Overview of projects at EA NTNU

byeirine6d13th Jun 20191 comment

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Effektiv Altruisme NTNU is an active student group in Norway. For three hours every week during the school year, they meet to work on EA-related projects ranging from light research, events, administrative tasks, and writing. They’ve now made an extensive overview of most of the projects they have done since they began in 2014. The overview is a work in progress, and it will be updated both to extend descriptions of previous projects and to add new projects as they are completed.

--> You can read the overview here.

This post contains a small part of the document linked to above in order to give a short version. It contains a description of how the student group works, and gives three examples of projects they have done the past few years. We highly recommend looking at the table of contents in the overview and clicking on those projects you’d like to learn more about.

All credits go to Ingeborg Denstadli Hope, a senior member of EA NTNU, who has been in charge of creating the overview. If you have any questions regarding how EA NTNU works or would like to learn more about a specific project, reach out to the EA NTNU team at ntnu@effektivaltruisme.no.

How EA NTNU works

EA NTNU is a student group at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. They’re run by a board of 4-5 members, who are elected by the members every spring semester. This section is a direct copy of a similar section in the document, and outlines how the student group operates in general and how they work on projects

When and where

They meet up every Wednesday evening for three hours at the University. They work in "pomodoros", i.e. 45 min work, 10 min break, 45 min work, 20 min break and finishing with 45 min work. In the breaks, there is coffee, tea, biscuits and fruit available, in addition to music on the speakers for a nice atmosphere. It is mandatory for the members of the group to attend these meetings.

In addition the weekly meetings, they have a Sunday-meeting once a month, usually the last Sunday in every month. This lasts for five hours from 14:00 to 19:00 with a good break in the middle where they serve pizzas. During these meetings, the members present their projects in plenary, discuss relevant topics, arrange workshops or invite external speakers. Attendance is not mandatory on these Sunday-meetings.

Group organising

EA NTNU used to be divided into sub-groups: Events, Research and Lobbying and Influence. These were independent from each other and had separate meeting hours. These groups were permanent and when joining EA NTNU you also applied for being part of one of these sub-groups.

This is no longer the way the student group is organised. Since the fall of 2016, all the members meet-up at the same time and place and work in project teams. Rather than being permanent, the teams only last until the project is finished. When the projects are finished, the teams and people rotate. In their yearly well-being member survey, they’ve found that this way of organising the group has led to a more social and engaging environment. Read more about this change of organising philosophy in our forum post from 2016.

When launching new projects, the board releases project descriptions of potential projects. See their template here for such project descriptions. Then, all the members read through the descriptions, and ranks them according to which ones they would like to work on. The board then divides the members into project teams, trying as best as possible to fulfill everyone's wishes. The projects now usually lasts for 3 or 6 weeks, where longer lasting projects are divided into multiple parts.

Project work

Starting up - At the beginning of a new 3- or 6-week block each project team goes through a general check-list, it takes approximately 5 minutes. You can find a translated version of the check-list here. Every project has a project leader (one of the board-members) who is available for questions but who does no.

Finishing off - At the end of the 3- or 6-week block, each project team evaluates the projects through following this check-list. When a copy is filled out, it is then filed in that project’s folder on Google Drive.

Communication and administration

Membership fee - The yearly due fee is 400NOK (200NOK each semester). 400NOK equals roughly $50 / £40.

Communication - For communication within the group they use Slack. Slack is a cloud based collaboration tool. This has proven very effective. Slack is organized so that all members can be invited and subscribe to “channels”(/chat rooms). A channel is somewhat of a facebook wall, where everyone can post things. Instant messaging is also possible. In addition to plenary channels, each project team creates a channel for their project. Here they communicate and share information. When the project is over and the channel is inactive it is archived.

Google Drive - All documents that the student group works on during a project are collected in a Google Drive folder. They name the folder after the project and sort the folders by which semester/year the project was conducted. All members have access to nearly all the folders, with some exceptions for sensitive information.

Kanban - to track our progress in the project teams they use simple, physical kanban-boards. They break the project down to concrete clear tasks and write them on post-its. Then, they put the post-its on the board, under one of the three columns: to do, doing, done. At the end of a meeting, they’ll take a picture of the kanban-board and post it in the designated Slack-channel for storing information between meetings.

Three example projects from the overview

Vegan Pitch to the university cafeteria - 2019

Budget: None

Number of people: 2-3

Timeframe: 3+3 weeks

The aim of this project was to have a look at what vegan and vegetarian options SiT - the university cafeteria, café and kiosk - offered, and try to make them expand their selection of animal-free foods.

The project team had a look at the cafeteria’s website, as well as the websites of other universities in Norway to compare the offers. They found that in most cases there were at least one vegan option, which was a very good start, but with room for improvement. The team sent a couple of emails to SiT to ask them about their current offers and plans for the future, and to give suggestions such as occasionally including vegetarian and vegan baguettes in the daily discounted offer.

The team also attended a food forum for students where they got to discuss SiT’s selection and give suggestions on how to improve, such as branding vegan/vegetarian food as normal food with normal names rather than inferior alternatives (one cafeteria offers burgers, where all meat burgers have fancy names like Model X and BBQ-burger, while the vegetarian one is just called Vegetarian; The team therefore suggested to change it to something more similar to the other names and marking it with a green v).

EA NTNU hopes that representing vegans in the forum was a valuable reminder for SiT that there is demand for vegan food at university campuses. This project ended up having too few tasks and they spent the remaining time preparing arguments for more vegan food, which they ended up not needing to use.

Population Ethics Presentation - 2018

Budget: None

Number of people: 2-3

Timeframe: 3 weeks

In this project, the project team looked at the concept Population Ethics - what it is and what we might think of it.

The Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford says: "It is impossible to take a stance on such important problems as climate policy or healthcare prioritization without making controversial assumptions about population ethics."

This project team made a rough overview of the most important directions in population ethics, the arguments they use, and the assumptions they build on. This includes themes such as the repugnant conclusion, overpopulation, critical level utilitarianism etc.

The end product of the project was a presentation summarising what the team had learned, and presented it to members at a Sunday meeting.

Making of the Norwegian EA Wikipedia page - 2016

Budget: None

Number of people: 2-4

Timeframe: 2-5 weeks

The goal of this project was to produce a wikipedia page about Effective Altruism in Norwegian. One of the project user stories was: As a norwegian person and new to the concept of Effective Altruism one should on the first page of a Google search get recommended the Wikipedia-pages: Effektiv Altruisme NTNU, EA UiO (University in Oslo), and Stiftelsen Effekt.

The project team produced a short, precise, neutral, well written and easily read summary with clear information about what Effective Altruism is, key people, and with sources for further information for the wikipedia page.

Final remarks

The overview of projects at EA NTNU will hopefully inspire or even give concrete ideas to other similar groups on what it is possible to do. Feel free to copy a project directly if useful. Further, notice how the example projects in this post, and the projects outlined in the overview, range from being about research, writing, administrative tasks and events. At EA NTNU, they organise most of their activities into a project.

If you have any questions either regarding a project specifically or how EA NTNU actually works, don’t hesitate to contact them at ntnu@effektivaltruisme.no. While the overview of the projects is comprehensive and covers a lot of aspects, it’s much easier to explain in person, and we therefore recommend setting up a meeting with them to get your answers.

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