I agree with you that the orgs you mentioned (e.g. One for the World) are more focused on movement building than some of the other orgs that were invited.
I talked with Amy Labenz (who organized the event) in the course of writing my original reply. We want to clarify that when we said: “At present, we see Leaders Forum as an event focused on movement building and coordination. We focus on inviting people who play a role in trying to shape the overall direction of the EA movement (whatever cause area they focus on)”. We didn’t mean to over-emphasize “movement building” (in the sense of “bringing more people to EA”) relative to “people shaping the overall direction of the EA movement (in the sense of “figuring out what the movement should prioritize, growth or otherwise”).
My use of the term “movement building” was my slight misinterpretation of an internal document written by Amy. The event’s purpose was closer to discussing the goals, health, and trajectory of the movement (e.g. “how should we prioritize growth vs. other things?”) than discussing how to grow/build the movement (e.g. “how should we introduce EA to new people?”)
Thanks! Moved the comment.
What is the ratio of EAs in major altruistic movements such as global poverty, animal rights, and environmentalism?
All three of those movements have enough supporters that EA is no more than a tiny blip. However, farm animal welfare in particular has been dramatically influenced by a large amount of EA funding into a sub-area of animal welfare that had been relatively obscure. I can’t find the reference at the moment, but a 2019 EA Global speaker estimated that the fraction of farm animal welfare funding from EA sources was (if I recall correctly) somewhere between 25% and 50%.
EA-type methodology (though we certainly didn’t invent it) has become much more popular among academics and policymakers focused on global poverty (the most recent economics Nobel went to three academics who popularized it). I would guess, from my experiences working with academics in this field, that most such academics are aware that “effective altruism” is a thing, and perhaps even that GiveWell exists. I don’t know what fraction would self-identify as “EA”, however.
How “big” EA is in governments?
Rachel Glennerster, the head of the UK’s foreign aid department, is an avowed member of the EA movement. Martin Rees, a major longtermist scholar, has been knighted by the British government. A few British MPs are also quite EA-sympathetic.
J-PAL and IPA have placed a lot of advisors (perhaps dozens?) in various developing-country governments over the last few years, being helped in many cases by people inside those governments who were interested in using a quantitative/experimental approach. However, I again don’t know what fraction of these people would self-identify as “EA”.
I’m not aware of any major politicians outside the UK who have made public endorsements of EA or any of EA’s more unusual causes (unless you stretch to include Andrew Yang). But I could easily be unaware of one or more such people!
As a non-follower of the field of academic ethics, this reads to me as potentially interesting, but very obscure (the term “vaguebooking” comes to mind).
However, I’m sure this is much less obscure to academics who know more about the work in question; are there any recent celebrated papers or trends that you think the author may have been targeting?
I wonder if the reason you gave is your true reason?
Yes, that is the true reason.
I was planning to answer “yes” or ”no” for all of the orgs you listed, until I consulted one of the orgs on the list and they asked me not to do this for them (making it difficult to do for the rest). I can see why you’d be skeptical of the reasons that orgs requested privacy, but we think that there are some reasonable concerns here, and we’d like to respect the orgs in question and be cooperative with them.
After talking more internally about this post, we remain uncertain about how to think about sharing information on invited orgs. There’s a transparency benefit, but we also think that it could cause misinterpretation or overinterpretation of a process that was (as Max noted) relatively ad hoc, on top of the privacy issues discussed above.
I can share that several of the orgs you listed did have “representatives”, in the sense that people were invited who work for them, sit on their boards, or otherwise advise them. These invitees either didn’t fill out the survey or were listed under other orgs they also work for. (We classified each person under one org—perhaps we should have included all “related” orgs instead? A consideration for next year.)
The status quo feels like an unsatisfying middle ground with some trappings of transparency but a lot of substantive content withheld.
I can see how we ended up at an awkward middle ground here. In the past, we generally didn’t publish information from Leaders Forum (though 80,000 Hours did post results from a survey about talent gaps given to attendees of the 2018 event). We decided to publish more information this year, but I understand it’s frustrating that we’re not able to share everything you want to know.
To be clear, the event did skew longtermist, and I don’t want to indicate that the attendees were representative of the overall EA community; as we noted in the original post, we think that data from sources like the EA Survey is much more likely to be representative. (And as Max notes, given that the attendees weren’t representative, we might need to rethink the name of the event.)
I’m not sure what you mean, Peter, but I’ll try to be more clear. Of the seven organizations listed in the comment to which I replied, three of them had people invited, according to the list of people who were recorded as having been sent the invite email.
How did you interpret the word “some”? Is there another sense in which you saw the comment as misleading?
Meta-note from a moderator: I will generally make AMA posts sticky for a few days, since they are unusually valuable for people to see soon after they are posted (vs. later on, after the author is no longer actively responding). This may depend on the level of early activity around the post, however.
Thanks for your feedback on including the event’s focus as a limitation of the survey. That’s something we’ll consider if we run a similar survey and decide to publish the data next year.
Some of the organizations you listed had representatives invited who either did not attend or did not fill out the survey. (The survey was emailed to all invitees, and some of those who filled it out didn’t attend the event.) If everyone invited had filled it out, I think the list of represented organizations would look more diverse by your criteria.
The description the founder gave in the NYTimes piece is clearly incorrect.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I think Goldberg was implicitly comparing ImpactMatters to “other ratings” from orgs like Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, Consumer Reports, etc. -- all of which I’d guess are better-known than GiveWell (and also seem much more similar in the types of charities they report on).
Or did you mean some other part of the article?
Edit: Looks like Elijah Goldberg responded! Never mind me, then.
Some organizations may want to avoid being connected explicitly to the EA movement—for example, if almost all their work happens in non-EA circles, where EA might have a mixed reputation. This obviously isn’t the case for all organizations on your list, but answering for some organizations and not others makes it clear which orgs do fall into that category.
In order to preserve the possibility for staff of some organizations to attend without that fact being public, I’m going to refrain from answering further questions about which specific organizations did or didn’t have representatives at the event. See my response to Michael for more on the general criteria that were used to select invitees.
Carly: I’ve categorized this post as “Personal Blog” because it contains very little information that would allow other users to figure out how to best answer your question. If you elaborate further on the problem and some different approaches to solving it, I’d be open to moving this post to “Frontpage”.
I’m in an unusual situation in that I have three different “identities” under which my posts could be categorized: I am an employee of CEA, an EA Forum moderator, and also (in some comments) a private citizen. Since these identities interact in ways that could imply conflict of interest, I try to separate out which one I’m using when it might matter (though not all the time).
I’ve rarely felt as though a disclaimer was necessary, but I do find them helpful in the aforementioned case of “I work for org X”, since that’s hard to keep track of otherwise and often lets me know to trust someone’s views more than I would otherwise (e.g. if they talk about something related to their org that implies insider knowledge).
I think the lumping is present only in this post, so hopefully the concerns will remain separate elsewhere. Thanks for taking the time to tease apart those issues.
I read your reply as being about the possibility of conversion through additional opportunity (e.g. more job openings). The survey didn’t go into that option, but personally, I’d expect that most attendees would classify new positions as being in this category (e.g. the Research Scholars Programme takes people with some topic-level expertise and helps them boost their research skills and dedication by funding them to work on an EA issue for several months).
Those were excerpts of notes taken during a longer and more detailed discussion, for which I wasn’t in the room (since I was there for operations, not to take part in sessions).
My impression is that the discussion involved some amount of “cashing out and operationalization”. The end-of-event survey given to participants included a question: “Are there any actions you plan to take as a results of the Forum?” and several answers clearly hearkened back to these discussion topics. That survey was separate from the Priorities survey and participants took it without the expectation that answers would be shared, so I won’t go into specifics.
(I’ve shared this comment thread with a few attendees to whom I spoke about these issues, in case they want to say more.)
We didn’t attempt to estimate the current distribution of resources before sending out the survey.
I talk about the limitations of the prioritization data in my reply to another comment here. In short: I don’t think the averages are too meaningful, but we wanted to share the data we had collected; the data is also a useful “sanity check” on some commonplace beliefs about EA (e.g. testing whether leaders really care about longtermism to the exclusion of all else).
What criteria were used to decide which orgs/individuals should be invited?
A small team of CEA staffers (I was not one of them) selected an initial invite list (58 people). At present, we see Leaders Forum as an event focused on movement building and coordination. We focus on inviting people who play a role in trying to shape the overall direction of the EA movement (whatever cause area they focus on), rather than people who mostly focus on direct research within a particular cause area. As you’d imagine, this distinction can be somewhat fuzzy, but that’s the mindset with which CEA approaches invites (though other factors can play a role).
To give a specific example, while the Against Malaria Foundation is an important charity for people in EA who want to support global health, I’m not aware of any AMF staffers who have both a strong interest in the EA movement as a whole and some relevant movement-building experience. I don’t think that, say, Rob Mather (AMF’s CEO), or a representative from the Gates Foundation, would get much value from the vast majority of conversations/sessions at the event.
I should also note that the event has gotten a bit smaller over time. The first Leaders Forum (2016) had ~100 invitees and 62 attendees and wasn’t as focused on any particular topic. The next year, we shifted to a stronger focus on movement-building in particular (including community health, movement strategy, and risks to EA), which naturally led to a smaller, more focused invite list.
As with any other CEA program, Leaders Forum may continue to change over time; we aren’t yet sure how many people we’ll invite next year.
Because of this, I don’t think it really makes sense to aggregate data over all cause areas.
I mostly agree! For several reasons, I wouldn’t put much stock in the cause-area data. Most participants likely arrived at their answers very quickly, and the numbers are of course dependent on the backgrounds of the people who both (a) were invited and (b) took the time to respond. However, because we did conduct the survey, it felt appropriate to share what information came out of it, even if the value of that information is limited.
I do, however, think it’s good to have this information to check whether certain “extreme” conditions are present — for example, it would have been surprising and notable if wild animal welfare had wound up with a median score of “0”, as that would seem to imply that most attendees think the cause doesn’t matter at all.
As stated, some orgs are small and so were not named, but still responded. Maybe a breakdown by the cause area for all the respondents would be more useful with the data you have already?
Given the limited utility of the prioritization data, I don’t know how much more helpful a cause-area breakdown would be. (Also, many if not most respondents currently work on more than one of the areas mentioned, but not necessarily with an even split between areas — any number I came up with would be fairly subjective.)
It seems weird to me that DeepMind and the Good Food Institute are on this list, but not, say, the Against Malaria Foundation, GiveDirectly, Giving What We Can, J-PAL, IPA, or the Humane League.
In addition to what I noted above about the types of attendees we aimed for, I’ll note that the list of respondent organizations doesn’t perfectly match who we invited; quite a few other organizations had invitees who didn’t fill out the survey. However, I will note that Giving What We Can (which is a project of CEA and was represented by CEA staff) did have representatives there.
As for organizations like DeepMind or GFI: While some of the orgs on the list are focused on a single narrow area, the employees we invited often had backgrounds in EA movement building and (in some cases) direct experience in other cause areas. (One invitee has run at least three major EA-aligned projects in three different areas.)
This wasn’t necessarily the case for every attendee (as I mentioned, we considered factors other than community-building experience), but it’s an important reason that the org list looks the way it does.
I’m not sure how else a person might be “converted from moderate engagement”, unless they choose to dive deeper on their own. Is there some alternative conversion method you were thinking of?
In a workshop titled “Solutions in EA”, participants considered ways in which they/their organizations/the community could respond to some of these problems. They also voted on others’ suggestions. Some of the most popular ideas:
“In general, try to notice when we can appreciate people for things they’ve done and express that appreciation.”
“Profile individuals outside bio / AI that seem to be doing high impact things (e.g. Center for Election Science).”
“Whenever possible, talk about how awesome it that (say) people with ordinary jobs donate 10% to effective charities, and how honored you are to be a part of a community of people like that.”
“Much heavier caveating about the certainty of our intellectual frameworks and advice in general; instead, more emphasis on high-level principles we want to see followed and illustration of relevant principles.”