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In discussions relating to effective altruism, the term “systemic change” has been used in at least two different senses. First, it has been used to refer to any kind of political work. Second, it has been used to refer more specifically to changes of the general economic, political or cultural system (e.g. capitalism or private property).

Some critics have argued that the effective altruism community has failed to engage with systemic change (Srinivasan 2015). Whether they are right or not depends on what is meant by the term. Members of the community are working on political issues within areas such as macroeconomic stabilization, immigration reform and land use reform (Wiblin 2015). However, work on systemic change in the second sense is less common (Chappell 2016).

Further reading

Chappell, Richard. 2016. Effective altruism, radical politics and radical philanthropy.
An examination and criticism of the claim that effective altruism fails to engage with systemic change.

Effective Altruism. 2016. Does effective altruism neglect systemic change?
More information on this topic, including a list of articles arguing that effective altruists neglect “systemic change”.

Open Philanthropy Project. 2016. Cause reports - Policy.
The Open Philanthropy Project works on many projects seeking to bring about systemic change.

Srinivasan, Amia. 2015. Stop the robot apocalypse.
An example of an article arguing that effective altruists neglect “systemic change”.

Wiblin, Robert. 2015. Effective altruists love systemic change.
Examples of members of the effective altruism community working on systemic change.