Please note that the content displayed is an initial outline and is due to change, as we just started to explore workplace/professional groups. Don’t hold back on giving feedback – your comments could help community members to decide on what to work on or improve existing ideas, so it could be essential.

This post is a part of a sequence:

These posts result from a consulting project for the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA), which was realized as an initiative to explore the potential of Effective Altruism workplace/professional groups. However, even though financially supported by CEA the content of these posts does not necessarily map CEA’s strategy or imply any future strategic decisions or CEA investments. The views expressed don't always represent those of the authors and/or contributors and their employers. 

Summary

  • The EA community should consider prioritizing community building for workplace and professional groups as they are potential solutions for the current skill gap and the possible value drift people experience when entering a job at a non-EA organization (Read more)
  • On a personal level, you should prioritize community building if you want to multiply your impact, meet like-minded people, engage more deeply with EA ideas and organizations and/or want to build career capital (Read more)
  • The EA community shouldn’t prioritize this if other priorities (e.g., expanding groups regionally) are more urgent and if there’s a risk of doing accidental harm (Read more)
  • We identified 30 existing workplace/professional groups and it’s plausible that we missed some (Read more)
  • We recognized 15 potentially impactful areas for new groups (high uncertainty though) (Read more)
  • We’ve listed some thoughts on how to start a workplace/professional group, e.g.,
    • Reflect on your group’s Theory of Change
    • Connect with like-minded people for collaboration and more seasoned group organizers for sparring
    • Set up easily accessible platforms for information and exchange
    • Plan first events (Read more)
  • And some thoughts on how to run a workplace/professional group, e.g.,
    • Review and update your initial Theory of Change regularly
    • Boost your group by decentralizing it and delegating tasks
    • Consider getting funding, e.g., to hire a community builder
    • Identify highly engaged EAs in your group and support them even more (Read more)
  • Find below some potentially helpful resources and contacts (Read more)

Why the EA community should prioritize this 

Workplace/professional groups can create impact by preventing value drift, influencing careers, donations and institutions. Look at our case studies for illustrative examples to support this claim and this post for more considerations about the impact of workplace/professional groups.

  • Preventing value drift: Workplace/professional groups can help with the retention of EAs. Many people were involved with EA during university, started earning-to-give and then had to prioritize non-EA-related commitments. It seems plausible that we can keep them engaged or foster their engagement again
  • Influencing careers:  Helping people to transition to more impactful roles within their organization or within EA organizations might solve one of the current bottlenecks of the EA community: Finding enough skilled people (esp. as there’s currently a funding overhang)
  • Influencing donations and institutions: There’s probably a lot of low-hanging fruit (e.g., optimize the donation portfolio of community members or of a company, help a government navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, …)

Why you should prioritize this

  • You can multiply your impact by helping others to do more good through community building. Much of this impact could be counterfactual: If you don’t bring people together and help them figure out their path, maybe no one else will
  • You build a lot of career capital in a low-risk environment with relatively low investments (e.g., start volunteering for a group)
    • Within your organization:
      • You will become the “impact person”, which will probably lead to people approaching you with new opportunities you weren’t aware of
      • You will demonstrate leadership and management skills
      • You will build a network with like-minded people, which makes it easier to transition within your organization
    • Within the EA community:
      • The aspects above apply roughly to the EA community
      • Additionally, you will deepen your EA knowledge on the run as you will have EA discussions on various topics (e.g., when giving career advice)
      • Furthermore, you will strengthen skills, which are currently in high demand from EA organizations (e.g., entrepreneurial, people, community building and independent thinking skills)
      • All this can support a smooth transition to a meta-organization
  • You can benefit from being part of a like-minded community and working with people you enjoy working with. This is also good for personal motivation
  • You have support from the community. Find sparring partners to clarify open questions and spare on your Theory of Change. Also, check out possibilities of funding for your group

Reasons not to prioritize this

From an EA community perspective:

  • Workplace/professional groups might not be our most urgent priority (e.g., it could be more impactful to focus on establishing EA groups in large and neglected regions like India) We are currently exploring this with CEA
  • Workplace/professional groups could lead people to enter less impactful career paths and have them stay longer than they usually would because there’s a community in place. Countermeasures include staying up to date with 80,000 hours’ latest career advice, giving a balanced overview of pros and cons as well as encouraging to talk to people with different opinions

From an individual perspective:

  • Even though it’s a rewarding experience, it can be time-consuming. Volunteer work comes on top of your existing workload, and you end up spending more time interacting with your employer or professional field (which may not always feel restful)
  • You have ideas for another more impactful project. In some cases having a more targeted intervention could be more impactful (e.g., founding something like Founders Pledge or directly setting up an EA headhunting organization)
  • You have other (personal) priorities

Your group might already be waiting for you

Here's a list of existing workplace/professional groups. We encourage all group organizers to put their group on the EA resource hub as we are currently working with CEA on making filtering for workplace/professional groups available. For now, sorting by location is the best option. Please reach out to Anneke if we have missed your group in this list or if we should correct anything. Also, we’d be happy if you allowed us to link you as a group organizer.

Also, check out High Impact Professionals, who are supporting working professionals to have more impact. There are also more players who foster communities like the Center on Long-Term Risk.

How to start a workplace/professional group 

Starting now is excellent timing, as you can create a lot of value now by shaping how we think about workplace/professional groups at the beginning. We believe that currently is the right time to do a lot of exploration, out-of-the-box thinking and hypothesis testing and want to encourage you to do so.

If you have only 1 hour per week, we believe that there is much value in simply having one visible workplace/professional group to connect like-minded people. 

Please note that these are illustrative steps you can take. Feel free to change the order and skip some steps based on your circumstances. 

  • Check if there’s already an existing group in the section above or check for Facebook groups. The EA resource hub is going to be updated soon and will provide a complete list of all groups.  If there is, don’t stop here. Reach out to the contact person and discuss how you can help
  • If there isn’t a group, found one – if you want to discuss your ideas with someone, reach out to one of the contacts provided below
  • Look for a co-founder (optional), if that would boost your motivation, improve your reasoning and likelihood for staying engaged (as recommended by charity entrepreneurship)
  • Define your Theory of Change, set your goals to sustain motivation and do some hypothesis testing
  • Look at our three case studies of workplace/professional groups for inspiration
  • Think about the design of your group. Does it make sense to have one internal group of highly engaged EAs and one external group, which might not even be labeled as an EA group? Should the group be public or private (e.g., people can apply via a public google form for a private group)?
  •  Set yourself up for success.
    • What are my key uncertainties? Who can help me solve them quickly?
    • What do I personally need to stay motivated?
    • What are my personal goals? How can I align them with my efforts?
  • You can start small. There are low-effort ways to contribute that don’t take up a lot of time, e.g., organizing a call with some EAs you found in your field. We believe that it’s possible to be a platform connecting other EAs with an investment of 1 hour/week
  • Choose a communication platform strategically and set it up
  • Find volunteers, e.g., friends, colleagues, students (e.g., former interns), Impactcolabs volunteers, EA volunteering Facebook groups
  • Find people interested in EA for your community (or even better, have a volunteer do it):
    • Check out EA LinkedIn groups (e.g., 80,000 hours, Effective Altruism) for people who work for the same organization
    • Talk to local group leaders, e.g., in your city, to see if they can connect you with other professionals
    • Look at the EA resource hub profiles
  • Make sure people can find you
    • Launch a website and/or an organization microsite. No need to reinvent the wheel or to put a lot of content on it – you can simply copy an existing site, e.g., from the EACN and set it up quickly via Wix.com – this is also the perfect task for a volunteer
    • Add your group to the group directory
    • Promote your groups in other relevant groups and the EA forum, e.g., on Facebook or in your organization’s intranet
    • Organize an intro talk, e.g., with One for the World or High Impact Professionals and promote it to as many people as possible to get some visibility
  • Track relevant information on your members for internal use, e.g., name, email, engagement, EA knowledge, career plans, follow-ups, company, location, LinkedIn profile – don’t forget to think about data protection. (We recommend the free version of Airtable)
  • Create a community member directory to facilitate connections between members (look at this example from EA London)
  • Connect with new members with a welcome message and by offering a 1-1. (We recommend Calendly for scheduling 1-1s)

How to run workplace/professional groups 

You had success launching your group, you got a decent number of people, had probably some failures, but you got the first things organized. Congrats!

The next steps might be:

  • Review and update your initial Theory of Change and priorities based on your learnings and the latest EA thinking
  • Carry out a member survey can help you to understand the needs of your members and areas for development better (check out this example)
  • Create a newsletter to also keep the majority of the audience engaged with EA thinking, who don’t join your events. For your newsletter, use MailChimp and copy-paste (e.g., the EACN newsletter structure). You can recycle relevant content from other newsletters (e.g., EA London) – volunteers can easily do this
  • Consider getting funding if your group is up-and-coming:
  • Build the next generation of leadership so the community does not collapse if you’re not able to run it anymore
  • Create a decentral network with many 1-1 connections to make the community more robust, e.g., by organizing 1-1 between team members or outsourcing tasks to volunteers with the primary objective of getting them engaged
  • Focus on the (potentially) most impactful members of your group and think about how you can support them even better
  • Take care of community health – talk about successes, but also be aware of potential conflicts and try to provide resources to solve them
  • All workplace/professional group organizers reported time constraints as their key challenge. Countermeasures could include:
    • Before tackling a new task, ask yourself “Am I the only person who can do this, or is there anybody I could rely on? How can I find someone?”
    • Think about how to structure your sub-groups/volunteers so it takes some responsibility from your shoulders (e.g., you could have someone in charge for regions, sub-organizations or roles like being in charge of students)
    • Hand over the entire responsibility like “You own the newsletter!” or “You can start and run this workplace group”
    • Create visibility on open tasks, ongoing activities and past successes and volunteering activities (e.g., with a Trello board incl. responsibilities of members)
    • Optimize, standardize and automate processes. For example, when you give career advice: share your thoughts on some key considerations and potentially impactful career paths offline, have people answer some questions about their career plans offline, before having a call with them
    • Read the 4-hour workweek to get further inspiration
    • Use the Value of Your Time Calculator from Clearer Thinking to decide what external services (e.g., spend more on taxi rides or getting groceries delivered to your home) you want to buy to free up your time
  • Share your learnings with the wider EA community in the EA forum and provide updates to the EA hub resources website

Three things I wish I had known before starting a group

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel - someone likely did the same thing before, and you can just copy-paste-adapt it
  • Having a community is incredibly valuable in itself – focus even more on community building for people who already got a decent understanding of EA and less on direct work to optimize for long-term impact (in most cases)
  • Put the right people in the center – it’s crucial to have strategic thoughts, where you want to be going. However, it’s also essential to meet the people where they are. Offer the ones whom you believe are a right fit space to develop and pursue their interest

How to prevent accidental harm

  • Communicate about EA and new or sensitive EA cause areas in a high fidelity way to avoid misrepresenting EA concepts. This is especially important if you consider discussing problems that may have significant information hazards, such as biosecurity. This EA Global talk is about how to avoid accidental negative impact with your project
  • Draw out the deeper-level values that lead us to object-level ideas esp. when starting a discussion about EA with simple ideas (e.g., the cost-effectiveness of charities)
  • Invite an external speaker, if you aren’t sure if you have enough content knowledge (see speaker suggestions below)
  • Discuss your doubts, risks and uncertainties with some of the contacts below
  • Think carefully about the EA knowledge of volunteers when assigning tasks/responsibilities to them. Almost everyone can organize an event with a speaker. However, intro 1-1s require someone with more EA knowledge to have good answers to more in-depth questions
  • Check out this article on communicating about EA or this one about the explanatory obstacles of EA to learn more. This is especially important if you consider discussing problems that may have significant information hazards, such as biosecurity. This EA Global talk is about how to avoid accidental negative impact with your project

Further helpful contacts and resources

What’s next?

  • Please feel encouraged to join an existing workplace/professional group, If you are a working professional. If there’s none in your field: Just think about founding one!
  • Make use of the resources listed above
  • Share this article with EA-aligned professionals
  • Check out some considerations on the Theory of Change for workplace/professional EA groups
  • Look at three case studies of EA workplace/professional groups

Acknowledgements

Aaron Gertler, Alex Barnes, Alex Igna, David Nash, Devon Fritz, Federico Speziali, Jan-Willem van Putten, Joan Gass, Max Dalton, Meg Tong, Rob Gledhill, Simon Asbach, Tobias Jolly and Zachary Robinson: We would like to express our great appreciation for your thoughts and feedback.

Definitions

Workplace/professional groups

An EA workplace group is a community of people who work for the same institution. An EA professional group is a community of people who work in the same field and therefore have the same or a similar profession – they don’t necessarily have to work for the same employer.

Highly Engaged EAs (HEAs)

Highly engaged EA (HEA) is the metric that CEA uses to understand community building, and being a HEA is a very high bar. It’s someone who takes a significant action, based on high-quality reasoning, and impartially altruistic principles. For example, they made a career decision based on EA principles.

They can be, but don’t have to be active group members.

Active group members

People who are actively engaging, e.g., organize and attend events and generally engage with EA ideas. Please note that these don’t have to be the most impactful group members

Theory of Change (ToC)

Our understanding of a Theory of Change is aligned with Charity Entrepreneurship’s definition: It’s a comprehensive description and illustration of how activities can lead to the desired goal.

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