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CoI warning: I am friends with many (most really!) of the people who I talk about. I direct Riesgos Catastróficos Globales, one of the organisations I talk about. I also still feel anger around the unfair situation that my partner, Sandra Malagón, had to experience. I do not speak in representation of the community or its members, but in personal capacity as a fairly involved member. I haven’t been following the community developments very closely since January, so it is likely I have missed stuff!

Last year I wrote a post celebrating the Spanish-speaking EA community and its achievements. A lot has happened since then, so I am writing here to organise my thoughts and provide some transparency on the state of the community.

My perception of the Spanish-speaking community has changed a lot since. Back then it felt like an integrated whole, with direction and momentum. Now it feels more like an ecosystem of independent projects, some with a lot of momentum and others languishing.

A major motivator of this is that we no longer have appointed coordinators who are steering the community. Sandra Malagón, who worked full-time as community coordinator, stepped down following a series of incidents where she felt pressured to work together with a community member she didn’t feel comfortable with [1]. She is now working instead on virtual programs for Spanish Speakers. The other part-time coordinator, Laura González, stepped down to focus on other projects.

The effects of this can be seen in the activity stats of our shared workspace. Sandra left her position in early February, which matches the stop of activity growth:

This is hard to separate from other causes like the FTX collapse and sex scandals in the community, so take it with a pinch of salt.

Incidentally, if you are part of the Spanish-speaking community, I would like to apologise for the lack of communication about the status of the coordination team[2]. This situation was and still is very hard to navigate.
 

Projects

The lack of direction does not mean that nothing has happened over the last few months. Here are a few notable projects and developments that have happened since I last posted.
 

The EA México fellowship program

The fellowship program received +80 participants from all around the globe who stayed over different periods between November 2022 and January 2023.

This program was, in my opinion, competently run. The organisation team, including Sandra Malagón, Hugo Ikta and Miguel Alvarado, showcased incredible attention to detail and problem solving skills. The fellowship was welcoming and diverse, and it is impressive that no major incidents resulted, given the scale of the program.

The impact of the program was, however, curtailed by a series of factors. First, they had to deal with the FTX scandal and sex scandals in the international EA community. Inhabiting an EA co-living space at that time was not fun. Second, Sandra renounced her position as community coordinator at the end of the fellowship, and the EA Mexico coordinators had distanced themselves from community building. The original vision of the fellowship, as I understood it, was to act as a catalyst for a community in CDMX, which could not be pursued given that nobody was in a position to do so.

This doesn’t mean that the fellowship was in vain. As a participant, I got a lot of value from connecting to other professionals. This resulted in a lead for a hire for Epoch, and I feel the time I spent in CDMX was very productive. My informal impression from talking to others is similar. I’ve been told a retrospective will be released soon-ish, look out for that!
 

EAGx LatAm

The first ever major Effective Altruism conference in Latin America happened in Ciudad de México this January. 

The event has been widely regarded as a success, and I have to say I agree. The atmosphere was different from other EA events I’ve attended, relaxed and friendly to newcomers. It had a good mix of content in English and Spanish. Here is an account from another participant of their experience in the event.

Huge congratulations to Hugo Itka, Sandra Malagón, Laura González, Ángela Aristizábal, Miriam Huerta and the rest of the organising team!
 

Ayuda Efectiva

Ayuda Efectiva has aligned their branding with Giving What We Can, while retaining operational independence. This change has been done to further establish the collaboration between the orgs and take advantage of the branding and material already developed by GWWC.

They also recently reached their $1M fundraising milestone for effective charities. Incredible work!

In sum, they are still awesome and a central pillar of support for the community, through initiatives like the Spanish-speaking EA newsletter, technical support for websites and the shared Slack workspace.
 

Riesgos Catastróficos Globales

Tooting my own horn, the new Riesgos Catastróficos Globales team started in March 2023 and they have been amazingly productive. The biggest successes include the release of what I confidently claim to be the world's best report on nuclear winter food security ever written in Spanish, which has had some positive uptake with Argentinian policy-makers. We also recently released a report about AI regulation in the context of the EU AI Act, which I hope will be similarly successful.

The biggest bottleneck for the program currently is funding. We now have two months of runway left, thanks to some generous individual donors. If you believe this initiative is worth pursuing, I encourage you to contribute through a donation.
 

EA Barcelona

Mel Brennan has received a part-time grant to work as a community builder in Barcelona! The group has since been fairly active, with lots of activities for its members.

I greatly appreciate Mel’s entrepreneurship and I am excited to see what the group will become with her help!
 

Carreras con Impacto

Since stepping down from her role as coordinator, Sandra Malagón has been focusing on designing virtual programs aimed at Latin America. This initiative will teach participants about how to have more impactful careers. She has recently received support through a planning grant from Open Philanthropy to develop a program focused on Global Catastrophic Risks.

The previous iterations of Carreras con Impacto have been successful, reaching out and empowering talent at cost-efficient rates comparable to 80k hours (though at a much more limited scale!). As a result, I am excited to see what will come out of this program.
 

ITAM fellowship program

The Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) is currently organising a fellowship program similar in spirit to the FHI Research Scholars. Prominent community member Ángela Aristizábal is leading this initiative.

The program will focus on risks from advanced technologies, including AI. I wish them the best of luck going forward!
 

La bisagra de la historia

Laura González, Pablo Stafforini and Pablo Melchor are working on a new podcast, "La bisagra de la historia" ("The hinge of history"), where they interview experts who are working on the world's most important problems. They've already recorded the first episodes and are hoping to launch towards the end of the month.
 

Chilean AIS Hackathon

The EA Chile group organised an AI Safety “thinkaton”. This event hosted 40 participants who made 13 project submissions.


 

EA Uniandes

The EA Uniandes organiser group has redirected its strategy to focus on its student fellowship program. The fellowship will include a series of talks about topics related to Effective Altruism cause areas.

I am excited about the trajectory of the group, and I’m looking forward to seeing them develop over the next few months. Thanks to the organisers Laura, Deiver, Diego and Valerie!
 

Analecta Política

The political theory academic journal Analecta Política has launched a call for papers for Challenges and effective solutions to global political problems. 

More engagement with the academic community seems a promising direction to raise the standard of discourse in the EA community and empower academics to investigate related topics. I am looking forward to reading the issue. Special props to Simón Ruiz from EA Medellín for moving forward this great initiative.

 

Conclusion

In short, it has been a rough few months for the Spanish-Speaking community. We currently lack a leadership structure or organised member support, and growth has stalled as of late. The group, however, remains active, and acts as a node in an ecosystem of altruistic projects striving for impact. Some of them I have been really impressed with, including EAGx LatAm, Ayuda Efectiva and (immodestly) Riesgos Catastróficos Globales.

If you’d like to join the Spanish-Speaking EA community shared Slack workspace, you can do so through this invitation link.

Thanks to Sandra Malagón, Juan García, Laura González, Ángela María Aristizábal, Claudette Salinas, David Solar, Mel Brennan, Jaime Fernández and Deiver Romero for feedback. This post does not reflect their opinion; we all have different perspectives on how the community is developing.

  1. ^

    There is a lot that could be said about what happened, but I feel I would not be the right person to discuss it nor I particularly want to. My perspective is that what happened was unfair to Sandra and it has considerably lowered my opinion of the EA community’s ability to solve interpersonal conflicts and provide empathetic support to its members. Note that Sandra is currently my romantic partner.

  2. ^

    I don’t see it as my responsibility necessarily, but I chose to distance myself from the situation instead of taking ownership and pushing for clearer communication.

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:14 AM

Thanks for the great update, be such makes a lot of sense!

I know this was an update not a strategy post, but what do you think are steps that need to happen over the next year that could improve the health and drive the growth of the Spanish speaking community?

Thanks!

It's really hard to say.

I am concerned that many projects are being set up in a way that does not follow good governance practices and leaves their members exposed to conflict and unpleasant situations. I would want to encourage people to try to embed themselves in a more formal structure with better resources and HR management. For example, I would be excited about community builders over the world setting a non-profit governance structure, where they are granted explicit rights as workers that encompass mental healthcare and a competent HR department to handle interpersonal conflict. This would arguably be an improvement over the current grant systems, that offers very little job security and care for workers.

Relatedly, I have updated very negatively on the ability of the EA community to solve interpersonal conflict and harassment. This means that I am now recommending aggravated community members to resort to external counsel and support, including psychologists and the police, than to resort to internal resources like the CEA Community Health team.

What is more, these past few months I have understood very viscerally that many people, specially women, are uncomfortable talking publicly about situations that have affected them. This is exacerbated in the case where they are applying for EA jobs or funding. And it hides the magnitude of the community problems.

Before motivating growth in the Spanish-speaking community I would like to see these problems addressed or at least considered. Major obstacles are that 1) there isn't currently anyone I trust who has availability to take on that project and 2) there isn't a lot of buy in at the moment for more organized efforts within the community. So I think we will likely just default to the current state of affairs, where we work as an ecosystem of related projects.

Thanks for this reflection, appreciate it!