Round 2

Round 2 of the impact purchase is over. At the deadline, we had twelve submissions.

This round, we are buying a certificate for 1/70th Ryan Carey and Brayden McLean’s founding of and involvement in EA Melbourne during 2013, for $1000.

The deadline for applications to round 3 is May 25th. Apply here!

Below is our evaluation of EA Melbourne. As usual, this is a very rough and quick evaluation. No one involved with EA Melbourne has endorsed this as an account of their impact, and we expect that this evaluation would change significantly if we put in more time.

Evaluation of Founding EA Melbourne

We think the EA community in Melbourne has had a significant impact, with many people either making large donations or working on EA projects full time who would not have done so otherwise. We’re evaluating this impact at around $100k / year, even considering only donations+replacement costs at EA organizations, which we expect to significantly understate the real impact.

Many of these effects seem likely to be long-lasting, and we feel comfortable extending the benefits over at least 5 years.

It is much harder to attribute these impacts to the formal EA Melbourne group, as compared to the informal community, the LW group, TLYCS, the actions of individual EA’s in Melbourne, and so on. We had a few conversations to try to get a better sense of this allocation of responsibility. In the end we certainly didn’t get a confident answer, but we got a vague intuitive feeling for the situation.

Based on this impression, we allocated 10% of the responsibility to the formal organization of EA Melbourne. Interpreted narrowly we think this is more likely to be an overestimate than an underestimate.

But we think that there are other benefits from EA Melbourne that can justify this estimate, and which will tend to be on the same scale as the direct effect. For example, the broader EA community in Melbourne clearly had a positive effect; but EA Melbourne looks like it will have a big impact building and growing a similar community in the future. And to the extent that other organized communities and the online presence of EA played a big role, it seems that EA Melbourne has made similar contributions back to the broader EA community.

Our estimates concern the impact of EA Melbourne during its first 6 months. We assumed that Brayden and Ryan were almost entirely responsible for the founding of EA Melbourne. People other than Brayden and Ryan were clearly involved with the operation of EA Melbourne over this period. Conversely, EA Melbourne continued to exist after this initial period and it seems likely that its founding will continue to have positive impacts going forward beyond those already mentioned. In the end we called this a wash.

Overall, we evaluated EA Melbourne at $70k in stimulated EA donations. In this round, we purchased impact at a rate of one dollar per  dollar of stimulated EA donations, for a total price of $70k. This was about half of the price paid in the previous round.

Some notes on our evaluations:

We are more concerned with future generations than with current suffering, and have valued “dollars moved to GiveWell top charities” several times lower than “EA donations stimulated.” We welcome submissions with both kinds of benefits, but wanted to explain why they have not been purchased so far. We do believe that donations to GiveWell’s top charities have positive direct and indirect effects on the future, and we also value reductions in current suffering. But these benefits seem substantially smaller than the direct and indirect benefits of more focused interventions, or of organic growth of the EA movement that generates additional donations.

Some submissions involved impacts that have not yet materialized, for example positive effects on people who haven’t yet done anything differently as a result, but who may do something differently in the future. For the most part, we have held off on purchasing these.

We continue to evaluate influencing people at a discount based on an uncertain allocation of responsibility. But many of our submissions have been for EA outreach, and they have been the cheapest submissions despite this discount.