Should you organise your own introductory EA program or outsource it to EA Virtual Programs?

by yiyang6 min read12th Aug 2021No comments

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Fellowships & internshipsEffective altruism educationBuilding effective altruismCommunity infrastructureIntroductory fellowshipEffective altruism groups
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This forum post was co-authored by Emma Abele, Marie Buhl, and Marissa Jurczyk. We also received editing help from Aaron Gertler.

Edit: added a new step under option 3 and 4.

TL;DR we think organising your own local introductory EA program is in many cases likely to be more beneficial than outsourcing it to EA Virtual Programs (EA VP). 

However, there are many factors to consider and options to choose from when it comes to helping new members learn more about EA. In this post, we’ll break these options down for you. 

The two types of introductory EA programs

In general, there are two types of introductory EA programs that you can offer to people:

  • Local programs run by local organisers with support from Marie Buhl.
  • Global programs run by EA VP.

As a local organiser, you might be wondering whether to organise a program for your local group or send people to EA VP. 

In general, we recommend that EA organisers organise their own program rather than outsource, if:

  • You or your team feel confident organising your own program
  • You or your team have the time to do so
  • You or your team have enough participants
  • You or your team want to gain experience and useful skills

For groups that can’t run an in-person program and don’t have much organising experience, we’re more uncertain — but we still think running a local program could well be the best thing to do.

In an analysis done by Marie Buhl, she found that locally organised introductory EA programs perform slightly better than EA VP on several metrics:

  • Participants spent an additional hour each week engaging with the content (four hours rather than three)
  • Participants made an average of three friends, rather than two
  • Participants expressed a stronger sense of belonging (an NPS score of 13, rather than 5)

In these other metrics, local programs and EA VP performed similarly:

  • The likelihood of recommending the program to a friend
  • How highly people rate their facilitator

All programs in this analysis were online. We think there are likely additional benefits to programs being in-person that would make local programs look even better compared to EA VP.

Your options

If you think your group could benefit from an introductory program, there are a few options for facilitating them, depending on how much time you have, your skills, and your goals for yourselves and the group: 

  • Option 1: Run your own program
  • Option 2: Collaborate with an experienced organiser
  • Option 3: Collaborate with EA VP
  • Option 4: Outsource most of the work to EA VP

Option 1: Run Your Own Program

You have the option to manage, advertise, and facilitate your own program. You can use our organizer pack to follow how we recommend doing this and use our resources. We recommend you run your own program, if…

  • You or your team feel confident in organising a multi-week long program and facilitating discussions.
  • You or your team have enough capacity (5 hours a week or more), and don’t have anything else more important to do.
  • You have a critical mass of participants (3 or more people who will almost certainly attend almost every meeting)
  • You or your team want to gain experience and useful skills (e.g. operations, communications, facilitation, foundational EA ideas, impact evaluation)

Again, if you think you’d be well-suited to run your own program, we highly recommend that you do so, since you can better customize the program for your group and will likely produce better results.

Interested in running your own program? Contact Marie Davidsen Buhl (marie@centreforeffectivealtruism.org) for resources and support. 

Option 2: Collaborate with an Experienced Organiser

When you collaborate virtually with an experienced organiser, we’ll connect you with someone who has facilitation skills and a strong understanding of effective altruism, who can advise your group and potentially take on some tasks. Collaborating virtually with an experienced organiser can be a good option if…

  • You or your team don’t feel very confident in organising a multi-week long program and facilitating discussions.
  • You or your team have enough capacity (more than 5 hours a week), and don’t have anything else more important to do.
  • You have a critical mass of participants (3 or more people who will almost certainly attend almost every meeting)
  • You or your team want to gain experience and useful skills(e.g. operations, communications, facilitation, foundational EA ideas,impact evaluation)

Want to collaborate with an experienced organiser? Contact a nearby EA group with more experience, or contact Marie Davidsen Buhl (marie@centreforeffectivealtruism.org) to see if she can help you connect with an organiser. 

Option 3: Collaborate with EA VP

The EA VP team can take care of organizing the logistics -- all you need to do is facilitate your own group and market the program! We recommend this option if…

  • You or your team don’t feel very confident in organising a multi-week long program and facilitating discussions.
  • You or your team have some capacity (2-5 hours a week), and don’t have anything else more important to do.
  • You have a critical mass of participants (3 or more people who will almost certainly attend almost every meeting)
  • You or your team care less about gaining experience (but are still interested in improving your facilitation skills and knowledge of foundational EA ideas)

Unfortunately, EA VP does not have the capacity to change our systems to accommodate preferences for your group. So you will have to use our deadlines, processes, curriculum, surveys, etc. 

If you’d like to collaborate with EA VP: 

  1. Plan 1-2 months early. We need you to stick to our deadlines. It'll be a lot of work to make exemptions to multiple groups at the same time, so we want to avoid that. 
  2. Market the program to your group and get them to apply.
  3. EA VP runs virtual programs once a month, so make sure you get your group to:
    1. Sign up for the same round and program before each round’s deadline.
    2. Tick “yes” to questions asking whether participants prefer to be in the same cohort with those in the same university or location.
    3. Coordinate with your members If you want your groups to all have the same time slots. We can’t group your members in a cohort if they have no mutual time slots.
  4. Apply as a facilitator, and get your fellow organizers to apply as facilitators EA VP prefers to keep the cohorts to a size smaller than six participants. So, if you have seven participants, you’ll need two facilitators from your group. If your group doesn’t have enough people to facilitate, then EA VP will find people outside your group to help.

Option 4: Outsource Most of the Work to EA VP

Alternatively, EA VP runs virtual programs once per month, so you have the option to have your group members join one of our cohorts. This is often a good option if...

  • You or your team don’t feel very confident in organising a multi-week long program and facilitating discussions.
  • You or your team have very little capacity (less than 2 hours a week), or have something else more important to do.
  • You’re not likely to have a critical mass of participants (2 or fewer)

If you’d like to outsource everything to EA VP: 

  1. Plan 1-2 months early. We need you to stick to our deadlines. It'll be a lot of work to make exemptions to multiple groups at the same time, so we want to avoid that. 
  2. Market the program to your group and get them to apply.
  3. EA VP runs virtual programs once a month, so make sure you get your group to:
    1. Sign up for the same round and program before each round’s deadline.
    2. Tick “yes” to questions asking whether participants prefer to be in the same cohort with those in the same university or location.

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