The policy topic is very broad, covering any post about improving government policy (in developing and developed countries alike).
Governments are typically committed to the notion that their policies should be effective. This means that members of the effective altruist community can be in a good position to help governments reach their aims. Moreover, the fact that governments are very powerful, and control significant proportions of world GDP, suggests that helping policy-makers can be a high-value strategy. This strategy can be pursued either from the outside—by effective altruist organizations which advise policy-makers—or from the inside—by policy-makers who try to do the most good possible.
Some of the highest-impact reforms affect people who are less able to advocate for their own interests, such as prisoners or migrants. Other policies, like macroeconomic policy and land use reform, have effects that are somewhat diffuse and non-obvious, which makes it difficult to assemble groups to lobby for change. The more mainstream focus areas of global poverty and health, animal welfare and existential risk could also be addressed using political advocacy.
Bowerman, Niel (2014) Good policy ideas that won’t happen (yet), Effective Altruism Forum, September 14.
A look at the viability of changing public policy on certain issues.
Clough, Emily (2015) Effective altruism’s political blind spot, Boston Review, July 14.
An example of one of the main criticisms of effective altruism: that it paid insufficient attention to political advocacy in the past.
Farquhar, Sebastian (2016) Should EAs do policy?, Effective Altruism Global, August 5.
A talk at EA Global 2016 with an overview of why policy work might be effective.
Global Priorities Project (2015) New UK aid strategy – prioritising research and crisis response, Global Priorities Project, December 2.
An example of effective altruist policy work.
Karnofsky, Holden (2013) The track record of policy-oriented philanthropy, Open Philanthropy, November 6.
Articles on Open Philanthropy about policy and philanthropy.
Open Philanthropy (2016) U.S. policy, Open Philanthropy.
The Philanthropy Project’s assesment of policy as a focus area