CEA’s Community Building Grants are becoming more targeted; the EA Infrastructure Fund will start evaluating grants for some EA groups

by JoanGass7 min read12th May 20213 comments

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Summary

 

Background

Effective Altruism Community Building Grants (CBG) is a programme run by the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA). It provides grants to individuals and groups to pay for part- and full-time organisers for city, national and university EA groups. Currently, there are 16 groups funded through this programme. 

Applications for new CBGs have been closed since August 2020 in order for CEA to focus on assessing and improving the program, although individuals have been able to submit expressions of interest. During this time, we have assessed applications for grant renewals and a small number of urgent new applications as a result of the expressions of interest. 

We’ve been able to hire strong organisers when we have worked with groups to run open hiring rounds (in 2020: New York City, Cambridge University). However, these hiring rounds take a substantial amount of time for the CBG programme, which is currently busy with grant renewals and responses to incoming enquiries. As a result, we haven’t been able to provide as much support to grant recipients or recruit organisers to work full-time in some cities and countries that have a large number of highly engaged EAs. 

 

CEA’s plans

Full- and part-time funding for city / national group organisers from some locations
To allow for time to run proactive hiring rounds in key cities and countries, we’ve made the hard decision to select only a few locations to support with the CBG programme at this time. These locations are: 

  • Australia (national)
  • Berlin, Germany (city)
  • Boston, USA (city)
  • Canada (national)
  • Czech Republic (national) (currently on a CBG)
  • France (national)  (currently on a CBG)
  • Germany (national)  (currently on a CBG)
  • London, UK (city) (currently on a CBG)
  • Netherlands (national)  (currently on a CBG)
  • New York City, USA (currently on a CBG)
  • Norway (national)  (currently on a CBG)
  • Oxford, UK (city) 
  • San Francisco Bay area, USA (city)
  • Sweden (national) (currently on a CBG)
  • Switzerland (national)
  • Washington DC, USA (city) (currently on a CBG) 

These “key locations” currently have the largest number of highly engaged EAs (calculated using a variety of sources, including EA survey data and attendance at virtual events). We wish to make sure locations with a very large number of EAs have strong organisers before funding groups in locations with smaller communities. We would also like to pilot a more intensive support programme (such as group and 1:1 calls) for organisers in these locations, before potentially rolling out this support to other groups.  

We also expect to invest in building groups in cities and countries that we think are particularly high priorities in terms of growing EA presence globally. We conducted a preliminary analysis and the only location we’re confident is in that category currently is India. We hope to conduct a thorough analysis and build out this list more once we have organizers in the locations listed above.  

Full- and part-time funding for group organisers at some universities

To allow for intensive support in our university program, CEA will prioritize providing CBGs for the following focus universities at the graduate and undergraduate level. 

These universities are: 

  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech), USA 
  • Columbia University, USA
  • Georgetown University, USA
  • Harvard University, USA (currently on a CBG)
  • London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), UK
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA
  • Oxford University, UK (currently on a CBG)
  • Princeton University, USA
  • Stanford University, USA (currently on a CBG)
  • Swarthmore College, USA
  • University of California, Berkeley, USA
  • University of Cambridge, UK (currently on a CBG)
  • University of Chicago, USA 
  • University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • University of Pennsylvania, USA 
  • Yale University, USA

These focus universities were chosen primarily based on their track records of having highly influential graduates (e.g. Nobel prize winners, politicians, major philanthropists). We also place some weight on university rankings, universities in regions with rapidly-growing global influence, the track record of its group, and the quality of the group’s current plans.

We expect to include more universities in this list as we build up capacity for our university program. However, we think there are benefits to piloting our university support program with a smaller number of groups. 

Criteria for CBG funding

We expect the criteria for CBG funding will not change substantially from the past. Assessments will be based on 

  • the organiser’s past work and future plans, 
  • how engaged or promising the current group members are, 
  • the opportunities for producing more highly engaged/promising EAs. 

Basic support for all groups

CEA will continue to provide non-salary support to EA groups in all locations, including 

  • funding to pay for groups’ operating expenses, such as event costs, books, and website hosting  
  • online resources
  • the EA Groups Newsletter
  • personalised advice from the Groups team via calls and messages
  • connections with other group organisers through the EA Groups Slack and personal introductions. 

CEA will also continue to invest in Virtual Programs, which give people around the world a chance to attend fellowships and reading groups. 

Hiring for a CBG Programme Manager

Harri Besceli, who has been running the programme since 2018, is stepping down from his role. We will be hiring a new programme manager. Individuals can apply at this link.  

 

Involvement from the Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund (EAIF)
 

We believe there are valuable potential funding opportunities outside of CEA’s key locations and focus universities. We’ve seen strong organisers outside of these groups develop innovative models and contribute to the larger EA ecosystem. As a result, we think it is valuable for these groups to be able to access funding, even though CBGs are currently focussed on a small number of groups. 

CEA has asked EAIF to assess applications from groups that are not eligible for CBG funding. CEA chose to do this rather than hire more staff, as we believe there will be benefits from us running a more focused programme. EAIF has the capacity and knowledge of movement-building to fill this need. 

EAIF recommends grants to improve the work of projects that use the principles of effective altruism, by increasing their access to talent, capital, and knowledge. Until now, they have not accepted applications to fund organisers to run local EA groups, as this opportunity has been provided by the CBG programme.

As of their next application round (June 13th), EAIF will accept grant applications from groups not covered by the CBG programme.  Buck Shlegeris, a fund manager from EAIF, will be the main fund manager assessing these applications. The EAIF will use its own criteria for assessing applications, which we expect to be roughly similar to the criteria CEA has been using for CBG applicants (as outlined above). 

Since CEA works regularly with EA groups and organisers, EAIF will usually ask CEA for input on the applications they receive, but will make independent decisions. 

 

Information for groups interested in funding

There is a single expression of interest form for any group interested in funding full- and part-time group organisers, including CBGs and EAIF funding. CEA’s Groups Team will be monitoring this form and sending applications to EAIF or the CBG team for evaluation. 

City and National Groups

Groups that currently have CBG funding, and are within our key locations: 

  • There will be no change to your funding. CEA will assess your applications for grant renewal.

Groups that currently have CBG funding, and are outside our key locations: 

  • Your CBG grant will continue for the remainder of the grant period. EAIF will assess your applications for additional funding thereafter.

City and national groups outside our key locations that aren’t on a CBG: 

  • Apply by filling in the expression of interest form. CEA will forward your application to EAIF. 
  • The EAIF funding rounds close on these dates:
    • 13 Jun 2021, decision by 9 Jul 2021
    • 3 Oct 2021, decision by 29 Oct 2021
    • 6 Feb 2022, decision by 4 Mar 2022
    • 5 Jun 2022, decision by 1 Jul 2022
    • 2 Oct 2022, decision by 28 Oct 2022
  • The EA Infrastructure Fund can evaluate time-sensitive applications more quickly.
  • If you’d like to chat to someone about applying for a grant, please get in touch with Buck Shlegeris at bshlegeris@gmail.com.

Groups in our key locations that aren’t already on a CBG:

  • Once we hire someone to run the CBG programme, we will share the expected timeline for open application rounds on the EA Forum. We will also contact the current organisers of these groups. 
  • Individuals interested in community building in the locations above can express interest before the hiring round using the expression of interest form. We’d also be interested to hear from you about other potential applicants, whom we should reach out to and encourage to apply. If an applicant is in a time-sensitive situation, we may be able to accommodate an early CBG application.  

University Groups

Groups already on a CBG:

  • There will be no change to your funding. CEA will assess your applications for grant renewal.

Focus university groups: 

CBG funding for focus university groups is now open. We expect to see two types of application, which we will assess at different times:

  • CBG applications for summer work (e.g. to spend time planning for the next academic year) or for individuals that have graduated, or will have graduated by next academic year, will be assessed on a rolling basis based on applicant timelines
  • CBG applications for part-time work alongside studies will be assessed before the start of the academic year. We may strongly encourage individual applicants in these categories to attend a group leaders training over the summer (more information forthcoming).
  • In all cases, if you are interested in applying for CBG funding for a focus university, please submit an expression of interest.

All other university groups: 

  • Apply by filling in the expression of interest form. CEA will forward your application to EAIF. 
  • The EAIF funding rounds close on these dates:
    • 13 Jun 2021, decision by 9 Jul 2021
    • 3 Oct 2021, decision by 29 Oct 2021
    • 6 Feb 2022, decision by 4 Mar 2022
    • 5 Jun 2022, decision by 1 Jul 2022
    • 2 Oct 2022, decision by 28 Oct 2022
  • The EA Infrastructure Fund can evaluate time-sensitive applications more quickly.
  • If you’d like to chat to someone about applying for a grant, please get in touch with Buck Shlegeris at bshlegeris@gmail.com.

Non-local groups such as cause area or affiliation groups:

If you have any questions about this new arrangement, are unsure what category your group is in, or want general advice about funding for your group, please contact CEA’s Groups team at groups@centreforeffectivealtruism.org, or comment below.

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3 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 3:44 AM
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Prioritizing top universities makes perfect sense to me. I would argue we should consider directly working to establish EA communities at highly ranked universities that currently have none.

The choice of countries and cities makes much less sense to me.

My guess would be that the success of a given EA community is highly dependent on founder effects. The groups doing very well already have capable people with a keen sense on how to grow their community. If they didn't they wouldn't have gotten big in the first place.

Why focus most of your time on these communities? It seems to me their organizers are perfectly capable and will do just fine as long as they are provided adequate funding.

Wouldn't it make more sense to be spending your time helping smaller communities grow? Cities that immediately spring to mind are:

1. Seattle
2. Austin
3. Warsaw
4. Moscow
5. Copenhagen

They are all populous cities with highly educated populations. I don't have any a priori reason to believe that Austin and Warsaw has much less 'ea-potential' than Stockholm and Prague. It seems to me that many places have potential to grow as big as the communities you're focusing on, but for some reason have not.

Shouldn't it be higher among CEA's priorities to figure out how to help communities like these?

Thanks for your comments Mathias, 
 

Just to echo your point about supporting university groups - beyond supporting a subset of university groups with full-time organizers via the CBG program, we just released a job posting for someone to help us develop a scalable university support program that I think is high impact. This will further support volunteer-led university groups. 

> I don't have any a priori reason to believe that Austin and Warsaw have much less 'ea-potential' than Stockholm and Prague. It seems to me that many places have potential to grow as big as the communities you're focusing on, but for some reason have not.

We’d agree with that. Apart from India, our key locations were chosen because of their existing large groups of engaged EAs, not because of the particular potential of that location. As we noted in the post, about half of these groups with large EA populations currently don’t have paid community builders, so we’d like to make sure there are paid community builders in these areas before considering locations to grow EA in further. I’ll make a note to add the locations you suggested to consider as part of our analysis. 

There are projects other than the CBG programme that are intended to support the community members in other locations, including the EA Forum, conferences, virtual programs, and non-salary funding for all groups. We’re pleased that the EAIF is able to assess funding applications from other groups, and we expect volunteer-run and EAIF funded groups will also be able to grow.
 

Seems very well thought out and justified - thanks for putting this together.