This update from CEA’s Community Health team intends to:

  • Briefly re-introduce ourselves and our strategy
  • Summarise our work in Q4 2021 and Q1 2022
  • Remind you of how and when you might want to contact us

Summary 

  • Our reformulated strategy is to identify ‘thin spots’ in the EA community, and to coordinate with others to direct additional resources to those areas.
  • As a result, our work has shifted towards a greater focus on proactive projects, with a lower proportion of our time dedicated to reactive casework.
    • For example, a key focus for Nicole and Julia in Q4 2021 and Q1 2022 has been on coordinating with others to begin generating more accurate and thoughtful stories about EA and longtermism.
  • Catherine Low joined the team part-time, while Eve McCormick and Chana Messinger joined the team full-time.
  • In Q4 2021 and Q1 2022, we handled a total of 101 reactive cases.
  • You can pass on sensitive or anonymous messages to the team via this form.

Introduction

On the Community Health team, we’re in the process of reconceiving our strategy, both as we grow in size and as the EA ecosystem changes and develops. 

In a nutshell, we aim to identify important ‘thin spots’ or neglected areas in the EA ecosystem, and then try to fill in those ‘thin spots’ with additional resources. In some cases, we might try to fill those gaps ourselves; in others, we may try to ease coordination between other actors in the space, or seek someone new to take ownership of the area. 

Therefore, where historically most of our capacity was filled with reactive casework, we’ve begun to dedicate more of our time to proactive projects which arise in response to identified “thin spots”. For example, last year, we identified a gap in positive communication around longtermism in the media. As a result, we began pushing for organisations to be more proactive in producing positive media pieces about longtermism. Nonetheless, handling cases continues to be a substantial part of our work.  

Our team

In case you haven’t read our previous updates, here’s a little summary of who we are:

  • Nicole Ross manages our team. In addition, her focuses during Q4 2021 and Q1 2022 included: improving the public’s perception of EA and longtermism; improving EA culture and epistemics (by launching and overseeing projects in this space); and mitigating risks associated with early field-building in key locations or young fields.
  • Julia Wise oversees community wellbeing and is a social worker by training. Her work includes leading or supporting projects such as improving community members’ access to mental health services, as well as being a go-to person for specific cases where community members find themselves in challenging situations.

Since Q4, we have also added capacity from three staff, and we're so excited to have them on board!

  • Catherine Low is now the main contact for community health support for groups. She has passed some of her responsibilities onto other groups' team members in order to free up ~50% of her time to focus on community health work.
  • Eve McCormick joined us as a full-time staff member starting in February, continuing in her role as Nicole Ross’s assistant while also taking on some operations and community health tasks.
  • Chana Messinger joined us in May and will initially be focused on epistemics and supporting high school outreach projects.

Reactive work

Despite our increased focus on proactive work, we continue to dedicate roughly ~10% of our total team capacity to reactive casework. 

Between September and April, we handled:

  • 25 inquiries or cases regarding the media and EA
  • 18 concerns around interpersonal problems
  • 9 cases where we advised on situations in early field-building (geographical areas or academic/professional fields where EA is just getting established)
  • 4 “organizational health” cases where we advised organizations or projects on conflicts of interest, conflicts between staff, best practices in HR, etc.
  • 11 situations where we advised individuals on situations involving personal or mental health problems
  • 6 situations where we advised groups on situations relating to dynamics between group members
  • 28 other situations where we advised groups, organizations, and individuals on things like online conflicts, improving diversity, equity, and inclusion, and community health practices

To offer some more specific examples of different types of cases from this period:

  • We provided support to a staff member at an EA organisation during a period of acute mental health struggle.
  • We advised a group about things to consider when translating material from effectivealtruism.org into another language.
  • We connected community members with our media advisor for training in advance of interviews with journalists.
  • We advised individuals, who contacted us about people they know facing personal struggles, about finding appropriate support and care providers.

Proactive projects

Nicole has been reflecting on the brand and communications strategy for EA and longtermism. Since September, she’s been coordinating with others on projects to begin generating more accurate and thoughtful stories about EA and longtermism. Meanwhile, on the epistemics side, she’s been advising Caleb Parikh, who contracted with us to launch the EA Librarian project as an experiment,[1] as well as advising others working on projects to encourage more high-quality critiques of EA and longtermism. She has also been focusing on headhunting new generalist hires for the community health team.

In Q4 2021, Julia began having regular writing weeks, during which she writes on topics about how to integrate EA principles into a well-rounded life. She published her new website, which includes some new essays on community issues like this one. In Q1 2022, Julia helped to coordinate people working on nuclear risk preparations, and more recently, has pivoted to focusing on proactive communications work alongside Nicole. 

Alongside PA work, Eve spent time in Q4 2021 developing the team’s internal systems, e.g. for goal-tracking, and reducing friction for groups and individuals to contact community health. Since starting full-time in Q1 2022, she organised a community health team retreat in the Bay Area in March, drafted a guide for community health at retreats, and began initial work on communicating our updated strategy to the community.

Catherine spent most of her community health time on casework in Q4. However, she also began to support some people planning EA outreach to high school students, and started working on ways to mitigate risks associated with this work. In Q1, Catherine travelled from her home in New Zealand to visit EA communities in six cities in the US and UK. During this time, she focused on building relationships with organisations, groups and individuals in key locations, visiting offices, conferences and retreats.  

Finally, as a team, we started regularly dedicating time to discuss tricky topics emerging (or that we anticipate emerging) in the community, and to consider any actions that we might take. We sometimes invite people from other teams at CEA or from other organisations to attend these meetings to provide their insight, or so that we can advise them on the risk-management of a given project.   

A Few Reflections

We’re happy that we were able to ship some things which we had been working on for a while, such as the EA Librarian project and Julia’s new blog. We’d still like to be making more progress in this area.

We have also made satisfying progress on consolidating our updated strategy, and better understanding our comparative advantage in the meta EA and longtermist space.

Contacting Us

If you’re unsure which of us to contact, you can contact the team via this form (you will have the option to remain anonymous if you wish).

 Alternatively, just contact one of us and we will triage within the team. We would much prefer you to reach out to us in whatever way is easiest for you than for you to spend time wondering about how to get in touch and then not get around to it!

In case it’s helpful, here are some suggestions for who to contact in which situation:

  1. ^

    Since launching the EA Librarian Project, Caleb has become the Interim Project Lead for EA Funds. As a result, the EA Librarian service is no longer accepting new questions.

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Thank you for everything you're doing!