Pre-announcement and call for feedback: Operations Camp 2019

byJorgen_Ljones4mo19th Feb 201912 comments

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Eirin M. Evjen, Exec. Dir. EA Norway
Jørgen R. Ljønes, Ass. Exec. Dir. EA Norway

EA Norway plans an operations camp this summer with the long term goal of narrowing the operations talent gap in EA. In this post we announce our current plans and uncertainties, how we plan to resolve this uncertainty and we call for feedback and expressions of interest in participating. We want to emphasize that this is not an announcement of the event itself, and that any or all of the details stated here may change before we accept any applications.

To achieve the goal of narrowing the operations talent gap we envision three main mechanisms:

  1. Provide the participants a chance to test their fit and get to know the field of operations in organisations in the EA community.
  2. Aid the participants to get an introduction to relevant subfields, signpost great resources and help them grow as operations experts.
  3. Create a strong and reliable signal for participants to send to potential employers of their skill level, high fidelity EA understanding and adherence of EA values.

Other side objectives of this project include:

  • Provide the wider EA community access to what we learn in organising this event.
  • Engage the EA community in Norway, and Oslo in particular to help organise, network and get inspired by the project.

What we have done so far

We have followed the discussions of the operations talent gap in EA, and since October last year done some research to better understand the problem and what we could do to help out. Please read our previous posts on the topic here and here (two at the time of writing).

A main takeaway from our research is that practical operations experience is important. It is no better way of testing your inclination to plan well ahead, keep calm under pressure and not drop the ball, which are all essential traits for an operations professional. Having relevant projects in your portfolio is often more valuable than education or other formal training as a signal of fit to employees.

Another important takeaway that is particularly relevant for our idea of an Operations camp is that the talent gap is not merely about a lack of available candidates for the positions posted, but that there is significant friction in the hiring process. Especially for senior operations roles, the cost of a bad hire is high. Applicants’ talent, reliability, culture fit, and high fidelity EA understanding are very hard to estimate reliably through applications, interviews, and even work trials.

From what we have learned, and with further input from operations people, CEA and 80,000 hours, we came up with the idea of organising a camp for candidates interested in doing operations at an EA organisation. We believe we can provide value by reducing the coordination problem through helping candidates test their own fit for such positions, and furthermore figure out what EA organisation they would be a good fit for. Moreover, by creating a stronger signal for applicants to send to EA organisations, we can reduce the cost and resource-intensiveness of the hiring process.

We are now increasing our focus on this project and want to resolve our core uncertainties so that we may decide on a concept and start planning the details and call for applications.

Core uncertainties

Target group We need to decide on a target group for the camp. We are currently considering two different target groups:

  1. Candidates for junior operations roles: People with little or no job experience (but preferably volunteer experience or equivalent) and an interest in doing ops at an EA organisation. These candidates are interested in testing their fit and gain relevant skills. For such a target group, the length of the camp would be 4-6 weeks and we would aim for 10-15 participants. The focus would be to test fit for operations roles, acquiring relevant skills, and creating a strong signal of level of skill and motivation. After the camp, we would facilitate further upskilling and connect candidates with organisations when relevant jobs are available.
  2. Candidates for senior operations roles: People who have several years or more experience in operations, project management or similar, that are interested in working at an EA organisation, but have less knowledge about what operations at EA organisations entail. For such a target group, the length of the camp would be 4-7 days with 5-8 participants. Here, the focus would be to learn about EA organisations, get to know their mission and culture, in addition to providing a strong signal of skill level and knowledge of EA. We imagine we would work closely with EA orgs before, during and after the camp to assess candidate fit and support them in applications or informal hiring at EA organisations.

Some crucial considerations to deciding the target group are:

  • What will be the demand for junior and senior operations roles in EA organisations the next few years? Is there a discrepancy in expected, total talent gap between the two?
  • How is the participant interest in attending the two versions of the camp? What are the main obstacles for increasing this interest?
  • Is our capacity and fit more in line with organising a camp for one or the other target group?
  • What are the estimated risks attached to organising such a camp for the two target groups?

Relative effectiveness of the different mechanisms Another question is the relative importance of the different mechanisms for reaching our goal, mentioned at the beginning of this post. A camp with more weight on providing participants a way of testing their own fit for such roles might be very different than a camp emphasising providing future employees with a reliable signal of their skill level and motivation. There could also be other mechanisms and side objectives that we have not thought of, but that are very important.

Choosing applicants When we are ready to call for applications, making sure that we get relevant applicants and have a fair, fast, and effective way of choosing between them seems crucial for the success of this project. Here we believe that many groups and organisations in the movement has experience with designing applications processes that don’t tax us or the applicants unnecessarily, and are effective in filtering the best applicants for the positions at the camp.

Providing a useful signal We believe that helping with the coordination problem through reducing friction in the hiring process is particularly important and tractable. Our current thinking is that this might be the more important mechanism. Figuring out how to produce and communicate a strong and reliable signal will be crucial, and we are uncertain about how to do this effectively. We think that collaborating with people responsible for hiring at EA orgs when designing this part of the camp is essential. A major source of inspiration here we believe will be EA orgs actual hiring process, as the signal we want to give is the same as they are trying to measure through applications, interviews and work trials.

Expectation management A potential failure mode is that applicants believe the camp is a guaranteed way of being hired. Participants should not expect that this camp is guaranteeing, or making any promises whatsoever, about increasing the chances of getting a relevant position. We acknowledge that communicating this is crucial, and would like to get input on how to ensure applicants understand this before applying.

Follow-up of alumni As the overarching goal of the camp is to narrow the operations talent gap at EA organisations, we should have a good strategy of following alumni afterwards. This could provide value in strengthening the alumni network with each other and with EA orgs, as well as assisting alumni and orgs in a potential hiring process. We believe this is important both to assess the value of the camp, but also to increase the chances that an alumni gets a position that would otherwise not have been filled.

Impact measurement This is an exploratory project and we believe that most of the potential value comes from learning how to execute the camp effectively so that we may repeat it in the future. Documenting what we have learned and measuring the impact of the project is therefore especially crucial with this type of project. We have thought of different ways of measuring and estimating counterfactual value, but at this stage we want to encourage others to provide ideas and suggestions without hearing our thoughts first. In future posts we will discuss this further and share our plans of measuring impact, and of course later share the results.

Call for feedback and expressions of interest

We would greatly appreciate feedback on how we should select the best target group and the other uncertainties outlined above. Further, we are also interested in what you think are other crucial considerations in carrying out such a project successfully. Lastly, if attending an operations camp in Oslo this summer sounds interesting for you personally, feel free to send us an email at post@effektivaltruisme.no. By doing this, we can email you more information about application dates and so on, and it would give us an indication of the general interest in the project. Please also send us tips about candidates you think we should invite to apply, or invite them to get in touch with us. To get a better sense of the demand for the two different versions of the camp as outlined above, please also indicate your level of experience.

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