We’ve released our 2020 annual review. The full document is available as a google doc, and we’ve copied the summary below.1

Progress in 2020

80,000 Hours provides research and support to help people switch into careers that effectively tackle the world’s most pressing problems.

Our goal for 2020 was to continue all our programmes (key ideas and other web content, podcast, job board, advising, and headhunting) with the aim of growing the number of plan changes we cause.

We also aimed to grow team capacity at a moderate rate (+2.5 FTE as well as onboarding Habiba), so that we’re working towards our longer-term vision, but going slowly enough that we can continue to focus on improving our programmes, resolving key uncertainties, and preserving culture.

I thought we made good progress on continued delivery (e.g. released 64% more content with +30% inputs & fixed some gaps in key ideas), though we missed our target for the number of advising calls.

On plan change impact, we tracked 11 net2 new ‘top plan changes’ and 188 ‘criteria-based plan changes’.

My best guess at the ratio of plan changes to full-time equivalents (FTE) for 2018–2019 went down 20% from what I estimated last year, though my estimate for 2016–2017 went up. I became more confident that 80,000 Hours is useful to the most promising new longtermist EAs. Otherwise, I didn’t make significant updates about our cost effectiveness.

We don’t think we produced as many plan changes in 2018 or 2019 as we did in 2017, which is disappointing, especially given our higher budget. We’re unsure why 2017 was such a great year, though our leading hypothesis is that the dramatically growing reach from 2015–2017 enabled us to reach a new audience, creating a one-off boost from low-hanging fruit.

Going forward, we expect to be able to maintain the ratio of FTE to plan changes at roughly the level we were at in 2018–2019, or moderately lower, and so the total number of plan changes should grow at (or slightly slower than) growth in FTE inputs. We think it would be well worth continuing to expand our programmes at this level of cost effectiveness.

We missed our target to increase staff capacity by 2.5 FTE, only increasing by about 1 FTE net, which seems like one of our bigger mistakes from this year. However, the quality of recent hires seems high and above expectations.

Plans for the future

I think each of our programmes is working on its own terms, has an intuitive case for why it should exist within the ecosystem, and seems to generate a reasonable number of plan changes.

Two years ago, I felt more uncertain about cost effectiveness and was more inclined to think we should focus on improving the programmes. My views feel more stable now, in part because we’ve improved our impact evaluation in response to critical feedback from 2018, clarified our views on the one-on-one programmes, and taken steps to limit negative side effects of our work. So, I think it makes sense to shift our focus toward growing the programmes’ impact.

Below I propose a two-year growth plan in which we aim to add 4.5 FTE in 2021, and 7.5 in 2022, though we plan to fundraise for 3.75 and 6.5, as we expect to hire no more than that many over the next two years in practice.

To enable this growth, we’ve consolidated the org structure so that I manage (i) Arden Koehler as head of web (ii) Niel Bowerman as director of one-on-one (iii) Brenton Mayer as director of internal systems and (iv) Howie Lempel as chief of staff (who is managing Rob Wiblin as head of the podcast).

As part of this, we have also merged advising and headhunting into a single one-on-one team. This was because the programmes had started to significantly overlap and this structure is clearer. We have also appointed Peter McIntyre to a new role as head of growth-marketing. See more on the structure and changes.

Our focus in 2021 will be to continue to deliver and grow the annual impact of our existing programmes (website, podcast, job board, one-on-one) — according to the priorities in updates by programme — while hiring towards the two-year target expanded organisational structure.

We would like to fundraise $1.73m in commitments to donate within the next two years. This would cover the hiring mentioned above, and would mean that we wouldn’t need to fundraise again until December 2022.

We expect to hit this target based on fundraising we’ve already done and from donors we’re currently in touch with, so are not actively fundraising for additional donations from the public at this time.

Read the full review to see more details on the above.

Also see our appendices for further information.

You can find our previous evaluations here and mistakes page.

Notes and references

  1. A private version of this review was originally shared with a couple of our biggest donors in November 2020. We’re releasing this public version of the review in May 2021. We’ve edited it to remove confidential information, add some updates on our fundraising, and add some additional context to make it more legible to the public. This means that some of the data and some of the descriptions of our plans are several months out of date as of the time of public release. For the most part, however, we’ve left the substance the same.

  2. We added 12 new top plan changes and removed 1, due to re-evaluating it and determining that we no longer believe that it meets the criteria.