This post is cross-posted on the EA forum and is mainly of interest to EAs. It focuses on the engagement of Intentional Insights with the EA movement, and does not address the engagement of InIn with promoting rationality-informed strategies, which is a hotly-debated issue.
I wanted to share InIn’s background and goals and where we see ourselves as fitting within the EA movement. I also wanted to allow all of you a chance to share your opinions about the benefits and drawbacks of what InIn is doing, put forth any reservations, concerns, and risks, and provide suggestions for optimization.
InIn began in January 2014, when my wife and I decided to create an organization dedicated to marketing rational, evidence-based thinking in all areas of our lives, especially charitable giving, to a broad audience. We decided to do so because we looked around for organizations that would provide marketing resources for our own local activism in Columbus, OH, trying to convey these ideas to a broad public and found no such organizations. So we decided – if not us, then who? If not now, then when? My wife would use her experience in nonprofits to run the organisation, while I would use my experience as a professor to work on content and research.
We gathered together a group of local aspiring rationalists and Effective Altruists interested in the project, and launched the organization publicly in 9/2014. We got our 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, began running various content marketing experiments, and established the internal infrastructure. We also built up a solid audience in the secular and skeptical market, who we saw as the easiest-to-reach audience with promoting effective giving and rational thinking. By the early fall of 2015, we had established some connections and reputation, a solid social media following, and our articles began to be accepted in prominent venues that reach a broad audience, such as The Huffington Post and Lifehack. At that point, we felt comfortable enough to begin our active engagement with the EA movement, as we felt we could provide added value.
Fit in EA Movement
As an Effective Altruist, I have long seen opportunities of optimization in the marketing of EA ideas using research-based, modern content marketing strategies. I did not feel comfortable speaking out about that until I had built up InIn enough to be able to speak from a position of some expertise in the early fall of 2015, and to demonstrate right away the benefit we could bring through publishing widely-shared articles that promoted EA messages.
Looking back, I wish I had started engaging with the EA Forum sooner. It was a big mistake on my part that caused some EAs to treat InIn as a sudden outsider that burst on the scene. Also, our early posts were perceived as too self-promotional. I guess this is not surprising, looking back – although the goal was simply to demonstrate our value, the content marketing nature of our work does show through. Ah well, lessons learned and something to update on for the future.
As InIn has become more engaged in various projects within the EA movement, we have begun to settle on how to add value to the EA community and have formulated our plans for future work.
1) We are promoting EA-themed effective giving ideas to a broad audience through publishing shareable articles in prominent venues.
1A) Note: we focus on spreading ideas like effective giving without associating them overtly with the movement of Effective Altruism, though leaving buried hooks to EA in the articles. This approach has the benefit minimizing the risk of diluting the movement with less value-aligned members, while leaving opportunities for those who are more value-aligned to find the EA movement. Likewise, we don’t emphasize EA as we believe that overt uses of labels can lead some people to perceive our messages as ideological, which would undermine our ability to build rapport with them.
2) We are specifically promoting effective giving to the secular and skeptic community, as we see this audience as more likely to be value aligned, and also have strong existing connections with this audience.
3) We are providing content and social media marketing consulting to the EA movement, both EA meta-charities and prominent direct-action charities.
4) We are collaborating with EA meta-charities in boosting the marketing capacities of the EA movement as a whole being.
5) We are helping build EA capacity around effective decision-making and goal achievement through providing foundational rationality knowledge.
6) By using content marketing to promote rationality to a broad audience, we are aiming to help people be more clear-thinking, long-term oriented, empathetic, and utilitarian. This not only increases their own flourishing, but also expands their circles of caring beyond biases based on geographical location (drowning child problem), species (non-human animals), and temporal distance (existential risk).
InIn is engaged in both EA capacity-building and movement-building, but movement-building of a new type, not oriented toward directing people into the EA movement, but getting EA habits of thinking into the broader world. I specifically chose not to include our achievements in doing so in this post, as I had previously fallen into the trap of including too much and being perceived as self-promotional as a result. However, if you wish, you can learn more about the organization and its activities at this link.
What are your impressions on the value of this fit of InIn within the EA movement and our plans, including advantages and disadvantages, as well as suggestions for improvement? We are always eager to learn and improve based on feedback from the community.