We (Marisa and Sami) are the organizers of EA Anywhere, a virtual "local" group for people without local groups. We just released an update post about our first year at EA Anywhere, and we wanted to run an accompanying Ask Me Anything alongside it.
We’ll be answering questions now through August 12th, though we may answer ones that come through later if we think they’re especially interesting or important.
We’re happy to answer questions about, well, anything, but some areas we think we might be able to provide useful responses on:
- Current happenings at EA Anywhere and our strategy going forward
- Advice/thoughts on virtual community-building
- Thoughts about the roles of local groups in EA and how they can have the most impact
- Questions about our full-time Community Director opening
I might have missed it in your posts or discussion elsewhere, but how do you feel about connecting with (or helping connect) small university EA groups? In particular, the group I founded at Ole Miss comes to mind, in that I really struggled to find a lot of interest at the university, which I felt made it more difficult to keep interest among the remaining/existing participants (since the meetings dwindled in numbers).
Actually in the very early days of EA Anywhere, I toyed with the idea of having a separate student sub-group in part for this purpose (and for university students without EA groups). I dropped it partially for capacity reasons and partially because there didn't seem like much demand for it, but I'd be excited about this being part of our expansion with our new organizer.
I see EA Anywhere as a good supplement to small groups. While we advertise as "a local group for people without local groups", I think it makes a lot of sense to also work with group organizers and members from groups that are too small to warrant larger events, or with organizers that are too time-poor to run events often.
I also think this could fit well into the local group incubation pipeline we've considered. There's a cycle that's hard to break out of with small groups -- if an event is so small that it's not valuable, then less people come, then it gets smaller, then it's even less valuable, etc. (Of course small events can be valuable if the chemistry is right with the group, but that can take a long time to facilitate.) A virtual group like EA Anywhere could potentially break groups out of that cycle by bringing in more people and ideally creating more interesting discussions from that.
Having graduated from university just before the pandemic I don't have a sense of how interested students will be in Zoom meetings and the like in future years, which is one uncertainty I have, but I think it's unlikely that this will be a major issue.
Do you have suggestions on ways local groups can create ways for people in their region who are more isolated to be engaged ?
I guess it depends on the reason they’re isolated. And the more “expensive” interventions in terms of inconvenience to regulars should be weighted by the excepted gain. A proxy for that might be the number of isolated EAs.
Examples of interventions would be diversifying meetup times/locations if it’s due to time/location conflicts. It might be easier to test this by adding online events and comparing the number of new attendees.
Marisa mentioned that 1-1’s (with the organizers or other members) would also be beneficial and would reduce the awkwardness of joining a meetup where everyone but you knows each other.
Another idea might be to sponsor local groups by providing support or training, like how (I imagine) EA Philippines does to their local chapters. But seems easier for a country group to do this to a city/uni group, rather than a city group “sponsoring” another city.
Agree with Sami's comment below. Virtual events are certainly a good way to get people from more isolated parts of the region engaged, but if 90% of the attendees already know each other from in-person events, that may be even more isolating. I suspect this is fairly easy to mitigate though if the organiser is conscientious about it.
It might be worth connecting them with other virtual communities too. Besides us, there are lots of virtual groups popping up (Giving What We Can, EA for Christians, EA for Jews, the EA Hispanic group, EA Consulting, Effective Animal Advocacy, etc.) which might be good for getting people engaged if your group doesn't run virtual events very often. (FWIW they are also very welcome to get involved with EA Anywhere - we have some members in metro areas of local groups but who are just too far away to come to most in-person events.)
I think a lot of this will also be case-by-case depending on where the person is in their EA involvement, and a lot of those rules won't be that much different from engaging someone who's not in an isolated area. It's mostly a matter of making sure the usual pathways through "the funnel" are accessible to them, even if they aren't able to attend in-person events.