ex­pe­rience work­ing in a pro­fes­sional en­vi­ron­ment, a lack of man­age­ment ex­pe­rience.” An­drea Gunn agreed that man­age­ment ex­pe­rience is “one of the biggest challenges,” and noted that “we see a lot of or­gani­sa­tions strug­gling… and it seems like the lack of man­age­ment ex­pe­rience might be what runs them into the ground.”

[8] There is some over­lap with the 31 va­can­cies that I counted at THL, GFI, and AE. The rest are mostly for roles at or­gani­sa­tions fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing cell-based meat or in­no­va­tive forms of plant-based foods. There were only a small num­ber of roles ad­ver­tised at other cam­paign­ing or­gani­sa­tions, which I sus­pect is be­cause 80,000 Hours does not list them, rather than be­cause they do not ex­ist. Note that I searched for this in­for­ma­tion on the 13th of May, so this may be slightly out of date by the time of post­ing.

[9] I am less than 60% con­fi­dent in this judge­ment, how­ever. Others have differ­ent per­spec­tives.

[10] For dis­cus­sion, see here, here, and here.

[11] 1 rep­re­sents “low promis­ing­ness” and 4 rep­re­sents “high­est promis­ing­ness.” For any one pos­si­ble in­ter­ven­tion, the high­est weighted av­er­age score was 3.0, the low­est was 1.5, and the mean was 2.2.

[12] I’m not in­clud­ing here ac­cep­tance of it’s con­clu­sions. If I in­cluded this, it would shoot higher up the list. But my guess is that work­ing di­rectly on this isn’t very tractable.

[13] In­di­vi­d­u­als that I know of who are do­ing this kind of work in­clude Brian Tse in China, Alex Ivanov in Rus­sia, Wanyi Zeng in Sin­ga­pore, Kate Verda­lyn Lu­pango in the Philip­pines. I haven’t asked these in­di­vi­d­u­als if they have ideas about what help they need, how­ever, and I am sure that there are many other peo­ple do­ing similar work el­se­where.

[14] This could in­volve run­ning sur­veys. More con­ser­va­tively, this could con­sist of some Googling and in­ter­view­ing.