Working With Your Co-Founder. How to Excel at Joint Decision-Making, Task Management, and Communications
Now, work can start. You picked a co-founder with shared values and goals, a complementary skill set and compatible psychology (see How to successfully pick a co-founder). Ahead of you are weeks, months, and years of work in scaling your charity from a small startup to an established organization. How you work with your co-founder will be decisive. This article outlines basic lessons for successful collaboration in day-to-day work, while another article sheds light on how to strengthen the relationship with your co-founder at a deeper level (see How to strengthen your co-founder relationship).
“Your co-founder relationship is like a marriage”. This common statement from experienced startup operators might sound like a stretch, yet there are undeniable similarities in these relationships. Like spouses, co-founders spend considerable time with each other, but instead of taking care of children, you are nurturing your upcoming organization which, in the case of charity entrepreneurship, could have a profound impact on the world.
Photo: Haven and Thom, co-founders of Fish Welfare Initiative
No pressure, but picking your co-founder is one of the most important decisions you will ever make as a charity entrepreneur. Only selecting your intervention might be more crucial than deciding who will be your partner in crime.
This article addresses three key questions about your co-founder selection:
In 2019, the Charity Entrepreneurship team graduated 13 alumni, who went on to launch six new charities, five of which implement interventions selected by our research program. How was this outcome accomplished, and how did these charities come into existence?
There has been recent discussion within effective altruism around global mental health as a new cause area. In the 2018 EA survey, it was included as a potential top cause area, and around 4% of EAs identified it as their top priority . This has led us to think about whether Charity Entrepreneurship (CE) should do prioritisation research on mental health as a potentially high-impact cause area. Many of us at CE have been convinced that this is a promising enough area to investigate as one of the four areas for our 2020 incubation program. In this post, I will explain which factors convinced us to expand our portfolio of cause areas for the next incubation round to include mental health.
A focus on co-founder pairing and usable outputs for your charity (e.g. a fundraising plan)—these are the two tenets Charity Entrepreneurship’s (CE) 2020 incubation program for high-impact NGOs is built on. This allows participants to hit the ground running with their charity startup after only two months.
Mentors, advisors, board members… These types of supporters can add a lot to your charity startup. Yet it is essential to follow a few guidelines in terms of picking, managing and structuring them.
At the highest level, distinguish between two types of organizational structures:
Is now the right time? Am I experienced enough? These are two major questions for many potential charity entrepreneurs. Here’s our take.
Unlike in previous years, we are considering multiple different cause areas this year, which leaves more room for cause comparison. We think that generally, both entrepreneurs and donors have specific cause areas in mind when they attend or support our program. However, some have asked us for a sense of how the different cause areas, and more importantly, charities within them, compare. We think each area has its strengths and weaknesses and at this level, it's hard to reliably compare because many assumptions (both ethical and epistemic) need to be made.
We are considering the following four areas:
“Why take this risk?” Mentioning at a family gathering that you would like to become a charity entrepreneur might trigger looks of concern and opposition. What about the high failure rate of startups, the low entry salaries, and the need to work around the clock? There are potential personal challenges related to charity entrepreneurship. Neglecting them would be dishonest. Yet often these challenges are either exaggerated or can be dealt with successfully.
Let’s go through them one by one:
Your charity startup just hit the ground running. You are passionate about your cause, you just gave a big talk at a conference, and you've set up a shiny website. All is looking great. Yet your organization might still fail: it might collapse or not have any impact. Here are six ways a charity startup might fail -- and how to prevent this scenario.
Government outreach is one possible approach for helping animals. It has advantages over other approaches because enshrining welfare into law eliminates most of the concern about recidivism that occurs with other methods, such as corporate campaigns. However, like other approaches, government outreach also has its flaws, which, due to differences in each country’s legislative system, will vary in severity from place to place. Its effectiveness depends on some key questions. Is there popular support for legislative change in the country? What is the likelihood of success for creating legislative change? And if they succeed, will animal welfare laws be enforced?
To answer some of these questions, this approach report examines governmental outreach for dissolved oxygen for fish in Taiwan and feed fortification for egg-laying hens in India. Using a cluster approach, we examine many sources of evidence that could support or disprove their expected impact. We also present the remaining crucial considerations surrounding these approaches. Our tentative conclusion is that lobbying for dissolved oxygen in Taiwan is likely moderately cost-effective, and feed fortification in India is one of the less cost-effective interventions we have considered.
This report considers how food technology can help animals by reducing the demand for conventional animal products and increasing the demand for plant-based and cell-based alternatives. We considered eight possible interventions, and cursory research on these ideas suggests that the most promising option is to create a plant-based seafood product. Therefore, this report provides an in-depth look into this specific intervention.
Our deeper research suggests that while product creation is the most promising intervention within food technology in terms of impact on animals, it is not the most promising intervention for Charity Entrepreneurship to focus on. This is for several reasons:
1) there is already a lot of work being done in this area by other organizations;
2) letting the market fund this start-up would be better than us starting this organization as the costs of production are very high;
3) as plant-based foods become more popular, the market will be incentivized to create plant-based seafood, and it will be better for this intervention to come from non-mission aligned private capital than philanthropic dollars; and
4) when comparing this approach with alternative approaches we might recommend, such as corporate and government outreach, our research suggests it is less cost-effective.
We have written previously about the expected value of founding an impactful charity, considering only the largest and most direct impacts. However, these are far from the only benefits. By founding a new charity, you can positively affect your and your team’s future ability to do good, as well as influence the charitable movement you support. We consider this collection of benefits to be the non-direct impact of charity entrepreneurship as a career. This post is about the impact of charity entrepreneurship on your future ability to do good.
Helping hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries with an evidence-based and cost-effective program: that’s your ultimate goal as a charity entrepreneur. It’s not a coincidence that many benefits of becoming a charity entrepreneur are related to impact (see this article on the impact of CE). Yet the advantages of starting your effective non-profit go beyond impact. As a founder, you will grow in various ways.
Here are four advantages of becoming a charity entrepreneur besides impact:
We often get asked for advice about a charity idea somebody has had. Every charity and entrepreneur will need different advice, but in this post we will cover the most cross-applicable advice that virtually everybody could benefit from:
It’s a decade since the launch of philosopher Peter Singer’s seminal The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty. The book, which argues for our obligations toward those living in poverty and outlines paths for action, led to the founding of an organisation of the same name and gave momentum to the then-emerging effective altruism movement.
Now, the updated tenth-anniversary edition of The Life You Can Save is available for free as an ebook and audiobook. This is exciting news for those of us here at Charity Entrepreneurship. By drawing attention to the huge potential of effective charitable interventions, The Life You Can Save has been a major inspiration to CE’s founders, as well as many alumni and staff.
We’re often asked what you can do to increase your odds of being accepted into the Charity Entrepreneurship (CE) incubation program. While each person’s answer will be different given their background and traits, here are the three most common things people can do:
Why is some research conducted with very high quality, yet it does not affect decisions on where to direct our time and money? What makes research relevant, important, and ultimately lead to positively impacting the world? A considerable portion of resources aimed at doing good at the world goes towards conducting research. In just the animal advocacy space (often considered one of the least research-heavy causes), about $9 million and 40 full-time researchers in the past five years went to work. That number is growing. With increasingly more organizations focusing on research, the importance of designing an effective research agenda is also growing. With so much attention on research, there is a high degree of importance on creating an impactful research agenda. In this post, I will present one meta-method for improving the impact of a research agenda. This post starts by explaining the importance of the theory of change for your research and then elaborates on a method to involve decision-makers in the process of creating your research agenda to maximize the impact of research.
I have a tool for thinking that I call “steelman solitaire”. I have found that it comes to much better conclusions than doing “free-style” thinking, so I thought I should share it with more people. In summary, it consists of arguing with yourself in the program Workflowy, alternating between writing a steelman of an argument, a steelman of a counter-argument, a steelman of a counter-counter-argument, etc. (I will explain steelmanning later in the post; in brief, it is the opposite of a strawman argument, in that steelmanning presents the strongest possible version of an opposing view.) In this blog post I’ll first explain the broad steps, then list the benefits, and finally, go into more depth on how to do it.
Conducting research is essential for identifying high-impact interventions and assessing the effectiveness of existing strategies. Unfortunately, the historical impact of research within the animal welfare space has been limited by poor quality studies, a lack of experienced researchers, and organizations’ lack of responsiveness to findings. In this report, we consider various approaches to animal welfare research and their prospects of being translated into positive impact for animals.
Should we minimize the suffering felt next year or speed up neglected welfare improvements? A simple model
In my work as a research analyst for Charity Entrepreneurship, I have been assessing possible animal welfare campaigns. The first thing I found is that finding the correct welfare asks for corporate or government campaigns is really hard. The scarcity of information in animal advocacy relative to other cause areas means that accurate decisions are harder to make. Establishing reliable metrics to assess ideas is essential to avoid wasting time. One way of doing this is to think about how to approximate the endline metric we are trying to maximise: counterfactual impact.