Hi everyone, this is an update about Effective Altruism Global X (EAGx) — the locally-organised international conference series for the Effective Altruism community. In this post, I will share a quick summary of the EAGx events that have taken place this year and provide some insight into plans for 2020.
The value of EAGx
EAGx conferences help us to coordinate as a community. They help to:
- Spread a high-fidelity understanding of EA concepts and culture
- Increase attendees’ motivation and access to resources within the community in order to increase the amount of good they can do
EAGx attendees report that one of the greatest sources of value from the conference comes via connecting with other attendees. As such, we encourage organisers to help facilitate networking during EAGx, for example via meetups, side events, and one-on-one meetings.
In addition to this primary audience, EAGx can also provide other significant benefits to the wider community by a) helping to maintain the motivation of ‘core’ members of the community, b) providing EAGx organisers an opportunity to improve their skills and networks and c) helping to launch new EA projects (e.g. the Happier Lives Institute at EAGx Netherlands 2018) and local communities (e.g. Czech EA via EAGx Prague 2016).
CEA’s Events team plan to publish a forum post in the next few months sharing their thoughts on events for the community. The aim is to ensure that everyone has access to high-quality events that are tailored to their needs.
With this in mind, the primary audience of EAGx conferences is people who are aware of the core ideas of effective altruism, and who want to engage more deeply with the concepts and get more involved with the community. (In reference to CEA’s Funnel Model, you might think of these people as ‘followers’, and so the intention of EAGx is to help move them to ‘participants’ or ‘contributors’.)
Unlike EA Global, EAGx conferences don’t require attendees to submit an application to attend. This makes them accessible to any member of the community who would like to improve their understanding and connections.
This means that, although the conferences are not intended for people completely new to effective altruism, someone who began their EA journey relatively recently should still be able to enjoy, understand and benefit from the programming.
Summary of 2019
CEA provided grant funding and support for three EAGx conferences in 2019:
- EAGx Nordics in Stockholm, Sweden (5-7 April)
- EAGx Boston on the East Coast, USA (27-28 April)
- EAGx Australia in Sydney, Australia (28-29 September)
This year, we ensured organisers shared the same post-event survey with attendees so that we had uniform data across all three conferences. The initial results are promising:
- Attendee numbers were strong (all conferences sold out in advance):
- EAGxNordics - 220
- EAGxBoston - ~200
- EAGxAustralia - 250
- In response to the statement ‘EAGx helps me make new friends’, the majority of attendees were positive:
Similarly, responses to the statement ‘EAGx keeps me motivated to do good’ were very positive:
When asked whether attendees’ plans changed in any way as a result of the conference, most respondents saw their plans change in some way, although significant plan changes were understandably rare (though EAGx Australia saw a greater number of significant plan changes):
These reported plan changes mostly consisted of updates to ‘career plans’, ‘involvement in the EA community’ and ‘working on new projects’.
Net promoter scores (an events industry measurement also used by TEDx) were high. What industry considers good may not necessarily translate to what EAGx should consider good but it's worth noting that a score above 0 is usually considered good and 50+ is excellent:
- EAGxNordics - 45%
- EAGxBoston - 50%
- EAGxAustralia - 48%
These are just preliminary measures (rather than measures of the changes that come from these events), and we’ll need to complete further analysis to get a better understanding of the conferences’ ultimate impact. This could involve following up with respondents to better understand these reported plan changes and find out how (if at all) EAGx conference attendance has impacted them long term.
Plans for 2020
In 2020, I expect that our overall strategy for EAGx will remain largely the same and that we will likely fund a total of four EAGx conferences throughout the year across the following locations:
- USA (East Coast)
These locations have been prioritised as they have established and active EA populations, though we’re also open to considering applications from locations other than those listed above.
In 2020, we also intend to increase our investment (in terms of budget and staff time) in EAGx organiser support. This will be provided by CEA’s Events team, as they have substantial knowledge and experience to share from producing EA Global conferences.
For example, in addition to the support we already provide (such as monthly one-on-one calls with organisers), we expect to add:
- A new EAGx ‘playbook’ with best practices for organisers
- An event planning retreat for organisers in early to mid January 2020
- Access to a single event tech platform which includes ticketing, website and event app
Organising an EAGx conference can be a pivotal experience for EAs considering careers in event production, operations, and communications. I’m excited for these improvements to ensure a better experience for organisers, and to increase the overall quality of event production.
Applying to host an EAGx
Applications for 2020 are open now! The application process starts with you answering a few basic questions on this form. The deadline for completing this form is Friday 1st November.
After receiving this information, we’ll contact you via email to discuss whether you should follow up with a full application. If so, we’ll request that you complete a template document with more detailed information and book a call with us. Decisions will be made on a rolling basis, but I expect all funding to be allocated by the end of November.
In anticipation of some frequently-asked-questions, here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of the kinds of things we look for:
Location — We expect conferences to be hosted in regions with a strong or growing EA population, such that they can attract 150+ attendees (hence the list above). Individuals in smaller or newer local groups will likely be better suited to a different type of activity. I recommend that you coordinate with others in your local area before applying — if you’re not sure if there are already plans for an application in your local area, feel free to fill in the 'expression of interest' form and I may ask to connect you with other potential organisers in your region.
Project Lead — The organising team should consist of at least three people, including one dedicated project lead who has demonstrable experience leading projects of a similar size and complexity. Previous project leads have included: local EA group leaders, a professional event producer, a business consultant, and a CEO of a tech startup.
Core Team — All members of the core organising team should ideally have some events, operations, or other relevant experience, as well as strong knowledge of EA. They should also be committed to spending a significant amount of time on the project, especially in the 1-2 months leading up to the event (we provide stipends of $1,500 each for up to three organisers to help with this). It’s also valuable to have a strong EA network and knowledge of the local area (e.g. which EA groups and organisations might be good sources for attendees).
Strategy — Having tested and learned from various approaches in the past, we believe that most of the value of an EAGx comes from empowering people who already have some knowledge of EA to get more involved. As such, we expect that conferences organised under the EAGx brand will prioritise that goal in terms of target audience, goals, and metrics for success. However, we understand that this strategy may not work in all parts of the world, and we’re open to exploring alternative approaches to ensure maximum impact.
Planning — To organise a successful conference, organisers need to start planning at least four months in advance, ideally much more. This means that we don’t expect any EAGx conferences to take place in 2020 before March.
For further insight into what makes a good application, I recommend Evan Gaensbauer’s Consider Applying to Organise an EAGx Event post. And for more detailed insight into the practical matters involved in event production, check out this retrospective from the organisers of EAGx Boston 2018.
If you have questions or feedback, feel free to reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm aware that more people apply for EAG SF and London than are accepted. That makes me wonder if there is value to also having additional EAGxs on the West Coast of North America or in the UK, so there are opportunities for these people (and anybody who didn't apply because they didn't think they would get in) to attend an accessible conference, which may be a more friendly introduction to EA than an EAG would be. It could also soften the blow of rejection to be able to say "sorry, you aren't invited to EAG, but if you can, go to this EAGx and please apply again next year".
Do you think that would be worthwhile? Do you have an idea of the numbers of people in this category?
Maybe retreats organized by local groups could fulfill that purpose as well?
Here an example from Germany: Last August, we organized the "EA Unconference" retreat, which was relatively accessible and friendly. We chose the criteria such that anyone genuinely interested in EA could fulfill them  and found that all applicants fit the criteria - we didn't need to turn down anyone. We then spent three days on a farmhouse, discussing EA, supporting each other with cause prio, career planning and other relevant topics and also having some fun together and connecting on a personal level as well.
Appendix: More details for anyone considering organizing retreats:
The retreat was well-received, we had 50 participants from three countries and they rated it an 8.9/10 on average, on average 7x as valuable as what they would have done otherwise (median: 3x as valuable). Some also updated their career plans. It also did not take us that much time to organize it, as content was mainly participant-driven. We spent €3500 in total (€70 pp incl. food & accommodation), which was entirely covered by our sliding scale tickets (participants could choose ticket price themselves and paid €0-200), so we did not need any additional funding. We're planning to do one again this winter or next summer. If other community builders are interested, I could maybe write a more detailed evaluation as soon as I have time (let me know if you'd find that useful!).
 more info on the Unconference & criteria: http://bit.ly/ea_unconference_info
Yes, we do want to consider this for the future. For new EAGx locations in 2020, we have planned to prioritise locations that don't currently have access to either EAG or EAGx at all. That said, we'll certainly consider applications from excellent organising teams in any location!
I do think it would be less likely that we'd fund an EAGx in the Bay or London for 2020, compared to other locations right now, but applying now or getting in touch now may still be helpful as we consider future locations.
Re. an additional EAGx in the UK:
I'd expect the applicants who were not accepted to EAG London to be based not only in the UK but in entire Europe (unless you have data that suggests otherwise?), and as flights are cheap in Europe (<$100 return to most major cities), it seems that an EAGx in any major European city is sufficiently accessible. Or is there anything I overlooked?
If we assume that it doesn't matter much if an EAGx is hold in the UK or elsewhere in Europe, then the application-capacity-ratio of previous European EAGx conferences could be a good indication to see if there's more demand. Does anyone know how many people applied to previous European EAGx conferences, and how many were accepted?
This might not hold true for the US, though, as flights from the East Coast to the West Coast are more expensive.
Manuel, I agree that a European-based EAGx should service the needs of unsuccessful applicants for EAG London, seeing as a number of attendees travel from elsewhere in Europe for the conference anyway.
Regarding your question about applications, EAGx conferences don't have an application process (to ensure that they are accessible to all). However, the last European EAGx conference sold out ahead of time, suggesting that we may want to consider at increasing capacity in 2020 or increasing the number of EAGx events in the region in the future.
Thanks for the info! Adjusting the EAGx capacity seems like a good solution (at least for Europe), let's keep this in mind when choosing a venue.