There is a relatively large number of EA local groups and organisers compared to groups focused on causes, careers and other areas. There is also more advice for local groups. I think cause and career groups are neglected within EA.
There could be a lot to gain from having people focus movement building efforts on improving careers and cause networks. If more people consider these options and are able to share best practices that differ from local and university groups, this could lead to better growth and higher quality entry points for people new to EA.
To give an idea of the type of groups I mean, here are some examples.
Why make a non-local group?
I think the reasons for making non-local groups are similar to the reasons for starting local groups but there are also distinct benefits.
- Could provide a higher value entry point for people with more career or cause area experience
- Could provide stronger reasons to stay engaged with EA
- Connecting with people in similar areas
- Able to volunteer by mentoring/coaching
- Easier to get peer support
- More relevant and higher quality information from EA sources
- Can help build a more global network
- Can engage people who don’t have a local hub
- When people are looking for answers for a specific career or cause related question, they have a better idea of where to find experts in this area
- More career capital for organisers than a local group
- Provides more ways for people to connect with each other than just their local group and coincidental connections
- Cause area groups could create research agendas, career groups could create specialised job boards and advice
Should you set up a cause or career group?
- Movement building could easily end up being net negative if you don’t have a good understanding of EA and some aptitude for community building
- You should check with CEA to see if a group in your chosen area would make sense
- It is beneficial to have a few years experience in an area, but if you are coordinating people and resources, you don’t always have to know each topic in depth
- Make sure you aren’t displacing an already existing group
What to think about when setting up a group
I have used questions for this section as I think the strategy used will depend quite a lot on the type of group. For example building up the animal welfare movement might benefit from being open to anyone joining whereas a group for lawyers interested in EA would provide more value to members if they filter for lawyers only.
- What is the purpose of having this group?
- What activities and digital infrastructure is already in place?
- Who are the key people?
- What adjacent communities/networks are there?
- Who do you want to be part of this group?
- How would you filter for these people?
- How will people discover your group?
- How would you provide value to them?
- How do you ensure high value first impressions?
- How will people get more involved?
- How will you keep people up to date?
- How will you create connections (and repeat connections) between members?
- How much should you focus between in-person and online engagement?
- What activities/projects/events will be useful to build this group?
- What culture do you want?
- What common norms already exist/would you want to promote?
- What cultural differences are there to consider?
- What digital infrastructure will you need?
- What would success look like?
- How could you quantitatively or qualitatively evaluate success?
- What metrics could you use?
For some of the questions above I think different groups have found good answers for their communities and I’ll highlight some of them here.
- Effective Environmentalism resources document - provides a good intro to the cause area and also an up to date list of the best resources to find more information, highlights some of the value of being part of this community
- Women and Non-Binary Altruism Mentorship - A project that creates tailored 1-1 mentorship opportunities, using a form they can filter applicants
- Founders Pledge - Well designed website that highlights members and stories of how they have benefited from being part of the FP network. It also shows how FP filters for startup members
- AI Alignment Forum - A separate space for sharing research and ideas for a cause area, also allows many to many connections and introductory materials
- EA London Community Directory - Allows members to connect with people with similar interests, also allows new people to get an impression of the EA community in London
Framework for a Network
As you can see from the examples above there are different tools that can be used to support a network but having a framework is useful to help decide what needs to be made, or to see if your group is missing something.
- Schelling point
- You’ll need a place that you can point people to when they first hear about the group and to get a sense of the purpose and the value they'll get from joining. This is usually a website but could be a Slack channel/Facebook group/Google doc
- A way to keep members up to date (one to many connections)
- A newsletter seems like the best option here, but could also be a Facebook page/group or podcast
- A way to connect members with each other 1-1 (one to one connections)
- A directory of members with their interests, a mentorship/coaching scheme, email introductions, events, assisted serendipity
- A way for members to share ideas with each other (many to many connections)
- Facebook group, Slack channel, forum, events
- This may be the key space that you need to filter for members as it provides access to everyone else
- A way members can find relevant information
- Can be a website or a resources document that has up to date links for an area. That may include info on jobs, research, projects, useful contacts
- Start with who - article on why it is useful for organisations/communities to focus on who is part of it
- Designing effective knowledge networks - overview of how to improve knowledge transfer in a variety of situations
- Building communities of practice - creating a support network for members and accelerating shared knowledge
- Assisted Serendipity - making it easier for connections to form between members
- The Culture Code - a summary of why culture is important and a few tips on how to cultivate good cultures
- Lessons Learnt from organising EA London
If you are thinking about working on something like this and would like to talk in more depth then send me a message.