This forum post was co-authored with Emma Abele. (Edit) Aaron Gertler also helped us with copyediting.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen many fellowships and discussion groups transitioning away from physical meetups to virtual ones. Many of us also found that there are economies of scale when we can bunch geographically distant groups together into one virtual batch. 

For example, Stanford EA and EA Oxford opened up their Intro Fellowship and In-Depth Fellowship (respectively) to people anywhere in the world. That was how the EA Virtual Programs got started last year — we helped these groups with their virtual fellowships and soon, these fellowships transitioned into our current setup. 

We wanted a place for people anywhere in the world to intensively engage with effective altruism ideas through readings, videos, podcasts, and weekly small-group discussions. As long as you have a stable internet connection and an intermediate fluency in English, you’re able to participate in this program. 

So far, we’ve had a total of 959 participants from the first half of 2021. We also have 289 participants in the July-to-August round which we are currently running with Stanford EA. Our post-program survey response rates are generally quite low at 30%, but feedback for two prior rounds has been positive: the average likelihood of recommending the program to a friend was 9.15 out of 10. 

Now, we (Yi-Yang Chua and Emma Abele) will be organising the Introductory EA Program, In-Depth EA Program, and The Precipice Reading Group every month. The next round will be happening from August 2nd to September 26th, with Sunday, July 25th as the application deadline. 

How to get involved

Learning

Volunteering

  • If you have already participated in any of the above programs, consider applying to be a facilitator. Getting more great facilitators allows us to accept more people into our program. You’re also likely to reinforce what you’ve learned previously by reengaging with the content as a facilitator! The facilitator application deadline for this coming round is tomorrow, July 18th (Sunday). In general, you need to apply at least two weeks before the round you want to facilitate for.

Group organizing

  • Remind your group members to apply to the virtual programs as participants or facilitators.
  • We highly encourage you to apply to the In-Depth EA Program to familiarise yourself with more complex ideas in effective altruism. That way, you’re able to communicate effective altruism ideas clearly and with more nuance, as well as run a wider range of discussions.
  • Apply as a facilitator to practice guiding discussions and communicating EA ideas. This experience can prepare you to organise an in-person program for your group in the future — we highly recommend this!

Speaking of which, we’ll be publishing a post about deciding between EA Virtual Programs and running your own local programs in the next few months. Look forward to it!


 

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The Introductory EA Virtual Program has been invaluable for getting enough people engaged in EA for me to be able to start a group at my university, and for that I'm extremely grateful to those who have helped organize it and develop the curriculum. If you're in the same position I was a few months ago, reasonably interested in starting an EA group but having difficulty finding enough people interested in EA, I'd highly recommend advertising the Introductory EA Program!

I'm interested in running a local in-person program at my university from September to October with the virtual program as overflow capacity, in case our capacity for in-person cohorts isn't enough to accept all quality applicants. Would that setup be possible?

Also, is there a reason that the program is no longer called a fellowship?

Hi Michael!

I'm interested in running a local in-person program at my university from September to October with the virtual program as overflow capacity, in case our capacity for in-person cohorts isn't enough to accept all quality applicants. Would that setup be possible?

Yes, just direct people who are not able to join your local program to EA VP's website! And tell them to state in the application form that they want to be in a cohort with other people from the same uni.  

Also, is there a reason that the program is no longer called a fellowship?

I spoke to Emma about this, so here's what I gathered:

When we think about fellowships, we generally think about programs that are highly selective, are intensive, has funding, has various supports and opportunities (example 1, example 2). It sounds misleading when we use the term of "fellowship" and that's bad for EA's reputation so we use "programs" instead.

I didn't ask whether locally organised programs should also have the same naming conventions, so I'm still clarifying this.

It seems inconvenient if applicants potentially have to fill out the Virtual Programs application form too and receive a second acceptance/rejection decision—could we have just one application form for them to fill out and one acceptance/rejection decision notification? I was thinking that hopefully we could have something like the following process:

  • Have applicants apply through the EA Virtual Programs form, or have a form specific to our chapter which puts data into the EA Virtual Programs application database. (I don't know enough about Airtable to know whether this is possible or unrealistic).
  • Include a multiple-choice application question about whether they prefer in-person or virtual. I think we can assume by default that Georgia Tech applicants prefer to be with other Georgia Tech students—or at least that should help with building the community at Effective Altruism at Georgia Tech.
  • Tell EA Virtual Programs how many in-person cohorts we could have and the availability of the in-person facilitators. Perhaps the facilitators could fill out the regular EA Virtual Programs facilitator form but with some info about whether or not they can facilitate on-campus.
  • EA Virtual Programs assigns people to in-person or virtual cohorts.
  • Something extra that might be nice: If they were rejected due to limited capacity and their application answers were not bad, automatically offer them an option to be considered for the next round (for EA Georgia Tech, I'm thinking we'd have rounds in September–October and February–March).

If it is true that people who are rejected tend not to reapply or engage with the EA group because they might feel discouraged, then it seems important to try to minimize how many people get a rejection from the Intro EA Program.

When we think about fellowships, we generally think about programs that are highly selective, are intensive, has funding, has various supports and opportunities (example 1, example 2).

Interesting, I didn't realize "fellowship" had those connotations before to such an extent! I mainly associated "fellowship" with its meaning in Christianity haha, where it isn't selective or prestigious, just religious.