Effective Altruism Asia Newsletter

Q3, 2020

Estimated read time: 13 minutes


Welcome to the inaugural edition of the EA Asia newsletter. If you know of someone who should be reading this, stop now and ask them to subscribe here.

As this is the first edition, I’ve kept things pretty simple. I cover three major sections: 1) news and updates from organisations, local groups and individuals, 2) regional events and 3) opportunities to help, including jobs and projects. Next time, I hope to also add a profile of an emerging local group in Asia, so we can get a more in-depth understanding of how community building is happening on the ground across the region.

If you find anything missing (e.g. events, organisations, key updates from individuals), or have suggestions for additional content, please let me know by replying to this email. Feedback, as always, is very welcome.

I hope you enjoy the read,

Jah Ying

PS. Also made possible by the editorial team: Wanyi, Catherine Low and Varun, and all of the content contributors: Brian, Fai, Varun, Mirte, Jonathan, Yi-Yang, Palak, Sahil, Tanya, Q, Sella, Luis, Julian, Fandi, Ray, Vaidehi, Haven, and Katriel.

(Wow, this is a long list, and I really hope I didn’t miss anyone. Thank you!)

News and Updates


Mercy for Animals is running scoping studies in 6 countries to inform their expansion strategy in Asia.

GFI APAC launched its inaugural Asia Alt 100, showcasing one hundred alternative protein disrupters in Asia alongside 35 investors in an industry map.

The Thai Department of Livestock Development in June announced it is developing standards for cage-free egg production, with department director-general Sorawit Thaneto noting the government’s support for cage-free farming is driven by animal welfare concerns and global market shifts. The news comes as Thailand’s largest egg producer, agribusiness conglomerate CP Foods, announced it will double its production of cage-free eggs this year.

Relevant news sources can be found on Nation Thailand and The Poultry Site.

WatOR, a water fortification initiative based in India, has designed a proprietary dispensing product and a premix formulation (containing minerals and vitamins) which is colorless, odorless and tasteless in water. They had planned to start a pilot RCT in June but it's currently indefinitely postponed due to COVID.

Sahil Shah and Aron Mill at the Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters (ALLFED), along with the Coronavirus Tech Handbook Team launched the Food Systems Handbook in June, convening experts across governments, NGOs and private industry to compile, filter and sort information to help solve the current global food crisis.

IDinsight responded very quickly to COVID-19 and worked on targeting health and economic policies that could save lives and protect livelihoods within poor and vulnerable communities, including India and the Philippines. Their research includes data collection through rapid phone surveys to better inform policy decisions on economic relief, national behaviour change communication strategies and social distancing efforts.

Local groups


EA Philippines has been running a weekly discussion group patterned after the EA fellowship programs at Harvard and Stanford since May 30, and will be ongoing until July 25. They have 14 students and 21 professionals signed up, and July 4th will be the 5th week of their fellowship.

So far, participants have discussed what EA is and the scope insensitivity bias (week 1), learned rationality concepts like Bayes’ Rule (week 2), and filled up a career plan worksheet after reading 80,000 Hours’ key ideas page (week 3). EA Philippines is thrilled at how engaged attendees are, and facilitating these discussions have been fun and eye-opening for the organisers.

Also, 16 people from EA Philippines attended EAGxVirtual2020 last June 13-15, and they were able to connect with a few more EAs from abroad with Filipino backgrounds through the event.


EA Singapore has entered their fifth year of community building in Singapore. They recruited the help of Jah Ying Chung and Michelle Chan in interviewing their members to better understand their community experience thus far. It has been insightful for the team to learn of what people appreciate about the EA SG community as well as gaps that can be improved . This was an attempt to be “evidence-based” in serving the community’s interests and needs in Singapore. Here is the full presentation of the research findings.

EA Singapore hosted an event with Yip Fai Tse, Strategy Consultant of China at Mercy For Animals (MFA) about Farm Animal Welfare Priorities in Asia. Fai shared MFA's plans to find out where are the most impactful and tractable areas for farm animal welfare work in Asia.

Coming up

EA Singapore is hosting a fireside-chat with Varsha Venugopal, Co-Founder of Suvita, on July 23rd (Thu) at 7:30pm (GMT+8). They will be sharing more about Varsha’s experience using community-led nudges to reduce vaccine-preventable disease prevalence in India. If you’re interested, sign-up here.

EA Singapore will be organising a virtual fellowship for students in Singapore starting around early August. Although their priorities will be for students in Singapore, they’re also opening up to students who are located in areas that have time zones closed to Singapore (GMT+8).

If you’re interested in participating in the fellowship, you can find out more here. The application deadline is on August 2nd (Sun), 11:59pm (GMT+8).

Middle East

An EA Middle East call was held in mid-June, with 4 countries represented: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. 8 participants discussed what brought them to EA, the projects they’re working on and whether / how EA has influenced them in a practical way. One finding was that many EAs living in the Middle East are the only aspiring EA they know in their city, and their only exposure to the community has been through online reading. Participants also discussed the benefits and drawbacks of translating EA content into different languages, particularly Arabic and decided against it for now. There was some discussion of philosophy / moral realism / suffering ethics.


In EA Japan's online event for June, Maho Uehara-Cavalier from the Humane League Japan gave a talk entitled “Reducing Animal Suffering Effectively”, about her work following up with the Japanese branches of global corporations that have committed to using just cage-free eggs by 2025.

To keep track of EA Japan's progress and future events, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1763212593794585/


This quarter marks two years since EA Israel became active. The group recently formalized its managing board, alongside a separate group for members who take an active part in EA Israel's projects and community activities. Several reading groups were started in order to support the onboarding process of newcomers who showed their interest in EA.

EA Israel recently hosted several events with 80-120 participants, including an international introductory event to AI Safety by Vanessa Kosoy (a Research Associate at MIRI), and a career-advice event featuring panelists who shared their EA-related career experience in the fields of Biorisk, Hi-tech and Social Entrepreneurship.

Besides that, EA Israel’s board recently created a short video on the ITN framework.

If you'd like to receive updates about EA Israel’s activities and events, you’re welcome to join its FB group or our sign up for its monthly newsletter.


A few new members (Kaartik, Tzu Kit, and Lynn) have joined EA Malaysia (which only consisted of Yi-Yang and Julian previously). They are now exploring various community building strategies, and coming up with a plan to ensure that EA Malaysia can grow sustainably within the Malaysian context.


EA Indonesia created an educational video talkshow that aims to trigger EA focus area discussion in Indonesia.


Julian Theseira from EA Malaysia has been accepted as an affiliate of The Future Society, an international AI policy and governance think and do tank, and will undertake voluntary AI policy research for them, with a focus on AI governance perspectives from the global South.

Lynn Tan, also from EA Malaysia (and EA Cambridge), has been accepted in the latest Charity Entrepreneurship (CE) cohort. She is currently in the midst of CE’s two-month incubation programme.

Ray Taylor from ALLFED has put together a piece on Evidence on COVID-19 and Micronutrients

Muhammad Saad Siddiqui (President at Cambridge University Southeast Asian Society) launched Regional Relief, which is a a youth-led movement that aims to encourage collaboration and solidarity across the region. They have compiled a list of 27 charities across Southeast Asia. This provides short COVID-19 response summaries for every Southeast Asian country and options on what you can do to help.

Regional events

Weekly Icebreaker Socials

There are weekly themed speed meeting events for the Asia Pacific timezone on Saturdays. This is a great opportunity to meet new (and old!) EAs.

Get updates: You can stay updated on the Icebreaker events by joining the Effective Altruism Online Events Facebook group or subscribe to the International EA Events Google Calendar.

EA Asia Focus Area Calls

The EA Asia community holds regular calls for people working on specific focus areas. Please reach out to the organisers if you’d like to find out more about joining our next call.

EA Asia Organisers Call

Purpose: To support EA community leaders in Asia, with a platform for sharing updates, strategy exchanges, explore collaboration opportunities and to stay connected.

Main organisers: Wanyi Zeng (EA Singapore) & Vaidehi Agarwalla (EA Singapore)

Frequency: Every 3-4 months

For those who are:

  • EA community leaders in their city, country or school/university in Asia
  • EA community members based in Asia without a local community (yet)
  • From an EA-aligned organisation with work/experience in Asia

Notes from the last call:

Date: 19th Apr (Sun)

Time: 5:00 - 6:30 PM GMT+8

In our first EA community organisers call for the year, we checked in with everyone on how they are doing as the pandemic has affected lives across the world. Varun Deshpande (EA India) led the group with a minute of silence and gratitude.

We heard updates from community leaders that joined in the call, including Japan, India, Dubai (UAE), Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia & Indonesia. All of our community events have adapted and turned virtual. We discussed some thoughts on giving opportunities in this period of time.

Varun presented some strategic plans for EA India and the group was excited to learn about them. EAGxSingapore team gave a quick update on the conference this year.

Regional Health & Development

Purpose: We are building up a more coordinated EA network in Asia to address poverty alleviation, targeted at health & development in the region. Our goal is to establish an understanding of the landscape, gather research inputs and identify cost-effective priority areas to recommend and work on.

Main organisers: Nastassja (Tanya) Quijano (EA Philippines), Nigel Choo (EA Singapore) & Wanyi Zeng (EA Singapore)

Frequency: Every 1-2 months

For those who are:

  • Having some intermediate or advanced level of knowledge in the field of international health and development, including programmes and policies.
  • Professionals working in this field, aligned with EA principles.
  • EAs in Asia with serious interest in supporting analysis/research and building up knowledge (i.e. working to make progress in this cause area, either through career or voluntary efforts).

Notes from the last call:

Date: 5th July (Sun)

Time: 2:00 - 3:30 PM GMT+8

Nigel Choo gave the group a good overview of the EA approach on international health and development. This helped everyone get on the same page on the perspective that we’re taking on this cause area.

We also discussed geographical diversity in EA (prompted by Angela María’s forum post). One of the many areas of importance was on policy engagement. It could be very effective if local EA members are already on the ground and develop insights and intuitions on policy changes that are needed. Citizens are best placed to engage with policy changes that have strong evidence behind them and having EA communities in Asia help to build up such capacities.

A huge shoutout to EA Philippines’ Tanya (a.k.a. Nastassja Quijano) and Kirsten Angeles for their research and country poverty profiles for The Philippines and Indonesia. They helped to paint an on-the-ground picture for the group and highlighted a few GiveWell-recommended charities and cost-effective interventions that also operate in these countries.

A brief look of what was shared during the call:

Farm Animal Welfare in Asia

Purpose: Our key aim is to strengthen EA’s capacity in Asia to identify, understand and respond to a wide range of trends, issues and policies. Experts are invited to speak on a planned topic, with stimulating questions and discussions among the attendees.

Main organisers: Kate Lupango (EA Philippines) & Claire Yip (EA Singapore)

Frequency: Every 1-2 months

For those who are:

  • Having some intermediate level of knowledge in the field of factory farm animal welfare and/or alternative protein.
  • Professionals working in this field, aligned with EA principles.
  • EAs in Asia with serious interest in supporting analysis/research and building up knowledge (i.e. working to make progress in this cause area, either through career or voluntary efforts).

Notes from the last call:

Date: 17th May (Sun)

Time: 2:00 - 3:00 PM GMT +8

We opened the discussion with a landscape overview of this region. The group already has a sense of the high level of meat production that is happening in Asia.

However, most did not know that Asia is a major producer of finfish in the world (~89% of the production of farmed aquatic animals come from Asia). This seems like a highly neglected area that we need to pay more attention to. It is also harder to focus on this as aquatic animals are harder to empathise with even if they suffer in huge numbers. We heard from Yip Fai Tse (Mercy for Animals) and Haven King-Nobles (Fish Welfare Initiative), who provided deeper insights on finfish farming issues. This seems to have changed many participants’ minds on the importance of prioritising farmed fish welfare.

An interesting question was asked on the split between commercial large-scale industrial farming versus backyard farming in Asia. The idea was to get a sense of what types of animal farming exist in Asia and what different countries’ policies might be on these. If a government wants to eliminate a certain type of farming, then what are the implications of what might be more effective to work on to improve as many farmed animals’ welfare as possible. It is relevant to consider such local factors.

We did not get to discuss further but some were wondering about the effectiveness of various types of approaches in this space: public awareness raising campaigns, policy advocacy for welfare standards, corporate engagement, etc. Our call concluded with a recommendation of Sentience Institute’s interview with Jayasimha Nuggehalli, co-founder and COO of Global Food Partners. One takeaway is on the need for capacity building in the space for farm animal welfare in Asia.

Opportunities to help


Fish Welfare Initiative looking for Fish Welfare Scoping Contractor

Fish Welfare Initiative is looking for individuals to conduct scoping research in one or more of the following countries: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. The period of this contract is 2-3 months. To learn more about why fish welfare is a pressing issue, click here. To learn more about the role, click here.

Karana’s Traineeship Positions

Karana is offering 3 traineeship positions open for fresh graduates (2019 or 2020 graduates) in Singapore: one marketing position and two technical positions. They are looking for candidates who are mission aligned in promoting plant-based alternative protein products. See details of the roles here, here and here. Applications close between 6-10 Aug.


Help EA Singapore with their first virtual fellowship

They are currently looking for the following support:

  • Marketing the fellowship to your university
  • Supporting the application and selection process for fellows
  • Moderating discussions
  • Conducting 1-1s with participants from your university

If you’re interested in helping out, you can email yi-yang@effectivealtruism.sg for more details.

EpidemicForecasting.org is looking for introductions to pharmaceutical teams working on a COVID-19 vaccine

EpidemicForecasting.org, created at Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, projects the spread of COVID-19 globally, combining judgemental forecasting a la "Superforecasting" with epidemiological modeling. They now advise pharma companies developing vaccines on the selection of trial sites, in order to avoid delayed or failed clinical trials. About half of the leading teams are in Asia; please write to katriel@epidemicforecasting.org if you could help make connections and bring this work to their attention.

Improve the Food Systems Handbook, by ALLFED

You can go directly to the link to add your ideas/content and help restructure the document for a better user experience. For more information, get in touch with Sahil at sahil@allfed.info.


Was there important content missing in this newsletter?

Please let me know by replying to this email or connecting me with the person/organisation that you think I should have included!