A List of Things For People To Do
A recent post on this forum made it common knowledge that it is really hard to get employed at an EA organisation. This has kickstarted discussion of what people should do (see also discussion on Cause Y). I thought it might be useful to gather various suggestions together and add a few of my own:
Broadening the Range of Jobs Considered: Perhaps people are being too narrow in the range of jobs that they are considering? Aaron points out that the 80,000 hours job board contains hundreds of jobs, many outside of the traditional EA orgs. Beyond that he suggests looking Tom Wein’s collection of job boards. He notes that even jobs that might not be the most effective in and of themselves still adds expertise into our community. These jobs may also provide the kind of experience that allows you to get hired at an EA org.
Earn-to-Give: There has been a lot of discussion about EA being talent rather than funding constrained. However, this seems to mostly apply to established orgs; big donors are reluctant to take risks on newer projects unless the founder has already developed a track record. Smaller scale donors can help fill this gap by funding projects involving people who they know personally and who they are hence in a better position to evaluate. This suggests that a reasonable number of people should earn-to-give even if their potential donation is smaller relative to the bigger donors.
One of the key issues with ETG is that many people don’t find it motivating. One solution I’ve heard suggested is to make funders more of a partner in a project, such as by including them socially and listing them on the team page (see The Reverse Job).
Profiting-To-Give: Another suggestion was that EA should start its own for-profit organisations as this would allow individuals to direct more money to charity than working in a regular organisation. Personally, I think the greatest impact here would be when such organisations can do some pro-bono work—ie. an EA consulting firm doing some consulting for EA orgs or an EA law firm filing public interest cases.
Niche Skillsets: Khorton suggests that there are many skills that 1-5 EAs should develop skills in. This would provide informational value in terms of whether more EAs should develop those skills, as well as reducing the chance of EA missing key considerations.
Joining early stage projects: Raemon argues that the major constraint on EA is being network-constrained. Early stage orgs have to work with people that they know because they don’t have the time to engage in an extensive search and they tend to be limited in their ability to provide compensation. They often need to rely on volunteer or part-time labour; and pay low salaries when they finally can afford to bring you on full time. He argues that the barrier to joining an early stage project tends to be lower than when they are less established.
Volunteering: Aaron lists some suggestions for where to volunteer. You may also want to look at EA Work Club. Some people mightn’t find some of the simpler tasks like editing engaging, but I imagine that there are plenty of opportunities for web development, marketing and graphical design.
Part-time volunteering: It can be hard to make time to volunteer on top of a full-time job, so another option would be to find part-time work and work on EA projects for the rest of the time.
EA movement building: One of the greatest ways to have an impact is to recruit someone as impactful as yourself. If your city already has sufficient organising capacity, you might want to consider moving to a city that could use a committed volunteer.
Hierarchial Networks: Jan suggests that we might be able to achieve more with volunteers if we were able to increase the level of co-ordination. Instead of projects being limited in size to what one person can achieve, someone could be responsible for co-ordinating and dividing up an area into sub-problems. If enough people want to join, the area could be further sub-divided. I would love to be proven wrong, but I worry about our community’s ability to achieve this (see the challenges Givewell has had with volunteers and the shift of .IMPACT/Rethink Charity from volunteers to paid staff).
Earn to Save: Even if you aren’t immediately able to find a position that is highly impactful, you can build up runaway so that you can take advantage of any opportunities that arise in the future.
Introducing EA values into your field: If you don’t have a realistic shot at one of the very limited number of EA positions, why not attempt to introduce EA ideas into whatever field you are currently involved in?
Please contribute additional suggestions in the comments: