New to effective altruism and figuring out where to start? Looking for new ways to have an impact?
Here’s our guide to what to do next.
If you do one thing on this page, you should join the EA Newsletter:
By joining, you'll get a regular reminder that doing good is an important part of your life — along with ideas on how to do that. It's a fantastic way to spend the next ten seconds.
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We know this doesn't sound like a very practical first step. But the world's biggest problems wouldn't be so big if they were easy to solve. And there are plenty of big problems to work on. Where should you begin?
Thankfully, you're not alone. We all struggled with the same question. And while we don't have all the answers — far from it! — we've made real progress. By reading up on past research, you can make a better plan — and save time in the process.
If you're interested in what you should do with your career, we recommend 80,000 Hours' career planning course. You can also apply for individual career coaching — they recently hired new advisors and are looking to speak with many new people.
One of the simplest ways to help is by giving to highly effective charities.
For our best advice on giving, see this writeup.
For quick advice, see below:
One option is to use the EA Funds platform. If you support one of their Effective Altruism Funds, a team of experts will guide your donation to the best projects and organizations they can find. If you'd like to be a more active donor, they also offer a curated list of exceptional charities.
Another option is to use an impact-focused charity evaluator. For instance:
If you want to make a serious commitment to improving the world with your donations, you can join Giving What We Can by taking a pledge to give a percentage of your income to effective charities.
While you can learn a lot by reading, discussing things with others is often the best way to make progress and get your questions answered.
Effective altruism is a global community with thousands of members. Here are some ways to get connected:
If you're still looking for ideas, see the recommendations below.
Solving the world's most important problems naturally requires skills, talent, and experience. Rather than immediately donating or volunteering, it is often better for someone new to effective altruism to start by becoming better educated about its theory and practice. The aspiration to do the most good takes more than just good intentions; there’s a lot of evidence and careful reasoning needed to successfully maximize your impact.
Do you have lots of questions about effective altruism? It can be hard to navigate all of the material that exists on the topic, and find the right people to answer your many queries. If you're facing this problem, expert forums could be the solution.
Do you want to receive regular updates with interesting articles, organization updates, and job announcements? To receive monthly information via email, sign up for the EA newsletter.
One of the simplest ways to make a difference is donating money to one of the organizations you think will do the most good with it.
This is easier said than done — identifying the best charities is complicated work — but we’re here to help.
By donating to the most effective charities, the amount of good you can do is immense. In the event that the unexpected happens, ensure that your savings go to effective charities by writing a will directed towards GiveWell’s top charities. This is particularly relevant for people with substantial wealth and those later in life.
Taking a pledge lets you make a serious commitment to improving the world through your donations. By declaring your intention to give, and joining a community of others who've done the same, you can make altruism a deeper part of your identity, and strengthen the EA movement as a whole.
However, a pledge is a major decision, and it won't make sense for everyone.
Startup founders often want to make the world better, but have to pinch pennies while getting their companies up and running. If you're an entrepreneur, you can take the Founders Pledge to maintain your personal commitment to give, and share your commitment with others. Pledgers commit to give a percentage of their future exit or liquidity event earnings to the high-impact charities of their choice.
Say you’re a student or early-stage professional who's committed to doing what's best for the world, and think effective altruism offers promise for doing that well. If you’re serious about your values, you can take it to the next level and do EA work full-time. Your time is a vast and valuable resource, but figuring out how to spend it best can be really hard. To help you out, career-advice organization 80,000 Hours has your back.
Most people spend roughly 80,000 hours working in their lives. If you want to make a substantial impact on the world, your career is probably your best opportunity.
Do you have an idea for a project that would be valuable to do? Do you have time to spare and an entrepreneurial flair? If you’re really familiar with the EA space and think your idea is really worthwhile, write up a project proposal and try to get it off the ground!
If you’re coming to EA from a field that's underrepresented in the community (i.e. most things besides academic philosophy and computer science) we probably haven’t figured out how to make best use of your discipline. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the EA basics, cross-reference them against what people in your life and field are doing, and see where the principles might be applied beneficially.
Much of the work that EAs do is augmented by ties to the industries to which they relate. If you have close ties to a community that has relevant components to EA or believe that you could enmesh yourself in one, we encourage you to do so, and help the rest of the community learn from your experience.
Although there are many nonprofits working in the international development space, few meet the impact and transparency criteria charity evaluator GiveWell seeks in a highly-effective program. To address this shortage, consider taking the leap and starting a charity along those lines. This is particularly well-suited to people looking to work on international development, and for those with a penchant for evidence-based entrepreneurship.
Working on a piece of moral philosophy for the EA Forum? Want someone to chek over your petition to the US Congress? Drafting the framework for a new project and could use a second set of eyes? To get feedback on your work, you can join the Effective Altruism Editing and Review group on Facebook.
It's often hard to get a clear picture of the state-of-the-art research in domains relevant to EA interests. Meta-analyses -- holistic analyses of a number of individual studies -- are stronger evidence about the impact of an intervention than any one study can be by itself, so they are great tools for people trying to use evidence and reason to make the world better.
The effective altruism community has become relatively well-versed in a few domains but could still use a lot of brainpower in many other highly promising areas. We need experienced researchers who are willing to go off the beaten path to investigate areas that typically lie outside the remits of existing organizations.
Some questions, if answered, could drastically change our beliefs about what is best to focus on. Orienting your research towards these so-called crucial considerations could have a profound impact compared to other possible research agendas. Tackling one of these is a perfect project for an ambitious researcher particularly keen to make a difference.
Effective Altruism Global is the annual conference of the EA community. There are 1 to 3 events every year, focusing on pushing the frontier of our understanding in relevant domains and helping people excited about EA to build their connections and pursuits. Consider attending, particularly if you're relatively familiar with EA and/or have expertise in some relevant subdomain, and are looking to make a big change in the EA direction.
Sometimes the best way to get people into EA is simply to learn more about their interests and skills and talk through EA with them face-to-face. If you’re looking for an activity that members of your local EA group can do or something you can do in a region lacking a local group, consider arranging social meetings with people in your local community who might be interested in EA.
One of the most common ways in which people become involved with EA is through personal connections, and local groups (or "chapters") are a good way to facilitate more of those happening. This is a great activity to pick if you live in a region that doesn't already have an EA group hosting discussions, socials, and/or professional networking.
If you’re involved in a less-established local group in a medium or large city, consider running a local EA event. These are locally-organized half-day events, with a range of event structures. We suggest this for groups trying to help their current members improve themselves, and offer something valuable and compelling to people not yet engaged with the local group.
If you’re part of a student or professional group and trying to extend the reach of your local group, consider running a large speaker event. Local groups often use large speaker events to springboard future engagements, following them with, for instance, a more intimate introduction to EA discussion group. This is a particularly good event to advertise at a student activities fair.
If you already have a steady local group or multiple dedicated EAs in the area, a discussion group can help get everyone on the same page and further one another’s understanding. This works best with a small-to-medium-sized group of at least semi-regular members.
If you’re a student or remote employee, consider gathering the EAs in your region together for a tandem work session. Individuals have found this to be an easy way to create a local presence where little exists, and local groups have used this for group bonding in a productivity-promoting way.
Some of the best ways to help are by improving or scaling the efforts of projects that have high leverage to make the world better. If you’re willing to give your time and skills, there’s likely to be some way that you can help. These opportunities will be particularly well suited to people who are able to do things on call and check Facebook notifications frequently.
Lists are useful for finding jobs, collaborators, resources, and concrete examples of progress in cause areas. If you're investigating an area for your own purposes, consider getting into the habit of building a list while you do so, and sharing it more widely.
One skill that has proven useful in many EA pursuits is mathematics. From technical research to earning-to-give, mathematics gives people the chance to do uniquely high-leverage EA activities. If you know young adults who are mathematically talented, consider referring them to one of the many quantitative EA opportunities.