How students, groups, and community members can use funding

by kuhanj4 min read11th Aug 202114 comments

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Building effective altruismEffective altruism fundingEffective altruism groups
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I have recently been brainstorming potential ways for EA groups to use funding, and was encouraged by Jonas Vollmer (from EA Funds) to share this list on the forum. 

Caveat 1: The encouragement does not mean groups/individuals who apply for funding for the things mentioned below are guaranteed funding, or that all of the ideas here are good. Caveat 2: I've mostly been thinking about these in the context of funding for uni groups and students. I've mostly focused on this since students are often cash-strapped and as a result, (understandably) spend other costly resources to save money, and don't use money to improve their expected impact/lives in general. Given the glut of EA funding (more specifically for longtermist and meta work), this should change!

I'd be curious to hear others' recommendations, and especially things that have been a great use of funding as well!

Examples of things that could be funded:

  • Paid part/full-time EA work (and encouraging taking time off when appropriate)
    • Doing EA work, especially significant amounts can: 1) normalize the idea of doing EA work full-time, 2) help the people doing the work skill up and become much more knowledgeable about EA ideas, and 3) help people realize full-time EA work can be rewarding and financially feasible. All of the above seem quite valuable
    • Specifically I’m interested in more Internships for EA students - both general EA/high-impact internships and meta-EA/uni group internships
  • Funding to skill-up/increase the expected impact of highly engaged group members:
    • Technology (that improve the productivity/wellbeing/time-usage of EA groups/individual members) - funding link here
      • Examples of paid technology I and others have found very useful as a group organizer include Calendly, Airtable Pro, Yet Another Mail Merge, Asana, Typeform, and krisp.ai.
    • Education - books (print, audio, ebooks) - funding link here, online courses, tutoring, etc.
    • Increasing productivity - productivity/life coaching, books/resources
    • Improving mental health - therapy, medication, other resources
  • Paying organizers/facilitators/designers/others doing work for your EA group
  • Teaching assistants, and other support for EA relevant courses
  • Marketing/advertising - materials costs (e.g. banners, flyers, printing), designer costs, advertising costs (e.g. FB ads)
  • Event funding
    • Retreats
    • Speaker travel + honoraria + accommodations
    • Workshops
  • Food/Snacks/Drinks for group
  • EAG(x)/Student Summit Funding (flights, conference costs, housing, etc)
  • Travel
    • E.g. fund people to go meet a bunch of cool professional EAs (e.g. Uber/fly to Berkeley/Oxford and have lots of meetings with cool EAs for the day/weekend, maybe a social at the end)
  • Pay people to learn/read/do things and make retrospectives (ideally that are helpful for others, like summaries/blogposts/handover docs/checklists/guides)
  • Hiring assistants if you have too much work to do/too many things that you'd want to do if you had extra time. If you're interested in potentially hiring/trialing a personal assistant, and especially one with an EA background, I'd recommend checking out campuspa.com.
  • (Lightly edited comment from Neel Nanda that I strongly endorse) Generally converting money to time, productivity, and other valuable resources - affording healthy ready meals, external cleaning, a fast and functional laptop and phone, not needing to stress about meeting rent, being able to get Ubers rather than walking/public transit, exercise equipment at home, etc.

It's often awkward to ask for money for yourself (especially for non-essential costs), but I want anyone doing good community building (and other low-paying high impact work more broadly) not to need to worry about being able to make good money-to-other resource tradeoffs! Or if anyone is doing a part time job to support themselves while doing community building, I'd LOVE for them to be paid for the community building instead, and be able to focus on that more. I think people in EA are often averse to things like this, because that money could be donated instead. But I think this often leads to bad norms around this stuff - if you're doing high impact work, your time is valuable, and saving time means you can do more good work!

Helpful links (other than the ones hyperlinked above):

Again, I’d love to hear others’ suggestions for what things might be good to request funding for, and what things have been really valuable to you.


 

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Great post! I'd be very excited to see somewhere like the Infrastructure Fund funding any of these.

Another point: Generally converting money to time and productivity - affording healthy ready meals, a fast and functional laptop and phone, not needing to stress about meeting rent, being able to get Ubers rather than walking, etc. I think it's often awkward to ask for money to meet things like this for yourself, but I want anyone doing good community building with to not need to worry about things like this! Or if anyone is doing a part time job to support themselves while doing community building, I'd LOVE for them to be paid for the community building instead, and be able to focus on that more

I think people in EA are often averse to things like this, because that money could be donated instead. But I think this often leads to bad norms around this stuff - if you're doing high impact work, your time is valuable, and saving time means you can do more good work!

Strongly agree, I'll add a bullet point on this to the post :)

Hi, thank you for your post!

As a student involved with some community building work and some other voluntary EA-aligned work, I’m still a bit reluctant (perhaps irrationally so) to apply for “converting energy to time” funding and thought that I’d share what I think my reservations are.

  1. I think it feels too self-centred to consider things like healthy ready meals and Ubers for me to be worth EA funding when this could theoretically go to AMF instead.

  2. I’m worried that I won’t end up using the time saved for EA work.

  3. I’m worried that getting funding will make me feel a stronger external obligation towards EA work than I’d like (over say, just relaxing).

  4. I’m personally a little paranoid about EA falling into a meta trap (https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/J3gZxFqsCFmzNosNa/ea-risks-falling-into-a-meta-trap-but-we-can-avoid-it) which slightly biases me against funding + asking to be funded for meta work.

Having thought about this, I think it could make sense for me to try spending more for a while to convert money into time, then determine how much of this time I’m using for EA work, and then try to work out what a reasonable amount of funding to request would be based on this.

Do you have any example costs per time for campuspa.com? I couldn't see any on their website. 

I would be happy if people started more specialized newsletters.

Think of Nuño's Forecasting Newsletter but for other areas of EA/longtermist interests (e.g. broad topics from various research agendas). This seems to be straightforwardly positive per the neoliberal movement growth playbook. On top of doing community service of keeping peers up to date with relevant research; a newsletter is a pretty nice way to get relevant connections outside of the EA movement, to do low-risk high-fidelity outreach to a target demographic of people interested in high-priority causes, to gain reputation and status, and to practice core research skill of writing well.

If newsletters will bloom, it might be worth it to hire someone to help with production. Would be kinda cool to call this network The Republic of Newsletters :)

Under technology investments, I think investing in A/V equipment can be valuable if your group ever does in-person talks!

  • Amplified voices (i.e. buying a microphone + speaker setup) can be a huge boon to group members who are hard-of-hearing or have audio processing issues
  • A projector or large flatscreen can make it much easier to read slides
  • USB Lavalier / Lapel microphones can allow you to record high-quality audio during talks
  • I have never considered buying a full-on camera for recording talks, but I have wished I had a better tripod to hold my phone

At the intersection of "funding to skill-up highly engaged group members" and "travel", I think one of our most productive uses of money at East Bay Biosecurity v1.0 was sending highly-engaged group members to biosecurity-relevant conferences or workshops. Conferences have massive networking and learning benefits, especially for people starting in a new field!

We'd pay for the travel, lodging and conference fees of group members on the condition that they gave a talk at the group afterwards about what they learned. We were sometimes successful at getting group members to write blog posts about their experience, too, but I think getting to a 100% completion rate on that would have required more micromanagement.

You could go further and do a full conference fellowship (cf. Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security fellowship opportunity at SynBioBeta 2018) but honestly I think you get a lot of the benefit from ad hoc sending someone.

Regarding the funding link for tech/software/services, who are the people behind that service?

James Aung + Emma Abele funded by EAIF

Yeah it's James and I funded by EAIF

Sorry fixed!

Thanks for this! Btw, the "Get funding for your student group to buy productivity software" link at the end doesn't work

Thanks for the catch, should be fixed!