Updates from the Centre for Enabling EA Learning & Research

by CEEALAR3 min read27th Nov 20201 comment

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Org Update
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Charity Registration

After a long process, we are finally registered as a charity as of 3rd June. We are charity number 1189768 in England & Wales. Donations made from 6th December 2019 onward by UK taxpayers are eligible for Gift Aid. It may be possible that we can backdate Gift Aid for donations previous to this; this is something we are looking into. If you have made donations to us that you would like us to claim Gift Aid on, please let us know.

Hiring

We ran job adverts for Operations Manager and Community & Projects Manager in August. Unfortunately we didn’t receive the level of interest we hoped for! If you considered applying, but didn’t end up doing so, please let us know what would’ve tipped the balance in favour of applying for you. Perhaps it’s the pandemic? Which brings us to...

Open to new applicants

After 5 months of lockdown where we were not accepting new guests, we reopened our application process in mid-August. However, we have only had one guest arrive since (although we have had a couple of other applications for a few weeks time). This is most likely down to the ongoing pandemic making travel difficult/high risk. Note that we are offering people free tests for infection on arrival, with self-isolation only required until a negative test result comes back (two or three days). Arguably the Athena Hotel, Blackpool, is a nice place to stay specifically because of the pandemic -- you can have a great time with fellow EAs with minimal contact with the outside world when you get here. The wide open beach 2 mins walk away is quite empty most of the time.

If you have been considering applying, and have relatively low-risk travel options available, please do. Especially if you were put off last year due to us being full and down to room-sharing only. We are offering subsidies on accommodation and board for those wishing to engage in learning, research or charitable projects, in fitting with our charitable objects. See our Grant Making Policy for more details.

We are now down to 6 people, from a high of 24. It is possible that we will remain in a kind of hibernation until the pandemic is over, which could be another 6 months (hopefully less with the recent vaccine announcements).

Outputs 

Our remaining guests have been busy since our last update on outputs, and we have a number of valuable outputs to report. See our latest outputs post here. For all of our concrete outputs to date, see our revamped outputs page. Going forward we intend to publish quarterly summaries of inputs and outputs. These will be backdated to the start of the project.

Fundraising 

Recently we were fortunate to receive a generous donation of $50,000 from Jaan Tallinn. This was nominally for 6 months of operating expenses. However, with our reduced resident numbers, we expect it to last considerably longer. This is not to say that we are not still soliciting donations. We are still some way off the ideal of an 18 month runway, so further donations are most welcome. Especially so if low pay turns out to be the limiting factor for getting applicants for our Community & Projects Manager role. 

With our new status as a registered charity, we are participating in Facebook’s Giving Tuesday.

Thanks to everyone who has donated over the course of our fundraising. We have updated our fundraiser page to add a list of significant donors - let us know if you aren’t on the list and would like to be.

A resident describes life at CEEALAR this year

Around mid to late February, the residents of CEELAR first started discussing the possibility of quarantining to reduce the risk of infection and spread of Covid. In early March, we agreed to avoid traveling, going indoors anywhere aside from the house, and meeting up with anyone from outside our household—or to isolate in our rooms afterward if we did any of these things. We also initially stopped accepting new guests, which meant the house could only get smaller.  

Some of us worried the quarantine would be difficult for us. This year has of course been challenging for most people, but we’ve been surprised by how well we’ve been coping. It hasn’t only been a year of restrictions and worries for us. We immediately realized we were extremely fortunate to be able to feel safe from the pandemic without having to isolate in solitude, and we’ve only grown more supportive and cohesive as a community since the quarantine began. 

For instance, we always had weekly activities and events, but with the lack of travel centering all our lives here in this house even more than before, we’ve put more emphasis on these this year. 

Previously, we had meetings every Friday to discuss what we had done over the week, to make general announcements, and to come up with activity plans for the weekend and the coming week. We’ve now been doing Monday meetings as well to discuss our work plans for the week; on Fridays, we then update each other on how well we managed to stick to those plans. 

Post-dinner “Theme of the Week” discussions of selected articles related to rationality or EA have been regular events for a while now, but we’ve become more consistent about doing them every week. We’ve also added “Topic of the Day” discussions about random EA ideas or questions at Tuesday and Wednesday dinners. One resident suggested starting an “Obsession of the Year” as well, but we haven’t quite gone that far yet. Most recently we’ve started a biweekly book club. The first book we’ll read and discuss is Life 3.0. One resident is working on an AI-safety-related script on the weekends, and we’ve done readings from that—with residents playing different characters—as it’s progressed. 

We’ve also introduced regular post-dinner relaxation activities throughout the week, such as free-style dance, Qi Gong, and singing lessons. For exercise, we put weights in one of the public spaces to convert it into a gym. We also use this room for morning meditations.

We’ve been taking more advantage of the things we can safely do outside the hotel too. Even in autumn or winter, the beach can still be nice for walks, if it isn’t too windy. On the weekends it isn’t raining, we often walk to Stanley Park—Blackpool’s unexpectedly impressive park which we recently discovered has a small forest and a perfect hill for rolling down. One of the residents has recently got into rollerblading at the park in the early mornings. 

This has been an especially good year for living in a group house, and we’re grateful the quarantine has inspired us to even more fully take advantage of living with people who share our values, interests, and aspirations of making the world better.

We’re now accepting new guests again. We’ve recently had our first new arrival since our quarantine began, and are expecting one or two more within the next few weeks. This may change the dynamics in the house a bit from the tiny quarantining group we got used to over the late summer and early fall, but we expect the positive changes we’ve made to last. 

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Our Giving Tuesday Facebook Fundraiser is here: https://www.facebook.com/donate/388638269043274/