The annual report gives a detailed overview of what can be done in an active university group during a year and how a university group can be structured. It was interesting to read what projects they have tried, what was successful and what was less successful. I was surprised by how many social events they have but also by how many weekly participants they have in their discussion group.
I think learning about how other groups work is valuable to challenge your ideas of what community building "should" be and what works and not.
- Karla Still, Community builder/coordinator at EA Finland and Helsinki
This report is segmented into parts that work well on their own, hence I recommend you to skim through the headings first to determine what seems most valuable to read.
This report was originally written in Norwegian by the previous board of EA NTNU, consisting of Nora Mølmann, Øyvind Aas, Gard Kristian Jørgensson Moneta-Bosoni and Erlend Withammer-Ekerhovd, including me. I am grateful for their time and effort put into writing this report.
Despite the fact that there were fewer and fewer COVID restrictions throughout the year, COVID restrictions had an impact in 2021-2022. By limiting the ability to reach out to the masses, COVID greatly impacted the outreach during this period. However, for the most part of the year, things went as usual, with the exception of a few instances when the government tightened the restrictions. We can look back on a year in which, in contrast to the previous year, all work meetings were held in person, several parties were organized, two social retreats were organized, and EA NTNU organized a trip to an EAGx event for interested members for the first time. Members' initiatives during working meetings demonstrated great work ethic, while discussion meetings served as a recurring space for discussions on a variety of topics. Over the course of the year, a total of 27 new members were introduced and integrated to EA NTNU as a student organization, of which many were integrated to EA as a global movement through EAG events.
The project-based organizational structure that EA NTNU has had since 2016 was maintained in the fall of 2021 and the spring of 2022. EA NTNU has continuously tried its best to make physical work meetings at the Campus possible despite varied COVID restrictions. The project groups have mostly operated independently, and the board has made an effort to offer the appropriate oversight and direction. Internal stand-up routines were held more frequently in place of the customary stand-up exercise that was performed collectively at the start of each meeting. At the end of the project period, each group prepared a project presentation, which included a final assessment of the work done with the project. The adoption of an open board channel on Slack by the board this year has been carried over from the previous year. Additionally, the board made all notes from the board meetings available to all members this year. The notes were anonymized to protect all members’ privacy. The board also organized a more ambitious project with a higher commitment requirement to the project members for an exchange of a stipend. The profiling committee, the social group, the finance committee, and the committee for coordinating charitable initiatives are the same committees that the board kept from the previous academic year. The board has increased its emphasis on internal development as a result of member feedback through implementing so-called development projects that strongly emphasize either career planning, self-development, learning, or information exchange. Along with this adjustment, an effort has been made to implement longer project durations, namely 6-week periods as opposed to the customary 3–4 weeks. All of these changes were made possible by a number of factors, among others that the head of EA NTNU was employed by EA Norway since January as a part-time Community Manager on a grant by the EA Infrastructure Fund. This enabled the chairman to spend a sufficient amount of time to make sure that the changes were introduced and integrated in a well-thought-out manner.
Assessing Strategic Achievements
In order to make sense of this section of the report, you should be familiar with the Strategic Goals and Key Results for EA NTNU Autumn 2021 - Spring 2022.
Note that we have now greatly updated our strategic priorities for next year: Strategic Goals and Key Results for EA NTNU Autumn 2022 - Spring 2023
The new board spent time refining the previous board’s strategy before the start of the autumn semester in 2021. It may be useful to assess how EA NTNU performed in regard to the objectives specified by the board in the strategy.
Objective 1: Strengthen internal development and integration of new members
There were a total of 5 sub-goals/results in the strategy’s framework. Results 1.1 and 1.2 are based on the epistemic and social integration of new members into the organization. 100% of the new members indicated during the mid-term evaluation in the fall of 2021 that they were satisfied or extremely satisfied with the epistemic introduction. Approximately one-third of those asked at the social introduction said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, while the remainder said they were either satisfied or extremely satisfied. Senior members answered on average that they were quite epistemically engaged, and between quite and very socially engaged. According to the internal poll, 25% of the members have changed their careers significantly. It is not stated, however, whether or not this is carried out in compliance with EA principles. 92.3 percent of respondents to the mid-term evaluation H21 indicate that they have modified their career path in accordance with EA principles, but this poll received much less responses than the internal survey in fall 2022. All of the individuals who responded to the post-EAGx survey stated that they had changed their careers, whether significantly or slightly, in accordance with EA principles. All members were invited to 1-1s with the board in the fall of 2021, and the majority accepted the offer. The board also offered all members a second 1-1 as a follow-up, which some picked up on in the spring of 2022. All new members were strongly encouraged to have 1-1s in spring 2022.
Objective 2: Strengthen cooperation, visibility and integrate EA principles at NTNU
Three results comprise the goal. The objective of working with 10 additional NTNU groups or units was accomplished. In reaction to NTNU’s restriction on tabling on campus, Engineers Without Borders (IUG), Revolve NTNU, IAESTE Trondheim, GridVille, NITO, Vector, Ascend, and DNV Fuel Fighter teamed up at the start of the year to arrange a joint tabling event at Moholt student village and Høyskoleparken. EA NTNUs committee for coordinating charitable initiatives at NTNU communicated with a number of NTNU groups during the course of the year. They got in touch with Sct. Omega, that chose to raise funds to Givewell maximum impact fund. Additionally, the leader of the Abakus Charitable Association (AVF) joined our trip to EAGxOxford, and the head of EA NTNU was invited by AVF to hold a breakfast talk, with a little over 30 attendees, about how to find a fulfilling and impactful career based on 80000 Hours resources. Additionally, a representative from EA NTNU has been actively working to encourage effective donating since the fall on the Høyskolens Chemikerforening’s fundraising event, however the group decided to raise funds to children in Ukraine in stead. This past fall, EA NTNU worked with InvincibleWellbeing to promote their literature search competition. Gi Effektivt and EA Norway have also continued to partner with EA NTNU. Additionally, EA NTNU and EA KTH have worked together to help EA KTH adopt a structure for its organization that is comparable to that of EA NTNU. By providing materials that EA NTNU utilizes when recruiting students, EA NTNU also assisted EA Bergen in starting up this fall. A little over 30 membership applications were received by EA NTNU over the course of the year, with the majority coming in the fall.
Goal 3: Ensure that EA NTNU’s projects have the best possible prerequisites to make a difference
The project evaluation procedure is covered in Result 3.1. In the fall semester, this was properly followed up on, but in the spring semester, it was not. The primary cause of the shortage was the high number of absences brought on by the reopening-related COVID infections. This effect was exacerbated by the fact that numerous project groups only had two members, and some groups were never fully staffed at the working meeting, which led to some of the projects producing outcomes that were not suitable for evaluation. Additionally, there aren’t any project assessments for development projects because the board didn’t include this in the new development projects. Result 3.2: To the best of the board’s abilities, all highlighted resource limitations have been addressed. This includes board assistance and collaboration with other projects. This fall, a board member was added to the assessment project after it was discovered that a group working on the evaluation project was lacking in time. All financial needs to the project groups were covered with roomy budget. The project group that creates the EA NTNU promotional video is an exception where the board has not fully addressed the lack of resources. The board in this instance was unable to provide all of the technical equipment suggested for carrying out the project.
Objective 4: Democratize the strategy and ensure that all members are familiar with it
The board, which is democratically chosen by the members, shapes the strategy. As a result, it’s important that the members feel connected to the strategy and have the chance to offer feedback and suggest modifications. According to an internal poll taken in the spring of 2022, almost one-third of the members are unaware of EA NTNU’s plan. Nearly everyone who is familiar with the plan likes how it was devised. This indicates that the approach is sound, but that the board needs to do a better job of explaining it to all of its members.
Knowledge Infrastructure in EA
Collaboration on this project is provided by Andreas Netteland’s CEA-funded firm, Disputas. The goal was to do an analysis of the predicted benefits of two ideas for enhancing the infrastructure for knowledge organization, tracking, assessment, search, and summary. Some research was conducted, however it was determined that the group members working on this project would not be able to contribute further with specific results because the project was too broad and knowledge-intensive.
Timeless promotional video of EA NTNU
The goal of this project is to create a promotional video for EA-NTNU that the organization can use for recordings or presentations as promotional and/or educational content. As the video involves a lot of work to produce, it will also be created to be utilized for a longer amount of time in the future. Only video editing remains to complete the project.
EA Outreach Through Ethics Classes
EA Norway and pertinent outside experts work together to complete the project. The objective is to contribute to the investigation of whether junior high and VGS schools should offer an ethics course with the aim of introducing EA thinking through study of ethics and morality.
Rob Miles YouTube AI Safety Discord Channel
This project was done in collaboration with Robert Miles AI Safety Discord community, where the point was to help answer questions on Stampy’s wiki page. With positive results, this project is recommended for other groups to work with as well, and a forum post has been written for that purpose: Student Project for Engaging with AI Alignment
Political Game Theory
The project’s goal was to use game theory to examine how politicians behave and to identify strategies that people might use to encourage desirable behavior and discourage undesirable behavior. This resulted in three members presenting their findings on the topic to all other members in a ~20 min presentation.
Pitch EA relevant discussions for the student society to debate
The society turned out to be open to proposals, but all of the debates were scheduled for the rest of the year and the absence of specific individuals who could debate prevented any firm conclusions from being reached. If specific debaters are identified, it is advised to start this endeavor.
In this initiative, participants made Onepagers on subjects they chose for themselves and wished to learn more about. Themes included ”How to live as long and as healthy as possible,” ”The impact of coffee,” and ”Effects of turning vegan.” Here are the highlighted results: Onepagers made by EA NTNU
The project’s objective was for the participants to read up on and become familiar with subjects from LessWrong’s websites in order to enhance their capacity to make wiser decisions in the future. Various approaches and ways of thinking, such as the planning fallacy, game theory, Goodhart’s law, and Nash equilibrium, were taught at a lecture on our social retreat in 2022.
Influencing national fundraising events in Norway to donate more effectively
The project’s goal was to suggest ways to get more EA-related thought into the TV campaign and ”ODdagen” when choosing charitable causes. Due to the way the TV campaign and the ODdagen decide which charity to give to, it turned out that this was not tractable. The board of EA NTNU received criticism for not determining beforehand if the proposal was genuinely possible, since this could easily have been done with internet searching. This served as a reminder for the board about the importance of sufficiently planning each projects before handing them over to the members.
An organization called Invincible Wellbeing strives to make life free of any suffering. The scientists that developed the best plan to accomplish this goal would be awarded monetary prizes. Spreading the word about this award and contacting scientists to gauge their interest were tasks assigned to project participants. The project was challenging to complete since it was challenging to identify the scientists who should be contacted, locate their contact information, and most of them did not reply to emails.
With matching funds, the fundraising effort supported Hellen Keller International. The entire amount collected, after matching, was 8,300 NOK.
During the academic year, there were two social retreats planned: one during spring and one during fall. Both events took place at Vassfjellkapellet and were well received. Through workshops and lectures, the retreats helped participants expand their EA thinking and made members feel more related to EA NTNU as a community they are a part of.
Green transition in Norwegian agriculture
Participants in the initiative were asked to look into potential solutions to catalyze Norway’s agriculture to become more environmentally friendly. To persuade as many political and ethical viewpoints as possible, a questionnaire was developed to gauge farmers and politicians' willingness to catalyze such a transition, and potential elements of friction. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the group did not have time to conduct the survey, however another group might continue with the project next year.
The project was carried out in collaboration with Giving What We Can, where they needed help promoting the giving game Charity Elections for VGS and junior high schools where students vote for one of three charities and each vote leads to a $ 2.00 donation to that charity. The goal of the initiative was to make Norwegian schools more aware of effective giving and to promote school participation. Little was accomplished the project was conducted too late for the schools to have time and set up such an event.
Alternative Protein Fundamental Program
The objective was to gain a technical understanding of how the three types of alternative proteins function (plant-based, precision-fermented, lab-grown). Moreover, how computer expertise can be put to use in the industry. Future career prospects are also being looked into.
80,000 Hours at High Schools
The project’s objective was to get in touch with VGS to arrange presentations regarding 80k and wise career choices. This is done to help pupils become more cognizant of how their occupations would affect them earlier in life and to plant the roots of better, more logical thinking as early as possible. Due to the schools’ lack of interest, there were no real presentations held, but a lot of material was prepared and is available for use at a later time.
Discussion meetings (in-depth fellowships)
Discussion meetings have been held as a continuation of what was previously called Fellowships. This has been a voluntary offer to our members, where there has been a meeting a week where the participants have discussed a topic related to EA. There have been one to two theme owners who have been responsible for designing preparatory material, in the form of texts, videos or podcasts, possibly a small lecture at the beginning of the meeting, in addition to preparing some discussion questions. The topics that have been discussed are as follows in chronological order:
- The life you can save
- Give now, or save and give more later
- Giving what we can
- Career guidance (on the autumn social retreat)
- How much space can / should EA take up one’s life
- Existential risk
- Mental health for EAs
- Andreas Gravrok’s favorites (alternative proteins)
- Meta EA
- What is a good life
- Negative utilitarianism
- Criticism of EA
- Moral uncertainty
- Ethical dilemmas / issues
- Decision theory
- Andreas Gravrok’s Favorites 2.0 (alternative proteins, population ethics & book recommendations)
This year, funds have been sought to sponsor food for the discussion meetings, from Frifond in the autumn and from CEA in the spring, and therefore it has been possible to offer completely free vegan food. The meetings have taken place at the restaurant Lyche, affiliated with the Student Society, and in a room on Gløshaugen with food from Persilleriet. Lyche was chosen to emphasize the social aspect, as well as to clearly distinguish between the discussion meetings and the work meetings, as a room on Gløshaugen does not provide an equally relaxed atmosphere.
The evaluation from last autumn indicated that the members liked to use Lyche, despite the fact that it is more noisy there. The same evaluation showed that the members think the discussion meetings are a useful spending of their time, which is also made clear by the fact that the attendance is consistently high, with mostly more than ten participants.
No career workshops have been held this year, but during this autumn’s social retreat, the topic of career guidance was presented by career counselor in EA Norway Jon Eivind Sivertsen, and discussed among the participants at the social retreat during fall. The board has also considered that individual career guidance is a better alternative than a career workshop, as one can to a greater extent adapt the advice to each individual. It is therefore focused on recommending members career guidance with EA Norway, as well as established individual career planning as a separate development project that members can work on at work meetings.
In March, EAGx was held in Oxford, where 10 members joined the trip to Oxford coordinated by the head of EA NTNU. Career plans were an important reason why this trip was prioritized for those of the members who had the time and opportunity. The board has evaluated the usefulness of the trip, by getting those who went to respond to a Google Form. The results clearly show that the journey was useful in getting members to change their career plans, to a greater or lesser degree. It is important to emphasize that those who traveled were probably more curious to know more about their career opportunities, so that there is a slightly skewed selection, but there is still good reason to claim that traveling to such a conference is very useful with thought about making sure members lay out their career plans to maximize positive impact.
Externally directed activity and collaboration
Through participation in conferences such as EA Global, EA NTNU has gained knowledge of other EA student group leaders at other universities. EA NTNU has contributed with help and advice to organize a project-based model for some of these student groups. EA NTNU differs from most other university groups, where EA NTNU has a commitment requirement of 3 hours weekly participation for all active members. EA NTNU sets requirements for its active members, which ensures a high level of activity and commitment. This has meant that EA NTNU’s project based model has been seen as a potential ideal way of structuring a student group by some group organizers. As a result, EA NTNU has this year collaborated with EA KTH in Stockholm and EA Zurich in Switzerland to assist with the transition to a similar project-based model. The leader of EA KTH greets the annual meeting with an update:
“Halfway the year the board concluded we talked too much and wanted to do more. The NTNU model makes sure our mindset during execution evenings is on producing output. We do things and discuss in between, instead of the other way around. ”
The members of EA KTH seem to be satisfied, and there are many indications that this has been a positive transition. Among others, EA KTH co-organized a Hackathon event and wrote the forum post Stockholm Student Hackathon: Lessons for next time. Together with EA KTH, EA NTNU can become better at helping other student groups with a similar transition, and so far both EA NTNU and EA KTH are now helping to support EA Zurich with a similar transition.
EA NTNU has held a number of social events between the fall of 2021 and the spring of 2022. The board has prioritized organizing social events to strengthen the group member’s relations both during and after the COVID restrictions.
From the autumn of 21 until early February, there were several more or less strict COVID restrictions that EA NTNU had to take into account. This gave us challenges when it came to arranging social gatherings. These challenges included maintaining the necessary distance throughout the event, using a face mask when necessary and spreading surfaces for common use. The social events that were held during the pandemic took into account the guidelines at the time and were thus handled differently based on the pressure of infection.
Both social retreats gave the board the impression of being great successes, as well as having played an important role in the welding of the group. The idea behind both social retreats was, among other things, to integrate new members to the social atmosphere right after they finished the compulsory intro course in EA. The social retreat was held late in the semester, 15-17. October, and the board received feedback that this was a bit late in terms of new members’ sense of belonging. In the spring, a social retreat was held 25-27. February, the weekend after the new members’ first working meeting. This was to give the new members an early entry into the social environment of the organization. The social retreat was held after the national reopening and was carried out in the same way as in previous years - that is, without restrictions such as the 1-meter, face mask, number restrictions, etc. Both social retreats included lectures given by EA Norway, joint vegan dinners, board games, table tennis and many discussions. EA Norway gave lectures on career guidance in the autumn, and in the spring on how to maintain enthusiasm for EA in the long term. In the spring, various approaches and ways of thinking, such as the planning fallacy, game theory, Goodhart’s law, and Nash equilibrium, were taught at a lecture on our social retreat in 2022. The internal survey revealed that 45 % of the members wanted more social retreats or other large events.
Parties have been a great way to experience other aspects of the rest of the group. In the autumn, it was difficult to hold parties due to infection control, but a party was held when the infection pressure was low. This was a Murder-Mystery theme party that had a high turnout (20-25) of both ordinary and alumni members, with a good atmosphere well into the evening. The party had a higher budget than previous and later parties to start the social. In the spring there were two parties during March and April. These parties had a somewhat lower turnout than Murder-Mystery, 10-15 vs 20-25, but the mood seemed to still be good. A good deal of smaller resources were used for these parties, both time for planning (0 vs 3 hours) and financial support (NOK 100 vs NOK 600) so it is not clear that the increase in profit is worth the increase in investment. The internal survey revealed that 45 % of the members wanted more parties.
Game nights have been a central part of the social events in EA NTNU, especially during strict COVID restrictions. During the autumn, a game night was held when the infection pressure was low. The first and last working meeting of the autumn semester consisted of brief information about the semester, followed by playing board games. The purpose of this has been to have a soft start to the semester, and a pleasant end. The board believes that this has helped to build belonging to the group by taking part in fun activities, with a lower threshold for arranging and attending than at other social events
The trip to Oxford, which is described in internal development, was also a good opportunity to strengthen the social environment. Traveling together over several days provided good opportunities to forge closer ties with the others in the group. Several who participated reported to have benefited greatly from the stay, both academically and socially. The funds to go to Oxford came from the CEA and were actually intended for EAGx in Prague in December 2021, but this event was postponed due to the COVID and the funds were thus moved.
During the pandemic, Sunday hikes have been a good opportunity for socializing with others in the group, as they allowed for great distances between each participants. The hikes in autumn 2020 and fall 2021 were carried out almost every Sunday and varied from hikes to Theisendammen with barbecue, to hikes in the woods or hikes around Trondheim. The Sunday hikes have not been as popular after the spring of 2021, and in spring 2022 the committee responsible for social events agreed to go away from holding regular Sunday hikes, due to poor attendance.
Ad hoc social events
In addition to the more organized activities, the social channel on Slack has been a forum where several spontaneous social offers have been announced. Most prominent have been bouldering trips to Grip Sluppen, but also quizzes, revues, trips and dinners have been offered. These offers come as separate initiatives from members, and have not been initiated by the board or EA NTNU as an organization. The board sees this as valuable as it points out that social ties within the group are also maintained outside arranged arenas.
Response from the internal survey
From the internal survey, several data points emerged about the members’ experience of the social side of EA NTNU. Of those who responded (N = 32), 100% said they felt well received in the group. About 45 % wanted more social retreats or other larger events, and just as many wanted more parties. Less than 5% were not interested in more social events. When asked "on a scale from 1 to 7, where 4 is the middle, how well known have you become with the other members of EA NTNU", about 65 % answered over 4, about 20 % answered 4 and 15 % answered lower than 4. From this data, it is natural to conclude that social events have had a positive effect on the group.
Admission and Follow-Up of New Members
During the year, EA NTNU accepted 29 new members; 18 were admitted in the autumn of 2021, and 11 were admitted in the spring of 2022. The autumn admission in 2020 was record high, with 21 new members. The spring admission 2022 is the strongest EA NTNU has had among all spring admissions, with 11 new members compared with 8 in 2021, and 4 in 2020.
When it comes to where the new members find us, social media and friends dominate. For both the autumn and spring admissions, EA NTNU had active Facebook ads, aimed specifically at people in Trondheim aged 18-28. These seem to have had a very good effect. In previous years, tabling has been a common way of promoting EA NTNU. Due to COVID restrictions, it was not allowed for voluntary organizations to have a tabling on NTNU’s campus in the autumn of 2021. There were three days on tabling, respectively in Midtbyen, at Moholt and at the Student Society. Stabling was not used during the spring recording. During both outreach periods, posters were produced and hung up with general information about EA NTNU as well as the place and time for the introductory information meeting. The posters were hung up on Gløshaugen, Dragvoll and Øya.
Both autumn 2021 and spring 2022, an information meeting was arranged. At the autumn admission, only an information meeting was held at Gløshaugen, 1 evening. The chairman’s presentation at the information meeting was recorded, livestreamed and published on YouTube after the meeting. No pizza was served. It was good physical attendance, with approx. 30 participants. In addition, several have reported that they could not attend the physical information meeting, but have either seen the live stream or the recording on YouTube afterwards. Information meeting in the spring of 2022 was held physically at Gløshaugen and Dragvoll. Food was served at both meetings. Attendance was much lower than at the autumn admission; respectively 2 at the meeting at Gløshaugen and 4 at Dragvoll. Three of the six people who attended the information meetings were admitted to EA NTNU.
Interviews were conducted for applicants for both admissions. These were carried out both physically and digitally - depending on what was best for the applicant. After the interview process, a social kickoff was held for new members. Kickoff was held at both the start of autumn and start of spring. At Kickoff, a short presentation was given on practical and general information, as well as important dates for the new members. After Kickoff, a mandatory introductory course following the introductory fellowship curriculum was organized.
Result 1.5 under Goal 1 in EA NTNU’s strategy states that the board shall conduct member discussions with all members, and invite everyone to a follow-up interview. All members have been offered a membership interview, both the autumn semester and the spring semester. The member discussions revolved around the members’ expectations, thoughts, ideas and feedback about their involvement in EA NTNU.
Introductory Courses: EA 1-2-3 and EA GO
As in previous years, EA 123 has been implemented after both the autumn and spring admissions. These courses use curriculum from the typical introductory fellowships. Four course evenings were held in the autumn, where the topics of rationality, EA overview and priorities, cause areas, working methods and 80,000 hours were reviewed and discussed among the newly admitted members. This spring’s edition was made over a weekend, while the course material was the same. EA 123 is a course EA NTNU has implemented for the newly admitted members every year since the autumn of 2015 and has been slightly improved repeatedly. Due to the large absence during the first review of EA 123, a shortened course of three hours, called EA GO, was organized with the remaining new members.
Feedback revealed that EA GO was effective, however not perfect. Among the suggestions for improvement, it was pointed out that the practical implications of Bayes’ theorem were difficult to understand in such a short time, and that there was little time for discussions and examples. In addition, there was no time to go in depth through the various cause areas, and no time to review EA NTNU's strategy.
I will publish a separate forum post about the changes EA NTNU made this year by implementing so-called development projects to facilitate self development, knowledge transfer and career planning. This yielded great results, and we highly recommend other groups to consider facilitating similar projects.