Last updated: January 2023
We want to help build a radically better world.
We think that it will likely be really hard to build this world: it will take the best effort of many people, and a bit of luck. But we’re aiming for it anyway, because we think that a lot of the expected value is in the best case, and that even if we fail we could help to build a somewhat better world.
More concretely, we want to contribute to a world where humanity has solved a range of pressing global problems — like global poverty, factory farming, and existential risk — and is prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow.
Our mission is to nurture a community of people who are thinking carefully about the world’s most pressing problems and taking impactful action to solve them.
We are focused on this because we believe that capable and determined people can make the world better if they think very carefully about which problems to work on and then take action on that basis.
We’re excited about supporting the effective altruism community (or the “EA community”), which is doing this kind of work — seriously attempting to address the world’s biggest problems. The EA community is a place where people can learn about and discuss which ways of doing good are most effective, based on impartially altruistic, truth-seeking principles. It also provides people with social support and connections that allow them to help others, whether they become researchers, run their own charities, focus on personal philanthropy, or follow another path.
We are excited about the potential for this community to grow over the coming years, increasing its impact. And we are also nervous about whether we can maintain and improve its culture of open-minded and careful discussion about what matters, and foster an action-oriented mindset. Our current priority is helping people who have heard about EA to deeply understand the ideas, and to find opportunities for making an impact in important fields. We think that top-of-funnel growth is likely already at or above healthy levels, so rather than aiming to increase the rate any further, we want to make that growth go well.
Our hopes for the EA community
Primarily, we are focused on helping to build a project and community with the following attributes:
- Good epistemics: That the community overall has good mechanisms for generating and sharing knowledge, and norms that support thoughtful discussion.
- Actually doing stuff: That the community is vigorously driving forward work on its top priorities.
- Cooperative: That the community is appropriately collaborative with those we disagree with, cooperative between different sub-communities, respectful of ethical norms, and self-critical. Without changing what we are, we communicate clearly so that people can see when they should/shouldn’t collaborate with us.
We think that these attributes have been critical to the success that effective altruism has had to date, including saving over 150,000 lives via effective global health interventions, helping to free 70m chickens from battery cages, and helping to establish AI safety as a field of study.
If the EA community can maintain these attributes, we think that it has a chance of radically improving the world. One way to view CEA's work is that our primary goal is to make this more likely by sharing certain core principles or tools: things like “making tradeoffs”, “scout mindset”, and “scope sensitivity”.
We do not think of ourselves as having or wanting control over the EA community. We believe that a wide range of ideas and approaches are consistent with the core principles underpinning EA, and encourage others to identify and experiment with filling gaps left by our work.
Read more about how we think about core EA principles.
We support the EA network by helping people to consider their ideas, values and options for and about making impact, connecting them to advisors and experts in relevant domains, and facilitating high-quality discussion spaces.
We facilitate events, local groups, and an online forum where people with a broad range of views discuss the most effective ways to address some of the world's most pressing problems. Our hope is that this helps people find an effective way to contribute that is a good fit for their skills and inclinations.
We think that when representing this diverse community we have a duty to be thoughtful about how we approach moderation and content curation. In general, we are trying to create spaces where people can think carefully, where people can support and encourage each other to take meaningful action on global problems, and where we are cooperative with each other and the world. We think that we can do this without taking an organizational stance on which cause or strategy is most effective.
Read more about how we think about moderation and content curation.
Our work is focused on four areas which were selected because we think they address key bottlenecks in the community and play to our strengths. These areas will guide the growth and development of our programs.
- Communicate: We want to make sure that people exposed to effective altruism accurately understand what it is. This is important to growing the network, as well as to collaborating with people outside the network. We do this by providing clear definitions and resources on effective altruism on our website, as well as by responding to media enquiries.
- Educate: We want to help people who are new to effective altruism to find information on our thinking to date, and we want to empower them to go beyond that thinking and forge their own paths. We hope that this helps these people to find out how they can most effectively contribute to improving the world. We do this via running EA Virtual Programs, supporting EA groups, and curating online resources.
- Connect: We want the most promising and motivated people to have easy and direct access to the advice, mentorship, co-founders, friends, and hires they need to most improve the world. We do this primarily via our conferences, but also by connecting people online.
- Streamline information flow: We want to ensure that people who are trying to improve the world from an effective altruist perspective have the information they need to move the needle on the most critical problems. The community keeps finding new information and arguments. It’s important that these are vetted and shared so that others can act on and build on the insights. It’s also important that criticism is made and heard. We do this primarily via the EA Forum.
We also aim to preserve the EA community's ability to grow and produce value in the future.
Bringing people into the community is important, but EA's discussion norms, culture, and reputation are also big determinants of our long-term success. How we discuss ideas is vitally important because it shapes our ability to learn more, uncover mistakes we're making, and resolve uncertainties and disagreements. Additionally, EA's internal culture, reputation, and demographics affect who feels comfortable engaging with our community.
We think it's important that we build a healthy intellectual culture, a positive reputation, and an inclusive community. If we fail to do so, a lot of the movement's potential could be squandered. This could happen because we fail to focus on the most important issues, because we can't work with certain important groups, or because we miss key opportunities to grow the movement and help more people increase their impact.
We do many things to protect and develop these resources, including:
- Moderating discussion and selecting speakers in a way that promotes a culture of collaborative truth-seeking, and curating introductory content that reinforces that culture.
- Advising people who are speaking to the media about EA topics.
- Helping to navigate conflicts between community members.
- Improving demographic diversity and building an inclusive and equitable community.
- Supporting geographic and professional areas where EA is just beginning to get established (and where its norms and reputation might be especially fragile).
Where do we work?
We aim to support community building work around the world, in collaboration with local community builders. We currently manage the EA Forum, and provide resources and support calls for all EA groups. We've also held or supported global and regional conferences in countries including the US, the UK, Singapore, Germany, and Australia. We plan to maintain or improve these resources.
While many of our resources are available for all organizers and individuals, our ability to fund full-time organizers at local groups is limited by our funding and by the time it takes to evaluate groups, so that program does have a narrower focus, which you can read about here.
Where we are not focusing
We want to be clear about what we're not doing, so that people who want to work on community building have a better sense of which areas are neglected. We think some of these things could be impactful if well-executed, even though we don't have the resources to take them on. This blog post gives more information on areas that we are not planning to focus on (as of March 2021).
In short, we’re not focusing on:
- Reaching new mid- or late-career professionals
- Reaching or advising high-net-worth donors
- Fundraising in general
- Cause-specific work (such as community building specifically for effective animal advocacy, AI safety, biosecurity, etc.) (Note July 2023: we are exploring doing more AI Safety-related things, but this is still not our focus.)
- Career advising
- Research, except about the EA community
- Donor coordination
- Supporting other organizations
- Supporting promising individuals
Our recent progress
The above is focused on our high-level and long-term strategy. For more on recent progress, please see our blog.
Other pages that discuss our strategy:
- Some of our old models of community building still inform our work.
- Our stance on diversity and inclusion explains why and how we are working to build a diverse and welcoming community.
- Our 2018 strategy doesn't fully reflect our views anymore, but it does explore several perspectives we've used in our past work on community building. We link to it here as a matter of historical interest.