Learnings from scaling the Effective Altruism and Consulting Network/ an EA group for one profession as umbrella for different workplace groups

by Jona12 min read27th Mar 20214 comments

31

Workplace activismEffective Altruism and Consulting NetworkConsultancyCommunityCareer choice
Frontpage

Please note that this post was created with the 80/20-Principle in mind to trigger a discussion on workplace advocacy and motivate people to get involved (and not give a perfect analysis). I am sure we can clarify the things we missed in the comments - enjoy the read!

Objectives of this post

The goal of this post is to use the Effective Altruism and Consulting Network as a case study to promote EA in the workplace and position EA relevant topics within different professions. This post should not only encourage people to promote EA within their industry but should also serve as a summary of what we have learned from past successes and failures. We want to highlight ways to increase the personal impact at the workplace and best practices for connecting with like-minded professionals. In the end, we also want to discuss our next steps and what you personally can do.

About the EACN

The Effective Altruism and Consulting Network is a community of more than 200 consultants across the globe aimed at spreading the idea of EA within the consulting industry and beyond. The organization aims at maximizing the social impact of its members by fostering a network of like-minded professionals, investing time and given resources strategically on and off the job, and donating effectively. The EAC-Network serves as a platform to discuss how consultants can help others as much as possible through each stage of one's professional career and how to promote effective giving in the industry. 

Each of the biggest consultancies (McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Accenture, etc.) is represented in the network with one key contact per company responsible for driving core EA-ideas internally. Building on that, quarterly check-in calls for those company nodes ensure that best practices are exchanged, and benefits of scale are utilized.  

Consultants are an interesting target group for EA and EA an answer many consultants are looking for

Consulting companies are a good target for EA, because: 

1. Political and economic influence via network to the most influential people around the globe:

Access to globally leading decision makers (head of ministries, CEOs, …) provides a great opportunity to reach influential people and spread the EA-sentiment with them. For instance, the biggest consulting companies all collaborate as strategic partners with the World Economic Forum through which they further shape the agenda of the event. Consultancies also have established extensive internal networks and engage young people who often voluntarily drive projects of interest.

´2. Above average income of employees:

Consulting companies’ most valuable assets are their employees, talented people with different backgrounds and diverse interests. All those earn above-average income but most of them are still unaware of the effective giving movement. 

3. Highly effective companies conceptualizing and implementing change and innovation in the private, public and social sector:

Consultants are able to influence and initiate high impact projects which cover important EA cause areas. Through such projects, they can tailor the future path of companies and public sector organizations or can work on impactful studies (e.g., climate change, AI, etc.). Being aware of EA principles provides a different perspective on such work. For example Friederike Gravenhorst currently worked on a market forecast for alternative proteins, which was then shared globally along the EACN-network to promote it with local governments and influential CEOs.

4. Career prospects of consultants (i.e. 'the next generation of leaders'):

Turnover within the consulting industry is high which means that many professionals take another route after some years and change jobs. Being part of an EA-group helps to shape their future in at least two ways. First, as many consultants exit into globally leading firms, they can bring the EA-spirit to a new environment. Second, by becoming acquainted with EA principles, consultants might be motivated to focus on job opportunities with high impact which tackle important cause areas (e.g. as recommended by the 80.000 hours job board).

5. Lack of familiarity with EA principles, but strong potential for alignment driven by significant philosophical overlap (e.g. the importance of strategic prioritization and good governance):

Using evidence and reasoning to determine the most effective way to make the world a better place is at the core of effective altruism and consulting firms. Both follow a very similar approach which helps in aligning EA ideas with the profession.

Furthermore, consultants can also benefit strongly from the EAC-Network. They obtain a strategic perspective on how to do good with their particular skill set and how they can effectively use those skills. Plus, they also gain access to a large network of like-minded colleagues who are able to share various experiences from promoting EA on- and off-the-job. By driving EA in their companies, consultants can position themselves as thought leaders and can spark discussions on EA topics with their colleagues. For example, one member shifted his career focus from marketing to the public sector by discussing with internal public sector leaders, which EA topics to position in the public sector, triggering discussions with politicians and being staffed on a climate related project.

The benefits of building non-local (i.e., professional) EA groups were already highlighted in previous forum posts which also apply to the EACN. For instance, a professional group provides stronger reasons to stay engaged with EA as one connects to people within the same industry and can benefit from more relevant career-related knowledge. In addition, it is easier to get peer support and it can help build a global network more easily. Such a network can also help people who do not have access to a local EA-hub. 

Illustrative actions

Achieved by community members

Company internal interest groups founded for

  • BCG (Jona Glade)
  • McKinsey (Jakob Graabak)
  • Bain (Rafael Souza Dib)
  • Accenture (Nils Völker)
  • D-Fine (Felix Werdeman)

Organization and collaboration of several events, examples include

  • Panel discussion with Giving What We Can on how to do the most good as a consultant
  • Talks by GiveWell at the workplace
  • 10+ Individual EA pitches and talks organized and given by community members
  • EA Talk and Giving Challenge with Peter Singer and Luke Freeman (Sarah Qian)
  • Workplace activism panel during EA global reconnect (Jakob Graabak)

Further finished projects include:

  • Created giving guide and shared it within firms (leading to €150k+ donations collected only within BCG; Charlotte Festa)
  • Created EA intro slide deck to pitch EA to colleagues (Jona Glade)
  • Set up company internal donation microsite to make workplace giving programme more attractive and channel donations to high impact charities (Contact: Joel Brown)
  • Launched company internal green/environmental team based on EA principles (Charlotte Festa)
  • Consulted effective NGOs for free (Sam Bernecker)
  • Created blog posts (here and here) about personal impact story to inspire other consultants (Felix Werdermann, Andreas Fazekas)

Ongoing

  • Movement building and outreach (Everyone)
  • Found EA interest group at Harvard Business School (Hans Husmann)
  • Develop a framework to prioritize initiatives with local social impact team (Lena Von Willer)
  • Research project on how to have an impact during your time in consulting; Volunteers for filling out the survey are still neeeded (Jakob Graabak, Vaidehi Agarwalla)
  • Discussion and impact coachings with senior leaders of consulting firms about how to position EA topics within their industries (Jona Glade)
  • Create Newsletter with relevant content for consultants (Tim Schröder)
  • Support EAlers, who want to get into consulting (Jan-Willem van Putten)

 

Planned

  • Create EA onboarding package incl. ways to get involved
  • Draft email for everyone leaving a firm to found a company informing them about founders pledge
  • Initiate high impact consulting projects
  • Organize in person get together, when feasible
  • Have coordinated donation outreach across firms in Nov/Dec 2021
  • Organize joint event with GWWC about donating in Dec 2021

For ongoing and planned projects we are always looking for volunteers to support us. Reach out to Jona Glade if you are interested.

Learnings: 

More than one year in, we've found the following avenues especially fruitful in promoting EA in the workplace:

  1. Set up a communication channel (e.g., mailing list, slack channel, social media group, etc.) in the very beginning and start adding people by default. The worst that can happen is people opting out while the upside potential is reaching more and more people who are promoting EA ideas.
  2. Build a link between the person you introduce EA concepts to and EA itself to catch the person’s interest. When introducing EA to a colleague who is not familiar with the movement, highlight how EA is in line with the company strategy or emphasize similarities between how EA and consultants tackle complex problems (i.e., hypothesis-driven, evidence-based, prioritized approach). This was already deemed important by Parth Thaya who promoted EA at a large tech company.
  3. Focus on quick-wins and value adding activities early to show success and build momentum within the group. For instance, we have tailored the donation guide in a way that it is easily adaptable to each consulting company, and thereby facilitating the distribution of it. Ideate on where you are most likely to find EA aligned colleagues. Industries or projects related to Green Energy, Health & Public Services, Global Development and Transparent AI might be good starting points.
  4. Take advantage of your personal network to promote EA at other consulting companies. Reach out to potential EA-enthusiasts at other firms who are willing to advocate EA at their workplaces.
  5. Utilize the great resources provided by the EA-community. When you plan to create new documents (e.g., slides, homepage layouts, etc.), try to recycle as much as possible in order to save time and take actions early on.
  6. Set up a newsletter to provide additional content as well as to raise awareness. Even though the additional workload might seem unjustified in the beginning, we have received great feedback so far and were able to akquire 20+ new members with the first newsletter
  7. Use existing formats to reach people: for BCG, we have promoted EA at several monthly office conferences. This is more efficient than creating your own event and competing for the time of people with other events
  8. Avoid merging EA with existing social impact efforts at your institution. Our experience shows that it is good to align on specific activities but keep in mind that social impact teams have their own objectives which might potentially stand in conflict with EA principles.
  9. Do not hesitate to reach out to senior members of your company. Again, in the worst case, you will be simply ignored but in the best case it might lead to new opportunities.
  10. Advocating for EA is fun! As already highlighted in the forum post on promoting EA at Microsoft, by driving EA within the consulting world, you can meet many interesting and great people which one would otherwise not have.

Challenges, risks and countermeasures

Consultants are busy, so it can be hard to contribute to the EA movement and stay informed about what's currently going on.

To make life as easy as possible for all, we suggest the following countermeasures. Firstly, provide crisp materials with links to more exhaustive resources for research at a later point and highlight important, consulting-related statements. 

Secondly, plan ahead, allow for time-buffer and design EA-related work so that it can be done in times of less intense working-weeks. 

Lastly, involve students in volunteering by driving EA-related topics within the community such as organizing chats or filtering professional-related EA news. This has two advantages. By doing so, you can not only reach more people advocating for EA but also extend your network to young professionals who are aspiring to enter the labor market which might lead to future opportunities. 

Another challenge which relates to every EA network is the differentiation between “publicity” and “advocacy”. When speaking about advocacy, it is difficult to decide if one should focus on quantity (reaching out to as many people as possible) or being very picky about extending the network to have a strong cohesive team. While advocacy, i.e., increasing the inclination towards the movement should be preferred, getting movement growth and raising awareness is important in early stages. For that, direct EA related work plays a crucial role as it is likely increasing the inclination to the movement.

The risks involved relate to people misunderstanding core ideas of EA as they usually do not have enough time to thoroughly read up on EA material (e.g., EA being all about efficiency). As a countermeasure we propose to add the note that there is much more to EA when pitching it. Also, we enjoyed reading the blog post about the pros and cons of including EA in your group’s name and adjusted some names of interest groups within firms accordingly.

Next steps

So far, 200+ consultants have joined the EAC-Network within 1.5 years of existence. The goal is to further increase the number of members and, in particular, get more people involved in driving concrete projects – be it at their own companies or within the network. In addition, we want to optimize our onboarding process, i.e., to better integrate newly subscribed consultants in our network.

What you can do

If you are a consultant

If you are a consultant, you can take four easy steps to have an impact. First, join the EAC-Network to connect to like-minded professionals and to learn more about EA and invite people to the group.  Secondly, reach out to colleagues within your firm to chat about EA. Thirdly, build your own EA network at your company or join existing ones and take part in our quarterly cross-company check-ins to exchange best practices and ongoing activities. Lastly, use your network to distribute material (e.g., our giving guide) within your company or friends to multiply your social impact as well as to inform people about EA principles.

If you are not a consultant

In case you are not a consultant, two possibilities arise on how you can promote EA. First, consider joining an existing network for your profession/at your workplace (i.e., finance, tech, medicine, LinkedIn, Amazon  etc.) to connect to other EA-enthusiasts within your industry. If not available, consider building an own community for your profession (i.e., for politics, people in tech companies) and using the great resources available on EA forums. 

Feel free to reach out to the EACN to receive further inspiration and best practices on how to promote EA in large corporations,

To end in a similar way as Parth Thaya, we can also only encourage everyone to get engaged in community building or volunteering to drive EA as well as effective giving. If more professionals follow a similar path in their respective industries, real change can be achieved.

******

Thanks to all the members EACN, who maximise their impact by increasing their impact and helping others to do so, despite busy schedules. Being sure I forgot many, but I want to especially highlight (in alphabetical order): Alexandru Igna, Charlotte Festa, Felix Werdemann, Jakob Graabak, Jeremy Rosenthal, Joel Brown, Lena Von Willer, Lisa Soder, Simon Asbach, Surbhi Bharadway, Tim Schröder, Vaidehi Agarwalla, Weige Wu

31

4 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 8:32 PM
New Comment

To make writing newsletters less time consuming you could take interesting or relevant links from the existing EA newsletter and EA London Updates. More newsletters here: https://resources.eahub.org/learn/connect/#newsletters

Question for Jona/the founders of the groups at other consulting firms: What did you do in the first ~3 months when starting out to get the momentum going at your organizations?

And Jona specifically what did you do to actually create the "network"?

Thanks for the great questions!

Re 1:  

  1. I started by talking to colleagues about EA to see if they are interested at all
  2. Created slack channel/whatsapp group and added people who are interested
  3. Organized events/gave EA intro talks to gain traction

Re 2:

  1. Set-up homepage, directory and facebook group
  2. Added people I knew, who would be interested in this

Both quite easy and can be managed very efficiently.