Edit 2024/01/02: People who like this new vision may want to consider donating to EAIF!
Now until the end of January is an unusually good time to donate, as it allows you to take advantage of 2:1 Open Phil matching ($2 from them for $1 from you). My best guess is that (unlike with LTFF), the EAIF match will not be filled by default without significant changes in more donors chipping in. We currently have ~1.5M of the 3.5M matching filled (see live dashboard here)Summary
Note: The document was originally an internal memo written by Caleb Parikh, which Linch Zhang adapted into an EA Forum post. Below, we outline a tentative plan. We are interested in gathering feedback from community members, particularly donors and EAIF grantees, to see how excited they’d be about the new vision.
I (Caleb) think the EA Infrastructure Fund needs a more coherent and transparent vision than it is currently operating under.
EA Funds’ EA Infrastructure Fund was started about 7 years ago under CEA. The EA Infrastructure Fund (formerly known as the EA Community Fund or EA Meta Fund) has given out 499 grants worth about 18.9 million dollars since the start of 2020. Throughout its various iterations, the fund has had a large impact on the community and I am proud of a number of the grants we’ve given out. However, the terminal goal of the fund has been somewhat conceptually confused, which likely leads to a focus and allocation of resources often seemed scattered and inconsistent.
For example, EAIF has funded various projects that are associated with meta EA. Sometimes, these are expansive, community-oriented endeavors like local EA groups and podcasts on effective altruism topics. However, we’ve also funded more specialized projects for EA-adjacent communities. The projects include rationality meetups, fundraisers for effective giving in global health, and AI Safety retreats.
Furthermore, in recent years, EAIF also functioned as a catch-all grantmaker for EA or EA-adjacent projects that aren’t clearly under the purview of other funds. As an example, it has backed early-stage global health and development projects.
I think EAIF has historically served a valuable function. However, I currently think it would be better for EAIF to have a narrower focus. As the lead for EA Funds, the bottom line of EAIF has been quite unclear to me, which has made it challenging for me to assess its performance and grantmaking quality. This lack of clarity has also posed challenges for fund managers in evaluating grant proposals, as they frequently face thorny philosophical questions, such as determining the comparative value of a neartermist career versus a longtermist career.
Furthermore, the lack of conceptual clarity makes it difficult for donors to assess our effectiveness or how well we match their donation objectives. This problem is exacerbated by us switching back to a more community-funded model, in contrast to our previous reliance on significant institutional donors like Open Phil. I expect most small and medium-sized individual donors to have less time or resources to carefully evaluate EAIF’s grantmaking quality despite the conceptual confusions. Likewise, grantees, applicants, and potential applicants may be confused due to uncertainty about what the fund is looking for.
Finally, having a narrower purpose clarifies the areas EAIF does not cover, allowing other funders to step in where needed. Internally, having a narrower purpose means our fund managers can specialize further, increasing the efficiency and systematization of grant evaluations.
Here is my proposal for the new EAIF vision, largely focused on principles-first EA (or at least my interpretation of principles-first EA). I believe this gives a clearer bottom line for the fund, whilst complementing the work done by other orgs nicely, and is currently a neglected perspective by other EA funders.
The EA Infrastructure Fund will fund and support projects that build and empower the community of people trying to identify actions that do the greatest good from a scope-sensitive and impartial welfarist view. In general, it will fund a mixture of activities that:
Here are some examples of “meta” projects that may have been within the current EAIF’s purview, but I think will fall outside of the new scope. (Note that many of them might still otherwise be exciting or high-impact).
H/t to Joe Carlsmith for crystallizing some of these takes for me.
Note that I'm not looking to directly optimize for these metrics. Rather, “If the fund is operating well, I predict we'll see improvements along these dimensions.”
Below are some potential metrics we could consider:
I will also be interested in quality-weighting for those metrics, though this is controversial and may be hard to do in a worldview-agnostic manner. (One possibility is some combination of a relatively neutral assessment of competency and dedication)
I (Linch) might add more details to this section pending future comments and suggestions.
Unfortunately, some people and projects who are a good fit for EAIF’s current goals might not be a good fit for the new goals. Likewise, donors may wish to re-evaluate their willingness to contribute to EAIF in light of the new strategy.
For people doing meta-work that is closely associated with a specific cause area, we encourage you to apply for funds that specialize in that cause area (e.g. LTFF for work on longtermism or mitigating global catastrophic risks, Animal Welfare Fund for animals-focused meta projects).
I will also try to keep an updated list of alternative funding options below. Readers are also welcome to suggest other options in the comments.
People may also like observations of the funding landscape of EA and AI Safety by Vilhelm and Jona.
Until EOY 2023:
Q3 2024 onwards
(no need to read, but feel free to if you want to)
Note that I don’t plan on being the chair of this fund indefinitely, and probably won’t try and make these kinds of grants whilst I chair the fund.
These fictional grants are taken from this post and are all currently in scope.
Out of scope
I encourage commenters to share their own cruxes as comments.
The EA Infrastructure Fund is part of EA Funds, which is a fiscally sponsored project of Effective Ventures Foundation (UK) (“EV UK”) and Effective Ventures Foundation USA Inc. (“EV US”). Donations to EAIF are donations to EV US or EV UK. Effective Ventures Foundation (UK) (EV UK) is a charity in England and Wales (with registered charity number 1149828, registered company number 07962181, and is also a Netherlands registered tax-deductible entity ANBI 825776867). Effective Ventures Foundation USA Inc. (EV US) is a section 501(c)(3) organization in the USA (EIN 47-1988398). Please see important state disclosures here.
Also known as “EA qua EA” or “community-first EA.” Basically, focusing on this odd community of people who are willing to impartially improve the world as much as possible, without presupposing specific empirical beliefs about the world (like AGI timelines or shrimp sentience).
In here and the rest of the document, “I”, “me”, “my” etc refers to Caleb Parikh, unless explicitly stated otherwise. In practice, many of the actual words in the post were written by Linch Zhang, who likes the vision and tried to convey it faithfully, but is genuinely uncertain about how it compares to other plausible visions.
Before our distancing and independence from Open Phil, in 2022, Open Phil accounted for >80% of EAIF’s funding. For comparison, institutional funds has historically accounted for <50% of LTFF’s funding.
As with the parent post, any reference to proper nouns in hypothetical grants, including country and regional names, should be assumed to be fictional.