Effective Altruism is a movement that seeks to make the most out of charitable efforts. The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with Wharton and Engineering junior Chris Painter, who recently founded Penn's Effective Altruism club.
Daily Pennsylvanian: What is Effective Altruism?
Chris Painter: Effective Altruism isn’t actually just the club at Penn; it’s an international movement. It’s all about figuring how to do the most good per dollar donated to charity or with an hour of your career. People, when thinking about how to do good towards their fellow humans, incorporate a regional bias or local bias that minimizes a lot of their impact. There’s a huge multiplier on your impact if you donate overseas.
DP: What specifically made you want to bring EA to Penn?
Painter: One thing is that college campuses generally just have a lot of potential I think because you have a lot of people who are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their careers and have a lot potential for impact in that way. People can still change their career plans to benefit a cause area they really care about.
DP: How did you get involved with the international Effective Altruism movement?
Painter: I did a [summer] fellowship with the Center for Effective Altruism which is based in Oxford and helped put on the global conference at Berkeley. Over the last two years, five Effective Altruism-related clubs, [Giving What We Can, Penn Animal Advocacy, 80,000 Hours, Future of Humanity Society and One for the World], started up at Penn that all work in different cause areas. Penn Effective Altruism is an umbrella organization that brings all of these together.
DP: What are some projects you’re working on this semester?
Painter: In the spring we’re holding an Effective Altruism Global X Conference. We’ve signed an agreement with [the Center for Effective Altruism] to have the conference here for Philadelphia … and we’re hoping to get 300 people for that. And we’re going to be working with all of the clubs for that … Another big one is that we’re having an Effective Altruism fellowship which is for people who want to dedicate a whole semester to creating explicit plans for what they want to do with the rest of their career.
DP: What are your goals for the year? A couple of years down the line, what do you want EA to become at Penn?
Painter: My goal for Penn Effective Altruism is to have every single student at Penn be approached with the Effective Altruism methodology for having a lot of social impact and having an opportunity to change their plans because of it or have it affect their plans for doing good … Also, it’s to build a community of people that talk about these things on campus … Shorter-term would be get into a position where most undergraduates have heard of the one of clubs and have a really successful conference in the spring.
DP: What challenges do you foresee going forward?
Painter: I think some people will feel threatened which I don’t really want. All good that we do is good … My ideal situation for people who already spend a lot of time working on social impact would be that they realize these things that are super-effective and they add them as a supplement to what they’re already doing and then down the road consider if they want to think about improving the methodology on their own work … I think Effective Altruism can be applied as a lens through which to improve the impact that charity has.
This Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
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