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TL;DR: EA Tel Aviv university group ran a 5-week career planning program in mental health with an expert facilitator. We describe in detail our overall plans and key takeaways, and will gladly send more materials on request.

Introduction

We’ve recently finished our first career workshop at Tel Aviv University, designed and implemented by us at the newly formed student group.

  • It is designed as a 5-week short, impact-focused, career planning program in the area of mental health.
  • Content was delivered in presentations, reading materials, personal career planning work, and facilitated group discussions.
  • Major pillars of the content include intro to EA, intro to the mental health space (from within and outside EA), and career planning (adapted from 80K’s career planning template)
  • The program was led by two facilitators: Edo Arad, a facilitator from EA Israel, and Dorit Rosenfeld, a professional group facilitator with an organizational consultancy background.
  • I, Noam Shwartz[1], have managed the overall operation, as part of my role as a university group organizer.
  • 10 members were selected following a careful selection process, of which 6 finished the entire program.

In this post, we’ll walk through the goals and plans, and we’ll share some takeaways. We intend on running another program so any feedback will be appreciated.

Background

Our student group places a large focus on career change. Students and community members frequently seek help with their career decisions, and we want to develop practical tools and support to enable high-impact change. Having conducted many interviews with people in EA Israel and abroad, we came to the tentative conclusion that running in-depth, problem-specific, career workshops is still underexplored and worth experimenting with.

The mental health field has been getting more attention within EA in recent years. Organizations such as Happier Lives Institute, Charity Entrepreneurship, and Founder’s Pledge have investigated this cause area and helped incubate and promote amazing projects.

Despite the great work done in this field, it seems that many people who care about this cause and have relevant experience find it very hard to see where they can fit in this space. In particular, what could people coming from therapeutic backgrounds do in this space which will be highly impactful?

To work toward a better understanding of this question, we started this program with the intention to invite students to partake in a group process that, although rooted in their existing knowledge, is focused on the search for new knowledge and effective solutions. We hope that this could be reused in other communities and to help the overall community with navigating career paths in complex and less explored causes.

Goals

Meta-goals for the pilot

  1. To create a framework for a group-oriented career program that synthesizes theory with practicality. The aim is that in the future, this career-oriented model could be applied to different fields beyond mental health (such as medicine or computer science).
  2. To define relevant evaluation metrics (we will detail the means soon).

 

Goals of the Mental Health Program

Primary Goal

50% of the participants will have implemented the initial steps of their high-impact career plan (up to a year after it ends)

Further Goals

  1. Building a personal career plan for the next five years that takes increasing personal impact into account (This can be a flexible, baseline plan. For example, a person may have a couple of alternatives of different paths depending on the results of fit testing and other considerations and experiences).
  2. At the end of the process, each participant is clear about their next step, whether it be an area to explore further, work experience, volunteering, or their next job.
  3. Within five years, 40% of the therapists will take steps in their work in order to increase the scale of their impact.
  4. 30% of participants will continue to take an active role in the EA student community following the program.

Means

  1. Shifting perspective to exploring long-term career planning with a focus on examining impact, as opposed to viewing one’s career as just a ‘job’.
  2. Creating groups wherein individuals feel a sense of belonging and feel supported to go through the personal process of planning their careers, together.
  3. Broadening horizons in the field of impact and effectivity in mental health.
  4. Meetings 3 months and 1 year after the conclusion of the program to catch up on individuals’ personal directions and reexamine the plan going forward.

Evaluation

We’ve had 1-1 feedback calls with each of the participants, mostly with the intention of locating perceived benefits and seeking ideas for improvements.

We will conduct a survey 1 year after the program. The survey is still not prepared, but we’ve conducted a short impressions survey.

Structure

Participants

The program is open to students who consider the field of mental health central to their occupation (social work, psychology, medicine, nursing, or potentially education if very goal-oriented). We were aiming for 5-10 participants for this pilot round.

The program was advertised throughout campus channels and on social media, and an introductory public event was held with a presentation of Gidi Kadosh on VIVID and a presentation by Michal Greidinger, EA Israel’s community manager and a clinical psychology intern, on EA and mental health. 

Students interested in the program had to apply, which involved three steps

  1. Application form
  2. An online form with some questions testing for motivation, a basic understanding of the mental health space, some quantitative affinity, and general attitude
  3. 21 Filled the form, 14 passed to the next stage.
  4. Personal interview
  5. Half an hour each, with Dorit.

In total, 10 participants started the program, and 6 finished. This includes myself, Noam, as a participant.

The professional and demographic background was highly diverse. This was in part by design, where the decision of the time slot (after stage 1 - the application form) was chosen to enable a more diverse group of candidates. However, very little effort was taken to intentionally improve diversity in later stages.

Takeaways

  • The personal interview was important and indicative.
  • We should focus more on assessing availability and commitment, to make sure that the attendees will complete the whole course.
  • We think that a smaller group with people who have a stronger fit would do better than a larger group of people who fit less or have a higher chance of dropping out.
  • The whole process should start no late than a month before the start of the course.
  • We were positively surprised by the number of people at a more advanced stage of their careers who applied and were a good fit.
  • Investing quite a bit in marketing the program was important, and we want to maintain this standard so that we’d have plenty of high-quality candidates.
  • People dropping out during the program hurt the group that remained, so we should be clearer about the commitment beforehand.

The Program

We’ve met weekly, 5 times. Each session lasted 2 hours. We opened up the classroom 10 minutes in advance, bringing food and drinks, so that people could join at ease. We usually took a 10-minute break. Sessions started with some “warm-up” exercises, to help people feel comfortable with each other and to build a sense of group. We did a combination of presentations, facilitated whole-group discussions, and small-group discussions. Each week we assigned reading materials and prompts to think about and write as part of the career planning model.

Our intention was to guide participants through a personal process, enabling them to explore the next steps in their careers, as well as to empower them to view their careers as a vehicle for social change. To do so, we’ve leveraged:

  1. Expert facilitation
  2. Dorit Rosenfeld is a highly experienced group facilitator, with a background in organizational psychology and leadership development for youth, including running career workshops. She was selected among other promising candidates and worked as a contractor. 
  3. We are very grateful for having her with us. Her contributions both in sessions and outside of them helped tremendously with positively shaping the group and the curriculum.
  4. Edo Arad is currently an EAIF grantee, doing prioritization research and running several projects at EA Israel. Having experience in group and 1-1 settings, including career counseling for EA Israel, he joined this as an “EA Expert” and helped with refining the materials and leading discussions on EA topics.
  5. Group dynamics
  6. We intend for the group to develop as partners in the long process of their career decisions, hopefully to remain in contact far after the end of the course.
  7. Concrete career-planning model
  8. We’ve used 80K’s career planning template and adjusted it a bit to have a better fit with the program. That mostly meant simplifying and shortening it, and framing things a bit more concretely. (In Hebrew)
  9. Core focus on a single cause - mental health
  10. Means that we can spend less time introducing broad EA concepts and causes
  11. Helps with group coherence and taps into existing motivation
  12. Allows for object-level discussions.
  13. Plenty of room within this cause to prioritize between different outcomes and between different sub-causes. Maybe too much though.

Takeaways

  • We have spent more time than planned on group dynamics, which we think was a good choice. Next time, we intend to plan even more time for such group activities.
  • The tradeoff between more content and more discussions and developing personal views is tough and unclear.
  • The dual facilitation worked well and had a good balance between technical work and group dynamic work.

Costs

Noam spent about ~90 hours (part of her Open Phil grant as a student group organizer).

Edo spent about ~25 hours (part of his EAIF grant).

Michal spent about ~15 hours advising and helping out (part of her role as a community manager at EA Israel, funded by CBG, and using her experience from clinical psychology).

A total of about $5.3K was used, mostly as salary for Dorit, but also for food and drinks. This funding was from TAU student group, given by Open Phil.

The Model

Program Syllabus - Overview

DateEventWhat will be discussed?Comments and homework

29.11

Information event -

Another treatment: let’s talk about mental health

  • What is the EA movement
  • How do we examine effectiveness in the field of mental health, and why it’s complicated
  • Case study: VIVID
Separate event, at which people will be invited to participate in the program

13.12

Meeting one:

How does one build an effective career?

  • Introductions and course outline
  • Intro to EA
  • Intro to career planning
  • Personal introduction- “what is your goal?”
  • Introducing the ‘Career Model’
  • Participants will read an essay beforehand
  • ‘Career Model’: the problem

20.12

Meeting two:

The cutting edge in the field of mental health

  • Discussion about the article
  • Examining basic assumptions about the world of conventional treatment- a review about mental health
  • Discussion of the urgent problems in the field
  • How do you evaluate impact? (technology, group therapy, more effective treatment methods)
  • ‘Career Model’: the problem
  • ‘Career Model’: career directions

27.12

Meeting three:

Nice to meet you: Dream meets reality

  • Continue working on the problem: how do you evaluate correctly?
  • What does a mental health project look like? Case study

How do you measure its success? What are the challenges?

  • ‘Career Model’: career directions
  • ‘Career Model’: career plans

03.01

Meeting four:

Talking about it or doing it? / Where does this meet me?

  • ‘Career Model’: focus on the urgent problems (Working in groups)
  • ‘Career Model’: career plans
  • Preparation for the last meeting
  • A week of experiences in mental health applications
  • A week of experiences in mental health applications

10.01

Meeting five:

Where to from here?

  • Challenges and benefits in increasing the scope of influence- digitation
  • Sharing current career directions
  • Summary of the process and insights
  • Where to from here?

Arrange 1:1 meetings

Complete feedback form

More details can be found here. In practice, we managed to walk through about 70% of the program’s content.

Takeaways

  • We’ve spent too much time discussing “why we want to do good”; Participants were already highly motivated.
  • Familiarizing participants with the EA philosophy/mindset and with the EA community seemed to be one of the most important aspects of the workshop. That is, the shift from “I want to do good” to “I care about how much good I can do”, and the availability of evaluating different options. We want to spend more time on the basics or start with some introductory materials before the workshop.
  • The practical problem prioritization exercise was too challenging and has taken a lot more time than planned to go through. This should be simplified or removed.
  • We spent less time than planned on practical and actionable personal career planning. We want to be able to do more of that.
  • The career model helped with overall framing and consolidation, but it was highly demanding and participants had to spend a lot of time at home. This likely increased the number of people who didn’t complete the course, and generally could be too high a burden. For the next project, we will adjust the model and make it more accurate
  • After each session we’ve reflected on how we ran things, where we deviated from the plan, and what we saw that the participants needed. This helped us refine our approach and prepare for the next meeting.

Summary

Overall, participants who have completed the whole program seemed to have gone through a significant experience. They seem motivated and able to continue thinking of their career in light of effective altruism. There is still a need to follow up to see what career decisions they end up applying and estimate what’s attributable to the course.

We intend on running another round, to refine and improve the content and learn more about its effectiveness in enabling career changes. We hope that more experimentation with career training programs within the global EA community could help EA groups everywhere to improve their local career advice, and as we refine and improve the program we intend to create useful tools for students and group organizers.

We’d be very interested in any feedback, and we’d gladly share more specifics if you are interested in running such a program locally.

I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the success of this project.

  1. ^

     A bit about myself. Since last year, I've been leading the Tel Aviv University student community. I hope to continue learning and improving on this project, which was one of my most significant experiences.

    Currently, I study psychology and business administration and am interested in engaging in social entrepreneurship in mental health.

Comments4
Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:10 PM

Hey! This kind of program seems promising, and specifically I endorse the "checkup after 1 year" plan which is often under rated.

 

At the same time, it seems important to have some kind of short feedback loop too.

Some ideas on shorter feedback loops:

  1. Have them post their ideas on the forum.
  2. Have them suggest an improvement to the impact of a specific existing program (like VIVID :) ), and check if the head-of-that-program implements the change.
  3. You had some goals like "At the end of the process, each participant is clear about their next step, whether it be an area to explore further, work experience, volunteering, or their next job". I think it's worth checking if the participants even have such a plan.
  4. (maybe something else)

 

I think a very good version of this program might have participants already raise money (or something like that) for their new mental health  project. I don't think this is practical for the first rounds, but if it resonates with you as a stretch goal, then perhaps you can put some intermediate goals in place, like "pitched to one investor" or something like that (which is hard in part because it requires something to pitch). (but if this goal doesn't resonate with you, then maybe something else)

Thank you!
Those are excellent ideas to think of

Love this idea as a new format for university groups! Let's not just focus broadly on undergrads, but get people who already have specific skills and expertise to think deeply about their chosen field.

Hopefully soon!