In this edition, we've shared the latest recommendations from charity researchers, as we do each December. But you’ll also find career advice, political battles, moral philosophy, and inspirational stories.
— The EA Newsletter Team
P.S. The Effective Altruism Survey will be open through the end of the year. Please consider filling it out! It’s an important resource for effective charities and community organizations. (And all questions are optional.)
News and updates from the world of effective altruism
Charity evaluators announce their top choices for 2020
and Animal Charity Evaluators
(ACE) have published new recommendations for people who want, respectively, to “save or improve [human] lives the most per dollar” or “produce the greatest gains for animals”.
We’d like to congratulate two new additions to these lists:
- New Incentives just joined GiveWell’s list of “Top Charities”. They provide cash transfers to caregivers who bring infants to health clinics for routine vaccination. They also track vaccine supplies and provide logistical and financial support to address supply problems.
- Wild Animal Initiative, ACE’s newest recommended charity, is working to build a research field dedicated to the welfare of wild animals. While they have a short track record, ACE was encouraged by their focus on an oft-neglected area of animal advocacy.
Giving Green: Finding evidence-backed climate projects
A team of data scientists, policy specialists, and climate change experts just launched Giving Green, which aims to recommend evidence-backed projects that combat climate change:
“Many of the projects that claim to reduce GHG in the atmosphere are deeply flawed or ineffective. We need to focus our resources on the most effective projects.”
In a set of blog posts, they explain how they work and where they recommend donating. Notably, while they mention charities that focus both on policy change and carbon offsets, they believe that the former is likely to be a much more effective strategy:
“The climate crisis is too big to restrict our philanthropic scope to our own emissions [...] overall, we think that philanthropists can likely have a larger impact by directing their donations to initiatives working for systemic change.”
80,000 Hours: Now open for career questions
The organization 80,000 Hours, which helps people find high-impact careers, is answering questions in an EA Forum thread. This is a great opportunity to get advice from one of their coaches, and to see what advice other community members have shared.
Relatedly, they just released an updated career planning process:
“We want people to think about their greatest strengths, how to build valuable skills over time, how to ‘work forward’ from idiosyncratic opportunities, and to consider exploration, personal growth, and many other rules of thumb.”
UK plans to cut £4 billion in development funding
In November, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a plan to reduce the country’s foreign aid spending from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP — a reduction of £4 billion per year — due to the economic impact of COVID-19. Many people have criticized the decision, noting that the UK’s development agency is unusually well-run and that these cuts could lead to tens of thousands of preventable deaths.
The plan hasn’t yet gone to a vote, and members of the EA community are working to convince UK Members of Parliament to vote against it. See this post for more details, and to get in touch with the campaign organizers.
Using subjective well-being to measure impact
Many organizations measure their impact by tracking metrics that rely on objective information about a person's life (e.g. quality-adjusted life years).
By contrast, organizations like the Happier Lives Institute (HLI) focus on subjective well-being — that is, how people feel about their lives.
“A common approach is to measure the impacts on people’s health or wealth and use these as proxies for life improvement. However, health and wealth aren't the only things that matter. At HLI, we believe that they are valuable to the extent that they increase well-being.”
Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses, and we don’t see one as strictly preferable. But we did want to highlight some recent publications from HLI which approach issues from a well-being-focused perspective:
Profiles in altruism
In this newsletter, we often discuss research and giving in the abstract — but too rarely focus on the people who carry out these activities.
Fortunately, we have a chance to break that norm with a collection of member profiles from Giving What We Can. These are the stories of dozens of people who have pledged to give at least 10% of their income to high-impact charities. We find them inspiring, and we hope you’ll appreciate a look at the personal side of effective altruism.
In other news:
For more stories, try these EA-related email newsletters and podcasts.
If you want to discuss effective altruism with others, check out EA Hub's list of relevant Facebook groups.
Ideas that have shaped the way we think about doing good
This month’s “classic” is a collection of quotes spanning centuries, all of which have inspired EA Forum users to help others.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
“What do-gooders lack is not happiness but innocence. They lack that happy blindness that allows most people, most of the time, to shut their minds to what is unbearable. Do-gooders have forced themselves to know, and keep on knowing, that everything they do affects other people.”
— Larissa MacFarquhar
“If we are the only rational beings in the Universe, as some recent evidence suggests, it matters even more whether we shall have descendants or successors during the billions of years in which that would be possible. Some of our successors might live lives and create worlds that, though failing to justify past suffering, would give us all, including some of those who have suffered, reasons to be glad that the Universe exists.”
— Derek Parfit
If you have any favorite quotes along these lines, add them to the list!
Our end-of-year request (not a regular feature)
The Centre for Effective Altruism, which runs this newsletter, is currently fundraising. We just released our 2020 annual review and plans for 2021.
Donations will help to support our work in three areas:
If you’d like to support our work, please consider donating.
- Recruiting new people to effective altruism
- Retaining highly engaged community members
- Reducing risks to the growth and stability of the community
Opportunities to work on some of the world's most pressing problems
80,000 Hours’ Job Board features nearly 500 positions.
If you’re interested in policy or global development, you may also want to check Tom Wein’s list of social purpose job boards.
If you want to hear about new positions as they arise, check out the EA Job Postings group on Facebook.
Applications due soon
Predoctoral Research Fellows in Economics, Global Priorities Institute (Oxford) (apply by noon GMT, 6 January)
Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Washington, DC) (apply by 31 December)
Associate Director of Legislative Affairs (Washington, DC) // Senior Scientist - Plant-Based Specialist (Remote in US), The Good Food Institute
General Application // Recruiter, Open Philanthropy (San Francisco or remote)
Political Adviser, Food Policy, Eurogroup for Animals (Brussels, Belgium)
Product Manager, Growth, Wave (Remote in US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, or Belgium)
Project Manager, Effective Thesis (Remote)
Research Associate/Analyst, Johns Hopkins University, Center for Health Security (Baltimore metro area)
Research Intern, Competition with China, AI Infrastructure Investment, and Algorithmic Fairness, Schmidt Futures (New York City)
Technical Product Leader, Metaculus (Remote)
Technology Director, Founders Pledge (London)
Books, events, community projects, and more!
Charity Entrepreneurship: Applications are open
The first application round for the Charity Entrepreneurship Incubation Program 2021 is now open! Apply via this form by 15 January.
The program will be held online from 28 June to 27 August 2021. Depending on the COVID-19 situation, CE may also organize part of the course offline for those who can travel to London (all costs covered). Successful applicants will receive a free two-month intensive training in management, fundraising, and impact analysis — everything needed to start a charity! Once you finish the program, you can apply for a seed grant of up to $100,000.
To learn more, visit CE’s Incubation Program website.
WANBAM: Accepting new mentees
WANBAM is now accepting Expressions of Interest from people looking for mentorship. To get a sense of their work, see this video. They would love to hear from you if you are a woman, non-binary person, or trans person of any gender who hopes to find a high-impact career in an EA-aligned field.
Applications will remain open until 1 January 2021. For more information, please see WANBAM's website.
Fellowships for global priorities research
The Global Priorities Institute and the Forethought Foundation for Global Priorities Research have opened applications for the Early Career Conference Programme 2021 and the Global Priorities Fellowship 2021. This is a chance for graduate students and early career researchers who are interested in global priorities research to connect with like-minded people.
You can apply here by 10 January.
Double Up Drive: Get your donation matched
The annual Double Up Drive has begun! A group of poker pros and other generous donors are offering more than $900,000 in matching funds to people who support eligible charities.
These charities span a wide range of causes — poverty reduction, climate change, animal welfare, mental health, refugee assistance, and more. If you haven’t finished your annual donations yet, this is a good chance to send extra funds to a cause you support.
Note: Any leftover matching funds are likely to be donated to one or more of the eligible charities. This means that you probably don’t cause extra donations by giving. However, you do choose where your portion of the matching funds is sent. This means that matching is valuable for you if you prefer to support some eligible charities over others.
Make a $10 donation, earn another $25 for charity
The giving platform Every.org is rewarding new users with $25 to support the charity of their choice, as long as they make a $10 donation first.
You can find instructions, and a referral link that will give you access to the offer, on this EA Forum post. The offer ends on 25 December.
Download a book, get free mosquito nets
The Life You Can Save has teamed up with Blinkist to bring you a 15-minute version (“Blink”) of Peter Singer’s book The Life You Can Save.
For the month of December, a generous supporter will donate $4 to the Against Malaria Foundation for every read or listen to the new short version of the book on Blinkist, up to a maximum of $35,000. That’s enough to purchase 17,500 insecticide-treated mosquito nets, which can protect 35,000 people from malaria for up to three years.
Start a free Blinkist trial to access the short version of the book.
You can see updates from a wide range of EA-aligned organizations on the EA Forum. (Organizations submit updates, which we edit for clarity.)
We hope you found this edition useful!
If you’ve taken action because of the Newsletter and haven’t taken our impact survey, please do — it helps us improve future editions.
(Actions we'd love to hear about include donating to charity, applying to a job, or joining a community group.)
Finally, if you have feedback for us, positive or negative, let us know!
– The Effective Altruism Newsletter Team