Right. So I still might not be fully understanding.
I guess it seems hard for me to understand thinking both:
A) Diet change has more negative effects on wild animals than positive effects on farmed animals.
And B) Diet changes’ negative effects on wild animals are in expectation greater than the positive effects from further work on wild animal welfare (e.g., of the sort WAI completes).
But maybe I am misunderstanding. Do you think both of those?
Separately, and another quick thought, it could be helpful to more formally model it, as that could help with intuitions here.
Part of what seems to be going on in my head is very roughly something like, some diet change CEE gives say a 95% CI [60,140] utils/$, excluding impacts on wild animals. So say mu=100, sigma=20(?)
Then impacts specifically on wild animals cause the estimate to shift somewhat downward. Impacts on wild animals may be, say, [-1000, 900]. Say, mu=-50, sigma=~450
In my head that additional consideration on wild animals just doesn’t shift the mean util/$ estimate much. That is because the variance on that estimate is so large compared to the variance on the original.
I think what may end up mattering a lot for this type of thing is the ratio of the variance on the cee for utils/$ of diet change intervention for farmed animals, compared to the variance on the impact of diet change on wild animals.
How does that all sound to you?:)
Very quickly, here are a few ideas/interventions that seem interesting to me:
Helping scope whether large and respected enviro groups may lobby on this if funding was available
Helping establish additional university-affiliated research centers that focus on research into pb alts
Helping establish trade associations in important places that don’t really have them right now
Honestly, I think there’s just a lot of underexplored territory in the area. To some extent it is now about us diversifying somewhat, trying a number of different approaches, and then re-evaluating as to what has traction. The value of information from exploring some different interventions feels like it could be pretty high to me.
Yeah, I think I would be interested in a variety of scoping projects.
Briefly, some ideas that seem top of mind for me now are:
Someone thinking more about some very preliminary things that could be done in the policy space
Or more about an organization that might focus on wild animal welfare within cities
Or even more about a generalist group that may be to wild animals what GFI is to alt-proteins (some variety of programs and decent emphasis on movement-building)
However, I think the bottleneck here may be more about finding talented people to do this type of work, rather than the outlining of specific ideas.
Honestly, if readers have an idea for something that they would like to explore with regards to wild animal welfare, I expect I would probably be interested in hearing about it!
Yes, definitely helps! :)
Fairly sure it was the ACE Research Fund. :)
Yeah, I think your impression of the ratio is correct.
Briefly, as Michael St Jules notes, AWF interfaces with a much bigger community/movement than the LTFF currently does. I think that goes some of the way to explaining the difference in the ratio. Within the respective remits of each fund, it seems the AWF just generally has a more developed movement that it can grant to. The total FAW movement is > $100M per year. My guess is the total EA-aligned LTF movement is now just a pretty small fraction compared to that total.
I think the research point is also important. My impression is that they tend to have a higher % of grantees focused on research than we do, and that in general, a higher number of research projects tend to be by individuals.
Thanks for all your questions! :)
>What processes do you have for monitoring the outcome/impact of grants?
We have a ~10 question questionnaire that we send grantees. We send these out 6 months after the grant’s starting date—which coincides with the payment date usually. We then send them out every six months and then a final report at the grant’s end date. E.g., if the grant was for an 18-month project, we would send the progress report to that grantee at the 6-month mark, 12 months, and then 18 months.
I feel like I am also just fairly regularly in touch with a lot of grantees in addition to that. Or across all of us we usually have a pretty good sense of where things are at.
> Relatedly, do the AWF fund managers make forecasts about potential outcomes of grants?
Not as of now. I would like us to use forecasts more often and think there might be some low effort ways where we could get most of the value out of them.
>And/or do you write down in advance what sort of proxies you’d want to see from this grant after x amount of time?
We haven’t historically done this. But again, I am interested in possibly adopting in future rounds.
I think (and hope) that 5 years from now the AWF will allocate more than $10M in a single year.
Here are some plausible priority areas that come to my mind for the fund on a 2-5 year timeline:
Seeding some groups in the Middle-East and further seeding groups in Africa.
Field building on wild animal welfare
In terms of challenges, quick thoughts:
Navigating funding weirder/speculative stuff if our donor base has a lot of relatively new EA’s
Maintaining a high level of expertise across some pretty disparate areas (geographies, farmed animals, alt-proteins, wild animals, etc.)
Balancing my time on the fund vs my full-time job! :)
Unfortunately, not yet. Pandemic certainly makes it harder. I would be keen for an in-person meet up at some point!
Also, I whole-heartedly blame Jonas for not enough fun. Readers are generally encouraged to please aggressively contact and petition him on our behalf about making things more fun :)
Hmm… on first-pass, two main points I would make:
1) I think that trying to take into account the flow-through effects of just about everything will make you more skeptical of just about everything. Stated differently, I am not sure there is much in particular about diet change and flow effects from it which leads to this being a particular problem for it.
So I think that if you apply that lens elsewhere you’ll run into similar issues. Reality is just really complicated and it’s nigh on impossible to truly know how our actions reverberate throughout. Fwiw, I often find myself identifying with some sort of clueless skeptic position.
2) I feel one solution to this line of analysis was put forward in this comment several years ago. That solution seems appealing to me. Basically, for farmed animal welfare work, focus on the primary impacts, which would be for farmed animals. For wild-animal welfare work, focus on the primary impacts on wild animals.
So I guess I don’t think this is a strong factor in decisions about interventions that impact diet, and I probably wouldn’t prioritize it. But if you do look into it, I would be pretty interested to see what you come up with. :)
I would say the current focus areas are:
Large-scale and neglected animal populations (for instance, farmed fish and wild animals)
Large-scale and neglected geographies (for instance, China and India)
Exploratory work regarding the scaling of alternative proteins (for instance, a novel and potentially scalable intervention on plant-based alternatives)
In terms of projections, I think it is hard to say. There are going to be a lot of inputs into that output. Inputs that will only become known over the next couple of years
Field building on wild animal welfare
> What is the EA fund?
Briefly, the EA AWF is a regranting mechanism for donors interested in maximizing their impact on non-human animal welfare. Contributions to it are allocated out to grantees by fund managers three times per year.
> How does it work and how does it make decisions?
As outlined in another question by Karolina. We solicit applications via an open process advertised on relevant sites, Facebook groups, and by individually reaching out to promising candidates. Additionally, we create an RFP and distribute it accordingly. AWF applications are initially triaged, rejecting applications that are out of scope or clearly below the bar for funding, we reject <5. The remaining applications are assigned to a primary and secondary fund manager with relevant, compatible expertise.
The assigned fund manager will read the application in detail, and often reaches out to interview the applicant or ask clarifying questions. In addition, they may read prior work produced by the applicant, reach out to the applicant’s references, or consult external experts in the area. They produce a brief write-up summarizing their thinking.
What follows is voting by all fund managers. As outlined in another question by Marcus, we grade all applications with the same scoring system. For the prior round, after the review of the primary and secondary investigator and we’ve all read their conclusions, each grant manager gave a score (excluding cases of conflict of interests) of +5 to −5, with +5 being the strongest possible endorsement of positive impact, and −5 being a grant with an anti-endorsement that’s actively harmful to a significant degree. We then averaged across scores, approving those at the very top, and dismissing those at the bottom, largely discussing only those grants that are around the threshold of 2.5 unless anyone wanted to actively make the case for or against something outside of these bounds (the size and scope of other grants, particularly the large grants we approve, is also discussed).
We provide feedback to a subset of applications (both approved and rejected) where we believe our perspective could be particularly beneficial for the applicant’s work in the future, however, we only provide feedback if asked by a grantee.
> And finally, how does its focus differ from ACE’s Movement Grants?
I would be keen for someone from ACE to comment on this further, but I would note ACE’s Movement Grants focus on a wider-range of interventions that aim to build a more pluralistic farmed animal advocacy movement. The fund managers are different too. ACE’s fund is somewhat newer, tends towards smaller grant sizes, and they also have one grant round per year.
I think those factors lead to most of the difference between the two funds.
Would be happy to further expand on this if you would like!
That is interesting!
Haven’t really thought much about doing it. But I think a lot of that is because I have not really come across anyone who has expressed this desire. It seems interesting, though, and could be worth exploring further.
If someone is curious about doing something like this, I think it is worth reaching out to either me or Jonas.
Somewhat random sample of past grantees includes:
Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan
Compassion in World Farming USA
The full list with description regarding the grants are available in our payout reports!
Some specific grants that I have been particularly proud of include early stage grants to:
Wild Animal Initiative
Fish Welfare Initiative
In terms of lessons learned, I would quickly say:
Active grantmaking is important
Take the growth approach to evaluating startup non-profits, not the marginal approach
Double-check grantees understand any restrictions
References are useful in evaluations, although remember to ask for reasons behind references
Don’t spend some minimum amount of time on each grant out of a fairness intuition – instead, just focus on the grants that really matter.
It can be surprisingly difficult to get applications for funding out of some international groups
> To what extent do you worry that we’re underinvesting in approaches outside of incremental welfare reform work right now?
Hmmm… I think it is fair to say that this isn’t in my top-tier of worries. Some things that inform that take are:
Some other major funders, that I am aware of through FAF, focus more on non-incremental welfare stuff but at the same time seem aligned with some principles of EA
As other funders focus more on it, the movement as a whole seems to adequately experiment with and explore some things that look promising from that perspective. E.g., I have been somewhat interested in institutional meat reduction work, or on more generalized field-building stuff, and some documentary efforts.
Even within EA aligned funders/ orgs a significant amount of that focused on alt-proteins.
Underappreciated but welfare stuff should increase price which can be useful for longer term decreases in demand
A decent number of the now welfaristy groups seem interested in doing some more abolitionist things, but we just haven’t identified much with a proven track record outside of corporate welfare reforms right now. If we were, I would expect them to be interested in doing that.
I would add that under your definition we have historically funded some of those efforts abolitionist efforts, eg. Crustacean Compassion working on legal recognition of sentience of some crustacean, or legal ban on cages for eggs-laying hens are good examples of more “abolition-like” approaches that we still consider good opportunities.
> Do you have any sense for when (if not now) we might reach that point where it makes more sense to invest in more abolitionist approaches?
To some extent, this whole endeavor is like a multi-armed bandit. Using that analogy, I feel across the movement we are adequately pulling on the abolitionist levers. But we are just yet to see much in terms of payouts or signs of payouts from them. If we were to see better payouts or signs of, then EA aligned funding should be more keen to allocate towards them! I could imagine this happening if there were to see further promising signs on alternative proteins or meat reduction work but I think we are yet to see those signs. Particularly on institutional meat reduction work, I think that could be internationally scaled if the evidence base were stronger.
One complicating factor I’d quickly flag is that my impression is compared to animal rights groups, animal welfare groups tend to place relatively more epistemic weight on quantitative/ scientific evidence whereas abolitionists focus more on specific theories regarding the dynamics of past societal changes. I think this has something to do with our abolitionists reason about evidence that has historically made it hard for me to get quite excited about their approach.
It could also be worth saying that I do get pretty excited about some notable exceptions to this, like, cage-free bans, or even fur bans. Note too, that a lot of the “welfarey” cage-free work seems a necessary precursor to the “abolitionisty” cage bans.
In terms of the process, I drafted the RFP and then ran that by the other fund managers. After that, I incorporated their feedback.
Hearing that, I suspect you might be somewhat less interested in the process and more interested in how we reached those areas and ideas. I think a quick response to this is:
All of us fund managers try to stay quite up to date on the body of evidence in our sector
We also routinely have calls with others involved in our sector and bounce ideas off of them, and try to hear their ideas
We then try quite hard to apply EA considerations in our sector (such as scale, neglectedness and cost-effectiveness)
We spend a lot of time reflecting on it
A lot of us are directly working on research into effective animal advocacy as part of our full-time job
All that, feeds into and generates what we think priority areas are.
But I am not sure that adequately addresses your question. Please feel free to follow up.
> would you say there are any key priorities (either overall or per category) that you would definitely like to see in your next grant round?
In terms of key priorities:
I would like us to fund further work in Asia
I would like us to fund further work on farmed fish
I would like us to fund further work on wild animals
I would love to find some promising new initiative on pb alternatives.
Thanks, Max! :)
There certainly are. Here’s what we listed in our RFP:
We’d be interested in hearing from you if:
You want to tackle some “big-picture” question regarding wild animal welfare
You would like to launch a new non-profit venture, or you would like to trial something new, in the wild animal welfare space
You’re a scientist and want to pursue field-building activities, such as organizing conferences, trainings, courses, or events
You’re a scientist that could add welfare metrics to your current or planned research
You’d like to do some research regarding wild animal welfare field-building opportunities
You’d like to scope some opportunities for initial policy work on wild animal welfare
You’d like to explore the potential of non-controversial means to improve the lives of any relatively large-scale population of wild animals
You’re interested in exploring what for-profit business ideas might exist in the wild animal welfare space
We would love to hear from you regarding any of the above! If in doubt, please err on the side of reaching out.