Given the comments that have surfaced it sounds like my annoyance at these posts was unjustified and that 1) I underestimated how long it takes for structural weaknesses to surface and have effects that are clearly visible to outsiders, and 2) underrated how valuable it was to open a space for people to share their experiences with Leverage. Glad that the original post was able to do this in a way that preserved anonymity for people that understandably needed it.
I also want to highlight that while I still stand by my personally positive experience at the Pareto Fellowship in 2016 this is not meant to be a universal account of events [and certainly not of Leverage Research] and a proper judgement of the program itself would involve polling a representative sample of former Pareto Fellows.
Finally, I recognize that it's especially difficult to recount experiences when someone has experienced deep trauma so thanks to Zoe Curzi for the courage involved in telling her story and to anyone else sharing their experiences, anonymously or otherwise.
Figured I'd chime in too—I'm Jordan Alexander and I was one of the Pareto Fellows back in 2016. I've been involved with the EA and rationality community to various degrees since then (Stanford EA, internship at CHAI, active GWWC pledge) so I thought I'd give my account of the program. I recognize that other people may have had different experiences during the program and that there may have been issues that I was not personally aware of as a participant in the program.
As for my relationship with Leverage: I have a few friends at Leverage, though we're not in close contact. I participated in Paradigm Coaching (essentially a combination of personal and professional one-on-one coaching) for a few months at the end of 2019 and found it incredibly helpful while working on the mundane problem known as "job-hunting". Finally, one of my friends at Leverage reached out and asked me if I was interested in sharing my experience at the Pareto Fellowship after this post popped up. Frankly I'm annoyed that I have to do this but it seems unfair that these sorts of posts reappear every year. I work as a software engineer and have no professional or financial ties to Leverage.
Here's an overall account of the program structure, going off of the archived Pareto Fellowship website:
With all this said, then, in terms of immediate professional growth the Pareto Fellowship wasn't that great. What the Pareto Fellowship was great for, in my eyes, was personal growth. This was echoed among a few fellows, usually along the lines of "I didn't do anything incredibly useful in the near-term but I experienced the most personal growth ever during that summer." This was true for myself as well and I still consider it a good investment that I'd make again. Again, though, this is not meant to be a universal judgement of the program.
Still, it's odd to see these posts popping up again and again because what went best for me in the Pareto Fellowship was the content that came from Leverage. In my eyes it worked incredibly well as an environment for young professionals to come together and spend a couple months deeply and rigorously examining their beliefs and what they'd focus on throughout their career.
Now, the EA/rationalist community has produced a few other programs like this (SPARC, CFAR) that are generally subjected to far less scrutiny and name-calling than Leverage has been. As such, here's a defensive account of the program that addresses some of the concerns in the above post:
Now, here's a positive account of the program that addresses the impact it had on me personally:
Finally, I'm generally annoyed that one of these posts surfaces every year in what seems like an attempt to unearth some deep secret at the heart of Leverage. I genuinely think that these are well-intentioned people working on an ambitious and unique project. Building these projects is hard and I wish this community had more respect for that.