Trustee and Advisory Board Report

Our trustees and advisory board have reviewed our six month evaluation. This report presents a summary report from each group, outlining their main concerns with comments on the overall progress of the organisation.

Trustee Review

Our trustees are Toby Ord, Nick Beckstead and William MacAskill (who is also our President).

Will issued the following statement:

Overall, I think that 80,000 Hours has performed very well over the last 6 months.

Some aspects that I found particularly impressive are:

The leadership of the organisation. There is a clear mission focus and unified culture within the organisation. This results in recruitment of staff and interns of exceptionally high quality.

The agility of the organisation. I really get the sense that the 80,000 Hours team is focused on learning (a) what activities in general will have the biggest impact; and (b) what activities there is a particular niche for and that they can be particularly successful at. The team then modifies its plans, and even its nature as an organisation, on the basis of what they have learned. This focus on learning and improving bodes well for the future.

The development of the case-study model. This model has the potential to answer my main concerns (below), and so I’m excited about finding out the effect it will have.

The substantial increase in members and web traffic, which were considerably beyond expectations.

My principal concerns are as follows:

I would like to see some well-documented examples of significant career changes that are clearly attributable to 80,000 Hours in the past six months or year. Though there is good tracking of some important metrics (number of members, website traffic), I would like to see better tracking of this bottom-line metric. There are some clear examples of such changes from 80,000 Hours’ early days. If this had continued (and grown) this would give me more confidence that the move from 80,000 Hours as primarily an advocacy organisation to primarily a service organisation was a good one.

I would like to see more work on specific recommended career paths other than earning to give. At the moment, if one looks through the 80,000 Hours website, there is still little in the way of concrete advice other the recommendation of earning to give, with most content being at a more general or abstract level (e.g. the relevance of personality to one’s career choice, or work on the conceptual framing of career decisions). I’m hoping that the write-ups of the case studies will provide this information.

Advisory Board Review

Our advisory board consists of: James Norris, Alex Flint and Jeff Kaufman. The members are chosen as supporters of our mission and effective altruism, who are not otherwise involved in running the organisation. We encourage them to act as impartial critics of our approach. One is a major donor to 80,000 Hours, two are highly active in building the effective altruism community and two have entrepreneurial experience.

Alex issued the following statement on behalf of the advisory board:

The 80,000 Hours advisory board met on August 27th. Present were Jeff Kaufman, James Norris, Alex Flint, and Ben Todd. The advisory board found the overall progress made by 80,000 Hours during the past 6 months highly encouraging and were positive about its plans for the future. The following are some takeaways from the meeting.

One concern raised by the board was the uncertainty around whether clients of 80,000 Hours really make major career changes as a result of 80,000 Hours’ coaching. Sub-questions include whether clients make plans to change their career, whether they follow through on those plans, how long that change persists for, and whether the ultimate beneficiary causes are effective. Neither the board nor 80,000 Hours has definitive answers to these questions but the current evidence available to 80,000 Hours (including surveys, self-reports, and anecdotes) indicates that 80,000 Hours’ effectiveness is competitive with GiveWell’s top-rated charities.

The board was was impressed by the performance of the 80,000 Hours leadership over the past 6 months in dealing with issues ranging over management, marketing, credibility, and developing the new business model. In particular, the willingness of the leadership to reflect critically on mistakes and make efforts towards transparency were highly encouraging.

Some discussion was given to whether 80,000 Hours should target a very wide “mass-market” audience, or instead focus energy on high-impact individuals. Some members of the board felt that the potential payoff from a mass-market success made this avenue attractive, even given the high risk. Others argued that the value of career advice is concentrated in top-performing individuals and that 80,000 Hours’ efforts should be similarly concentrated.

Key issues facing 80,000 Hours over the next six months include fundraising and recruitment. 80,000 Hours’ internship programme gives it access to a large talent pool, although the salaries it pays to full-time personnel are low even compared to other non-profits. Constant fundraising could distract 80,000 Hours from execution on long-term goals and care should be taken to avoid having it consume too much of the leadership’s time.

Overall, the board was encouraged by the results from the past six months and felt that 80,000 Hours is well poised to execute on its mission over the coming years.