Previous BERI annual reports have concluded with a list of predictions (2021, 2020) about BERI’s activities for the following year. Annual predictions are best made early in the year. In contrast, our 2022 annual report wasn’t released until July of 2023, the year we would have been predicting. To avoid that issue this year, we’ve opted to publish our 2024 predictions as a blog post instead.
We’ve also decided to publish a list of goals for the year. In lieu of publishing an annual strategic plan or theory of change, we are choosing to publish these specific goals to support our commitment to transparency and accountability.
Goals for 2024
We categorized outcomes as goals (vs. predictions) if:
- Their achievement will likely require an intentional, focused effort;
- Success or failure will primarily depend on our competence and resources as opposed to any external factors; and
- Pursuit of the goal is unlikely to have negative side effects for any of BERI’s current collaborations.
Here are our six headline goals for BERI in 2024:
- Launch a new program, expanding our work to activities beyond the currently-dominant Collaborations Program.1
- This would include successfully raising funds with an explicit plan for this new program, but it would also include committing to a significant reallocation of our existing resources, both in terms of staff time as well as financial budget (while still respecting all existing commitments to funders).
- Exercise BERI’s potential “convening power” to increase or broaden our impact.
- This could include a one-off conference or meeting, or establishing a durable community made up of BERI collaborators, with the goal of connecting people concerned with existential risk and human flourishing.
- This is an admittedly vague goal, and it may be unclear at the end of 2024 whether or not we’ve accomplished it. We’re just not sure how much convening it makes sense for BERI to do, and so we don’t want to commit to some action that ends up seeming counterproductive when we’re actually doing it. On the other hand, this idea has been such a frequent topic of internal discussion at BERI that it felt wrong to leave it off our list of goals entirely.
- Establish a standardized package of default services that BERI offers to all collaborators as part of onboarding.
- Example services could include:
- Uber, but with stated defaults around who gets access, Eats vs Rides, what default restrictions are placed, etc.
- Amazon, but with stated defaults around who gets access, what can be purchased, default budgets, etc.
- BERI already offers both of these services (and many others) to many of our collaborations. However, no services are consistently offered to even half of our main collaborations, there’s no cross-collaboration instructions or documentation, and policies and procedures (when they exist) vary between groups.
- Moving from an entirely ad hoc service model towards a standardized foundation of services allows us to broaden BERI’s impact without overwhelming our small team. Many of our current processes are simply not scalable and will need to be significantly redesigned. With 37 collaborations and likely more to come, it’s critical that we fix this now.
- Example services could include:
- Establish metrics and targets for each collaboration which we use to measure our performance. While there will always be special exceptions, there should be some set of metrics and goals that we assume to be the default for any given collaboration.
- As we’ve extended BERI support to more and more academic research groups, it’s become increasingly difficult to balance competing needs and limited staff time between them. Often the result is that groups with bandwidth to reach out more get more help, and groups that are drowning in unnecessary administrative tasks are ignored. These standardized metrics and goals will make it easier for us to manage the expanding BERI community in a way that supports our mission and is fair to each of our collaborators.
- Some examples of possible metrics:
- Time between launching a trial collaboration a making our first expense
- Frequency of check-in meetings with collaboration liaisons.
- Some distribution of total expenses across all collaborations, e.g. BERI’s spending on our most active program should be no more than five times that of our median program.
- Refresh our website with new branding and a clearer focus on what we want to communicate.
- BERI’s website has remained essentially unchanged since 2018, and it shows. While we historically haven’t been a particularly public-facing organization, we do want our online presence to clearly communicate what BERI is and what we do. A relatively small amount of effort could likely make significant gains in this area.
- Raise >$100k from a new donor, i.e. one from whom we’ve never received a grant or donation.
- We are extremely thankful to have strong funding partners in Open Philanthropy and Jaan Tallinn. Including all of their various philanthropic partners (e.g. SFF), these two donors have made up 84% of BERI’s total income since our founding in 2017, a share that has stayed relatively constant over the years.
- This dependable support has allowed BERI and our collaborators to accomplish far more than we would have been able to if we’d had to rely on expensive and time-consuming public fundraisers. However, it also puts BERI in a precarious position. If either of these two funders were to change their priorities in such a way that funding BERI no longer made sense, our operations would be severely impacted.
- To ensure that BERI can survive in a changing funding environment, we need to proactively broaden our funding base. Our initial approach will be to find a new foundation looking to fund work on existential risk reduction.
Predictions for 2024
The rest of this post makes predictions about BERI’s 2024, as opposed to the goals laid out above. BERI’s focus is on furthering our mission and supporting our collaborators—if this leads some of the predictions below to be judged as inaccurate, that’s a failure of forecasting and not a failure of our mission.
The purpose of these predictions is to concretely express what we expect to happen for BERI in 2024. While goal-setting is a standard practice which needs no further justification, publishing predictions as an organization is less common. We believe that making public predictions is good practice for BERI because:
- By thinking quantitatively about the coming year, we clarify our beliefs, both in our own minds and in our communication with colleagues.
- By establishing an organizational habit around quantifying our beliefs, we improve our overall communication and decision making capabilities.
- Compared to only making these predictions internally, publishing predictions makes us take the exercise more seriously. Also, if a public prediction proves inaccurate, we’ll feel more obligated to provide an explanation than we would be otherwise.
With all that in mind, here are thirteen predictions for what BERI will be like in 2024:
- [40%] We open applications for new trial collaborators and run a major round of publicity and advertising, at least on the scale of our 2022 effort.
- Example of what would count: emailing >150 people individually and posting on at least one public forum.
- Example of what would not count: taking on three new collaborators, each of whom proactively reached out to us.
- [85%] Conditional on BERI deciding to run another round of trial collaborations, BERI will accept 4-8 new trial collaborations.
- For our collaborations program, our total spend on direct support2 will be between:
- [60%] $3M and $3.7M3
- [80%] $2.6M and $4.2M
- For our collaborations program, our summed √$ of direct support will be between:
- [60%] 5,900√$ and 6,300√$
- [80%] 5,500√$ and 6,700√$
- Our all-in overhead rate4 for all programs will be between:
- [60%] 10% and 13%
- [80%] 8% and 15%
- [80%] Four collaborations will have ended (not including MATS).
- [60%] As of Dec 31 we will have at least 2.25 FTE of core employees.
- [30%] As of Dec 31 we will have at least 3 FTE of core employees.
- [75%] BERI will sign on to one or more public statements calling for some form of regulation of AI.
- [80%] On our 2024 collaborator survey (2022 results here), the average overall satisfaction with BERI will be at least 4.5 out of 5.
Direct support does not include operations expenses like core staff time. ↩
These expense numbers, as well as numbers in the other financial predictions, exclude potential grants to MATS Research, Inc. The MATS program is currently a fiscally-sponsored project of BERI’s. MATS is currently in the process of incorporating as an independent not-for-profit. Once this is completed, BERI will transfer the balance of MATS funds to the new entity, MATS Research, Inc. While this transfer will technically be a grant, including it here would only muddle our predictions and artificially deflate our overhead rate. ↩
All-in overhead rate = [Total expenses - direct expenses] / [Total expenses] ↩