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Quinn McHugh

Following the last Green Drinks Philly meetup, an attendee reached out to me, asking for my thoughts on the most impactful climate-focused organizations to contribute to here in the Philly area.

While I don't claim to be an expert in climate giving, I wanted to share my thoughts, in case it might benefit anyone else grappling with similar questions:

1️⃣ If you're thinking about the impact of your donations, kudos!!!!!! 👏👏👏 You're already on a great path towards having more impact.

2️⃣ My default answer to "where should I give locally?" is to turn it around and ask: "is there a particular reason you want to give locally?"

The most cost-effective interventions within a given cause (e.g. climate, global health, education, etc) are often orders of magnitude more cost-effective than the average. Thus, by limiting your scope, you may ultimately be limiting your impact. It's valuable to consider the underlying reason you want to donate to a local organization, given the amount of good your money could do elsewhere. This is not to say that you're wrong for deciding to give locally (there are perfectly valid reasons for doing so!). What matters most is that your decision is made thoughtfully and intentionally.

3️⃣ If you're interested in giving beyond your immediate area, there are two charities I would recommend checking out:

  • Founders Pledge Climate Change Fund - Founder's Pledge advises entrepreneurs on high-impact giving. Donating to their climate change fund puts your money into a pool that is strategically allocated by philanthropic experts. The drawback of charity funds is that it can feel like your money is being thrown into a black box that someone else ultimately decides what to do with. If you'd rather have 100% control over where your donations go, you might turn to a charity evaluator like…

  • Giving Green - Giving Green is a charity dedicated to helping individuals and businesses make more effective climate-giving decisions. They specialize in finding evidence-based, cost-effective, and high-leverage organizations that maximize the impact of your climate donations. See their recommended non-profits here: https://www.givinggreen.earth/top-climate-change-nonprofit-donations-recommendations

4️⃣ When it comes to local organizations, it's probably best to do your own research (and publish your findings for the rest of us!) For starters, you might consider researching organizations like the Clean Air Council, PennFuture, Penn Environment, or Clean Water Action.

For finding additional charities, you might also consider browsing the City of Philadelphia Office of Sustainability's publications or the Penn Center for High Impact Philanthropy's webpage on identifying and researching nonprofits to support.

What did I miss? I'd love to hear your thoughts below.

Quinn McHugh

I've noticed a large spectrum of reactions to OpenAI's Sora announcement, ranging from complete awe to existential dread. However you're processing the news, please know that it's entirely normal to feel a range of emotions in response to such significant technological developments. Emotions are complex, and it's important to give yourself the time to feel them without judgment and seek out others who might be able to provide mutual support. With this in mind, I wanted to share the following resources, which might provide solace and new perspective during this time:

  1. ActiveHope.Training: https://activehope.training/
  2. "Another Way to Be Okay" by Gretta Duleba: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/SKweL8jwknqjACozj/another-way-to-be-okay

Quinn McHugh

Tonight, I thoroughly enjoyed a live screening of "It's Basic", a documentary exploring the promise of unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) to help alleviate poverty, hosted by the Center for Guaranteed Income Research (CGIR) at the Penn School of Social Policy & Practice, followed by an expert panel.

Some key nuggest of insight:

  • There are two primary aspects of a successful 'pilot to policy' transition: (1) consensus on the evidence ("is this intervention effective?") and (2) consensus in society ("does this intervention have public support?")
  • UCTs are not a new idea - in 1967, Martin Luther King Jr advocated for guaranteed income for all Americans, declaring "the dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands.”
  • Americans are often resistant to the concept of UCTs, as it challenges the deep-rooted foundation of the 'American Dream' - the belief that relative success is attainable through hard work alone. Giving people cash without conditions implicitly acknowledges that poverty often cannot be escaped without external assistance.
  • Existing social programs in the US can be extremely demoralizing to take advantage of - as one UCT recipient described it, these programs continually require recipients to prove they are "worthy of breadcrumbs."
  • Formerly incarcerated individuals are perhaps the most deserving of UCTs due to their high risk of facing homelessness. Yet, these programs receive the greatest skepticism from policymakers and the public.

Afterward, I spoke with one of the lead researchers at the CGIR about what aspects of poverty UCTs are ill-suited to address. Paraphrasing, they made clear that UCTs are not a panacea. They view UCTs as a complement to existing social programs.

Building on this perspective, I think taking a complex systems view of poverty is useful for understanding the role of UCTs. There is a seemingly infinite combination of challenges that individuals facing poverty contend with. Although social programs and policies can address some of these challenges, these relatively rigid approaches are unable to address many of the nuanced and multifaceted elements of poverty. Thus, UCTs offer a flexible solution, enabling recipients to address poverty in a way that is tailored to their unique needs and circumstances. This approach aligns closely with the core principles of human-centered design - emphasizing empathy, respecting user autonomy, and involving individuals directly in crafting solutions to their problems.

Check out the documentary here

Quinn McHugh

#TIL about Democracy Technologies, a magazine of the Innovation Politics Institute.

They offer:

  1. An impressive database of tools to support participatory decision-making, including Polis, Decidim, and Loomio
  2. Introductory articles on concepts relating to digital democracy
  3. News, case studies, guides, and other resources related to innovations in democratic technology ...and more!

While many of these technologies are designed primarily for use by government & municipal entities, I'd argue they offer substantial value to any companies or non-profits looking to increase their decision-making effectiveness and capacity to innovate. With the ability to gather, aggregate, and make sense of qualitative feedback in a fraction of the time and cost of running traditional surveys, organizations willing to explore the potential of these cutting-edge tools stand to foster a culture of collaborative innovation, boost employee engagement, and stay resilient to disruption in an increasingly complex world.

Quinn McHugh

Have you ever wanted to keep track of your Meetup.com events using RSS?

Me too!

This handy procedure provides instructions for receiving new Meetup.com events in your RSS reader:

Instructions

  1. Navigate to the "Your groups" page on Meetup.com.
  2. Open each of your desired groups in a new tab.
  3. Copy and paste the URL of each Meetup group into a text file.
    • If you're using Google Chrome, you can use Bulk URL Opener to generate a list of URLs from your active tabs.
  4. Convert each URL to RSS using regex:
    1. Open Regex101 in a new tab.
    2. On the left sidebar, select Substitution.
    3. Underneath "Regular Expression", type \/\n.
    4. Underneath "Substition", typ /events/rss\n. This URL corresponds to the RSS feed of the Meetup group's events page.
  5. Copy the new list of URLs into an online OPML generator, such as Riz Tools OPML Generator.
  6. Generate an .opml file using the site. The site may also return an .xml file - this is fine to use as well.
  7. Import the .opml into your RSS reader.

Convert Meetup event URLs to RSS feeds

Quinn McHugh

I recently came across this great introductory talk from the Center for Humane Technology, discussing the less catastrophic, but still significant risks of generative large language models (LLMs). This might be a valuable resource to share with those unfamiliar with the staggering pace of AI capabilities research.

A key insight for me: Generative LLMs have the capacity to interpret an astonishing variety of languages. Whether those languages are traditional (e.g. written or verbal English) or abstract (e.g. images, electrical signals in the brain, wifi traffic, etc) doesn't necessarily matter. What matters is the events in that language can be quantified and measured.

While this opens up the door to numerous fascinating applications (e.g. translating animal vocalizations to human language, enabling blind individuals to see), it also raises some serious concerns regarding privacy of thought, mass surveillance, and further erosion of truth, among others.

Quinn McHugh

Creating a productivity system that works for your unique life situation can yield numerous of benefits.

Benefits such as:

However, it's too easy to view these systems purely as mechanisms to boost your productivity. That is, viewing them as valuable because they help you "get more stuff done".

To me, these systems aren't only valuable because they increase your individual capacity - they also play an integral role in preserving your cognitive health. Reducing the clutter your mind has to remember and keep track of is not just a strategy for staying organized; it's a way to care for your brain.

A brain drowning in information is not a healthy brain.

Consider your brain as a muscle. Over-exertion and continuous strain can lead to fatigue and damage, impairing its long-term functionality. So, as you exercise your body for physical health, remember to care for your mental muscle too - it's equally vital, if not more.