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.

It’s based on five interviews with representatives of these groups. Please note that there are also more groups. Also, check out High Impact Professionals, who are supporting working professionals to have more impact. 

Please understand these case studies as an inspiration of what could be done in the space and not necessarily as best practices. As we are still exploring, it’s very likely that we didn’t yet find the perfect model for workplace/professional groups, and we would encourage everyone to do some exploration, too.

To mention some limitations, it should be pointed out that the interviewees provided data to the best of their knowledge, while in some cases databases might be limited. We also didn’t develop a 360-degree view on the groups, e.g., by interviewing members and other EA organizations about the group. A more extensive data collection might be useful in the future. 

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

In this article, we provide case studies of three EA workplace/professional groups:

  • The Effective Altruism and Consulting Network (EACN) is a professional group that focuses on installing workplace groups in all major consulting firms. They are offering career advice to students and professionals as well as influencing donations, employers and clients. The EACN is the first professional group that got approved funding by the EA Infrastructure Fund for a Managing Director.
  • EA Finance is a professional group that focuses on community building and donation/career support to help professionals in the finance sector to have an impact via donating effectively and/or transitioning into a high-impact career.
  • The UK Civil Service and Policy group is a workplace group that has emerged from the EA-influenced (but not EA-labeled) High Impact Careers in Government (HIPE) network. The group focuses on integrating EA principles into their work in the UK public sector, influencing key decisions and helping people to transition into more impactful positions.

There are several key takeaways from the case studies: 

  • The existing groups landscape shows that organizational structures of groups vary a lot, depending on the goals (Read more)
  • It’s potentially helpful to have two (sub-)groups in parallel: one “core” group with highly engaged EAs (HEAs – see definition below), and one group with a broader approach where EA principles are applied without claiming it. This can reduce the risk of miscommunicating EA or getting push-back on EA as a movement. On the other hand, if your group’s main goal is to retain (existing) HEAs, the EA label can be helpful to attract EAs (Read more)
  • The activities of groups depend on the stage of establishment and professional field. Core activities of workplace/professional groups are fostering an active and highly engaged community as well as influencing career paths (Read more)
  • Important sources of impact seem to be retention of HEAs and career advice for community members. However, depending on the professional field, groups influence donations or institutions, too (Read more)
  • Time constraints of the group organizer and community members are the main challenge and bottleneck (Read more)
  • The main risk is the miscommunication of EA ideas (Read more)
  • What’s next? Getting involved with existing workplace/professional groups or even starting one’s own can be one way to multiply one’s impact (Read more)

Description of the investigated groups

Effective Altruism Consulting Network (EACN)

The Effective Altruism Consulting Network (EACN) is a professional group. As an umbrella organization, it coordinates several EA workplace groups as well as EA-aligned consultants without a workplace group. It serves as a network for people who work in different consulting firms, with some of the members having implemented workplace groups at their companies (Accenture, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, McKinsey, among others).

  • History: Jona Glade founded the Effective Altruism and Consulting Network and BCG interest group in 2019 after being motivated by finding more EAs in other consulting firms and the success of promoting EA ideas by giving talks about EA to consultants. At the same time, Jakob Graabak and Konstantin Sietzy founded the McKinsey group. Priority for 2019/2020 was to set up the EACN (website, etc.) and do a lot of hypothesis testing while focusing on donations as a quick win. For 2021, it was to create a clearer picture of how to have an impact on your career, get funding and update the Theory of Change based on what worked in the previous year.
  • First steps: The first steps in establishing the EACN as an umbrella organization for workplace groups in consulting was to set up some easily accessible communication channels in social media (e.g., integrate the existing EA & consulting facebook group from Joan Gass), create a website (thanks Lisa Soder!) and get some volunteers involved.
  • Goals/Theory of Change: Mainly retaining highly engaged EAs, influencing careers of consultants and students. Quick wins include influencing the work of consultancies and their clients as well as donations (though donations are currently not the main focus, due to funding overhang in EA community; however, influencing donations is an easy activity to keep members involved). We also believe that there is potential value from having 2-3 EAs in senior positions of main consultancies to influence their work even more in pivotal moments
  • Main focus of group organizer: Jona spends most of his time serving as a node to connect highly engaged individuals and ideas with each other and other EA organizations. He also is working on scaling the impact of the group (e.g., focus on EACN as an umbrella organization, trying to create synergies between groups, etc.)
  • What the group organizer would have done differently: Focus even more on 1-1 connections between members
  • Next steps: Onboard new Managing Director in February 2022 (funded by EA Infrastructure Fund), update Theory of Change, set up efficient processes for core offering, while testing hypothesis on potential additional offering

EA Finance network

The EA Finance Network is a professional group that serves as a platform for professionals working in finance.

  • History: The EA Finance network was started as a group of highly engaged London-based donors in 2017 by Kit Harris. Meg Tong took over organizing in November 2020 and has been expanding and formalizing the network.
  • First steps: Since taking over the group, Meg first set up a website and an email address to provide points of contact for the group. She then began to host regular events, an external talk at EA Global and set up a LinkedIn group.
  • Goals/Theory of Change: The group aims to 1. strengthen and expand community, 2. support donations, and 3. support careers in order to help professionals in the finance sector. Thus, to have an impact by a) donating effectively and/or b) transitioning into a high-impact career. Having a strong community helps retention, prevents value drift and provides a valuable discussion space for donations/careers.
  • Main focus of group organizer: Meg is the point of contact for the network, so she spends most of her time strategizing, connecting members of the group and organizing events. She also hosts 1-1s with members of the group to help them with donation or career advice or to connect them to other members, as well as speaking to people outside the group to coordinate.
  • What the group organizer would have done differently: Limited time is the main bottleneck of the group as the work is difficult to manage alongside a full-time finance job, so Meg thinks she should have gotten more people to help organize much earlier.
  • Next steps: Meg is currently planning to decentralize the network by bringing other people on board. This will generate capacity for hosting talks, creating useful content and also doing active outreach (such as to EAs in other regions, e.g., New York).

UK Civil Service and Policy network

The UK Civil Service and Policy network can be defined as a workplace group, as it’s institutionalized in the public sector of the UK government. They’ve emerged from the EA-influenced (but not EA-labeled) High Impact Careers in Government (HIPE) network

  • History: In 2017, HIPE was founded as an EA-influenced, but non-EA-labeled organization within the UK Civil Service that aims to support civil servants to have a high social impact career. HIPE runs career planning workshops, events and coaching, and is targeted at a general civil service audience (i.e. not just people engaged with EA).
  • First steps: As the HIPE itself and many of its members are highly EA-aligned, they also formed the UK Civil Service and Policy network to support EA community members in the UK Civil Service specifically. The two organizations work closely together to increase the social impact of their members as well as the impact of their institution.
  • Goals/Theory of Change: To support civil servants engaged with EA, to meet, support each other in their careers and potentially establish other projects focused on having a positive impact on policy making.
  • Main focus of group organizers: Helping network members to meet other members of the network - operating meetups, icebreakers, “lunch and learn” events and operating a Slack group
  • What the group organizer would have done differently: Done the really low effort things earlier (e.g., create a Slack group and mailing list)
  • Next steps: They plan to establish more subgroups (e.g., certain policy specific groups); discussion about further formalizing the group’s structure (e.g., establishing a steering board)
     

It should be noted that the numbers provided are based on estimates of the group organizers we’ve interviewed. 

 EACN (rough estimates)EA FinanceUK Civil Service and Policy network
n of members

~340 (Facebook group; 

Internal groups have 

~150 members at BCG;

 ~60 at Accenture; 

~110 McKinsey)

222 (mailing list)

109 (LinkedIn group)

100 (Slack channel 

and mailing list)

% of highly engaged EAs

~5% (time constraints 

main bottleneck to meet definition)

~50%33–50%
n of active members~50~5050
Students~100 in FB groupn/an/a

Activities of groups depend on the stage of establishment and professional field

Best practices of activities 

  • A communication channel and regular (online and offline) events are set-up
  • Time-efficient events that consider time constraints of working professionals are promising (e.g. “Lunch and Learns”)
  • All group leaders stay up to date with the latest EA contents and involved with the wider EA community

Activities run by EACN

Regular activities

  • Quarterly check-in with EA nodes from different consulting firms
  • Bi-monthly coffee chats with focus topics
  • Newsletter with relevant EA updates for consultants, inspirational stories of consultants who did a lot of good and job openings
  • Annual retreat weekends (first one held in 2021)
  • Career advice for consultants and students (e.g., 1-1s, EA Forum posts about Considerations and advice on entering management consulting, two workshops held at universities)
  • Talent scouting for EA organizations
  • 1-1s among members
  • 10+ Individual EA pitches and talks organized and given by community members

Special activities

Activities run by the EA Finance Network

Regular activities

  • Meetups, online or in-person in London (~1 every 1-2 months)
  • Email newsletter, including info on meetups, career opportunities & workplace outreach opportunities (~1 every 1-2 months)
  • 1-1s with Meg, usually with new members of the group, often advice on careers/donations/general EA things, can also be strategic meetings with people outside the group (~1 every week)

Special activities

Activities run by the UK Civil Service and Policy Network

Regular activities

  • “Lunch and Learns” events, including EA-related presentations and discussions every month
  • Regular icebreaker sessions where people can meet new people from the community
  • Newsletter with relevant content for civil servants
  • Career advice (e.g., collaboration with university groups and 80,000 hours to advise students on how to join civil service as a high impact career opportunity)
  • Promotion of job ads within EA community

Special activities

  • Individual EA-aligned projects are organized by community members to implement EA concepts into their work (e.g., optimize government grantmaking)

Important sources of impact are probably retention of HEAs and career advice

Please note that the impact reported most likely underestimated the real counterfactual impact as groups don’t have feedback loops on all their actions. The data presented has high levels of uncertainties and are the result of estimates of the group leaders and not of precise impact tracking. 

Illustrative impact EACN

Time influenced (counterfactually)

  • 5+ case studies of how people changed their career (e.g., by switching cause area, making plans to leave consulting to transition to an EA org, …)
  • Pulse survey with 31 respondents (10% of active members, not representative) showed that 10 members increased their engagement with EA ideas and activities significantly due to the EACN, e.g., by running workplace groups
  • 40+ EA aligned students advised
    • ~20 seemed to make significant changes to their career plans due to advice (decided mostly not to enter consulting)

Money influenced (counterfactually)

  • ~150k € at a major consulting firm by the distribution of guide on effective giving and pitching EA at Christmas events
  • 14 people signed the GWWC pledge, of whom 9 people donate more than 10% of their income and at least 3 wouldn’t have pledged without the group’s influence
  • 100% increase of donations (from $50k/year to $100k/year) at BCG ANZ offices as a result of a new internal donation microsite by Bowen Shi

Other

  • Set-up of several EA workplace groups at consultancies supported
  • Proposal of several EA topics to governments (e.g., the development of an AI safety strategy for a government) in ongoing consulting projects or initiating new ones
  • Collaboration with other group organizers to found and improve their groups (e.g., IBM group)

Illustrative impact EA Finance 

Meg thinks it’s difficult to measure the counterfactual impact of the group without doing some serious work. Meg suggested that we do know a few important things, however:

  • Multiple EA Finance people have made extremely high-value plan changes by switching careers into other priority paths
  • Multiple people have gone on to hire or fund people who they met for the first time at an EA Finance group event
  • The EA Finance group was the first connection to the EA community for multiple people who went on to do impactful things
  • The EA Finance group has been the primary point of contact with the EA community for multiple people who have donated >50% of their income

Illustrative impact UK Civil Service and Policy network

Time influenced (counterfactually)

  • Career advice for ~35 people
  • A few dozen students advised about careers in the Civil Service

Money influenced (counterfactually)

  • N/a (donations don’t play a significant role in this field)

Other

  • Support for community members who would like to take on responsibilities within the UK government
  • Influence policies (hard to measure the exact impact here) by creating a community of EA aligned policy workers (network is growing really fast)
  • One of the most active members works in the optimization of the grantmaking of the UK government

The main challenge for all groups is the time constraints of the organizers and the members

  • Balancing community-building activities (e.g., having 1-1s) with full-time occupations is challenging for group organizers. Quite often, this is the bottleneck for unlocking more impact. See countermeasures in this article
  • Tracking and retaining community members is challenging due to their time constraints. We still have uncertainties about the best activities to create community members. Our current hypothesis includes
    • Having a tailored newsletter
    • Organizing retreats and 1-1s
    • Bringing people together at EAG events
    • Building bonds/friendships between the community members
  • Community builders also reported uncertainties about their strategies, prioritization and career advice. Countermeasures include
    • Laying out your considerations in a structured document
    • Conducting interviews/doing sparring on all of these to get feedback from different perspectives (e.g., with contacts mentioned in this article)
  • Creating highly engaged EAs is more challenging than at universities because people don’t have much capacity to deeply engage with EA ideas. Note that groups also have counterexamples of selected outstanding individuals and that taking people along the EA funnel might still be an impactful thing for your group to do (e.g., especially for public sector groups)

Main risks are the miscommunication of EA ideas and having people join a non-ideal career path

  • Students might be influenced not to choose the most impactful career option, because they get involved with workplace/professional groups very early in their career decision process and don’t continue to consider other options
  • Professionals could be encouraged to stay in their field because they can hang out with like-minded people instead of transitioning into a more impactful career
  • EA principles could be miscommunicated in more time-constrained settings of workplace/professional groups (e.g., “EA is only about GWWC”)

What’s next?

Acknowledgments

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 bIt’sIt’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, 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 they 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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New Comment
4 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 3:14 PM

Thanks so much for this series! We're thinking about formalizing the EA at Google efforts further in 2022 and this is a really helpful resource!

Nice, it seems like you're doing great work, and thanks for the writeup!

You talk about helping people working in finance to transition to high-impact careers, and I was wondering how you think about the (possible) opportunity cost of EAs leaving a career track leading towards an influential senior role in the finance industry. 

I'm mostly asking because I recently read the book Crashed in which historian Adam Tooze covers the leadup to the 2008 financial crisis, and where he paints a picture of a financial institutions having massive influence over world affairs.

Though we might wish otherwise, the world economy is not run by medium-sized “Mittelstand” entrepreneurs but by a few thousand massive corporations, with interlocking shareholdings controlled by a tiny group of asset managers.

I think that’s an interesting question and it’s hard to weigh the options. 

Due to the current talent gap in the EA movement, I think it would make sense to encourage people who have quantitative expertise to transition towards a high-impact career, as those skills are (and continue to be) in high demand within the EA community. People could become less EA-aligned over the course of time working in a non-EA-aligned environment. Furthermore, I’m unsure whether a single senior leader could unlock the same potential in the financial industry. Also, there are opportunities to transition into an EA-aligned career path within the financial sector, e.g., working for the crypto hedge fund Lantern Ventures. 

Even though it could be impactful to have “EA allies” working at mainstream companies, I think transitioning into a more EA-aligned career option could be the better option. 

I also want to mention that I’m not too familiar with the financial industry, maybe you want to reach out to Meg Tong who is running EA Finance. I'm sure she has thought this through more profoundly :)

That makes sense, thanks for the reply! :) And thanks, I'll ping Meg, would be really interested in further thoughts on this.