I am currently in Japan and want to help set up a student group at a university. However, I don't know any students at Japanese universities. Has anyone ever managed to set up an EA Group at a university from the outside? If so, I would love to speak to them and get advice on how to proceed. I would also be interested in stories from people who have got students engaged with EA and supported the process of setting up/developing an EA group more generally.

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Hello, Good question.

Yes. I have tried in  twice (across multiple universities). Once more successfully and once less successfully.
 

1. THE MASS EMAIL APPROCH

THINK and then TLYCS tried to start groups at universities around the world.

For each university we would find emails of anyone who we thought could forward a message onto a large group, anything from student representatives, to people running big student societies to professors of topics that might have students interested in effective altruism, etc, etc.

Using publicly available data We collated a list of 1000s of contacts, maybe 20-40 per university for 100s of universities.

We then emailed and said can you forward this message onto your students and the message to forward on said please start an EA chapter at your university we will help you. The students then had an application form where they had to apply to run a group.

I think this was successful. This started maybe 20 EA chapters around the world. The groups didn’t thrive for years but it helped get EA started and build the community in the early days.

In case helpful see: email templates and THINK summary
 

2. THE NETWORKING APPROACH  

I tried to start student groups in London Universities when I was the London coordinator. I sorted a list of London universities by size to get a starting point and then I essentially networked through my contacts to find EA sympathetic people at London universities who would run a group. I then got them to agree to run the group and helped get them started by running introductory events and tabling at university freshers fair stalls.

This lead to a few university groups at least being registered at universities, but they were very small and mostly petered out (so was less successful). I think this is because the group leaders were less excited about running a group – they had more been pushed/nudged into it by me more than got excited by the idea and applied to do it. (Also maybe because, given my personal network, they were more likely to be grad/PhD students rather than undergrads so was a bit harder for them to engage with other students).

That said I do think some of these groups are still going successfully today.

 

I hope that helps.

One successful model of starting an EA group (which I have personal experience with, using this to start EA at Georgia Tech) is essentially:

  • Heavily publicize an introductory fellowship (including an intro EA talk). For example, at least at American universities, this could involve: posting about it on department mailing lists, Reddit, group chats, and Facebook groups; and also tabling, putting up posters, and pitching it to relevant classes.
  • Organize and facilitate the introductory fellowship.

Publicity may be hard, however, if you don't have connections to Japanese students and wouldn't know where to publicize it. One option may be to put up posters and pay for targeted online ads (or outsource that work to someone else).

Has anyone signed up to your intro fellowship after seeing it on Reddit? I am skeptical about marketing an intro fellowship via Reddit but would love to get your thoughts on it. 

6mic6mo
I think like two people. Wouldn’t count on it as the core of your marketing strategy.

This is great advice, thank you! Targeted advertisement is something that I hadn't thought of and seems potentially promising. I just found some other posts (here and here) that relates to this if other people are also thinking about this.

Touching on the latter - you might find this useful: https://handbook.globalchallengesproject.org/