This appendix is a less-polished addition to our post about our work in 2019. Please see that post for an overall summary of our year, and this appendix for additional detail.
See the table of contents above to jump to details about the programs summarized below.
Direct costs include contractors, but exclude permanent staff salaries.
While we are confident in our overall expense count for 2019 in 2020, we did not have project-level financial codes for our expenses in 2019. As a result, we think this information is directionally correct at the project level, but not hyper-precise. We have project level financial codes for our expenses built into our 2020 system.
Larissa Hesketh-Rowe (previous CEO) left CEA in January 2019. Max Dalton was appointed Interim Executive Director, and the trustees assigned Owen Cotton-Barratt, Nick Beckstead, Will Macaskill, Jenna Peters, and Julia Wise to lead a search for a new candidate. The result: Max was appointed Executive Director, and Joan Gass joined as Managing Director. Our main focus from January to October 2019 was improving CEA’s execution of its existing projects, while keeping options open for the next Executive Director (i.e. not making irreversible changes).
Max Dalton was appointed executive director in October. Shortly after, Joan Gass joined as Managing Director. She reports to Max, and they work together on org-wide priorities as well as divide up responsibilities for managing teams within the organization.
Max and Joan are working with staff and trustees to develop a strategic plan for CEA. One of our main priorities for 2020 will be to improve our strategic plan, and get feedback from stakeholders and community members. We hope to share more later in the year.
During December 2019 and early January 2020, we also pursued and completed a major fundraising round for 2020.
Together with the Future of Humanity Institute, the Global Priorities Project, and the Forethought Foundation, CEA will move to a new office in Oxford during 2020 to acquire adequate space after outgrowing our current location. Coordinating with the other organizations and with Oxford University was an ongoing task during 2019.
We have also decided to close our Berkeley office, based on anticipated money and time savings, as well as the increased number of staff based in the UK. We are trying to minimize impacts on current staff by providing assistance to staff who work remotely. We do not expect to lose any staff due to the change.
The following section provides a recap of key activities, outcomes, challenges, opportunities, and case studies (as relevant) for our 11 programs + Operations team. For a summary of this section, please see the summary table above.
We use Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to evaluate and compare our events. The metric was originally developed for evaluating customer satisfaction. Attendee satisfaction is not the only outcome we care about our events achieving, but we find NPS useful for comparing our events to each other and observing trends.
The score is calculated based on responses to a single question: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” The scoring for this answer is most often based on a 0-to-10 scale. The score is then based on how many people answer 9 or 10 (“promoters”), 7 or 8 (“passives”), and 6 or below (“detractors”).
Scores can range from -100 (entirely detractors) to 100 (entirely promoters). Guidance on how to evaluate a score varies, but one large dataset indicates that the median for companies is 44, and the upper quartile is 72 and above.
We also ask attendees of our events about the positive and negative elements of their experience, and about how we could improve. That more nuanced information is a big part of how we decide what changes to make.
Our Community Health team aims to support the EA community and mitigate risks to the community. Key activities include community support (e.g. support to people in mental health crisis, mediating conflicts in the community), monitoring and moderating online groups, monitoring and responding to media inquiries, and supporting diversity and inclusion in EA.
Note that the activities of this team are often confidential, so we are not able to share many cases of impact.
Direct Costs: ~$3,000
Staffing: 1.7 full time equivalents; Sky Mayhew joined Julia Wise on the community health team part-time in January 2019 and came on full-time in May. Sky comes with a background in American Sign Language interpreting and intercultural communication, developing mentorship programs, and implementing diversity & inclusion improvements within training programs.
In 2019 we responded to 63 community concerns. These range from minor situations (request for help preparing a workshop about self-care at an event) to major ones (request for help working out what to do about serious sexual harassment in a local group).
The most common topics that community members seek advice about are:
- Handling inappropriate behavior in local groups
- Supporting community members or org staff members struggling with mental health problems
- Advising about organizational health (conflicts of interest, or concerns about fair treatment of staff, at EA projects or orgs)
- Improving diversity and welcomingness in local groups
Community health also supports EA Global (by making admissions decisions, guiding efforts to improve diversity, and making attendees feel welcome); that work is discussed further in the EA Global section.
Julia is a moderator of several Facebook groups (the main EA Facebook group, Diversity and Inclusion in EA, EA Parents, and EA Peer Support) and advises moderators of other online groups on handling difficult community situations.
It’s common for local groups, organizations, and individuals in EA to receive interview requests from journalists. They are often not sure whether to accept, or how to clearly and accurately convey key ideas about effective altruism. This year, we ramped up support for the community in this area.
- Dedicated more staff time to handling media situations well
- Julia and Sky received professional training on how to evaluate and prepare for media engagements
- Consulted with PR advisors for feedback on our advice for responding to journalists, and significantly revised it based on their advice
- Created a crisis communications plan for identifying, mitigating, or responding to major negative press
- Designated Sky as a “contact person for media inquires in EA”
- Wrote a Forum post publicizing the updated resource, emphasizing media awareness and risks, and informing the community of Sky’s role
- During 2019, we were involved with 15 actual or possible media stories or other PR situations. For example, we worked with a journalist from a major publication to connect them with knowledgeable EA community members as they were working on a piece about EA. We educated local organizers about best practices around having journalists at events, such as being sure that attendees realize they are speaking to a journalist rather than speaking informally and only realizing later that they may be quoted.
- We’ve coached community members on conveying their message clearly in interviews, for example before this piece in The Guardian.
We would like the EA community to be more diverse and inclusive. In 2019, we began some preliminary work to expand our efforts at improving diversity and inclusion in EA. In 2019, Sky worked with staff to implement some initial changes within existing programs. In 2020, we expect to continue to support these efforts and explore additional avenues for improvement.
- We published our statement on diversity and inclusion.
- At EAGx Australia, Julia presented Building a diverse, welcoming, and healthy community.
- In order to evaluate any future efforts on diversity and inclusion, we needed to first collect baseline data. We began to consistently provide the option across our programs and events for survey respondents to provide more demographic data (such as age, ethnicity, nationality, etc).
- We piloted a Guides program at EA Global that matched first-time attendees with returning attendees. This program provides support to first-time attendees from many backgrounds, including those from backgrounds underrepresented in EA.
The Groups team supports city and university effective altruism groups around the world with advice, resources, and funding. In 2019, we split our time between Community Building Grants (mentioned in the next section), running various projects, and providing general support to EA groups that reached out to us.
Outcomes from general support:
- The Groups team had mentoring conversations with more than 50 different group organizers, responded to hundreds of requests for help and advice, and funded 80 projects run by groups (such as group retreats and food at events)
- The Groups team hosted a January retreat for the leaders of US groups. The team also hosted a summer residency program in which group organizers spent time at the CEA office in Oxford.
Direct Costs: $90,000 in basic groups funding + $58,500 for events hosted by CEA
Staffing: 1.3 full-time equivalents (excluding Community Building Grants); Alex Barry full-time, managed by Katie Glass
- Worked with the Local Effective Altruism Network (LEAN) to hand over group support to CEA (see this post for more info)
- Published an update on the EA Forum to clarify areas of responsibility within the Groups team
- Curation of the EA Groups Newsletter; moderation of a Slack channel (eagroups.slack.com) and Facebook group for Group organizers.
- You can sign up to the EA Groups Newsletter here, and contact the Groups team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Data & information gathering
- Collaborated with LEAN on the EA Groups Survey, in order to create an up-to-date list of all groups globally
- We believe that this survey gathered useful data. We’ve identified opportunities for additional questions that would be helpful in the future across our teams (such as diversity data, information about PR inquiries, and questions related to which materials are highest priority for group leaders)
- Conducted 21 interviews with group organizers & 8 interviews with national groups
- Katie and Alex had ~250 conversations with group organizers by call and in person.
- We provided $93,000 in funding across 80 groups that applied for assistance. 53% of the money went to groups in the US, 21% to groups in Europe, 20% to groups in Asia, and 6% to groups in Australia and New Zealand.
- We responded to ~500 incoming messages.
- Alex attended the Oxford and Cambridge group retreats and gave a remote presentation at the German EA group organizers' retreat.
- We hosted a summer residency for 16 group organizers (9 with Community Building Grants, 7 without) to spend one week in the CEA Oxford office over the summer; the residency received a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 63%.
- The January US group leaders’ retreat for 30 people had an NPS of 46%. 91% of respondents reported the retreat led to changes to their group plans. It also contributed to two successful Community Building Grant applications.
Challenges and mistakes
- Lack of Groups Strategy: Due to spending much of the year with an interim executive, we didn’t have the mandate to set a clear groups strategy for 2019, meaning that the strategic advice we could provide to group organizers was limited.
- Now that CEA has a confirmed executive director, we plan to develop a Groups team strategy based on our organization-wide priorities.
- In 2019, we had one staff member (Alex) working on groups support plus events like retreats for organizers, meaning that the amount of hands-on support we could provide to all groups was limited. This left some organizers feeling frustrated and neglected.
- In 2020, we intend to work with a contractor to add capacity on groups support as Alex has left, and to hire an additional staff member.
- We didn’t reply promptly to some of the enquiries sent to email@example.com. We’re planning to improve this in 2020 by assigning the contractor mentioned above to manage this inbox.
- According to LEAN’s March 2019 groups survey, only around half of groups know about CEA’s available resources for groups. We’ve now increased the visibility of these resources in the group organizers’ newsletter and Facebook group.
Our Community Building Grants program provides grants to individuals and groups doing local effective altruism community building. In 2019, we granted a total of $874,962. This includes:
- $229,270 in new grants for 11 groups or projects to which we have not provided Community Building Grant funding in previous years.
- $625,067 in renewed grants for 10 groups or projects to which we have provided Community Building Grant funding in previous years.
- $20,625 in exit grants to 5 groups or projects for which we discontinued our prior funding.
See this spreadsheet for a full list of grants made in 2019.
We began this program in early 2018. The program’s purpose is to strengthen a small number of EA groups by increasing the amount of time dedicated organizers are able to spend on their groups. (See more context from past updates.)
Outcomes: We’re still in the process of determining what outcomes we want to use to assess Community Building Grants. Across several of our grants, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people encountering EA ideas in a high-fidelity way and using these principles to take significant action. Some groups have developed new resources or run events that have received external funding, such as EAGx Nordics and the AI Governance Careers Workshop.
As an illustration of a component of CBG impact, we identified 25 people who we expect to have significant opportunities to do good in the future, and whose EA groups significantly influenced their ability to take these opportunities. Around half of these people have taken roles (including internships, fellowship programs and full-time positions) in organizations that they selected based on EA considerations, or in EA-aligned organizations. We believe that the rest of these people have a strong likelihood of doing so in the next few years. These preliminary case studies have not been thoroughly investigated, and may over- or under-estimate individual impact. Examples of significant group effects include introducing the person to effective altruism, connecting them with job opportunities, influencing their donations to effective charities, and helping them think through a change in their career plans.
Direct Costs: $874,962 in 2019
Staffing: 1.7 full-time equivalents, run by Harri Besceli with support from Katie Glass and Nicole Ross in 2019. Alex Barry ran the CBG retreat in October.
- New applicants for funding complete a written application or submit a project proposal.
- Applicants for renewed funding complete an evaluation process which includes surveying their group members, submitting case studies, submitting a membership overview, and writing a general report.
- We have a call with all applicants for funding.
- We often contact external advisers or other community members for input on the application
- We sometimes request applicants to submit additional written information (for example, more detail on the project proposal).
- We assess the suitability of the application for funding, particularly focusing on the quality of the group, the fit of the applicants, and the potential of the group's location.
- The evaluations are conducted by Harri Besceli (Community Building Grants Specialist), and the evaluation is reviewed by at least one other member of CEA before a decision is confirmed. The evaluation process takes around 5-15 hours per application.
As we learned more about how the program was going, we updated our application process and evaluation criteria. More detail on these changes is available in the October 2019 CBG post.
The main changes were:
- We moved to accepting applications on a rolling basis, and to using a more tailored process in evaluating funding applications.
- We created an expression of interest form applicants could use to receive early-stage input into their plans.
- The threshold for successful grant applications increased, due to reasons such as wanting to increase the focus on the best grantmaking opportunities and ensuring the programme is sufficiently flexible to leave room for future strategic changes.
You can see past updates on the CBG program here.
In October, we held a 4-day retreat for CBG recipients which had a very high net promoter score of 83%. This involved almost all CBG recipients, three full-time non-CBG organizers, and various staff from EA organizations, for a total of 28 non-staff attendees and 9 staff over a week.
Outcomes of the retreat
- The retreat was focused on increasing connections between CBG recipients and encouraging them to share advice/knowledge. It seemed to succeed at this, with over 80% of attendees rating it as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ at achieving these goals.
- Almost all (22/23 who filled out the survey) of the organizers who attended reported planning to make some kind of change to how they run their group, such as building a database of group members, holding more one-on-one meetings with members, or changing their organizational structure.
- In terms of connections built, attendees reported (on average) having 10 new people they would be comfortable ask for favors/advice, and 2/3rds reported that they expected to contact other groups more often.
- EA organization employees said it was valuable to attend, with all rating the retreat at as-good-or-better than the counterfactual use of their time.
- We are conducting a follow-up survey to assess longer-term impacts, but this is not yet completed.
Not fulfilling public commitments
- We haven’t shared a public impact evaluation for CBGs (we previously said in a forum comment that we would do this by August). In November, we posted a notice that we wouldn’t be meeting this commitment.
- We said in a December 2018 post that we would hold an open CBG round in summer 2019, but we reopened applications in October 2019.
Early rounds were too large
We made a large number of grants, particularly in the first round in 2018. This meant that much of the program’s capacity was dedicated to evaluating grant renewals, leaving less capacity for providing support, developing program strategy, and other parts of the program. This likely contributed to other mistakes we made.
We didn’t always provide a good grantee experience. For example, we were not always on schedule in evaluating grant renewals, making decisions on applications, and disbursing funds.
EA Global is the main conference series in effective altruism. The main objectives are to:
- Encourage connections, goodwill, and coordination among EAs
- Improve EA community culture, and deal with problems such as lack of diversity
- Attract resources, including money, talent, and influence, to the EA movement
In 2019, we ran:
- EA Global San Francisco, with ~500 attendees
- EA Global London, with ~560 attendees
- Improved network density: EA Global attendees reported having around eight new people that they could reach out to ask for a favor, on average.
- ~90% of attendees said they felt welcome, ~70% said they felt attendees were humble, and ~70% said they felt attendees were open to exploring new ideas.
- Of our speakers, a significantly higher portion were women or people of color than are represented in the overall EA population.
- More than 2000 in-person meetings happened at the conferences.
- ~350 attendees reported a minor plan change, and ~50 reported a major plan change (these are self-reports, and should be viewed skeptically).
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) was roughly in line with previous years (slightly decreased in SF, slightly increased in London - which had the highest NPS of any EA Global yet).
Net Cost: ~$270,000 for EA Global London; ~$210,000 for EA Global SF
Costs in 2019 were $390,000 for EA Global London, $330,000 for EA Global SF, and revenue consisted of $120,000 in ticket sales for each. This does not include CEA full-time staff costs (such as for Amy Labenz and full-time event contractors). The direct costs for EA Global are approximately one-third for venue, one-third for food and drink, and one-third for other costs such as audio-visual work, video recordings so talks can be placed online, and speaker travel and lodging..
Staffing: 1.6 full-time equivalent staff; 1.8 full-time equivalent contractors. Run by Amy Labenz (permanent staff), along with Barry Grimes and Kate Hitchcock (contractors, with Barry hired as a staff member in December 2019), with admissions support from Julia Wise and Sky Mayhew. Katie Glass was the project manager for EA Global in 2018, and during Amy’s maternity leave for the first month of 2019.
On average, SF attendees reported 7.2 new people and London attendees reported 9.6 new people they could reach out to ask for a favor as a result of the conference.
- This year, we experimented with two different event apps to encourage one-on-one meetings between participants. ~510 meetings were scheduled via the Grip app in SF, and ~370 meetings and 46 unofficial meetups were scheduled via the Whova app in London.
Fellowship program (since renamed the Stewardship program)
- The Fellowship program was an updated version of the Meet-ers program which took place in EAG London 2018.
- This 2018 Meet-ers program served 400 “meet-ees” with 100 Meet-ers. The Meet-ers had a low NPS of -21% due to poor preparation and to the main coordinator falling ill. We thought the program had potential to be a lot better.
- The Fellowship Program paired people who have similar interests so they could meet at EA Global.
- We recruited ambassadors who had long experience in effective altruism and/or who worked at EA organizations.
- Each ambassador met with a small number of fellows (attendees with whom they shared a professional interest, such as biosecurity or operations work).
- At EA Global San Francisco, we had 10 Ambassadors and 35 Fellows, with an NPS for participating in the program of 43 for Ambassadors and 46 for Fellows. In London, we doubled the size of the program to 23 Ambassadors and 83 Fellows, with an NPS for participating in the program of -8 for Ambassadors and 33 for Fellows. (After getting this low NPS score from Ambassadors, we changed the matching process to give them more input on selecting the Fellows they met with.) We also let some Fellows have meetings with more than one Ambassador, resulting in 111 meetings.
Attendee feedback provides us useful information for improvements.
These were the main points we’d like to change next time:
- Attendees found the space for the career fair in London too loud. This made some conversations challenging or unpleasant.
- We plan to work with the venue to reduce reverberation, and we may rent additional space for the Friday reception in order to allow attendees to spread out more.
- In London, we allowed people to host unofficial meetups. This seems good from the perspective of having more targeted content and opportunities for 1-1s, but it made quality control more difficult. If we allow people to do this in the future, we need to improve our expectation-setting for the hosts and the participants and better differentiate between official and unofficial meetups.
We tracked a few components of community culture this year: welcomingness, humility, and openness to different viewpoints.
- 87% of attendees felt welcome at EA Global San Francisco; 92% of attendees said they felt welcome at EA Global London
From one attendee’s feedback: “I was warmly greeted by 'big names' in my cause areas — people I have read and watched on YouTube videos — which made me feel like a valued member of the community. This helped me very quickly get over the strong sense of imposter syndrome I had after arriving.”
New initiative: The Guides program
- This year, we launched a program to help first-time attendees feel more welcome by matching them with returning participants who could serve as a friendly face and help orient them.
- In San Francisco, we had 20 first-timers and 16 guides; in London (our second test of the program), we had 13 first-timers and 18 guides matched in advance, with additional onsite matches. NPS was 33 for participants in the program at San Francisco, and NPS was 0 for first-timers and 10 for guides in London. Based on this feedback we’ve concluded that the experiment we tried with matching people on-site in London did not work well.
As in previous years, Julia Wise gave a welcome/orientation talk for first-time attendees in both San Francisco and London.
- 69% of EA Global London attendees (261 people) felt that other attendees were humble. (This question wasn’t asked at EA Global San Francisco.)
- 77% of attendees (292 people) felt that other attendees were open to exploring new ideas, as did 69% of attendees at EA Global San Francisco (198 people).
- We expanded the advisory board for EA Global speakers, who advise us on topics and speakers in different cause areas for the conference series.
- One attendee said “All the discussions I had around the posters had people being appropriately calibrated and exploring beliefs.”
- Another said “I may have gotten lucky, but people seemed to express beliefs more clearly and with better calibration than at other EA events.”
- Someone else said: “Nearly all conversations beyond a certain length (5 minutes) involve weighing the benefits and risks of one's ideas and approaches.”
- EA org staff member: “I'm trying to remember instances where I witnessed people actually change their mind and am drawing a blank.”
- Participant: “I thought that some higher-ups in the community had profiles that were quite lacklustre, illustrating their unreachability. Not so humble if you ask me.”
- Some individuals thought the cost of the food and venue did not reflect EA’s values:
- EA Global London participant: “Personally, a more humble menu and venue would match our commitment to others (especially to others who are suffering horribly) better. Though I see that the nice menu and venue create a really good atmosphere — which is also helpful.”
Actions/improvements for next year
- Amy Labenz will continue conducting speaker calls that encourage them to use reasoning transparency in their talks, and to engage with ideas using epistemic humility.
- We plan to discontinue having sparkling wine at the main event; while the price is similar to that of other beverages, we think it is not worth the risk of signalling the wrong values.
See also the section on diversity and inclusion in the Community Health section.
Our goal is to provide an excellent attendee experience for people from a variety of backgrounds. To see if we were achieving that, we gave survey respondents the option to share demographic data.
- 51% of speakers at EA Global London were women and 36% of speakers at EA Global San Francisco were women (compared to 29% of respondents to the 2018 EA Survey who identified as women).
- 28% of speakers in London and 25% of speakers in San Francisco were people of color (compared to 22% of EA Survey 2018 respondents who did not identify as white).
- EAG London was the first event for which we broke down NPS by demographic group. For people who reported demographic information, we were encouraged to see that NPS was as high or higher for attendees from underrepresented groups compared to groups that are overrepresented in EA:
- We added new meetups for people from underrepresented groups (e.g. people of color in EA, mid- and late-career professionals in EA, LGBTQ people in EA) in addition to supporting meetups we’ve run historically (e.g. people of faith in EA, women and nonbinary people in EA)
- Demographic diversity is taken into account as one of many factors in admissions & when selecting meetup hosts.
- Some attendees mentioned positive experiences with diversity.
- “Before I felt cautious about involvement with the EA community. But now I want to get more involved […] I loved that there were so many female speakers. I am female. I was worried the conference would be hostile to me because I had the impression EA might be a community that valued men over women, and that all the speakers might be men. I actually wrote in to the organizers about this before the conference and never heard back, but then they took down the initial speakers page and didn’t put it up again until some women had been added. So I gave the conference a chance. And I’m really glad I did. People were very accepting of me and there were several female speakers.” - Senior staff person at EA-aligned charity [ 2019]
- Some attendees mentioned that lack of demographic diversity contributed to a negative experience for them.
- “As a woman of color, it was really difficult to continually walk into rooms as the only one. Further, it was super disheartening to see lack of diversity at the career fair; the amount of minorities working at this event vs. attending was so disappointing.“ - Participant [ 2019]
- We did not collect demographic data on the EA Global post-event survey until EA Global London 2019, so this is the first time we've evaluated people’s experience at EA Global based on demographic data.
- 6% of EA Global San Francisco survey respondents (15 people) and 10% of EA Global London respondents (36 people) said they made a major plan change.
- 58% of EA Global San Francisco respondents (167 people) and 51% of EA Global London respondents (181 people) said they made a minor plan change.
- At EA Global London, 79% of respondents said they made an important connection (e.g. related to a potential career opportunity, project funding, or future collaboration), and 56% said they connected with an opportunity for a new project.
- 80,000 Hours reported ~10 advising meetings and ~37 headhunting meetings at EA Global San Francisco and ~19 headhunting meetings at EAG London. (Historically, 80,000 Hours has seen about one job placement resulting from every ~40 meetings.) They estimate that EA Global was counterfactually responsible for about half of those meetings.
- A person interested in a career as a China specialist was invited to meet and get involved with a group of other attendees interested in this area at EA Global San Francisco 2019.
- A person working on an AI project got technical advice they believed significantly improved a multi-million dollar research project. They estimated that the advice caused a technical improvement that was worth tens of millions of dollars, and that they would not have gotten the advice had they not attended the conference.
- [An early-stage safety researcher] accepted to EA Global London was deciding between persisting in the field despite some financial difficulties and quitting the field to go the earn-to-give route. According to a colleague, he "got a lot of motivation and input for his prioritization out of it. He [accepted his offer for an internship at a prestigious institution] and is lining up a PhD with [well-known researcher at well-known university]. I think going to EA Global and our support played a big role in his final decision to stay in AI safety."
- Example attendee quotes:
- “I spoke to Gregory Lewis, Cassidy Nelson and Andrew Synder-Beattie about careers in biosecurity. As a result, I now have clear next steps to take to enter the field as a career.”
- “I talked to two very talented, long-time community members (in AI and policy) who said they had been feeling strained/distanced from EA lately and unsure about (a) identifying as a member of the community or (b) having a place in the community. They both said the conference seemed really good, and they now felt reassured that this was a good/worthwhile community for them to continue being involved.”
- “I made contact with Ozzie Gooen, who has a forecasting project for which I'm a particularly good fit. The result was me finding an impactful project for the coming months, or years. I also found out a variety of different smaller projects which I also think are likely to be valuable.”
- “I spoke to Alex Holst about working with public affairs in the EU, and it made me more confident that I want to move there next year to work with that.”
- “Jamie from NTI was super inspirational and motivated us to connect biosecurity people in Europe and organise a related conference.”
- “I sat with Gustav from GPI to strategise how I can get more economists from Tel Aviv University involved in global priorities research”
- “I gave a talk and found several scholars who were interested in my work at FHI, even though most people in my field have little interest in my work.”
- “I was planning on going into tech to earn to give and now plan to earn an Econ PhD. Talking to people in the conference helped me realize that my comparative advantage probably lies in research.”
- “Previously planned on working on tech policy. Now considering running for Congress”
- “I was thinking about starting a nonprofit charity consulting firm to help investors create high-impact charity portfolios. Now I think it would probably have a higher impact to help set up a local branch of an existing organization like Founders Pledge. I also have a lot of new inputs on projects the university group I am organizing can work with.”
We’re not sure whether collected attendee feedback at the end of the conference appropriately captures the impact of EA Global. It’s possible that at the end of the conference people are feeling especially positive, and might overestimate the impact that the conference had on them. We think there’s value in doing a 6-month post EA Global follow-up survey, but we’re not sure if we’ll have the capacity to do that in 2020.
4 out of 22 Fellows in the program at the London event expected to have much more impact as a result of changes in their thinking since the program. All four said that this was due to changes in their career plans.
Speakers, many of whom are thought leaders / public intellectuals and are EA-sympathetic, report a very positive experience of speaking at EA Global (NPS of 65% for San Francisco and 59% for EA Global London).
- Philip Tetlock and Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins were interviewed for 80,000 Hours podcasts after their talks.
- We view EA Global volunteers as a promising source of future hires for EA organizations. NPS for volunteers about their role was 13 at the San Francisco event. We worked hard to provide a better experience for them at the London event, where we saw an NPS of 76.
- We don’t have a systematic way to follow up with speakers or other key stakeholders after EA Global and keep them connected to the EA Community
- The caterers ran out of food in EA Global San Francisco, and some individuals stated that they were worried they did not have enough protein.
- At EA Global London, we over-ordered food so that we would not run out, and had extra servings during some meals as a result. We plan to continue erring on the side of having too much food.
- We did not not always respond to conference applications by the dates we committed to.
- We sold out earlier than expected for our EA Global London conference.
- We’ve tried to communicate that admission to EA Global is not a proxy for being a community member in good standing, and that we don’t have spaces even for many highly engaged EAs. However, many applicants still feel disappointed and distanced from the community if they are not admitted.
- In response, we were able to increase the number of attendee spots at EA Global San Francisco 2020.
EAGx events are community-organized conferences featuring more introductory EA content than EA Global. In 2019, we funded and advised 3 EAGx events in Boston, Stockholm, and Sydney, which had a total of ~670 participants (a typical EA Global conference has 500-600 attendees).
Feedback from attendees of EAGx conferences is often similar to feedback on EA Global (although this might partly be due to attendees having lower expectations and less engagement with the EA community than EA Global attendees). For instance, the Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for some EAGx conferences in 2019 surpassed those of EA Global San Francisco and London, and similar percentages of attendees reported making plan changes, making new connections, and feeling more motivated.
Net Promoter Scores for recent EA conferences
Direct Costs: ~$66,500
FTE: 0.1 FTE (plus volunteer time); run by Katie Glass, with support from Amy Labenz, Barry Grimes, and Julia Wise in 2018 & 2019 (no personnel changes).
Key positive aspects of EAGx
- Because EAGx conferences have less competitive admissions than EA Global, they provide access to people who might not be able to attend EA Global (for example because of being earlier in their careers, or because of geographic location.)
- Attendees report that EAGx is very helpful in making new friends and maintaining their motivation to do good.
- Organizing conferences is an important service that local organizers can provide their communities while improving their own event-organizing skills.
Challenges with EAGx
- We don’t have longitudinal data on the subsequent activity of EAGx attendees who reported positive experiences.
- Apart from prompting more specific questions in the post-event survey, we likely won’t prioritize collecting this next year.
- Given the low staff cost and personnel cost of EAGx compared to the program’s benefits, we think we’ve under-invested in support to organizers.
- We have invested more in support for organizers since then. We ran a well-received retreat for the 2020 organizers in January and created an EAGx Slack to improve coordination between teams. Barry Grimes has monthly check-in calls with the leaders of the four teams.
- The process of approving organizer applications for 2019 was quite ad hoc.
- This year, we narrowed our call for applications, and conducted a more rigorous assessment process.
Case studies of positive impact from EAGx
- “I met Vaidehi Agarwalla. We’ve worked on several projects together since then. A conversation with her inspired this EA Forum post.”
- From attendee feedback: “I went this year (my second EAGx) and networked. It led to an awesome volunteering position with The Life You Can Save.”
An annual event for leaders in the EA community aimed at improving coordination by building relationships, discussing strategy, and collaborating on projects. The 2019 Leaders Forum was in June and had 39 attendees.
Outcomes: 36 of our 39 attendees said that the Leaders Forum was more valuable than the counterfactual use of their time, and 19 said that it was >3x more valuable than the counterfactual.
Direct Costs: ~$35,000
Staffing: ~0.1 full-time equivalent staff; Run by Amy Labenz with operations support from Aaron Gertler and volunteers
- The event brings together people from different geographic areas, cause areas, and roles (e.g. funders and organization staff). This allows people to have conversations and make connections they typically wouldn’t. For example:
- Staff from long term-focused organizations and staff from an animal-focused organization talking through community problems together
- Talking through difficult work decisions with people outside the immediate situation
- One organization reported that conversations at the Leaders Forum were “very useful for setting [their] strategy”
- Several attendees shared thoughts and got feedback related to issues they believed were critical to the future of the EA movement, on topics like
- a hypothesis that most of the value from EA will come 30+ years from now
- problems related to EAs who would like to find work at EA organizations and aren’t having success
- “reflections on why some high-resourced people are put off of EA”
- We were not sufficiently clear on the goals of the event. This means that the attendee list and agenda were not well-tailored to a specific goal, which made the event less valuable than it could have been.
- For instance, the agenda was often focused on addressing key questions in community building, but the attendee list included many people who were not working on or thinking about community building.
- Step to address this: In 2020, we shaped the event by identifying key topics to focus on during the event and developing the invite list accordingly.
- Our communication about the event to the community and to past attendees was not clear enough. For example, see the discussion on this post about a survey conducted at Leaders Forum.
- The invite list has changed every year but changed more than usual in 2019. We kept the size of the event the same as in 2018 but rotated off 10 previous attendees and rotated on 10 new attendees. We think it’s helpful to have different projects and views represented over time, but we didn’t explain the rationale to previous attendees or potential attendees.
- Because the event operates under Chatham House Rules, we published summarized notes of some sessions but were not able to go into detail or say which organizations had staff present. This caused confusion and mistrust in some community members.
- The name of the event indicates that it’s for leaders in effective altruism or leaders of organizations in effective altruism. Certainly not all leaders of organizations in effective altruism and related projects are present, and some attendees have useful input or coordination to offer but are not leaders of organizations. We plan to change the name of the event to be clearer.
We aim for the EA Forum to be the default location for online EA-related discussion. We moderate it to maintain conversational quality, and offer features like karma and email subscriptions that prompt users to think carefully as they write and visit the Forum frequently. We also offer editing and review to people who want feedback before they publish a post. See more information in our posts Who runs the Forum? and How we think about the Forum.
Outcomes: We began tracking a key metric: the number of logged-in users who view posts we consider to be especially valuable. Aaron assesses individual posts for inclusion in this group, with support from other staff.
Posts that are included might:
- Present novel and interesting research
- Provide a well-written summary of existing knowledge
- Promote a useful community norm
- Contain useful advice on job-seeking, research, event management, etc.
…among other possibilities. In March 2019, we logged 75 views on these posts per day from logged-in users; by December 2019, we were logging 139 views per day — 85% growth over ten months. (For context, the Forum brings in roughly 3,000 pageviews/day across all posts and users.)
Views by logged-in users of posts our staff considered especially valuable:
Direct Costs: ~$25,000 ($22,000 in Forum prizes plus hosting costs)
Staffing: 1.7 full-time equivalent staff; JP Addison on tech and Aaron Gertler on content
Notable new features we added in 2019 (not a complete list):
- Developed in-house:
- Sorting tools on the “All Posts” page which easily enable users to find active conversations, high-quality older posts, etc.
- Anti-spam tools which countered a large influx of spammers in June and have significantly reduced the number of user-visible spam posts. (We manually delete spam posts that pass through our filters.)
- The sidebar is no longer duplicated in a drop-down menu that adds “a sidebar on top of the sidebar.”
- Adapted from LessWrong:
- The “Forum Favorites” section shows a sample of the highest-karma posts a user hasn’t yet read.
- Internal links show a preview of the linked post on mouse hover.
- Users can subscribe via email or Forum notifications to users, posts, and comments.
- Moderation of posts. This doesn’t just include removing spam and banning users who post it; we also give positive and negative feedback to authors on specific aspects of their posts/comments.
- Interviews and support for potential Forum authors.
- Free editing and advising services to people who are thinking about writing posts (so far, Aaron has assisted ~30 community members with posts).
- We awarded ~$22,000 in EA Forum Prize grants to the authors of high-quality posts and comments. Prizes are awarded by a rotating panel of judges with a history of producing good content.
- We’ve been told by several top authors that the prize has been a strong incentive to post more/better content. For example, one highly-rated poster estimates that the existence of the Forum Prize motivated him to spend an extra ~20 hours working on a post that is among the most upvoted of all time.
- We hope that the prizes also highlight good discussion norms, and we try to use the prize announcement posts to emphasize particularly praiseworthy aspects of posts.
- However, we’re relatively unsure about the overall impact of the prize.
We think that authors deserve the majority of the credit for the effects of their work, but we are glad we could provide a platform to widely distribute their ideas to the community.
- A series of posts by Will MacAskill prompted lively discussion about topics like research on existential risks, movement dynamics, and moral uncertainty (especially his “Ask Me Anything” session and his post on the Hinge of History).
- Beginning in July, Marginal Revolution (a blog followed by many influential technologists and policy experts) began to repost content from the EA Forum, including Luisa Rodriguez on nuclear war and Will MacAskill on the Hinge of History. This has happened at least six times as of 31 January 2020.
- A post from Claire Zabel and Luke Muehlhauser on security engineering became one of the Forum’s top-voted posts ever, and inspired at least one reader to change his career to focus on security.
- The post “After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organization” inspired many other posts about EA career choice and hiring practices, and a discussion during the Leaders Forum.
- We’ve occasionally received negative user feedback on the Forum’s functionality or structure. This year’s changes have resolved a large fraction of user-noted functionality issues, and we expect to continue improving in the future, but we’re still uncertain about whether we will pursue certain long-term structural changes.
- We’ve heard from people who are nervous about posting because they worry about receiving harsh negative feedback. Aaron’s editing offer lets users “test” posts and get feedback before publishing, and the Forum has few comments that seem “harsh” to moderators, but we still think we’re getting fewer posts than we would if users felt entirely comfortable sharing their work.
- There’s a strong gender imbalance among Forum authors and commenters. The list of Forum users with the most post/comment karma since the Forum relaunch in November 2018 only has two women in the top 25 users by karma and by comment count. (One user in each list is anonymous.)
- ~12,000 people read the EA Newsletter each month, of whom ~2500 follow at least one link to further content
- We drive substantial traffic to EA job listings (and have caused some seemingly-counterfactual career changes)
- Viewing time of EA Global videos is up 34% since last year.
Direct Costs: ~$3000 (covers web hosting, software, and transcription services)
Staffing: 0.6 full-time equivalent staff + a part time contractor. This includes ~0.35 of Aaron Gertler’s time on writing content, and a portion of Julia Wise’s, Max Dalton’s, and Ben West’s time, mostly on reviewing documents. In addition, we have a part-time content contractor. We’re spending approximately the same amount of time as an org on content in 2019 as we did in 2018.
- In a recent impact survey, which tracked impact from this year and past years, readers credited the Newsletter as having “directly resulted” in five new hires at EA orgs (2 CEA, 1 Wave, 1 Rethink Priorities, 1 Humane League) and sixteen Giving What We Can pledges or Try Giving signups. (The impact survey likely left many outcomes untracked, as we only heavily promoted it in one edition.)
- The Newsletter directed hundreds of people to the EA Giving Tuesday project; it was likely a strong contributing factor behind the 12x growth of that project (from $50,000 of matched funding in 2017 to nearly $600,000 in 2019).
- Each edition of the EA Newsletter gets ~2500 active readers (people who click at least one link; the median active reader clicks two). The number of active readers per edition increased by ~10% from December 2018 to December 2019.
- The Newsletter drives ~500 clicks per month to 80,000 Hours’ job board or to specific jobs posted in the Newsletter by 80,000 Hours and other organizations.
- In 2019, roughly ⅓ of all EA Survey respondents accessed the survey through a link shared by the Newsletter.
- After ~100 hours of time investment in our YouTube channel, daily watch time increased by ~34% (from 26 to 35 hours), sharing increased by ~40% (from 950 to 1300 shares), and our subscriber count nearly doubled (from 1500 to 2800).
- Our social media channels drive ~5000 clicks per year to a range of sources (roughly the number of clicks from one edition of the Newsletter).
- Web traffic to effectivealtruism.org increased by ~20% this year (month over month), while traffic to CEA’s website was flat.
- We spent ~2 weeks of two staffers’ time on an annual review for 2018 which, due to our sudden leadership transition and ambiguity around CEA’s subsequent goals and mission, we never completed.
- The hiring process we used to find a new content contractor brought in more than 180 applicants, which cost applicants (and us) a fair amount of time. We think it’s likely we’d have obtained a contractor of similar quality through a more private and selective hiring process, saving the community a lot of time in the process. However, there were benefits to running a more open process; see this Forum post for more details.
EA Grants has provided funding for individuals to work on a wide range of projects related to effective altruism — including both direct work and education/training to increase recipients’ future impact.
Outcomes: We resolved many of the program’s previous issues and improved our processes. We distributed 11 new grants (totalling $199,862), and improved coordination efforts in some geographical regions. (Because we made one grant early in 2020 and are not currently making more grants, we are including the early 2020 grant in this 2019 review.)
Direct Costs: $199,862 in 2019 and early 2020 grants, $444,522 in grants authorized during 2018 and paid out in 2019
Staffing: 1 full-time equivalent staff; 0.7 full-time equivalents from Nicole Ross, and 0.3 from operations staff and one contractor. Operations support is included below in the estimate of total operations staffing.
- Improving program operations
- See below for process improvements made to the program
- See this public post about the program’s historical challenges we were addressing
- Evaluating dozens of potential grants and developing grantmaking strategy. See below for list of grants.
- Conducted strategic analysis regarding the possible continuation of the program
- Nicole concluded that EA Grants may uniquely fill a few key slots in the individual funding ecosystem:
- time-sensitive grants
- proactive/coaching grants
- grants for students and recent grads
- intentionally reaching outside of pre-existing networks to source applicants and references
- helping mitigate visa issues via grants
- Nicole concluded that EA Grants may uniquely fill a few key slots in the individual funding ecosystem:
- The program is mostly shut down while we test whether the program can be rolled into EA Funds, as we think that a future version of Funds may be able to cover most of the unique capacities of the current Grants program and reduce duplicative work.
- The program was in a poor state at the start of 2019, as we wrote about publicly here. It took a long time to make it a functional program. It’s plausible that this could have been done faster.
- The program lead, Nicole, took time off when her mother passed away at the end of July. Because of this, some grant investigations and grants were delayed. Harri Besceli covered some time-sensitive grant investigations.
- We could have handed off the update / apology about EA Grants within our team to publish it earlier. (It was almost ready to go before Nicole went on bereavement leave.)
We mostly deprioritized grantmaking in order to focus on improving operations, developing a strategy hypothesis, and evaluating whether it made sense to keep EA Grants in-house.
The program made 11 grants during 2019 and 1 in early 2020; some were renewals of existing grants and some were new. For new grants, Nicole posted a form on the EA Grants page and spread the word via her networks that we were accepting applicants who had a time-sensitive need for funding. Nicole had a hypothesis that grantmaking via networks would be useful for sourcing exciting applicants; however, she was also concerned that her network was mostly in the Bay Area. So she traveled to Prague and Stockholm to test whether she could meaningfully expand her networks.
She did not focus on one specific cause area, and intentionally reached out to networks in different cause areas. The distribution of grants reflects the kinds of applications the program received.
Here is an anonymized list of grants made during 2019 and early 2020, in order of size:
EA Funds aims to improve the effectiveness of donations and improve donor coordination by enabling donors to donate to funds managed by subject-matter experts. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for smaller donors to easily donate to different cause areas. More about the purpose of the EA Funds.
Additional services the Funds provide:
- Donors can make direct donations to 26 individual effective charitable projects and 2 charity evaluators, improving tax-deductibility for UK, US, and NL donors.
- An annual donor lottery, allowing more engaged donors to win the right to make grant recommendations for a large pot of money.
- Enabling Giving What We Can members to make donations that are automatically recorded on their pledge dashboards.
Outcomes: We granted $9.8M via the four main funds in 2019. We also made $3.8M in pass-through grants to individual charities on the Funds platform.
Direct Costs: Minimal (web hosting)
Staffing: 1.3 full-time equivalent staff; Sam Deere on tech and Chloe Malone on operations. We’ve added operations capacity and more tech time (from ~40% to ~80% of Sam’s time, but less of JP’s time) to EA Funds in 2019, compared to 2018.
We have seen ~50% growth year on year (2019 vs 2018). Donations to the Global Development Fund are in line with previous years, but donations to the other three funds have roughly doubled.
Sam works with chairs of the funds to help find and onboard new fund managers when needed.
Changes to Fund management teams
- Long Term Future Fund: Matthew Fallshaw (MIRI, previous Chair) stepped down from Fund; Matt Wage promoted to Fund chair
- Animal Welfare Fund: Toni Adelberg and Jamie Spurgeon (both ACE) stepped down; Kieran Greig (Farm Animal Funders), Karolina Sarek (Charity Entrepreneurship), and Alexandria Beck (Open Wing Alliance/THL) joined
- EA Meta Fund: Tara Mac Aulay stepped down; Peter McIntyre (80,000 Hours) joined
- We created a Slack channel to improve coordination between grantmakers working in similar spaces (such as longtermist and EA-community focused grantmaking)
Improvements to management process
- We implemented new policies and procedures (e.g clarifying decision-making procedures for teams, drafting a conflict of interest policy)
New features & website improvements
- Gained the ability to process large cryptocurrency donations
- Ran two donor lotteries
- Added ability for donors to record recurring donations in their Giving What We Can pledge dashboards
- Worked preemptively to become compliant with upcoming EU regulations concerning Secure Customer Authentication for credit card payments
- The EA Meta Fund, Long Term Future Fund, and Animal Welfare Fund began taking open applications from potential grant recipients. This was primarily a project of the fund managers, but with support from CEA.
- We don’t have standardized benchmarks for how to evaluate grants.
- Some grants made (and some grant recommendations that ultimately were not approved by CEA), may not have been particularly high-impact.
- We have been working on possible changes to management teams and policies on the scope of the Funds to improve the quality of recommendations.
- Some donors found some grant recommendations too weird, which may discourage them from giving to EA Funds in the future.
- See e.g. this discussion, though note that the particular grant in question was not actually approved
- This includes several recommendations that were not ultimately granted through EA Funds (e.g. distributing copies of rationalist Harry Potter fanfiction to Math Olympiad finalists, grants for an individual to attend a mediation retreat).
- This may have discouraged some donors from giving to EA Funds in the future, although other potential donors had positive reactions to these recommendations.
- We also think that having public writeups of some of these grants and recommendations may provide material for people to criticize EA in the future.
- Grantmakers are volunteers and have limited time to evaluate grants.
- Conflicts of interest and insufficient separation between grantmakers and grantees:
- A reliance on network-based grantmaking, along with the size and interconnectedness of the community, makes conflicts of interest inevitable.
- We should have had a clearer policy from CEA for handling conflicts of interest; we now have such a policy.
- Public communications about grants were sometimes relatively negative in tone (with a tone like “we’re not that excited about this project, but are funding it anyway”). We think that this was good for making the fund managers’ thinking clear, but was somewhat demotivating for grantees and donors.
- The site’s content can be jargony, and we think that the design could be improved. These issues have possibly put some donors off Funds.
- We overhauled the website content significantly in Q4 2019, reducing jargon and giving additional context to donors with less EA background knowledge.
- We are still resolving questions around the scope of the Funds’ grantmaking. We hope this will improve clarity for donors and reduce the chance of net-negative grants being made.
- We’re considering splitting more exploratory Funds (in particular, the Long Term Future Fund) into ‘established’ and ‘emerging’ variants to give donors more clarity about how their donations will be used.
- “Established” donations will be granted to well-established and better-vetted organizations within a Fund’s remit. E.g. for the Long-Term Future Fund, this would likely include FHI, CSER, etc.
- “Emerging” donations will be granted to more-speculative projects (e.g. independent researchers, new “startup” projects)
- We’re considering splitting more exploratory Funds (in particular, the Long Term Future Fund) into ‘established’ and ‘emerging’ variants to give donors more clarity about how their donations will be used.
We recommend looking at the list of payout reports on Fund pages to assess the quality of grants made by each fund.
- Global Health and Development Fund grants
- Animal Welfare Fund grants
- Long-Term Future Fund grants
- EA Meta Fund grants
Giving What We Can is a community of people committed to giving more, and more effectively, by pledging 10% of their income to effective charities. During 2019 we continued to see linear growth in pledges, averaging around 9.5 new members each week.
Outcomes: Giving What We Can members reported making around $27M in donations in the last year (Nov 2018-Nov 2019). In that time, 495 individuals signed up for the pledge and 322 signed up for our temporary “Try Giving” option.
Direct Costs: ~$1,000 (for event in May)
Staffing: 0.3 full-time equivalent staff; (approximately 5% of Julia Wise’s time, 20% of Sam Deere’s time, and 5% of Aaron Gertler’s time) in 2018 & 2019; no personnel changes
In 2019, key activities included:
- Ran a 2018 and 2019 winter pledge drive to encourage more people to join GWWC
- Held a celebration in Oxford (May 2019) after reaching 4,000 members, attended by around 40 members from Oxford and London
- Re-established the GWWC newsletter and blog
- Held a Facebook Live Q&A session to answer submitted questions.
- Published posts 4x/week on Twitter and Facebook (mostly recycled content, as we didn’t have a social media contractor after April and social media has historically had a low return on investment for CEA projects)
- Users can now see the progress they’ve made on fulfilling their pledge during a time period of their choice, or over the full history of their pledge
- Users can record donations made in different currencies, which will be converted to the currency their pledge was made in
- Users can now record recurring donations
The operations team provides support for CEA, 80,000 Hours, the Forethought Foundation, and (to a lesser extent) FHI and GPI. This includes: financial accounting and planning, processing grants, legal & immigration compliance, and leading the Oxford office move. Additionally, our people operations staff member (Caitlin) supports CEA by running team retreats and handling CEA’s human resources work.
- Improved compliance and tracking and began to automate our grant administration.
- Improved our analysis and preparation for risks, and made lots of small improvements to our legal, HR and financial systems.
- Improved staff feedback to management, performance reviews, and team retreats.
Direct Costs: ~$1,095,000. This includes major costs like legal, HR, admin contractors, office management, back-end ops for 80,000 Hours and the Forethought Foundation, and significant payments related to the Oxford office move.
Staffing: 4 full-time equivalent staff + 1 contractor handling grants payout who started in September. taffing levels are somewhat higher than in 2018.
- Our new due diligence & compliance procedures were approved by lawyers and implemented.
- Our new standardised grant award letters were approved by lawyers.
- We selected and began to implement a grant management software system to efficiently track and manage the grant pipeline going forward.
- Grant making process time reduced to within industry standard norms, with all grants in the second half of the year processed within 8 weeks of being recommended.
- Engaged new lawyers in the UK who provide substantially more responsive support.
- We analyzed various international frameworks to legally formalize the relationship between CEA US and CEA UK, consulting lawyers and accountants in both countries. We expect to make progress on implementing a solution in 2020.
- We passed our US and UK audit with good scores, and had no red flags or major issues in either the UK or US audit.
* Moved funds into an interest-bearing account resulting in £48K per year in interest
* Analyzed an investment strategy for our operating reserve
* Improved our process for reconciling accounts and performing management checks
* After we made a full-time hire in this area, our financial analysis improved significantly.
We conducted a thorough organizational risk analysis and took steps to address some of the key risks identified.
- We brought our contracts up to date and had them reviewed by lawyers.
- We updated our UK staff handbook to be in line with current UK policies. We updated our staff handbook, including updated policies on parental leave, bereavement leave, technology policy (buying laptops), and our conflict of interest policy.
- We outsourced payroll, expenses and tax, saving ~8 hours of ops time per month.
- We digitized HR files in the UK.
Performance evaluation improvements
With coaching from Nick Beckstead, we tested a new performance management system based on Open Philanthropy Project’s performance evaluation system. Employees seem much happier with this outcomes-focused system than the previous assessment.
Staff feedback on CEA
- Management invested heavily in valuing and acting on negative feedback from employees
- Conducted HR chats (1 hour conversations) with each employee. This enabled us to identify gaps in policies and informed planning for CEA 2020
- Conducted three exit interviews with departing staff
We find these to be important for allowing our staff working in different locations to meet face-to-face and to sync up on organization-wide strategy.
We ran four org-wide retreats this year:
- January, Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 29
- April, NPS of 23
- August, NPS of 55
- December, NPS of 44
We also investigated the costs and benefits of closing our Berkeley office (in terms of retention, staff satisfaction, hiring opportunities, etc.) and began to revise our salary policy.
Slow hiring/onboarding process for finance lead
- This process took 6 months (partly due to the new hire having to finish his previous contract).
- This was in part due to changing leadership of the operations team, and in part because we didn’t have alignment within the team about the type of role we were trying to fill and the quality bar we were looking for.
- However, we think that we were right to approach this decision with great care.
Slow progress on the Oxford office move
- As of the end of September 2018, the initial estimate for the Oxford office move was September 2019. Our current best estimate is Q2 2020, but because the process involves coordinating with several other organizations who will be sharing the office, key aspects of the process are out of our control.
Our previous expense codes made it difficult to disaggregate costs between program budgets; in 2020, we will implement updated financial codes which will help with this.
The search process was a major focus of the year. Jenna Peters was project manager for the executive search, coordinating the other members of the search committee (Owen Cotton-Barratt, Nick Beckstead, Will MacAskill, and Julia Wise.)
A major priority during the final few months of 2019 was developing a strategic plan in consultation with the team and trustees. This plan is still in development, and we plan to share more details in 2020.
Thanks to the support of major donors like Open Philanthropy, CEA went into 2019 with around 6 months’ runway.
A major focus for the end of 2019 was setting our 2020 budget/fundraising target, reviewing the year, and reaching out to donors. With the generous support of several major donors, we managed to hit our 2020 fundraising target by early January. This gave us around 18 months of runway, expected to last until the end of May 2021 based on current projections.
We currently have only four staff in our Berkeley office, and one of those staff is planning to go remote in the next few months. It was initially rented at a time when we expected a higher proportion of CEA staff to be based in the US.
We currently plan to close the Berkeley office, to:
- Save staff time traveling between offices as more staff gravitate toward being based in the UK
- Save money on retreats by having more staff located in the same area
- Save money on rent
- Increase the proportion of staff that work in an office together, while continuing to have remote staff.
Based on discussion with current staff, we think that the impacts on them should be reasonably small. We do not expect to lose any staff due to the change.
- We think that the main cost will be a slightly-reduced hiring pool, but we think that our hiring pool will likely be only slightly reduced (e.g. we’ll miss out on people that would only be willing to work with CEA in our Berkely office, but would not be open to working remotely or in Oxford.)
- We also think that there might be some costs of CEA being less in touch with the Bay Area community. We’re hoping that having some remote staff based in Berkeley will mitigate this, but we won’t have an office to host events / meetings / etc.
We’re still working out some of the details of the new setup (number/type of retreats, incentives for people to move to Oxford, etc.)
Direct costs: Not broken out separately; included in operations costs in above section
Staffing: 2 full-time equivalents (Max Dalton full year; Jenna Peters as project manager until mid-year; Joan Gass trialing from mid-year and hired towards the end of the year)
It’s unclear what fraction of these would have happened without EA Global, and we are still investigating this. We have a few heuristics for how many meetings were facilitated: the number of one-on-ones scheduled through the app (370/510 at SF/London), the number of new people each attendee reported feeling like they could reach out to for a favor (7.2/9.6), and the number of attendees multiplied by our estimates of how many meetings each attendee would have. 2,000 meetings seems like a lower bound (which would be about two meetings per attendee). ↩︎
Participants that stated ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ when asked if EA Global was a place where they felt welcome. ↩︎
Attendees that stated “agree” or “strongly agree” when asked “EA Global is a place where individuals express their beliefs with humility” ↩︎
Attendees that stated “agree” or “strongly agree” when asked “EA Global is a place where others are open to exploring ideas that are different than those they already believe” ↩︎
EA Global SF had zero speaker detractors (which means that no speakers answered 6 or lower when asked whether they’d recommend the experience of speaking at EA Global) and London had one detractor. We are unaware of any significant concerns from speakers. ↩︎
While we don’t try to enforce a limit on the number of posts we include in our metric, the proportion of posts we include has remained steady at around 25%. ↩︎
Justis Mills, a content contractor working ~20 hours/week, left CEA for a new job in April. We hired a proofreading contractor, Heidi Basarab, in September for ~15 hours/week. ↩︎