Make CoI Policies Public
|February 9th, 2023|
It's reasonably common for non-profits to publish their CoI policies (Hewlett, Carnegie, Gates). Within effective altruism I do see some of this:
Animal Charity Evaluators has a great page on their policies, which includes their full CoI policies.
Open Philanthropy shares their Relationship Disclosure Policy, though I (and others) don't see their full policy.
GiveWell has a public Conflict of Interest Policy for Board Members, Officers, and Key Persons, though probably also has an internal one for regular employees that seems not to be public? They maintain a Relationship Disclosures page, which I think is great.
Historically people and organizations within the EA movement have prioritized transparency, and while there's been some shift away from the most enthusiastic versions of this as we've better understood the costs, there are still a lot of benefits. If you're already going to the effort of drafting a policy like this, making it public seems pretty useful:
EAs who are concerned about CoIs within the community and are thinking about what norms they might try to influence can see what's already formally in place.
Other organizations can reference it in trying to figure out what sort of policy they want.
People who are worried a situation can see what policy was (supposed to have been) followed.
On the other hand, many EA organizations don't seem to have public policies. This includes ones that work in community building or grant-making where they seem pretty important. Here are a few I checked:
The Centre for Effective Altruism mentions that they have a "written conflict of interest policy", but it doesn't seem to be public.
The Effective Ventures Foundation doesn't list anything on their site, but says in their 2021 IRS filings that "when a conflict of interest arises a plan for regularly checking in with the involved parties is done monthly as per the policy of the handbook".
The EA Funds website repeatedly mentions their CoI policy without linking one (ex: "Potential conflicts of interest are governed by the EA Funds Conflict of Interest policy"). In the 2020-02-05 post Request for Feedback: Draft of a COI policy for the Long Term Future Fund one of their fund managers linked this document ("EA Funds Conflict of Interest Policy") but in the discussion on the 2021-03-23 post EA Funds has appointed new fund managers they said it wasn't yet public and in follow-up on 2022-01-13 shared a beta version in a comment.
Giving What We Can lists their major potential CoIs publicly, which is great! But it would also be good to see the policy.
Rethink Priorities and the EA Foundation say (RP, EAF) that they have written conflict of interest policies available on request, but don't put them on their websites.
I can't find one for Charity Entrepreneurship or Founders Pledge.
I'll write asking for policies, and will update this post if I hear anything back.
Disclosure: my wife is a GiveWell board member, former president of GWWC, and works for CEA which is part of EVF. I haven't run this post by her and I don't know her views here. I work at an organization that has received funding from Open Philanthropy.
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