What is Effective Altruism?
Effective Altruism is a movement that employs “the use of research, evidence, and reasoning to figure out how to help others as much as possible, then having a community of people take action on these findings.” Proponents of Effective Altruism use a framework to determine which problems should receive the most attention, prioritizing those that are:
- Great in scale
- Highly neglected
- Highly solvable
This method is intended as guidance in order to focus energy and resources on activism that can produce needed and tangible change. The movement hopes to maximize possible impact by encouraging individuals—and organizations—to be intentional about the causes they support and how their money can be best put to use in order to create change. The three main causes promoted by Effective Altruism are: fighting extreme poverty, animal welfare, and improving the long term future. Some of the avenues for change that the movement considers are through impactful careers, financial support of effective charities, and community involvement.
The concept of Effective Altruism brings up some interesting questions to consider. While its framework does provide some guidance, it may be vague enough to generate disagreement about which issues should be prioritized. By advocating prioritization of “highly solvable” issues, Effective Altruism may leave out equally important issues that may be more difficult or complex to solve. Additionally, it may lead some to wonder how to measure the impact of non-monetary activism or involvement.
Effective Altruism at work with PCUN
Effective Altruism provides an interesting perspective from which to view our engagement partnership with PCUN and evaluate the effectiveness of their activism. PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noreste) is an advocacy group for Oregon farm and lumber workers, specifically those in the Latinx community. PCUN engages in effective action on three levels, a 501(c)3 organization, a 501(c) 4 organization, and a 501 C(5) organization. The 501(c)3 is centered around community engagement, the 501(c) 4 represents their political advocacy actions, and the 501 C(5) serves as a labor union to their members. Each of these organizations within PCUN serves as a different form of engagement. This brings up the question: how can we measure the effectiveness of PCUN’s activism and programs?
PCUN lists five Core Programs, PCUN’s Collective Bargaining Committee (CBC), Radio Movimiento, System’s Change and Grassroots Policy Advocacy, Healthy Workplaces, and Better Elections. Each program’s effectiveness may be evaluated differently. PCUN’s political action efforts are outlined alongside its past achievements to determine their success. They list their accomplishments as:
- 2019 Spring Elections – Ran two movement candidates for Salem-Keizer School Board; David Salinas for Zone 6; Raul Marquez for Zone 2 – to potentially become Salem-Keizer’s first Latinx school board members. We knocked on 28K doors, made 4,000 calls to young voters.
- 2018 Midterms – Re-Elected Representative Teresa Alonso-Leon, Governor Kate Brown, and Representative Paul Evans. We also supported candidates that won their first elections including Rep. Salinas, Rep. – Elect Rachel Prusak, and Eric Swenson for Mayor of Woodburn.
- 2018 Primary – Passed a $619.7 Million School Bond in Salem-Keizer District during an off year, and May primary. The numbers showed precincts APP knocked, the Latinx vote more than doubled from 2017.
- 2017 – Led the charge to elect one of the only Latinx majority school boards in Oregon.
- 2016 – Ran a parallel campaign for Teresa Alonso-Leon in HD 22. We knocked 16,000 Latinx doors in the district. This historical race meant today Woodburn/NE Salem now are represented by the first Indigenous Latina in the Oregon Legislature.
As well as setting new goals this coming year:
- This year our Electoral Field efforts will focus on identifying committed movement candidates to endorse in the primary based on there commitment to farmworkers, and immigrant working families. Our plan is to prioritize races in Marion County; and identify strategic endorsements in cities with high density Latinx voters.
Connecting Effective Altruism with PCUN
These goals may set metrics for measuring aspects of the various actions PCUN takes. Since we anticipate a complicated actor network through each of these programs and sub organizations, measuring the effectiveness of goals could present difficulties. Additionally, the efficiency of which their goals are carried out may also be difficult to calculate. Overall, engaging with an organization like PCUN may not create the absolute most effective action possible, considering how wide the scope of their goals are. Instead, engaging with them may be meaningful to support a value or moral belief that PCUN stands with and create change on a smaller scale.
Latinx people in the United States face particular challenges in our current political climate, where Donald Trump’s presidency represents a rise in racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric. With the Hispanic population serving as our nation’s largest minority group, PCUN’s work on Latinx workers’ rights is extremely important. This work has also become increasingly difficult. In attempting to measure the effectiveness of PCUN’s activism, it bears consideration that their organization, with its support of labor and immigrants, is up against the opposing forces of the conservative administration and political climate. In hopes to combat a national trend of xenophobia and far-right ideology, PCUN both emphasizes political action, as detailed above, and reaches out to the Latinx community in order to educate them on how their rights can be protected and engage them in activism. One of the ways PCUN ensures Latinx voices are heard is through its membership opportunities. As a member you are entitled to:
- PCUN ID Card
- Discounts at the Service Center and building use
– At the Immigration Services: $25 discount for consultations. (Does not include government fees and processing fees)
– Translation, interpretation, writing services in person or by phone – depending on the type of document.
– 10 percent discount on the use of the PCUN room for parties and events. (Only for members and immediate family)
– Free or discounted admission to our events and trainings
- Help and direct service– Fill out disability forms
– Work claims to the OSHA Department (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) and BOLI (Industrial Office and Labor)
- Special communications– Postcards, informative, forms and communicative only for members.
- Access– To the community garden
– Our national memberships with the network of the Center for Popular Democracy, and with the Working Families Party.
- Influence– Right to vote in the PCUN Annual Convention (here we ratify our priorities and political agenda)
– You can lead a committee or be a member of the Board of Directors (it has to be approved by the members and the board)
Here PCUN looks to identify the main problems that immigrant families and workers face currently in the United States and to offer assistance. With two membership options, PCUN allows members who are in the union, or work in the fields, two votes rather than the normal one vote at the annual convention.
The goals of Effective Altruism focus on issues that are highly solvable and great in scale. PCUN’s goals are relatively small in scale but great in scope and therefore potentially more difficult to be labeled as highly “effective.” However, their work is still hugely important and they have become a powerful and notable political force in Oregon. This presents a problem with the Effective Altruism ideology. While PCUN’s work and goals do not exactly fall into their model, they should not be ignored. Effective Altruism ideals will likely be more helpful to our team in terms of how we engage with PCUN to make our collaboration beneficial for both sides.