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I would like to get an Effective Altruism group started (more like resurrected) at UW.  I don't know any EAs currently attending, but I would love to get in touch with any of you who are! It's a big school, so I figure there's a good chance there are some (aspiring) EAs in the crowd.




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(I tried starting the original EA group at UW in 2014. I'm no longer a student at UW and don't even live in the Seattle area currently.)

Seems like you found the Messenger group, which is the most active thing I am aware of. You've also probably seen the Facebook group and could try messaging some of the people there who joined recently.

I don't want to discourage you from trying, but here are some more details: I was unable to start an EA group at UW in 2014 (despite help from Seattle EA organizers). At the time I thought this was mainly due to my poor social skills (and, to be honest, I think my poor social skills were still a significant factor). But then Rohin Shah (who was one of the organizers or creators of the successful group at UC Berkeley) tried starting the group again in 2016 and it still didn't take off. I think a bunch of factors make it pretty difficult to start an EA group at UW (less curious/smart students, people being more narrowly career-oriented, UW being a commuter school, etc.; given how big the school is, I think the people at UW are very unintuitively bad), and this is something I wish I knew better back in 2014 (at the time at least, I had only heard of successful student groups so I thought it would be easy to get a group going and meet Really Cool People).

Did you run an introductory fellowship? (Probably not since introductory fellowships only really started/took off in 2018.) I've found a big difference with trying to start an EA group through discussion meetings vs an introductory fellowship—the latter has been much more successful. Introductory fellowships are the core of CEA's University Group Accelerator Program (previously called MVP Group Pilot Program, MVP standing for "minimum viable product").

I've never heard of the University Group Accelerator Program. Could you tell me more about it?

Sure, you can find more information about it here. I think it was only publicly mentioned a day ago by CEA in this EA Forum comment.

I didn't. As far as I know, introductory fellowships weren't even a thing in EA back in 2014 (or if they were, I don't remember hearing about them back then despite reading a bunch of EA things on the internet). However, I have a pretty negative opinion of these fellowships so I don't think I would have wanted to start one even if they were around at the time.

Interesting, could you say why you have a negative opinion of introductory fellowships?

The actual activities that the people in a fellowship engage in, like reading things and discussing them and socializing and doing giving games and so forth, don't seem different from what a typical reading club or meetup group does. I am fine with all of these activities, and think they can be quite valuable.

So how are EA introductory fellowships different from a bare reading club or meetup group? My understanding is that the main differences are exclusivity and the branding. I'm not a fan of exclusivity in general, but especially dislike it when there doesn't seem to be a good reason for it (e.g. why not just split the discussion into separate circles if there are too many people?) or where self-selection would have worked (e.g. making the content of the fellowship more difficult so that the less interested people will leave on their own). As for branding, I couldn't find a reason why these groups are branded as "fellowships" in any of the pages or blog posts I looked at. But my guess is that it is a way to manufacture prestige for both the organizers/movement and for the participants. This kind of prestige-seeking seems pretty bad to me. (I can elaborate more on either point if you want to understand my reasoning.)

I haven't spent too much time looking into these fellowships, so it's quite possible I am misunderstanding something, and would be happy to be corrected.

I think the main difference is the commitment entailed by an introductory fellowship, due to having to apply and being accepted; you're expected to continue showing up to sessions and let your facilitator know if you can't make it. That way, attendance and enrollment are probably much higher than they would otherwise be. It doesn't have to be exclusive; many smaller groups accept everyone who applies.

Based on some EA Forum comments I've read by Harvard EA members, you're right that the term "fellowship" is intended to "manufacture prestige". EA Oxford uses the term "seminar program" instead which I think gets the job done and is apparently less confusing to graduate students.

Setting expectations without making it exclusive seems good.

"Seminar program" or "seminar" or "reading group" or "intensive reading group" sound like good names to me.

I'm guessing there is a way to run such a group in a way that both you and I would be happy about.

I was wondering how Rohin tried starting the group. If he was doing it remotely, then it seems like that may have been a factor in why it failed the second time (because it would be hard to form a community). Thanks for suggesting messaging the people who most recently joined the UW EA Facebook group--I didn't think there were any new people, but there are a few!

He was at UW in person (he was a grad student at UW before he switched his PhD to AI safety and moved back to Berkeley).

Best of luck with starting a group at UW! Have you gotten in contact with the Centre for Effective Altruism (chapters@centreforeffectivealtruism.org)? Have you filled out the University Group Accelerator Program interest form (or have you already applied for it)? If you don't get any responses here on the EA Forum, you might be interested in making a post on Reddit—this seems to have worked for Virginia Tech. I think my experience with starting EA at Georgia Tech this year may be relevant—feel free to schedule a call with me or message me if you want any advice with anything.

I did get in contact with Jessica McCurdy  from CEA, who I plan to talk to soon about getting started and the fall accelerator program, and I just filled out the interest form. I'll keep looking for EAs on Reddit--thanks for the suggestion! I think it would be valuable to have a chat with you as well.

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