For those of you who have been following, Effective Altruism Global X (EAGx) — the locally organized international conference series of the Effective Altruism community — has been relatively inactive since late last year. This post is an update on why it had a hiatus and how it has changed.
For full information about EAGx in its current form — including application information, and publicly-accessible resources for EA event organizers — check out our extended EAGx Organizer FAQ.
Why did it take so long for this to go live?
We’d like to apologize once again for the long delays in republishing the EAGx organizer application. We’ve had some shifting of staff within the organization that has left the project rather lacking in staff time. Additionally, the feedback we received from organizers and attendees engendered some skepticism about the cost-benefit ratio of EAGx relative to other things we could encourage people to do. Rather than push forward with a project of uncertain benefit, we waited until we had the time to more properly consider our options and pivot our strategy accordingly.
What’s changed from last year?
We’re imposing less structured event oversight.
One of the biggest pains both on the organizers’ end and on our own was getting approval and access to the relevant files, accounts, and funding to make their events happen according to our (former) organizer agreement. While it was there for a reason — we wanted to help events to be good, and had some resources to try to help with that — it often ended up becoming more prohibitive than useful. So we’re offering resources, but leaving it to the organizers to make use of those resources or their own arrangements as makes sense to them. If you’re accepted as an EAGx event it’s because, beyond thinking it would be great for the event to happen, we trust your motives, discretion, and operating ability. We want the resources we offer to be provided by demand, rather than imposed by assumption of demand.
We’re offering more flexibility and dependability of funding.
We found that the funding needs of EAGx events were all over the board, from self-funded, free-venue affairs to expensive full-fledged productions. (This isn’t a comment on the competency of the organizers; some environments are just far more amenable to cheap events than others.) Given the range of organizers’ funding needs, we want to offer the opportunity to apply for funding that makes sense for their circumstances. We’re offering US$5000 upon acceptance, to be used at the organizers’ discretion, as well as straightforward funding criteria so you know what to expect.
We’ve standardized the conference structure.
Historically the conferences have varied quite a bit depending on the context and aims of the event organizers. Events targeting students were afternoon- or day-long affairs, comprised of e.g. an introductory talk, 80,000 Hours workshop, and call to action in a lecture hall or community hub. We focused on conveying the core principles and inciting interest in them and our associated community. While we continue to think that this is an important function, CEA believes that, at least at the moment, our efforts to improve the world are bottlenecked by our ability to help promising people become fully engaged, rather than attracting new interest.
To focus on this aim and make the brand less confusing, EAGx events are whole-weekend events. They generally take place in established communities and focus on building concrete projects or forwarding the field. Events of other structures such as large speaker events, workshops, and salons no longer fall under this title, although they are more often the structure of event we recommend to local groups.
We also used to offer a “themed” conference option — that is, allow conferences to use the EAGx brand while focusing on some specific topic within EA — but are now refocusing EAGx events on EA more generally. We may sponsor themed events but not under this brand.
We’re accepting fewer and more-developed organizing groups.
We think that there are particular circumstances in which EAGx events are highly effective means of engagement, but that many circumstances benefit more from shorter events of a different structure. We have come to believe that we should focus our time on increasing the engagement of people who are highly promising, rather than growing the number of people who are loosely aware of EA. Given this shift in strategy, EAGx events are to be closer to EA Global events in scale and caliber, aimed at engaging particularly skilled current or potential EAs.
This is also operationally useful; restricting EAGx to just a few of the most established groups should prevent organizers from getting too overwhelmed, help participants know what to expect, and let CEA use its resources where they will go the farthest.
We are therefore expecting to have no more than half a dozen EAGx conferences over the next twelve months, contrasting the dozen we had over the past year. This events will look more like those by the Oxford, Berlin, and Australia groups than like other previous EAGx events.
We’re offering stipends to primary organizers.
Running an EAGx conference is a big undertaking, to which the primary organizers have generously donated many hours. Where this conflicts with time spent on work or school, this can be a costly endeavor. To support the people who make these events possible we’re offering stipends of £1200 (US$1500) per primary organizer for up to three organizers.* If possible, we hope this will help organizers free up their time and attention by e.g. reducing hours at work or paying for time-saving services.
* This is based on a high estimate of 85 hours of work, at CEA’s contractor rate of £14 (US$18) per hour. Organizers may apply for more funding, to be disbursed depending on their skills and needs.