Effective altruism is about finding out some of the best ways of making a positive impact, and taking action. Here are some steps you could take to get started.
So learning isn’t really taking action, but if you want to contribute to solving the world’s problems, it is necessary to have a strong understanding. Here are some great things to read, listen or watch, ranging from introductory to advanced.
Charity evaluations suggest that many charities make little or no impact on those they aim to help, but a few organisations can do an enormous amount of good with our donation.
Compared to the rest of the world, average incomes in New Zealand are high, so donating a proportion of our income to one of the most cost-effective charities in the world can make a large difference to those in need. Since many of us earn more than we really need, donating is unlikely to reduce our quality of life, but in fact could make you happier.
To see where you fit in the world income scale, try this online calculator from Giving What We Can.
There is no definitive list of the best charities in the world, but there are some excellent charity evaluators that recommend charities based on evidence of impact, cost-effectiveness, transparency, and room for more funding. The recommendations are updated every year.
Global Health and Poverty charities
The charity evaluator GiveWell thoroughly analyses charities and recommends charities they believe to be the most cost-effective at reducing unnecessary suffering and death. You can donate tax-deductibly to some of GiveWell’s highest rated charities here. Other GiveWell top charities aren’t yet tax deductible in New Zealand, but you can donate to them anyway, or you may be able to arrange a donation swap with an international donor.
Animal Charity Evaluators recommends several evidence-based charities focussed on reducing the suffering of farmed animals through improved better welfare standards and the reduction of animal product consumption. Animal Charity Evaluators top charities aren’t tax deductible in New Zealand, but you can donate to them anyway, or you may be able to arrange a donation swap with an international donor.
Charities focussing on reducing catastrophic risks
The human race has created a raft of new risks that may cause widespread suffering, death, and potentially human extinction, such as nuclear wars, engineered pathogens, and unsafe artificial intelligence. Founders Pledge conducts research to find the most effective charities working in a variety of cause areas, including Climate Change Prevention and Existential Risks. Founders Pledge top charities aren’t tax deductible in New Zealand, but you can donate to them anyway, or you may be able to arrange a donation swap with an international donor.
Commit to Giving
Many of us can live very comfortably on a smaller income than we earn, but don’t always donate as much as we would like. A commitment device can help with this. Over 4000 effective altruists (including around 20 Kiwis) have signed the Giving What We Can pledge. This is a public (but not legally binding) commitment to donate 10% of our income over our lives (1% when studying or unemployed). 10% was chosen because it strikes a good balance: it is a significant proportion of one’s income, in recognition of the importance of the problem and the need to take real action, but it is also within reach of many people in the developed world.
There is also a “Try giving” pledge where you can choose a different percentage and a fixed length of time.
Connect to your local community
If you live in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, come along to an EA meetup!
Connect to the NZ community
Sign up to the Effective Altruism NZ newsletter to receive an email once every two months, containing updates about tax-deductible charities, events, and interesting links from the international effective altruism community.
Follow announcements on the EA NZ facebook page.
Chat with other EAs on the EA NZ facebook group.
There are EAs keen on talking about EA over the phone or over video chat. Contact EANZ to make a time to talk to someone.
For a long weekend of talking about effective altruism, and having fun with like minded people, come along to our annual retreat!
Connect to the international community
Discuss serious EA topics on the Effective Altruism Facebook group.
Or for a more casual chat, join EA Hangout.
Add your details to the map of EAs on the EA Hub, and check out the profiles of people from around the world.
To keep up to date with effective altruism research and ideas, check out and contribute to the Effective Altruism Forum.
If you are able to travel, the Effective Altruism Global Conferences are an inspiring way to learn and meet fascinating people. There is an annual conference in Australia that many Kiwis attend, as well as other conferences dotted around the globe.
If you live in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch you could help run EA meetups. This is a great way to meet people, improve your understanding of EA, and organisational skills. Get started by coming along to a meetup near you and talk to an organiser.
Or if you are in another centre you could consider starting your own group. Get in touch with Catherine by emailing [email protected], and she’ll connect you with the support and resourcess you’ll need.
Effective Altruism NZ Charitable Trust is a volunteer run organisation that funnels money to effective charities, and raises awareness of effective altruism. There is often a need for reliable volunteers who can do administration, website maintenance, social media, and occasional other tasks. There are also ways that people with specialist skills could help the charitable trust or the EA community in general. If you are interested, get in touch with Catherine by emailing [email protected] to arrange a chat to work out the best use of your skills.
Rethink your career path
Many people have the opportunity to make a large positive impact on the world through their work.
80,000 hours is an organisation dedicated to helping people use their career to tackle the world’s most pressing problems.
They have a step by step career guide, and a website full of interesting information about causes and careers. The conclusions from their research are often quite interesting. By checking out their career guide you’ll find out why traditional caring careers are often not the best choice to maximise your impact, and why “follow your passion” isn’t particularly good advice if you want to be satisfied in your work.