Our charity incubation program is designed to teach you all the basics for starting a highly effective charity. For those who decide to start one of our incubated charities, there are many optional benefits after the program finishes. They aim to ease the transition into becoming a fully independent charity entrepreneur. Here are some of the benefits of starting an incubated charity:
This ask report considers switching people’s consumption of chicken to beef.
This ask report considers preventing practices of mutilation on factory farms.
Old post on scale (that people generally did not understand/disliked it).
Scale, or importance, is held as one of the 3 criteria to consider when evaluating an intervention for promisingness. With the idea being that large scale problems might suggest which area will be more effective to work on, assuming it also scores well on the other criteria. Some interventions are predicated on very strong scale arguments, such as far future or wild animal suffering. However, we have found that scale specifically is quite a poor indicator of the promisingness of an area.
Organizational self-confidence is seen as a very positive trait and is often embraced by new start-ups and nonprofits. The concept of self-skepticism is arguably as important but is often neglected. Self-skepticism cautions us to clearly measure our impact before declaring ourselves effective or expanding our organization. We believe that if a healthy dose of this was applied to the charity sector, it would make the world a much better place much faster.
Below is an outline of our organizational self-skepticism checklist.
First published at Charityscience.com in 2014
Many charities claim to accept and even enjoy feedback (both positive and critical), but I find that charities have two kinds of set-ups for feedback:
First published at Charityscience.com in 2015
When a charity is created most people think about the altruistic intentions behind its creation. They think that the founder wanted to improve the world or wanted to further a specific cause. While I think that this is true in nearly every case, there are also other strong motivations and sometimes these can interfere with or even supersede the organisation’s stated mission.
In this post I am not going to argue that university is largely about signaling competence; Brian Caplan and many other writers have already provided a fairly in-depth look at that. What I am going to argue is that if your main reason for going to university is to signal competence, there are better ways to do it, particularly for EAs who have a lot of talent and dedication.
It was a tricky decision that Bill had been considering for months. He was an impact-focused EA, and although he thought his job was fairly high-impact he was pretty sure he was very replaceable. In fact, he was unsure he was even needed at the organization, since many of his tasks could have been done by a less experienced employee. And he was one of the five members of the senior team!
This ask report focuses on improving the environmental conditions of factory farmed animals. Specifically, it is focused on improving management of dissolved oxygen levels for fish.
There are billions of animals who live in extremely painful conditions, but there are also hundreds of ways to help them. From methods as direct as rescuing a single animal from a horrible life to means as wide-reaching as working with governments and corporations in order to set up long term policies for improving the lives of millions of animals. Given the ongoing suffering and all the possible ways to help, why would anyone concerned with animal issues choose to focus on something as abstract and long term as research?
This ask report focuses on providing free or discounted contraceptives. Contraceptives are a well-known global poverty intervention, but in so far as they affect human population they also have major effects on the environment and animals. This report primarily considers the effect that a contraceptive charity could have on animals, although more extensive reports would consider the full range of benefits, including its effects on humans. The intervention ended up looking surprisingly impactful for animals, particularly if conducted in countries with high need for contraceptives and high fish and poultry consumption.
Written by: Joey Savoie
Time capping can be defined as fixing the number of hours for a certain task, research project or decision and keeping our research within those bounds. Most tasks can be completed at different levels of depth and research itself is never-ending - a single topic could often be researched in an hour or could equally have an entire PhD made out of it. The same can apply for website design, outreach, polishing or many other tasks that an organization engages in. Given tasks that are not time capped, people will generally spend more time on doing what they find fun or what they get absorbed in instead of what is best to put hours into in the long run. By setting a time cap on a task we are pre-determining how important that task is relative to other counterfactual tasks. This approach often results in more getting done at some cost of depth, as often 90% of the value of tasks is captured by the first 10% of the effort.
The first thing to consider is whether you need a job to prepare yourself for charity entrepreneurship (CE)? A number of people have been surprised at the impact they can have relatively early in their career. In fact, we generally think that having the right goals and personality are far more important for CE than specific background experience or degrees.
Ethical pest control
This ask report is focused on considering more humane pest killing and controlling mechanisms. There are possibly billions of rats and pest birds, as well as many other species of mammals and insects which are counted as pests. These animals are often killed non-humanely, and yet the animal advocacy movement has been relatively inactive within this problem. Few organisations have attempted to reduce the suffering of pests, and those that have did not scale up. Overall, a charity built around ethical pesticides seems moderately promising. This report considers various possible interventions and the crucial considerations involved.
Authors of the research: Joey Savoie, Karolina Sarek, David Moss
When recommending different charities to found in the field of animal advocacy, a unique question to consider is what animals should be prioritized.
From humans in Canada to battery caged chickens in the United States, which animals have the hardest lives: results
Authors of the research: Karolina Sarek, Joey Savoie, David Moss
After spending considerable time on creating the best system we could for evaluating animal welfare, we applied this system to 15 different animals/breeds. This included 6 types of wild animal and 7 types of farm animal environments, as well as 2 human conditions for baseline comparisons. This was far from a complete list, but it gave us enough information to get a sense of the different conditions. Each report was limited to 2-5 hours with pre-set evaluation criteria (as seen in this post), a 1-page summary, and a section of rough notes (generally in the 5-10 page range). Each summary report was read by 8 raters (3 from the internal CE research team, 5 external to the CE team). The average weightings and ranges in the spreadsheet below are generated by averaging the assessments of these raters.
High welfare meat
This ask report is focused on meat certified in programs that can make meaningful differences in animals’ lives. Having meat consumption switch to higher welfare meat could be more tractable than having people switch directly to veganism and, depending on your ethics, more important. This intervention can make animals go from net negative lives to lives worth living but it also brings a large number of crucial ethical and logistical considerations. We cover some of them in this summary report.
This ask report is focused on the food fortification of factory farmed animals’ feed. Micronutrient fortification is one of the most well established and cost effective interventions in global health, and all beings, including both humans and factory farmed animals, can benefit greatly from the right levels of micronutrients. Food fortification is an unusually direct and cost-effective way of addressing major sources of suffering (e.g. bone breaks in egg laying hens) and, overall, looks moderately promising. This report considers multiple micronutrients and supplements that could be added to an animal’s feed to increase its welfare.
Animal advocacy is a huge area and there are thousands of possible ideas to investigate, which could all be the basis for forming charities. Our research process goes through multiple steps to compare and consider areas and ideas to help found the most effective charities.
The research process involves multiple steps of differing breadth and depth. It would be impossible to go in depth with thousands of ideas; and while it would be possible to cover a huge number of ideas very shallowly, this would most likely not provide enough detailed information on whether a new charity in the area would be effective. Many research processes, including ours, thus involve varying levels of depth.
The small animal replacement problem is the concern that certain diet changes aimed at causing less harm to the world might, in fact, cause more harm - specifically, changes that result from eating smaller animals instead of larger ones. For example, when many people see the problems with factory farming, the first meat to go is often red meat, specifically cows. Sadly, if this person increases their chicken or fish consumption even moderately, this might be a bad move ethically. There are two main factors that drive this: welfare condition and meat generated per animal.
Is it better to be a wild rat or a factory farmed cow? A systematic method for comparing animal welfare.
TLDR: We looked at a lot of different systems to compare welfare and ended up combining a few common ones into a weighted animal welfare index (or welfare points for short). We think this system captures a broad range of ethical considerations and should be applicable across a wide range of both farm and wild animals in a way that allows us to compare interventions.
The goal of Charity Entrepreneurship is to compare different charitable interventions and actions so that new, strong charities can be founded. One of the necessary steps in such a process is having a way to compare different animals in different conditions. For example, how does moving a chicken from a battery cage to cage free compare welfare wise for the chicken, or how does giving up red meat, thus resulting in one less cow being brought into existence, compare to an insect dying more humanely because of a change in which insecticide is used. These are complex questions surrounded by both ethical and epistemic uncertainty. In the health community, DALYs have become fairly common and established as a metric. Sadly, there is not the same level of consensus within the animal rights community. We expected there would be multiple competing systems, so we first outlined what we would look for within a system to assess its helpfulness to us. This could be described as the “goal” or purpose of the metric. Of course, the fundamental goal is to help us evaluate different possible actions, but more specifically, we broke down what we were looking for in the criteria below.
Underlying goals of metrics
We first looked within the EA community, since there had been some solid attempts at quantification and the ones below are just a few of many examples.
Within the EA community
The next set of metrics we looked at was biology-based markers. We had some background knowledge about cortisol readings as a measure of stress and hoped that we would find other objective markers that could make up part of a more inclusive system and add some objectivity to other soft systems. Some of the ones we considered (although, there are many other possible biological indicators) are listed below.
Academic measures of quality
The third type of system we considered was “academic measures of quality of life”. WAS research had a great summary of many of the different systems used, but we also looked outside of their research for other possible systems.
Systems used in global poverty
Next, we considered the current systems used in global poverty alleviation and other cause assessment areas. We thought it might be possible to modify one of these metrics to be usefully applicable to animals.
Modified poverty based metrics
Creating our own system
Finally, we considered creating a cross-applicable system from scratch
Our own ideas for possible systems
Results: an inclusive index
We ended up putting many of these systems onto a spreadsheet and comparing them on the original metric criteria we had derived. Some criteria ended up getting narrowed down. For example, we combined various biological markers into a single “biological markers” category. Some criteria were made more numerical and cross-comparable, for example, by translating the 5 domains model into number-based scores, instead of grades. Other elements were given their own category and weighting based on how well they met the top line criteria (for example, death rate). Most criteria were ruled out as redundant or not helpful for our purposes.
We ended up with 8 criteria with an importance weighting for each. Combined, they added to a range of +100 (an ideal life) to -100 (a perfectly unideal life) with 0 representing uncertainty about the life being net positive or negative. Each area can have positive or negative welfare scores and is to be rated independently, giving a more robust cluster approach to the overall endline score. The weighting of each factor is different, depending on how well it scored on our original metric criteria. For example, death rate gets a relatively higher weighting (20 welfare points) than our index of other biological markers (4 welfare points) due to its ease to work with and its clearer relation to direct animal suffering (e.g. we are more confident that animals with very high and painful death rates will correlate more strongly with a life not worth living than the more abstract biological markers will).
Factors we ended up using:
Overall, we felt like this system gave us a good balance between both the more subjective metrics that could capture more data and the harder metrics that were more objective. We feel that this system could be used across a wide range of both animals and interventions, and lead to cross-comparable results.
As part of researching the most effective charity options, Charity Entrepreneurship (CE) has previously conducted research on Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs (see here). Since then a few things have changed that we feel are important enough to merit an update (available here).
Some of the books I read to try to get a sense of animals lives from different angles.
I have been a vegan for 8 years and have been semi-actively involved in animal rights for the past 5 years. Despite this, I have realized that my understanding of many aspects of animals' lives is surprisingly narrow, and I think this is fairly common for activists in animal advocacy (or any movement, really). As the project I am now working on is recommending charities that should be founded in the animal advocacy movement and providing an incubation camp for them, I feel the need to broaden my understanding of these issues.
One of the hardest things about charity entrepreneurship is getting a sense of whether it's a good fit for you. Historically, we have created a blog post aimed at some of the key characteristics, but we also now have a short quiz you can take to start to get a sense of whether you are a good fit. A short quiz will never have perfect predictive abilities and we expect our full interview process (which the people, who apply for the CE program will go through) will be far more predictive overall. That being said, we feel this quiz, if taken self-reflectively, does likely correlate with the people who will be the most effective charity entrepreneurs, and it can be taken right now, contrary to applying for our program, which is still several months away from opening (March 2019).
Take the quiz now