Thank you both for offering to help! I’m not yet clear on whether it’ll make sense to work with volunteers on this, but it is certainly something we’ll consider. Could you please indicate your interest by filling out this form? (select “skilled volunteering”-->”impact analysis and evaluation”)
Conditional on fundraising for GWWC’s 2023 budget, we’ll very likely hire an extra researcher to work on this early next year. If this is something you’d be interested in as well, please do feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll let you know once the position opens up for applications.
I also think it’s worth stressing that the best alternative to finding a great (above-bar) option to spend money on now is not to spend on options below the bar, but to wait / keep looking and spend it at an above-bar opportunity later (and ideally invest to give while you’re at it).
In your example, this cashes out (roughly) in us using Research multiple times to find as many Alpha-like projects as possible and fund those, and to only start looking for and funding Beta-like projects when there are no more Alpha-like projects to find. Even if there is only one extra Alpha and one extra Beta to find, it’s better (with the parameters as provided in your example) to find and fund that Alpha and find and fund Beta, than to find at fund only one of the two.
Cases somewhat akin to “you can only use Research for either Alpha or Beta” can occur, but only under very specific conditions, e.g. when opportunities are time-sensitive and/or when there is a very tight bottleneck on research resources (=strongly increasing marginal costs to doing research), which might in fact be the case currently.
(As a side point: given the option of investing to give, it’s important to “set” the bar taking into account our expectations of how cost-effective future opportunities will be, investment benefits one can achieve in the meantime, value drift and expropriation risks etc.)
I would like to push back a bit, as I don’t think it’s true that scalability per se matters more now than it did in the past.
Instead, I think the availability of more funding has pushed down the cost-effectiveness bar for funding opportunities, thereby “unlocking” some new worthy funding opportunities, including some very scalable ones.
To see this, consider that the added value of discovering/creating any new funding opportunity for the community is roughly given by (not accounting for diminishing returns when spending at bar level):
“value created by adding a new funding opportunity” = (“average cost-effectiveness of the opportunity”—“current cost-effectiveness bar”) * “room for funding of the opportunity”
I.e. what you’re effectively doing by adding a new opportunity is improving the cost-effectiveness of money that would have otherwise been spent at the bar level.
This implies that any opportunity that is above the current bar in terms of its cost-effectiveness can be worth discovering if it’s scalable enough. But that is nothing new: it was true as much in 2010-2014 as it is now. It’s just that the bar was higher, so some very scalable but below-bar opportunities weren’t worth discovering back then but are now.
A social media platform with better incentives
Epistemic Institutions, Values and Reflective Processes
Social media has arguably become a major way in which people consume information and develop their values, and the most popular platforms are far from optimally set up to bring people closer to truthfulness or altruistic ends. We’d love to see experiments with social media platforms that provide more pro-social incentives and yet have the potential to reach a large audience.
Institutions as coordination mechanisms
Artificial Intelligence, Biorisk and Recovery from Catastrophe, Great Power Relations, Space Governance, Values and Reflective Processes
A lot of major problems—such as biorisk, AI governance risk and the risks of great power war—can be modeled as coordination problems, and may be at least partially solved via better coordination among the relevant actors. We’d love to see experiments with institutions that use mechanism design to allow actors to coordinate better. One current example of such an institution is NATO: Article 5 is a coordination mechanism that aligns the interests of NATO member states. But we could create similar institutions for e.g. biorisk, where countries commit to a matching mechanism—where “everyone acts in a certain way if everyone else does”—with costs imposed to defectors to solve a tragedy of the commons dynamic.
Experiments with and within video games
Values and Reflective Processes, Empowering Exceptional People
Video games are a powerful tool to reach hundreds of millions of people, an engine of creativity and innovation, and a fertile ground for experimentation. We’d love to see experiments with and within video games that help create new tools to address major issues. For instance, we’d love experiments with new governance and incentive systems and institutions, new ways to educate people about pressing problems, games that simulate actual problems and allow players to brainstorm solutions, and games that help identify and recruit exceptional people.
Representation of future generations within major institutions
Values and Reflective Processes, Epistemic Institutions
We think at least part of the issues facing us today would be better handled if there was less political short-termism, and if there were more incentives for major political and non-political institutions to take into account the interests of future generations. One way to address this is to establish explicit representation of future generations in these institutions through strategic advocacy, which can be done in many ways and has been piloted in the past few decades.
Scaling successful policies
Biorisk and Recovery from Catastrophe, Economic Growth
Information flow across institutions (including national governments) is far from optimal, and there could be large gains in simply scaling what already works in some places. We’d love to see an organization that takes a prioritized approach to researching which policies are currently in place to address major global issues, identifying which of these are most promising to bring to other institutions and geographies, and then bringing these to the institutions and geographies where they are most needed.
A better overview of the effective altruism community
The effective altruism movement has grown large enough that it has become hard for any individual to have a good overview of ongoing projects and existing organizations. There is currently no central repository on what is happening across different causes and parts of the movement, which means many opportunities for coordination may be left on the table. We would like to see more initiatives like the yearly EA survey and a more detailed version of Ben Todd’s recent post that research and provide an overview of what is happening across the effective altruism movement.
A public EA impact investing evaluator
Effective Altruism, Empowering Exceptional People
Charity evaluators that publicly share their research—such as GiveWell, Founders Pledge and Animal Charity Evaluators—have arguably not only helped move a lot of money to effective funding opportunities but also introduced many people to the principles of effective altruism, which they have applied in their lives in various ways. Apart from some relatively small projects (1) (2) (3) there is currently no public EA research presence in the growing impact investing sector, which is both large in the amount of money being invested and in its potential to draw more exceptional people’s attention to the effective altruism movement. We’d love to see an organization that takes GiveWell-quality funding opportunity research to the impact investing space and publicly shares its findings.
More public EA charity evaluators
There are dozens of EA fundraising organizations deferring to just a handful of organizations that publish their research on funding opportunities, most notably GiveWell, Founders Pledge and Animal Charity Evaluators. We would like to see more professional funding opportunity research organizations sharing their research with the public, both to increase the quality of research in the areas that are currently covered—through competition and diversity of perspectives and methodologies—and to cover important areas that aren’t yet covered such as AI and EA meta.
Hi Imma, thanks for your comments, and happy to hear this post has been useful for you! The research project behind it actually resulted in this report, which also tackles some of your follow-up suggestions :). I’ll make sure this is edited in at the top of the post, so people can more easily find it.
Thank you Brian!
Thanks for raising this Peter; I agree it would be great to have tax-deductible donation options from other countries as well, and we’d love for local EA groups to pick this up. It’s unfortunately not something we as Founders Pledge can prioritize, as we’d expect the total size of these donations to be relatively small compared to those of our members (who can use the Founders Pledge Donor-Advised Funds) and of non-members living in the three geographies you mention.
The growth targets will of course always be somewhat arbitrary, but they are based on a number of considerations:
$1m was based on what we thought was achievable (based on “market research”/early conversations) + is large enough for people to feel good about making $100k+ contributions post-launch, which is the ballpark we’re aiming for among FP members + is a nice round target of course
$10m came from discussions in the FP investment committee on what is roughly a size at which you can start making private equity investments from a transaction costs, risk management and access perspective
$100m is based on all investment options being open at that point + a size at which a Fund could reasonably fund itself + a size at which the Fund is too much of a responsibility for the FP board to want to carry + a size at which it’s too large a part of FP’s overall product for it to make sense to stay within FP. The trigger for spin-out is either $100m or 10 years with minimum $10m at that point, because we wanted to be really clear about committing to spinning out the Fund at some point.
On the Fund’s balance: we’ll be sharing regular and milestone updates with the Fund’s funders, on our blog and on the Fund webpage. I like the idea of having a (near-)live counter on the Fund’s page at some point, and will raise this with our tech team to see if we can implement it.