For 2021 we currently recommend three meta ideas: exploratory altruism, earning to give +, and EA training. A deeper report on each of these will be released in the coming months; this post only intends to give a sense of what the final ideas will look like for applicants to the Incubation Program. The ideas build on extensive interviews with EAs as well as CE’s own research.
We may slightly alter this list and/or accept people into the program with their own EA meta idea. However, we expect our final recommendations to be similar to the below. (Please keep in mind that these are the names and descriptions of the broad areas, not of the charities that will be founded in these areas.)
Description: Effective altruism is the question of how to do the most good. As the movement is relatively young, many areas and causes still have not been examined in depth. The idea of a cause X is that highly impactful areas could still be undiscovered, so finding a new cause X would be highly effective. The EA movement currently has no organization dedicated full time to exploring and making a strong case for new cause areas. Given the amount of unexplored ground, it’s likely that multiple highly promising causes are not yet on the EA radar, or that more work is needed to systematically evaluate them against other options. This organization would focus long term on making the case for new areas (both known unknowns and unknown unknowns) rather than choosing one cause and focusing exclusively on that.
Personal fit: An ideal co-founder for a project like this would be highly informed about the EA movement and its current causes. They would be excited about multiple cause areas within the movement and open to the possibility that more areas with equal or greater impact could be discovered. The team would include at least one good writer and at least one good researcher. Both founders would be good thinkers with a strong background in epistemology and good judgment when it comes to cause comparison.
Earning to give +
Description: Earning to give (E2G) has been long considered by effective altruists. Earning to give + follows the same idea but includes more elements: in particular, bringing lessons from the E2G field into EA (e.g. management practices, communications strategies, and decision making methodologies) and bringing EA insights into the E2G workplace (e.g. fundraisers, donation matching, and EA movement building).
E2G has historically lacked an organization focused specifically on providing support, community, and advice to those going down this path. The additions encapsulated in E2G+ make the career path even more impactful and more connected to the EA movement. A new organization would also address two of the largest concerns with the EA movement: the small number of impactful opportunities available; and EA’s insularity, which often leads to reinventing the wheel. E2G+ can be a highly impactful career path able to absorb a large number of impact-focused individuals and could strengthen the EA movement, both financially and through introducing best practices and ideas from outside.
Personal fit: Ideal co-founders would have experience with earning to give as well as a high interest in helping those later in their career path. They would have experience in community building or event running (such as being part of an EA chapter), and be generally comfortable in helping teach EAs how to talk to coworkers about EA concepts. Communication skills – particularly those applicable outside of the EA movement – would be particularly important for founders of this charity.
Description: The most important talent gaps in EA often change more quickly than the time it takes for many to skill up in an area or for mass outreach to successfully target groups with that skill set. This organization would identify talent gaps (e.g. through surveys) and then address these through ~quarterly training and mentorship programs. For example, one round could focus on operations skills if that were determined to be a major bottleneck; the next could focus on communications skills or burnout prevention, etc. This organization would be built flexibly to adapt to the highest area of need and quickly upskill people in this area. Our best guess based on our research is that the organization would run a training program 2-4 times a year, focusing on a different topic in each program, and conduct a survey once or twice a year. We expect a lot of the organization's activities to involve gathering resources and mentors (similar to WANBAM). Training would be relatively short (e.g. a few weeks), and roughly half of the content would consist of preexisting materials rather than those created internally.
Personal fit: A large part of this organization would entail synthesizing useful content, acquiring mentors, and quickly learning and passing on knowledge about new skills. Experience in more generalist roles (such as early stage organizations) or in generally teaching and organizing content would make someone a strong fit for an organization like this. The ability to quickly sort and prioritize many different books or courses on a given topic would also be highly important.
Over the next few months, CE will be releasing short (~5 page) reports on each of these ideas. We are happy to talk about these ideas in depth with applicants for the CE program who reach the second round interview. For more about CE's research into EA meta ideas, see our recent EA forum post.