Advisory panel at CEA

Posted on Tuesday, March 7th 2017
(last updated Tuesday, December 4th 2018)

A few months ago, Will MacAskill (who is CEO at the Centre for Effective Altruism) proposed that given the problems arising in the community, some kind of body should be formed to make recommendations to the community on how to handle these problems. We looked into the possibility of forming a community panel to serve this purpose. But after exploring the idea further, we decided that this might be overstepping CEA’s bounds, and that such a panel might put the community at risk of being dominated by a few groups or interests. We don’t think the effective altruism community should be controlled by any one organization, and don’t want to set CEA up to be that organization.

However, we do recognize that CEA makes decisions that affect the rest of the community, and we want to get outside opinions to be sure those decisions reflect community needs. Instead of developing a community-wide panel, CEA has put together a small advisory panel to help us think through decisions we make. We want to get input from people who have different viewpoints from our staff and can provide us with an outside view.

Some examples of situations the panel might weigh in on:

  • CEA believes there’s a specific problem in the community, and is deciding whether to take some action in response.
  • CEA is considering changing how one of our projects works in a way that will affect current or potential participants, as when we changed the Giving What We Can pledge to be cause-neutral.
  • CEA wants feedback on how its marketing practices are received in the EA community.

The current members of the panel are Alexander Gordon-Brown, Peter Hurford, Claire Zabel, and me.

  • Alexander Gordon-Brown: Alexander works in quantitative trading and is interested in improving the way the effective altruism community functions.
  • Peter Hurford: After co-founding .impact and serving as an intern at Giving What We Can, Peter now works as a data scientist. He serves on the board of Charity Science Health and Animal Charity Evaluators.
  • Julia Wise: I work as Community Liaison at CEA, trying to help the effective altruism community thrive. Because I work at CEA, my role is of course not to give an outside view but to present issues that CEA wants input on, and to incorporate the panel’s feedback into CEA decision-making.
  • Claire Zabel: Claire is a research analyst at Open Philanthropy Project and serves on the board of Animal Charity Evaluators. She is a moderator of the Effective Altruism Facebook group.

The advisory panel will not involve voting or any final decision-making, which is the role of our trustees.

It’s up to each individual and group in effective altruism to make decisions about how they handle community problems. We do think there will be times when it makes sense for individuals or organizations to ask others to follow them in a particular course of action, but of course it will be up to each person and group to decide for themselves.

We expect that CEA will continue to need to make decisions that affect others in the community. We think it’s important that CEA take external views into account in deciding how we act, and we hope this panel will let us respond to problems in a responsible but time-efficient way.