Most local effective altruism groups start with little experience and even less time. We’ve rounded up some stories from local groups to give you a sense of the processes involved in growing and developing a local presence - plus we want you to know about all the amazing things these groups are doing!
Effective Altruism Melbourne Brayden McLean and Ryan Carey
We entered this process with only scraps of spare time in-between our full-time jobs, and the support of a few keen volunteers. We promoted this group using meetup.com, leafleting at talks by Peter Singer, and networking. Within a few months our Effective Altruist community was hosting multiple meetups per month, regularly attracting 20 or more attendees. We met in a city café on 30 June to plan what kind of chapter we might create. We stated overlapping sets of goals which centred on the following:
Enlarging Melbourne's rational altruistic social community
Spreading the idea of effective altruism in Melbourne
Improving the quality of discussion about effective interventions
Gathering Melbournians who can collaborate on effective projects; and
Encouraging people to travel to hubs of effective altruism in San Francisco and Oxford to get more involved.
On Friday 12th July, we held our first event, a meet and greet at the socially conscious bar Shebeen. There were 15-20 attendees, mostly aged in their twenties. About half were known from Lesswrong or from the founders meeting, while the rest were new. The Life You Can Save Melbourne had arranged for Peter Singer to give a talk to 500 people at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Prior to this event, The Life You Can Save Melbourne and Giving What We Can Melbourne decided to collaborate under the EA Melbourne banner to distribute leaflets together. We continued to experiment with different event formats, advertising a discussion dinner before Peter Singer’s Melbourne Writers festival talk during our initial leafleting. Peter himself made an appearance at the dinner, meeting with our core group of attendees. You can see our year’s review here.
London Effective Altruism Sam Hilton
In April 2013 Sam Hilton decided to go to the pub to chat about effective altruism and to have a fun evening out. He invited a bunch of his friends and everyone he knew in London who had an interest in effective altruism. There was already an existing EA presence in London including a Giving What We Can group that tried to promote effective philanthropy and a few student groups. Only about 5 people came to the pub for this first event, but the evening was fun and two months later Sam created a repeat event. Slowly the events grew in size.
In 2014 the social events were put on Meetup to attract more people. By the end of 2014 these pub socials were happening every month and attracting about 30 people at a time. At this time Sam was putting less than 1 hour a month into running the group. EA London has continued to grow, at present EA London hosts about 4 events a month, including a regular social, talks (the biggest of which attracted around 350 people), volunteer-a-thons and so on. As of August 2015 there are 456 members of the Meetup group and 425 members of the facebook group.
Effective Altruism Berkeley Ajeya Cotra, Rohin Shah, Oliver Habryka
EA Berkeley have written a detailed retrospective on how their time was spent in 2015, considering what went well and what adjustments to make in the future. They got 7 students to take the Giving What We Can pledge, and estimate this to have an impact, in counter-factually adjusted time-discounted dollars to GWWC top charities equivalent, of $550,000. They prepared for the DeCal they will be teaching next semester: they found a faculty sponsor, revised the syllabus, and began booking guest speakers. They also played 330-350 giving games between the Against Malaria Foundation and GiveDirectly, which were instrumental to publicity and membership.
Effective Altruism: Madison Gina Stuessy
One of our more successful meetups was our "Petrov Day Meetup", where we talked about how Stanislav Petrov saved the world in 1983 and then wrote thank-you letters to send to him. We also discussed existential risks in general and sang related songs, including "The X Days of X-Risk", "What a Wonderful World", and "Uplift". These activities allowed members to be more involved and brought us closer together as a group, while also getting attendees to think about this possibly very high impact cause area.
EA Warwick Ollie Base
Effective Altruism Society Warwick first began as a Giving What We Can group made up of a few students who took giving seriously. In 2014, the group applied to be an official student society and changed its name to refer to the broader term Effective Altruism. The group is now an active student society hosting talks, fundraisers and socials on and off the university campus.
I joined in 2014 having stumbled upon Peter Singer's TED talk in the summer and was president of the society from April 2015 - April 2016. Being an official student society has enabled us to book rooms, co-host events with other societies and recently, to run a big charity campaign for AMF involving many other societies. University campuses are a great environment in which an effective altruism group can really flourish.
Effective Altruism Cambridge Georgie Mallett
The first time I came across ‘effective altruism’ was when I saw a facebook event called ‘Which careers do the most good?’. It was a talk with William MacAskill, and as I later found out, it was the first talk 80,000 Hours put on. People stuck around after the talk to chat, and I ended up arranging to have lunch with Jacob Trefethen to talk about more career options. After that, I hung around at a few of the next committee meetings, and eventually got involved with helping to organise some of the term’s events. For the committee, this would eventually include everything from writing to the CEO of Oxfam and inviting him to talk, to organising pub meet-ups or pizza nights. Sometimes we’d have one or two new people come, sometimes hundreds, and on one occasion, we teamed up with the university’s charity society (RAG) to organise a garden party for over 500 people, with Peter Singer amongst them.
Effective Altruism Harvard Ales Flidr
After 3 years of existence, Harvard EA grew from an initial bunch of enthusiasts to an accomplished organization with around 10 engaged organizers and many more supporters. On the object level, we think the causes are mainly
(1) organizing a competitive fellowship program for ~20 students consisting of weekly dinners - either internal or with a speaker
(2) increasing name recognition and profile by hosting events with famous speakers (Peter Singer, Steven Pinker, Garry Kasparov, George Church, Max Tegmark, Josh Greene,…)
On the meta level, the fact that most of our leaders attended a CFAR workshop, which, anecdotally, significantly improved our decision making.