Tentative plans for Impact Academy

  • 6 min read
  • Sebastian Schmidt, Vilhelm Skoglund
  • Jul 27 2023
  • Effective Altriusm

  • Future Academy

Tentative plans for Impact Academy

What is Impact Academy, and who are “we”?

Impact Academy is a non-profit organization that enables people to become world-class leaders, thinkers, and doers who are shaping their careers and character to solve our most pressing problems and create the best possible future.

Impact Academy was founded in February 2023 by Vilhelm Skoglund, Sebastian Schmidt, and Lowe Lundin after running Future Academy - a six-month ambitious educational program. Future Academy was supported by Open Philanthropy, among others, and we have gotten $3+ million for setting up the organization and carrying out its next projects in 2023.

Mission and what we do

Our mission is to:

Enable people to become world-class leaders, thinkers, and doers who are using their careers and characters to solve some of the most pressing problems and contribute to the best possible futures.

To deliver the best interventions possible and inform others, we will use an experimental approach, conduct applied research and share our findings. Additionally, we will provide small grants to our participants and others who share our aims. Over time we will likely increase our grantmaking efforts, focusing on incubating and supporting longtermist projects and organizations.

Our next programs

Future Academy v2 (India edition)

Impact Academy’s first intervention was Future Academy (FA). Future Academy aimed to equip university students and early-career professionals from anywhere in the world with the thinking, skills, and resources they need to pursue ambitious and impactful careers. It was a free six-month program consisting of four in-person weekends with workshops, presentations, socials, and monthly digital events. Furthermore, the 21 fellows worked on an impact project with an experienced mentor and received professional coaching to empower them to increase their impact and become their best selves. Upon completion of the program, all participants went to a global impact conference (EAGx Nordics) where four fellows presented their projects. We awarded stipends of a total of $20,000 to the best projects. The projects included a sentiment analysis of public perception of AI risk, a philosophy AI alignment paper, and an organization idea for improving research talent in Tanzania. Our faculty included entrepreneurs and professors from Oxford University and UC Berkeley. We consider FA to have been a success and we are now running a second and more developed version of the program, including different tracks for fellows interested in different priority paths.

AI policy fellowship

This project is a fellowship for people who are in the early to mid stages of their policy careers or graduating from top schools and want to understand the field of AI governance quickly. This will be achieved by running an online fellowship. The fellowship will be centered around mentorship and project work.

This section lays out the themes for the next five years and provides an overview of what has been done. The content is subject to change, the year themes will not dictate all actions done that year and the indicated timeline could be shorter or longer. Nonetheless, it will give a sense of the overarching concept and timeline.

  • 2022 - Setting Impact Academy up for five-year success: Building the (organizational) foundation and running a bold experiment
    • Aims for the year: Our first year was mainly focused on evaluating whether to start something, building organizational foundations and testing Future Academy. We secured funds, created the official foundation, built relevant partnerships and started hiring some interns.
    • Money spent: ~$200k
    • >Staff size: ~1.5 FTE
  • 2023 - Explore, learn, and make a few excellent decisions
    • Aims for the year: In our second year we are focused on exploration. We want to try out different projects and learn as much as possible for future years. This will include large-scale decisions such as which audience to target, general intervention design and which location to run out of.
    • Budget: ~$600k
    • Staff size: ~5 FTE
  • 2024 - Finding our focus and making final foundational decisions
    • Aim of the year: We will continue to explore, but start finding our focus. We will have tried out multiple different interventions, and will likely have found the main interventions to stick with (while continuing to experiment). This will also allow us to make final foundational decisions for Impact Academy. Examples of decisions include: Where do we want to be based? Do we want to focus on a specific priority path (e.g., AI)? Who should be our main target group? How much focus will be given to human development and building effective altruist virtues/characteristics?
    • Budget: ~ $850k-$1.2M
    • Staff size: ~7->10 FTE
  • 2025 - Perfecting our focus programs
    • Aim of the year: We will develop interventions, with iterations using smaller tweaks and apply all that has been learned to perfect IA’s programs, executing the strongest possible iterations of the options we have historically tried out. We will also start preparing for scaling.
    • Budget: ~$1.2
    • Staff size: ~10 FTE
  • 2026 - Scaling
    • Aim of the year: Our fifth and future years will be focused on scaling up our programs to result in as many impactful people and organizations as possible being created. This could include running out of multiple locations and creating a team capable of carrying out dozens of programs and creating and communicating cutting-edge research in talent acquisition and development. We will also scale up our grantmaking efforts, aiming to deploy.
    • Budget: >$1.5M
    • Staff size: >10 FTE

Key uncertainties

We have many uncertainties regarding what to do and how to do it. Below we list our main uncertainties. 

  • Should we try many different things now, to gain information about various approaches to doing good now, or should we try to do one thing really well?
    We are determined to take an experimental and iterative approach to building our organization and interventions. However, we feel very uncertain about whether we should try many different things now, to gain information about various approaches to doing good now, or if we should rather focus on one or two things really well. More concretely that might mean doing 3-5 medium investigations/rougher pilots vs 3-5 very shallow investigations/MVPs followed by 1-2 more comprehensive interventions during the coming 12-18 months.
  • If the focus should be on optimizing for trying to make people who are already very interested in creating a better long term future more effective, or try to inspire new great people to work on these issues.
    Currently, we think optimizing for bringing in new people seems more promising, but only if those that are brought in are taken far down the funnel (though not necessarily in the same “intervention” or by us).
  • How tightly connected we should be to the effective altruism community
    Impact Academy will work with ideas (and people) from effective altruism. However, we are uncertain about how much we should engage with the effective altruism community. Currently, we are leaning towards being independent of the EA community. However, we will not discourage anyone from engaging with the EA community and we hope to see IA contribute to increased diversity in the EA community and increased interaction between the EA community and outside actors.

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