Consider paying me (or another entrepreneur) to create services for effective altruism

td;lr A case for funding me based on feedback on services I run for the community. Aimed at donors who fund community building work at ≥ $5,000/​year and invest ≥ 10 hours/​year on due diligence.

I’m a non-profit entrepreneur in effective altruism. Over four years, I collaborated with charity staff and local organisers to offer services in niches that help us do more good.

Grantmakers made six grants to services I ran. Six EAs kindly transferred one-off donations for me to meet my rent. They gave me the opportunity to form community-building teams in effective altruism and AI safety, organise productive conferences and research retreats, and develop online tools and guides (see below).

Funders hesitated though to cover more than basic operational costs at the start of a new service; or after the fact, to review and compensate me for how useful the service was. Often, I didn’t get paid to do good work.

When I can make it to the next paycheck and not worry over the near-term future, I can direct myself to be creative and productive. EA organisations invest in their staff when they raise salaries, revamp workspaces, and check in on how they are doing. Entrepreneurs too need a nourishing environment to develop their work. In conversations with fellow community builders and project initiators, twenty or so expressed stress, overwhelm, or exhaustion around overseeing their start-up and uncertainties over what to prioritise while not receiving funding and not knowing why (funders also mentioned bottlenecks to sharing actionable feedback).

Stable pay commensurate with a ¼ part-time EA salary (~€1,000/​month) would free up my mental space to make deliberate strategic decisions and consistently manage promising services for the EA community. Currently, my runway is down to 1 month. I’ll receive Dutch small-business assistance soon though, which lasts until April 2021.

If you’re a donor with some spare time, here’s a case for trying to evaluate work by entrepreneurs like me: gaps in infrastructure that fall outside the expertise of large EA organisations get neglected by default. Grantmakers lack bandwidth to assess unfamiliar niches and miss context on what services provide for targeted users. Most earn-to-givers follow charity recommendations or delegate to a centralised fund rather than build up their understanding of a specialised niche. EAs usually don’t pay more than break-even to use a service that enables them to do more good. Yet, entrepreneurs who spot unmet needs but can’t get paid to fulfill them won’t develop services that last.

Email me at remmelt{at} if you consider paying €1,000 or more for my work. If you can scroll down first and come up with any pointed questions, I’d really appreciate it.

Please don’t pay me for EA work because you liked me, because you know the people I know, because I kind of work on the right problem, or because I used elegant concepts.

That’s not the point of this post. I do hope it provokes you – to consider how you would couple feedback on services with funding for the entrepreneurs who create them.

Personally, I want to be paid more based on

  • feedback on the extent to which a past service enabled or hindered aspiring EAs.

  • the care I take in soliciting feedback from users and in passing that on to strategy coaches and evaluating funders.

  • how I use feedback from users and advisors to refine and prioritise next services.

Future work

I prioritise safeguarding society’s long-term trajectory for the common good of all beings. I broadly (but not exclusively) focus on work that

  • enables better coordinated decision-making in the EA community.

  • helps ensure that developed and deployed AI algorithms align with shared human values and assist us to become wiser.

Here’s how I can serve dedicated groups to do work there:

  1. Spot a gap as to where the community focuses its thinking and efforts.
    2017 example: AI safety researchers focus on the scenario of a single self-improving AI and haven’t written about how interactions between negotiation agents acting on behalf of customers/​interest groups would look like.

  2. Inquire into considerations on how large a gap is and how useful or tractable a service would be there, in comparison to others.
    2019 example: what’s actually blocking EA community entrepreneurs from getting actionable feedback and funding for past work?

  3. Sketch out an inventive solution.
    2019 example: offer a discounted Asana task-management space to streamline the productivity of EA start-ups and their collaboration with other organisations.

  4. Consult with advisors on a theory of change and onboard any collaborators to make that change happen.
    2020 example: can we involve PhDs & their supervisors in AI Safety Amsterdam?

  5. Coordinate efforts to iteratively improve a service and review feedback on whether it actually helps our target users do more good.
    2020 example: how do I make my amateur research on group ‘blindspots and brightspots’ understandable and potentially useful as a tool?

  6. Routinise workflows; pay volunteers who were excellent at role; advise managers.
    2020 example: should & how would we professionalise AI Safety Camp’s management?

An alternative path: find a stable corporate job through which I can learn some skills.
This is something I’m seriously considering.

Current services

I am facilitating formats that help EA-dedicated groups refine decisions and resolve bottlenecks towards doing more good.

My main focus is to

Furthermore, I

Past services

See bullet points below for success cases.
A broad pattern: I bring together EA collaborators to work out a service that enables us and dedicated others to resolve our uncertainties and bottlenecks to doing more good. With our guidance, others then form new teams to address more specific bottlenecks (to solving pressing problems through particular professions).

Larger groups I initiated

  • Cofounded EA Netherlands as registered charity in 2017 (oversaw operations until mid-2020; now managed by Jan-Willem van Putten and Marieke de Visscher)

  • Co-launched AI Safety Camp in 2018 (co-organised edition 1, 3, 4)

At each group, a dozen or more of my teammates’ efforts were essential for developing our services. To gauge my share, ask them.

Another reason to inquire into EAN and AISC (incl. CBG & LTFF grantmakers’ decisions) is that both groups have room for funding to professionalise further. I am not asking for funding here for these groups but for my individual entrepreneurial efforts.

Projects I supported

… by overseeing EA Netherlands projects:

  • Coordinated our Dutch EA yearly conferences and retreats from 2017 to early 2019 (helped us onboard most of our EAN project managers; a few entrepreneurs found contributors to start projects incl. proto-Happier Lives Institute)

  • Registered charities for Dutch tax-deductibility in 2020 (initially under Stan van Wingerden, a donation of €10-15 million was left in a will to a GiveDirectly; under my 2020 contract, I assisted Andrea de Wildt in her starting an online donation guide/​bespoke advice service)

… by coaching Dutch initiators:

  • Advised EA policy workshop in 2020 (to set a manager and to apply for EA Infrastructure Fund grant)

  • Encouraged EA Meditation’s start and invited over first 20 attendants in 2020

  • Encouraged local organisers to consistently run 8 EA or cause/​profession-specific meetups from 2016 to 2019 (of which I started 2)

… by coordinating volunteer roles and meetings for AI Safety Camp editions:
Note: project outputs are easier to measure but AISC seems to impact more through participants learning by trying research and picking up on the mindsets of others, and by considering their fit for paid roles

… through correspondence with international EAs:

  • Suggested wording changes to a draft of CEA’s 2020 plans (Max Dalton found the phrasing suggestions useful, and made significant changes to the writing on the basis of them)

  • Recommended CEA to narrow down and communicate the scope of their work in one-on-one conversations with 3 staff members in 2018-2019

  • Initiated discussions between Harri Besceli and European EA organisers to plan an organisers’ retreat in 2017, which probably caused CEA’s Community Building Retreat to happen sooner (small chance it wouldn’t have happened otherwise, not clear that the effect was net positive though probably was)

  • Initiated two meetings between Vaidehi Agarwalla and EA organisers interested in local career coaching in 2019, which sped up the process of Local Career Advice Network’s start

  • Suggested an EA discount on Queal meal replacement powder in 2018 (now used by many European EAs)

  • Posted my Values-to-Actions framework in 2018, which was useful for CLT staff to structure a strategy meeting, for a Convergence strategy post, and for the thinking of individual organisers at EA Harvard (Alex Fidlr drafted own GDoc), Germany (Alex Herwitz published a business process management paper using it), London, Geneva, and Toronto

Other services

  • Email me for a 22-page reflection on services I’ve run and aggregated feedback

  • Plan a call to clarify (also let me know if I missed or oversimplified a point)

Until early 2019, I attempted many other services that turned out to be only somewhat useful or had no pent-up demand. The exploration itself was useful. I did juggle between too many commitments that I stuck to for too long. I fell short in building consensus with partners, managing volunteers, and in marketing to newcomers. This wasted attention or left bad impressions for some people we’d want to involve. Since then, I’ve cut the number of projects I commit big to, prepare longer to question assumptions and handle contingencies, explain intentions more concisely and consistently, and listen more for personal perspectives and needs.

Thanks for reading to the end! Let me leave you with this question:
How would you couple feedback on services better with funding for the entrepreneurs who create them?