Effective Altruism Communal Space

by LaurenMcG27th Sep 20183 comments

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Effective Altruism Communal Space

I have an idea for an EA community building project, which it would be best to trial in large student communities (e.g. Cambridge, Oxford). The model is based on the business model of Ziferblat [ziferblat.co.uk], a communal co-working area in Manchester. Essentially, the building is open for anyone to sit, work and hold meeting/events in; there's free WIFI, food, kitchen area use, books etc - the only thing that costs is the time you spend there. As a student, at 6p per minute, I can grab a 10 minute coffee and lunch (cereal, toast, soup, cake, fruit etc) for £1 - though I normally spend longer (~50 minutes). The business is very popular (especially with students) and they've opening more in major cities. There is always a respectful, inquisitive, friendly community culture, and I've made interesting friends (which wouldn't have happened if I just went to a cafe).

There's potential to use this model in local or student groups, to create an 'EA hub':

  • Buy or rent a large room or building space in centre of city/campus to use as local hub for EAs and students.
  • Have WIFI, seating area, tables, kitchen stocked with food.
  • Use as hangout area, meeting place for co-working and 1-on-1s, venue for events. Charge people per minute/hour/day etc. Open to everyone, subsided for 'EA members', free if working on EA project or at an EA event.
  • Volunteers for cooking cleaning up etc in return for free minutes, or paid employee.
  • Potential for enterprise to be self-sufficient and reimburse invested capital.

Benefits:

  • Allows for perks: free for committee members, GWWC pledgers.
  • Easy to advertise and coordinate events.
  • Easy to introduce friends and get them involved.
  • Overcomes non-identity issues - could become a 'member'.
  • Students go to local cafes etc anyway - this is cheaper! Money saved could be put in giving game/donation fund.
  • Saves money on events (venues, food etc).

Open to sharing more of my experiences and ideas, and very interested to hear if any group has the resources to try this out!

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Updates

  • Feedback:
    • ‘I guess one drawback of the model I can see is that, if you spend more than 30 minutes with a coffee there, it becomes more expensive than working somewhere else. I would imagine most people spend longer than that working in one place?’
  • Solutions:
    • Pay by hour.
    • Depends who/ what working on - still benefiting from WiFi etc
    • Have two areas: a working room where you don’t have to check in and a coffee/eating room where you check in and out (and can’t take out items) where you pay per x.
3 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 9:14 AM
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I like the idea! I think it's worth thinking about how well this is going for Ziferblat and why more people haven't tried it - is it a new thing that seems likely to catch on in other cities, or is there a reason this model isn't more common? Have other interest groups tried something similar? It bears a resemblance to a Christian Science reading room, but with a different financial model, or Copenhagen's "Student House" but for a particular interest group.

This is more or less the model of Kocherga anticafe in Moscow (Rationalist cafe running a lot of events and also rationality workshops). They have about 3 years of experience with it, so you can just ask, and do not need to trial.

One reason why I'm not really a fan of such model is it creates some background pressure to watch the clock and move longer activities elsewhere.

What we have in Prague is a teahouse. One room is open for normal public, other is more of a private space for coworking and community events. Teas are for voluntary contributions (there is some recommended price level). Works just fine, does not create stupid incentives, and > 99,95% guests pay the contribution.

I checked out the Ziferblat in London recently and it was really cool, but it's unfortunately shutting down now due to the price of rent.