Author: lukefreeman

My next chapter begins at Giving What We Can

My next chapter begins at Giving What We Can

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve just started my new role as Head of Giving What We Can at The Centre for Effective Altruism.

Giving What We Can has been a meaningful part of my life since I took The Pledge in 2016 (and engaged with the ideas even earlier), and I’m honoured to dedicate my next chapter to motivate people to give more, and more effectively. Effective giving is a way that many people can have an outsized impact. I also believe that creating a culture of effective giving expands our moral circle and increases the number of people taking tangible actions to solve some of the worlds most important problems.

If you’re interested, you can read more at the Giving What We Can blog.

If you’re inspired, I encourage you to consider taking The Pledge (or Try Giving), subscribing to updates, or learning more.

If you want to help (…thanks!):

What is Giving What We Can?

Giving What We Can is a community of effective givers. We inspire people to donate significantly and as effectively as possible; creating a culture of giving more, and more effectively.

And for the visually inclined, here’s some of my favourite videos explaining more about GWWC and effective giving.

Stay The Heck Home (feat. Virtual Choir)

Stay The Heck Home (feat. Virtual Choir)

These are crazy times with COVID19 and the health, work and daily life impact that’s had – and it’s still only early days.

We all process this it in different ways.

For me it turns out that music has been one of those ways.

Thank you to everyone who sent videos and audio tracks. The sound of your voices and sight of your faces warms my heart, picks me up, gives me hope.

I hope this song does that for you and helps us feel like we’re together in this, even when physically apart.

Special thanks:

  • Elizabeth (Lead Vocals)
  • Lisa (Lead Vocals)
  • Serene (Tenor Ukulele Solo)
  • Adam (Soprano Ukulele)
  • Brent (Sax)
  • Josien (Backing Vocals)
  • James, Kerrie, Elizabeth, Imogen (lyric feedback)
  • Mark, Levi, Trish, Gregory, Eliot Ainsley, August, Rufus, Szun, Neil, David, Walter & Judy, Jesse, Kira, Sarah, Imogen, Adam, Chelsea, Hugh, Sally, Bella (my wonderful virtual choir)
Why and how to do an “Attends” or “Goes To” event for your community group

Why and how to do an “Attends” or “Goes To” event for your community group

Communities often demand a constant source of nurturing for healthy maintenance and growth.

Meet-up events are a great way to do this but organising such events can be exhausting and time consuming. Especially, the complex ones that need preparation and a hired venue – speaker events, presentations and discussion groups, for instance.

A great strategy for relieving stress on the organisers, while maintaining the momentum and growth of your community, is to organise “attends” or “goes to” events.

These events don’t need you to curate the core content because someone else has already done the hard work.

Think of all the benefits:

  • Low amount of effort to organise.
  • Grow your community by mixing as a group with other people that are like you.
  • Frequent events help in keeping the momentum up.
  • You could come across partners for future events. Such as other local groups who’d want to run “attends” events to bring their community to your events.
  • Reduce costs by getting group discounts, traveling together and avoiding the need to hire venue or equipment for your events.
  • You can encourage other groups to attend your events by officially attending their events. A great way to cross-pollinate.

1. Find relevant events

Your community probably has a lot of overlap with other communities and things going on in your local area – or even ones you can travel to.

a) Attend regional or national events

If your group is (officially or unofficially) part of a bigger network of groups (e.g. a club, society, social movement) there’s likely bigger events being held in your city or in another city that your group could “officially” attend together.

You can save on hotels and transfers by sharing stay, travel and booking expenses.

b) Attend talks, discussions or conferences by other groups

Often there are adjacent groups to yours that have similar overlapping interests and topics.

You can easily find them on sites like Meetup, Eventbrite or Facebook.

If you get in touch there’s often an opportunity to partner with them or arrange for a group discount.

c) Films, shows, festivals

These are often much bigger than your own group and require little other than sometimes booking ahead, picking a time and showing up.

You can find them on listing sites that have choices from local government, cinemas, venues or chambers of commerce

This works the best when you have a central meeting point. You can use it to meet with your group for food and drinks before or after the central event.

d) Take part as a team in a sporting event, volunteering or a fundraiser

Find them by searching online or asking your community about the ongoing campaigns that they are already involved with.

2. Confirm a core group of people who will be able to attend the event

Use existing channels to post the event details such as Facebook, Meetup or email, tailored for your community.

Make sure to mention that this would be an externally organised event. Provide the details for booking tickets, travelling logistics, significance of the event to your community, who is the community point of contact and where will all the members meet before the official start time.

3. Show up, find each other, and enjoy it!

The hard easy work is done, and all you need to do is have fun!

 Later you can review the whole event. You could talk on how to improve the experience, and if such events could work out for your community in the future.

Examples

A quick Google search can show you how other groups are doing such kinds of events:

Now, over to you…

So, will you organise such an event? Why or why not? If you do already, how do you do it? Share your thoughts, questions and experiences in the comments.

Dear Citizens, we can do better

Dear Citizens, we can do better

As the Australian political landscape continues to race to the bottom, remember this: we have options. Especially because in our country your vote can go a lot further with a preferential ballot (and a proportional senate).

A redefining of the political spectrum and a switch to a conversation around policy instead of personality and a focus on optimism instead of division is possible if we speak up with our votes and our voices.

As flawed as it may be, we live in a democracy still. Now is the perfect time to be a good citizen and engage with our future, the future of our communities, and the future of the rest of live on this planet.

As it’s been said:

If not now, then when? If not us, then who?

If we’re not moving forward, we’re falling back.

My request for action goes way beyond simply the way that we vote, it goes to the very heart of how we conduct ourselves and what we expect of each other. Therefore…

  • I dare you to choose optimism over apathy.
  • I beg you to choose open-mindedness over ideology.
  • I call you to choose cosmopolitanism over parochialism.
  • I ask you choose compassion over heartlessness.
  • I challenge you to choose nuance over sensationalism.
  • I encourage you to choose conversations over mocking.
  • I implore you to choose self-awareness over self-righteousness.
  • I hope you will choose change over stagnation.

As the adage goes:

We can’t keep doing the same things and expecting different results.

The carrot and the stick: behaviours based on negative and positive emotions

The carrot and the stick: behaviours based on negative and positive emotions

A lot of our human behaviour is motivated by negative emotions, or “sticks”, such as guilt, fear, shame, or entitlement.
These behaviours wouldn’t exist if they weren’t “useful” (in an evolutionary psychology sense), just like many other heuristics (or “biases” in the negative sense).
However, just because things may be useful (instrumental in achieving specific goals) it doesn’t meant that they’re necessarily optimal for human flourishing.
If you’ve trained an animal in recent years you’ll probably have noticed that many animal behaviorist focus on carrots more than sticks.
Instead of removing these emotions entirely I’ve tried to “hack” some of them to use them as tools. One example is my Beeminder goals which I use my fear of losing money and shame of failure to force my future self to do things that it won’t necessarily feel like doing in the moment but will like having had done later (such as writing this as part of my 50 words a day commitment).
I wonder if it’s possible to optimize for the flourishing of sentient beings without using negative emotions as one of the tools?
I hope so. It’s worth trying to use them less at least.
Thanks to Malcolm Ocean for sparking this line of thought in our conversation the other day. Also, go read his blog.
What an amazing third EAGxAustralia!

What an amazing third EAGxAustralia!

Everything has wrapped up with EAGxAustralia thanks to the help of my organising team and volunteers!

All up we had 330 people attending the keynote, 180 participants across the weekend, 32 speakers, 30 volunteers, and a further 20 people at the retreat – but more important than those numbers was the 88% of feedback survey respondents who made a change in their plans and expect to have an increased impact due to that change.

Feedback

The clear winner for participant satisfaction was the satisfaction with the other participants! Plus, one of the most common take aways was that participants want to be more involved with a community of like-minded people who are interested in effectively doing good and keen to focus on the importance of many different ideas.

Participant Feedback

Community

With all that excitement for community and learning in mind we strongly recommend getting involved with your local group, joining the Effective Altruists Facebook group, signing up to the Effective Altruism Newsletter (as well as your local group newsletter) and the 80,000 Hours newsletter.

Donations

A common question that came up is where to donate money. Effective Altruism is about asking the question “how can I do the most good with the time and resources I have” and there are many different answers to that, many of which are dependent on our values. However, many people in the EA community have spent a lot of time thinking about this and there are some good suggestions out there by GiveWell and the Centre for Effective Altruism.

Effective Altruism Australia also enables Australian donors to support effective, transparent and evidence-based poverty alleviation. Profits from EAGxAustralia 2017 will be donated to EAA and will support the work of organisations such as Evidence Action, GiveDirectly and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.

If EAGxAustralia influenced your donations in any way please let us know.

Videos & Slides

The videos were all streamed live and are available on Facebook. If you’re after the slides from the presentations you can find them at eagxaustralia.com/slides

Photos

We’ve uploaded photos to the Facebook Page – please add any photos to the Facebook Event or email them to [email protected] and we’ll add them to the album.

What’s Next?

If you’re interested in being involved in another EAGxAustralia conference in 2018 please let us know here!

Learning from history so that we don’t repeat it

Learning from history so that we don’t repeat it

I was sorting through some Europe photos and had a queasy moment when I got to Dachau in light of the last 18 months but especially the last week.

The German guide (pictured on left) we had was very good at explaining the context of the time and even read some newspaper quotes from editorials of Jews at the time who were defending most Germans as good people and saying that the worst would never happen and taking it on themselves to make it better by being good citizens. We came away feeling a lot of empathy, compassion for everyone involved but also an aching awareness of the train wreck that can happen when things start to snowball out of control and we as human beings do things to others that we would never have imagined.

I’m humbled to be living in the context that I am in.

As many monuments all across Europe say, forgive but never forget.

No person and certainly no society is infallible and incapable of falling.

Our greatest lessons come from history and we must know it, warts and all.

I admire the way the German people have learned this better than most and are now often more of a shining light than the former allied nations.

History is how you get where you are, it’s not who you are.

Inside Dachau
Inside Dachau

I hope those in the USA who are protesting the removal of confederate statues know that where they’ve come from isn’t who they are, it isn’t their identity and it shouldn’t determine who they will be.

History, especially the ugly parts, is something to be remembered but not revered. It’s irrational and unhelpful to take pride in the ugliest parts.

If we’re going to be the flourishing species that we truly can be then we have to be a species of progress not regress. We need to be a species that values compassion and critical thinking. We need to be a species that recognises it’s part of a global (or galactic) community, we are the stewards of our planet and our future is in our hands.

Let’s remember the past while we walk, or run, forward into a better future.

What I’ve learned about habits while living on less

What I’ve learned about habits while living on less

As promised, here’s the next instalment of what I’ve learned living on less.

If you haven’t yet read the prequels this may make very little sense to you. Go read them first. I’ll wait.

The power of habit

While doing this challenge I re-read one of my all-time favourite books, The Power of Habit. The timing couldn’t have been better reminding myself how habits work really helped me get through the first two weeks especially.

Part of the reason living on less than $2 was so hard for the first few days was that so many of my habits were working against me.

I’m sure you can empathise – just imagine these scenarios and see if they’re at all familiar:

  • Every morning after my ride… I crave a coffee.
  • Having friends over for a BBQ… I crave a beer.
  • After 40km on the bike or at 3pm in the office… I crave a snack.

habit-loopUsing the ideas covered in ‘The Power of Habit’ I was thrilled to find ways of replacing the routine part of the habit loop that were within my budget.

For these three habits I managed to use about 1-2 tea cheap tea bags per day to replace both coffee and beer (iced tea!). Making a large thermos or jug helped my sanity enormously for only a couple of cents of ingredients. For snacking I introduced peanut button on white bread – not the healthiest but I would be in serious calorie deficit without substituting my snacking with something half-decent.

Fortunately I was already equipped better than some people to take on this challenge because of the habits I already formed prior to starting it.

I’m already a very frugal guy, I do a lot of mental maths and love my spreadsheets as well as things like packing my lunches, cooking in bulk, traveling by bike and drinking less alcohol. I also have a daily practice of gratitude, journaling and mindfulness that helped me keep my brain in the right place for this (reminding myself daily what I am doing, why I am doing it and what actions I need to take).

Restricting my spend would have been much harder had I not found ways replace various routines in the habit loop with sufficient replacements and started with a few helpful habits already.

What about you?

Do you have any stories of habits you’ve changed – or any ones you’re struggling with?

Let me know in the comments below and I’ll send one of my favourite books to the author of my favourite comment.

Shameless plug

Please donate to help end poverty, read about what I’m doing, check out the other blog posts, and share if you haven’t yet.

What I’ve learned living on less

What I’ve learned living on less

It’s day 20 of my living on less challenge and so far I’ve averaged $1.79 per day for my food, taken 3 train trips and been a passenger in a car four times. I’ve raised an AUD equivalent of ~$1,140 to support some of the most effective charities helping to improve the lives of people in poverty.

It’s not been a walk in the park by any means but I’ve certainly learned a lot.

When I started writing this post I thought it’d be a few quick lessons – turns out I was very wrong. I’ve decided to break it up into what I’ve learned about people, food, poverty, fundraising and habits.

[Updated on Feb 25]

Here each of the articles I’ve published about what I’ve learned while living on less:

My final article will sum up the final results and discuss what’s next. Please subscribe to get the updates right to your inbox, donate to help end poverty, read about what I’m doing, and share with your friends.

How to define ‘good’?

How to define ‘good’?

Every morning I remind myself of my personal life goal, my purpose as I currently define it.

So far I have only shared this goal with a few select people.

When I have shared it there always seems to be a follow-up question. A question that is just as important to me as the goal.

For the first time publicly I’m sharing both my goal and my answer to that common followup question.

Goal

I want to be a force for good in the world

Question

Okay, that sounds great… but how do you define ‘good’?

Answer

Good is something experienced by sentient beings when their flourishing is increased, suffering is reduced¹, rights protected and their agency balanced with the deterministic aspects of life. This is often achieved through a practice of virtuous behaviours and universal rules. It is ‘good’ to balance the competing goals of ‘goodness’ using rationality and critical inquiry. We experience ‘good’ as we engage with the richness of life in all it’s complexity, happiness, hardship and joy.

There is a lot packed into that definition and ‘being a force for good’ with that definition is an incredibly challenging goal that I’ll only ever be taking small steps towards – but it’s the kind of goal that keeps me honest.

The links in the definition are the best ones I can find right now, I plan to update them as time goes on. All of the aspects of ‘good’ packed into this statement are major premises that I would always love to talk about or be challenged on. To define them best I think I’ll need to write about what they mean to me and unpack it in further detail – for the sake of myself and for others.

This is my ‘draft’, my working definition. I look forward to its continuous development and seeing how it changes over time as I grow and as I am challenged.

Notes:

  1. I linked to two articles on Utilitarianism when talking about flourishing and suffering, while I think maximising the former and minimising the latter is ultimately ‘better’ I only hold the weaker goal of increasing and reducing as something that’s feasible and required for ‘good’.