Based on interviews with stakeholders, feedback from German community members and other national community builders, the new co-directors of EA Germany (EAD) drafted this strategy for 2023.
- Our Vision is a diverse and resilient community of ambitious people in and from Germany who are thinking carefully about the world’s biggest problems and taking impactful action to solve them.
- Our Mission is to serve as a central point of contact for the German EA community and to continuously improve ways to guide people to take effective action, directly or by supporting local groups.
- Our Values are sustainable growth, a welcoming and nurturing culture and high professional standards.
- Our Focus Areas:
- EAD aims to guide people in Germany directly and indirectly to more impactful actions:
- Directly, e.g. through communications and events such as an EAGxBerlin 2023, career 1-1s, fellowships or retreats.
- Indirectly by training community builders, e.g. through regular calls, 1-1s and German-specific resources.
- EAD will offer efficiency services to save time and costs for committed EAs acting as an employer of record for individual grantees and providing fiscal sponsorship for local groups.
- EAD aims to guide people in Germany directly and indirectly to more impactful actions:
- A methodology of impact estimation based on a multi-touchpoint attribution model will serve as a basis for designing and prioritising exploratory programs using a lean startup approach.
EA Germany (EAD)
In the 2020 EA Survey, 7.4% of participants were from Germany, the third largest population behind the US and the UK. Apart from the US, Germany has the largest population and GNI of the ten largest countries in the survey. Germany has about 50 volunteer community builders in 25 local / university groups. 458 people have taken the GWWC pledge, and more than 400 Germans visited EAGxBerlin in September 2022. In 2021, Effektiv Spenden raised 18.86 Mio. Euros for effective charities.
The registered association EA Germany was founded in 2019 as Netzwerk für Effektiven Altruismus Deutschland e.V. (NEAD) by EAs in Germany and has a board of volunteers. In parallel, one person on a national CEA Community Building Grant (CBG) worked independently from the association from 2020-22. The German website effektiveraltruismus.de was run by the national regranting organisation Effektiv Spenden. In late 2021, NEAD started offering employer-of-record services to grantees and EA organisations as well as fiscal sponsorship for local groups and hired a part-time operations associate on a CBG.
A new board was elected in May 2022 and decided to apply for three CBGs – two co-directors and one project manager, in addition to the operations associate. The co-directors started in September and November 2022, and the project manager will start in January 2023. Funding for two other roles was promised but is not finalised as of December 2022. The association was renamed Effektiver Altruismus Deutschland (EAD) e.V. in 2022, and will now also run the website effektiveraltruismus.de.
Sarah Tegeler and Patrick Gruban drafted this document in November 2022 after having started working together as co-directors in the same month. Both have volunteered as local community builders, but this is their first role in an EA organisation. Most of the work on this document was influenced by interviews with stakeholders, other national EA community builders and reviews of different national strategies. About 150-200 hours went into discussing and writing the strategy.
While the authors are confident the strategy will help foster a healthy community, their overall epistemic status is uncertain about the organisation’s and its programs’ counterfactual impact. Thus, many areas are not listed under foundational programs. EAD will try out exploratory programs that are conditional on prioritising them according to still-to-be-developed impact estimations.
Current Confusions & Questions are listed below the document.
Role of National EA Organisations
“EA national groups are a solution in search of a problem” is the title of an unpublished document that Jonas Vollmer, who helped start the Swiss and German EA Community as co-founder of the EA Foundation in 2016, wrote this summer. Also, this year David Manheim wrote the post, “EA is a global community - but should it be?”. Both point to the same question: What counterfactual impact does community building have, especially on a scale bigger than a city or university?
Ultimately funders, professional community builders and volunteers will have to decide if their investment of time and money is best spent on a national organisation. There are clear-cut cases where media outreach by the national group leads straight to a donation or a pledge from someone who would otherwise not have heard of effective charities. But in cases of career changes that may take years and several contact points, it can be much harder to assess the impact of the change and the factors influencing it. If the national group contributes indirectly by helping local community builders, the distance between the input and the actual impact is even greater.
Many national organisations are close to local groups, mainly serving people in the capital city or a small cluster of places. The team of EA Germany and the local community builders are dispersed throughout the country.
Stakeholder Interviews & Feedback Forms
We asked more than 60 stakeholders who are part of or knowledgeable of the German community for their expectations, wishes and advice, talked to 40 individuals and received written feedback from 24 people. In addition, we held a session at the EAGxBerlin in September 2022, where we asked ~70 community members for their perspectives, which yielded 133 expectations and wishes.
The following aspects were regularly named:
- EA Germany as a central and professional point of contact for the community and beyond in Germany
- Local community building support including resources specific to Germany, regular calls and fellowships
- Improving Community Health and diversity within the community, e.g. via a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) / Community Health manager, awareness workshops for local community builders and removing barriers to engagement
- Outreach to schools and universities
- Events such as retreats, EAGx in Germany, cause-area-specific events, events for professionals
- Translations of books to German
- Germany specific career advice and workshops
- Fiscal Sponsorship / Employer of Record
- Coworking spaces
- Incubation of new organisations
- Communication and media work
Needs and bottlenecks
This analysis is based on the stakeholder interviews, communication with community members and internal discussions that resulted in this strategy. These are our current assumptions that might change with a better understanding of the methodology to be used to measure impact.
For this analysis, we assume that we want to grow the EA community in Germany – this assumption might change with our learnings around impact measurements.
If we divide the community according to CEA’s concentric circle model into audience, followers, participants, contributors and core team, we need to scale the subgroups differently.
- Viewer and audience activities such as the website or newsletter are quite easy to scale for a larger number of people.
- Participant and contributor activities require more resources to scale.
We see a potential bottleneck for scaling up local groups. According to CEA, 23% of EAs felt that their group had helped them to become more involved in the movement. The local groups usually rely on a few community builders who work voluntarily. This makes the structure prone to change regularly. When people attend meetings of local groups, it is important to make them feel welcome, to integrate them into the community and convey EA know-how in a high-fidelity way. But this can be a challenge with regular change in leadership and new local community builders. The organisation of local groups could be scaled with sufficient support for local community builders, who could grow participant counts and support new neighbouring groups to start. Compared to approaches where the team interacts directly with community members, this indirect approach through the local community builders is more easily scalable for a growing community. To enable the ~50 local community builders to manage larger local groups, regular calls, retreats, 1-1s and resources with Germany-specific info could be helpful.
Some activities are more elaborate to scale for a small team, such as events like retreats or conferences, 1-1s: The effort increases with the number of participants. We might need more advisors and operations support for this in the future.
- As the core team and registered association will remain relatively small, even as the community as a whole grows, little further scaling will be required.
Potential failure modes – Premortem
To assess the risks EAD faces, we conducted a Premortem.
Our currently most significant risks are structured in two categories: EAD as an organisation and the German EA community.
|Risk||Likelihood (/5)||Impact (/5)||Importance (/25)||Prevention / Mitigation|
|Registered association is dissolved||2||5||10|
|EAD staff quits||2||3||6|
|EAs in Germany are not satisfied/do not feel represented by EAD||2||3||6|
|Board is held financially liable||1||5||5||Legal review of insurance|
German EA community
|Risk||Likelihood (/5)||Impact (/5)||Importance (/25)||Prevention / Mitigation|
|No impact growth||2||4||8|
|Fewer EAs in Germany||2||3||6|
|Deterioration of public and internal image of EA||3||2||6|
|Volunteers are discouraged from starting projects||2||3||6|
You can find our full premortem, along with mitigation/prevention strategies for each identified risk, in this document.
A diverse and resilient community of ambitious people in and from Germany who are thinking carefully about the world’s biggest problems and taking impactful action to solve them.
What do we mean by that?
- Diverse: Community members hold a wide spectrum of worldviews, possess a wide range of backgrounds and skills, are active in various cause areas, and are funded by a broad range of funding sources.
- Resilient: The community is stable and not dependent on individuals within the community. People care for each other and feel part of the community.
- Ambitious: People within the community start potentially impactful projects, work professionally in high-impact roles/cause areas or give a substantial amount of their income to effective causes.
Our mission is to serve as a central point of contact for the German EA community and to continuously improve ways to guide people to take effective action, either directly or by supporting local groups.
We provide coordination, communication, programs and professional services to help grow the impact of the community.
The team of EA Germany aims to run a professionally managed organisation based on the values of
- Sustainable Growth
- Leadership practices that lead to high employee satisfaction
- Talent pipeline of employees and volunteers that would be able to run and join the organisation in the future
- Resilient structure that can weather changes in management and funding
- Lean Startup approach to developing new programs using iterative processes
- Welcoming and Nurturing Culture
- Encouraging a diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints
- Monitoring and improving community health
- Representing causes fairly (initially by adhering to CEA’s guidelines)
- High Professional Standards
- Good description of services in order to set the right expectations
- Dependable response times
- Good quality of services rendered
Theory of Change
Click on the image to enlarge or use this link to open in Miro.
Coming up with impact estimates that are useful in deciding if a national organisation in a bigger country like Germany matches the impact of other infrastructure investments will be important for the future of EAD as well as other countries. Similarly, prioritising programs will require estimating their impacts. Enabling other countries to learn from EA Germany could increase the impact of the organisation.
EAD aims to generate impact through three dimensions:
- Direct Guidance: Guiding people from the first contact with EA to impactful actions (career changes, donations or volunteering)
- Indirect Guidance: Helping local community builders (CBs) guiding people to impactful actions
- Efficiency Services: Saving time and money for EAs through services
Direct Guidance is a marketing approach because it’s about communicating offerings that have value for people. Finding the people that could be interested in making a change to effective altruistic actions, guiding them through the process of learning and connecting while keeping them engaged up to the point where they take action and beyond is a multi-step process. We expect most people to have multiple touchpoints with content and people along the way, like media, the EAD website, newsletter, books, local community events, fellowships, EAG(x) or 1-1s. Each is expected to affect the person’s engagement and the likelihood of taking the next step in larger commitments. Looking back at a person's steps until they made a large change, we can ask them what share of the decision they attribute to the touchpoints along the way. In marketing, this is called multi-touch attribution.
In evaluating the impact of different programs such as PR, website content, fellowships, retreats etc., we use the product of these factors:
- The attribution weight of the touchpoint (how important was this program rated by people taking action in hindsight or how do we predict it to be weighted)
- The expected counterfactual impact generated by the person affected (expected donations or equivalent in career capital throughout the time we expect them to stay active in EA-aligned causes)
- The number of people affected (participants in a program or people interacting with content)
- The expected drop-off rate (share of people that are expected to drop out from this point on before they will make a meaningful change)
Currently this is our first very rough sketch in thinking about impact measurement. It will take time to break it down into a simple, useful model containing enough information to make principled decisions about program priorities. We’re developing it as we haven’t seen a framework for comparing the impact of programs in community building. However, we might find a better one and abandon this approach.
The key uncertainties for this model are:
- Predicting the expected counterfactual impact generated by a person: While we can estimate the future donations of a GWWC pledger relatively easily, it is much harder to come up with predictions around career changes. We can tackle this by creating a set of personas using the career reviews by 80,000 Hours and assigning relative values based on interviews and estimates of funder interest.
- The expected drop-off rate from a touchpoint: We can try to estimate the sizes of cohorts throughout the funnel process from a change back to the point we’re looking at, as well as the yearly churn of participants
- The attribution weight of a touchpoint: We can use interviews with people after the touchpoint as well as drop-off rates to estimate the importance of the point, but self reported attribution weight will likely be biased.
- Blind spots in looking at the current community members: Measuring the impact of touchpoints of people we know might miss the ones that took significant actions on their own or might undervalue the top-performers in a long-tail distribution. Similarly, a small sample size and the short time people have been working in impactful jobs or donating will make this model less useful.
Working on this model will be part of the first step of prioritising potential exploratory programs.
Indirect Guidance can be seen as a combination of applying the model of Direct Guidance to look at the impact of local community builders and the impact of touchpoints of EAD with CBs. We expect the impact estimate on the local level to be a rough estimate of the average impact we expect local groups to have.
Efficiency Services is relatively straightforward as we can estimate the time and costs we’re saving EAs in providing services.
We list our foundational programs below. Our foundational programs are the basis of our work and we will offer them throughout the year.
For each program, we added how we consider the impact to be measured in the future by referring to the model introduced in Impact Considerations.
In addition to the foundational programs listed, we plan to try several exploratory programs within the next year.
Volunteers are invited to initiate programs themselves, even if they overlap with our planned strategy. We encourage volunteers to contact us for collaboration and support. We are also happy to hand over programs that we have started to volunteers.
These programs are either the continuation of existing ones or programs that seem broadly beneficial to grow a sustainable community. However, after we have worked out the impact considerations in more depth, we will review the effectiveness of the foundational programmes and discontinue them if necessary. The implementation should be narrow and efficient to leave enough resources for exploratory programs. The measurements mentioned below are initial considerations that will be refined in the course of further considerations on impact measurement.
An overview of the planned activities in 2023 can be found here: Calendar 2023
- Communication: Website, Newsletter & Social Media, Content Localisation, Media
- Updating Website regularly with new translated texts
- Monthly/Biweekly newsletter, Slack news, social media posts (LinkedIn, Facebook)
- Providing media contact and basic resources
- Goal: Share content about EA & German EA community in order to motivate people to engage more
- Measure: Direct Guidance (e. g. numbers of newsletters opened)
- EAGx Conferences
- Yearly organisation of EAGxBerlin
- Selection of venue
- Funding application to CEA
- Hiring of team
- Meetups of German EAs at EAGs and EAGx conferences in Europe
- Yearly organisation of EAGxBerlin
- Goal: Connect the national EA community with each other and the international community
- Measure: Direct Guidance (e.g. number of attendees and 1-1s)
- Intro Fellowship
- Intro: multi week program for people new to EA in German and English (virtual with some in person groups)
- Goal: New people learn more about EA and connect to other EAs
- Measure: Direct Guidance (e.g. number of participants, next steps taken after the program)
- Career 1:1s
- Accepting connections from 80,000 Hours of people who received career advice or were rejected
- Form on website for 1-1 career advice, decision based on how promising person seems ( → test how many people apply)
- Goal: Bring promising EAs into impactful careers
- Measure: Direct Guidance (e.g. number of advisees and next steps taken)
- Community Health
- Training for person(s) by the CEA Community Health team
- Decision Inhouse / Volunteer
- Training for individual events
- Central trained person on (call) standby at events
- Goal: Avoiding negative experiences/harm and thereby lower drop-out rates and less reputational risk
- Measure: Direct Guidance (lower drop-off rates, higher satisfaction)
- Local Community Building Support
- Monthly CB Calls
- 1-1s with CBs
- Intro Slides in German
- HowTos German Unis
- Community Health Resources
- Flyer, Poster, Banner
- Website Template
- Retreats for CBs
- Community Health Basics
- Diversity Awareness Basics
- 1-1 basics
- Career Advice Basics
- CB 1-1s
- Retreats for Community (organised by volunteer CBs - Test January)
- Goal: Have sustainable local groups so people in Germany can get (more) involved through personal connections
- Measure: Indirect Guidance (e.g. number of CBs attending programs, number of active participants in local groups, number of attendees at community retreats)
- Employer of Record for Grantees
- Hiring of Grantees
- Standard process (application → decision → contract → onboarding)
- Impact Review (continuation of this program to be decided after review)
- Goal: Save time and costs for highly engaged EAs
- Measure: Efficiency Services (e.g. estimated time saved of employees of record)
- Fiscal Sponsorship for local groups
- Receiving grants for local groups
- Paying invoices and accounting
- Goal: Save time, costs and hassle for highly engaged EAs
- Measure: Efficiency Services (e.g. Number of local groups using the service and saved time of CBs)
- Operational Excellence
- CRM system: better connections, personalized follow ups, measurement of impact
- Website relaunch: better address target audiences in German and English, higher conversion rates for newsletter subscription
- Accounting setup: Save time and reduce risk by introducing software and processes
- Legal review: Reduce risks by reviewing contracts and processes
- Healthy organisational culture and leadership (e.g. 1-1s, team retreats, encouragement for self development)
- Networking and discovery of funding opportunities
- Goal: Long-term provision of high-quality programs
- Measure: Efficiency Services (e.g. times saved of team via processes and overall higher probability of EAD having impact in future)
- Exploration and Impact Estimation
- Estimate impact for existing and future programs
- Define prototypes for new programs and success criteria
- Run exploratory programs
- Goal: Continuously explore new impactful and scalable programs that can increase the impact returns for EAD
- Measure: See individual program (Existing programmes are evaluated with KPIs. New programs are measured using the model introduced in Impact Considerations)
We are planning to use the lean startup methodology as a basis for developing and testing new programs. The potential programmes could cover a wide range of topics, such as new volunteer programs, funding diversification, outreach to specific target groups or incubating new organisations. After developing actionable impact metrics, we will use an iterative process:
- Prioritize programs based on expected impact and scalability
- Develop a minimum viable product (MVP)
- Measure: Test the MVP and gather impact data
- Decide to shut down, scale or pivot the program
- Write up a report if others might be able to learn from our experiences
The bandwidth of programs we can develop and test will depend on the capacity of employees and volunteers. With more team members, we are able to scale by having parallel streams of the build-measure-learn cycle.
If we identify programs with higher impact opportunities, we might prioritise scaling them over launching further exploratory programs for some time.
As we are not sure at this stage what exploratory programs we will pursue and we want to avoid confusion, this strategy does not include a list of possible programmes.
Confusions & Questions
- Is the impact model outlined applicable and can it be fleshed out to make it usable in the German context?
- Will it be possible to model the impact of EAD’s work on local groups, given the indirect approach, different group sizes and the missing precedent of national groups supporting many local groups?
- How much staff time will be spent on foundational programs, and what will the bandwidth be for exploratory programs?
- Is the number and size of the foundational programs too big?
- Can the concept of Lean Startup be used in the context of developing programs for community building?
- Is the focus on participants and contributors in the funnel model addressing the right needs, or should there be more focus either on reaching more audience/followers (e.g. through media work) or guiding contributors to become core members?
- What blind spots have we missed in the potential failure modes?
- Are the risks of the public image of EA deteriorating adequately addressed in the potential failure modes?
- What is the capacity for ambitious growth, and how many new members could the team handle? What is the risk of creating bottlenecks in the funnel through quick scaling?
Thanks for writing this!
Your high-level strategy sounds great but is also fairly generic, so hard to criticize. One theme throughout seems to be an emphasis on creating solid structures and making sure everything is legally backed. I think this is important-especially after the FTX crisis-though I sense a risk of an overemphasis on security. EA Germany is yet a small community and has so much room to grow! I think we need a large number of capable people to solve some serious problems fairly soon. EA Germany should thus emphasize ambition and growth, primarily through targeted outreach and connecting the community better internationally.
I was hoping to learn more about the concrete projects that you are working on/ about to start. Here are some ideas that I see as priorities (Most are already happening to some degree):
Thanks for all the work you are already doing! It's always easy to suggest a lot of projects without having to start them myself :D
Looking forward to your strategy playing out.
Thank you for the feedback and the suggestions, Konstantin! For Berlin, we are currently hiring a paid community manager who will organise regular events and work together with the volunteer organisers in Berlin. For the other suggestions: We are currently developing actionable impact metrics and will use an iterative process to prioritise several ideas. We will share our impact considerations on the forum and keep everyone updated with our newsletter (https://www.effektiveraltruismus.de/#newsletter) about what projects we start.
Sounds good! Thanks for the reply.
I think I would additionally find it helpful to get some insights into what you are prioritizing to give feedback on project plans (or maybe your future post on impact metrics will include that?) - but I know communication takes a lot of effort, so it may be easier to just receive that feedback as you're rolling out the projects. Looking forward to your next post
Really appreciate the thoroughness and transparency of this post and looking forward to digging more into it at some point! Thank you for sharing :)
As discussed in the impact considerations section, we continued work on a more useful model for impact estimation and just published this post about it: A BOTEC-Model for Comparing Impact Estimations in Community Building
Thank you very much for sharing this! I just skimmed it and will come back to study it in more detail when thinking about EA Switzerland's strategy. Looking forward to seeing you execute this strategy and to exploring synergies between the German-speaking EA community! :-)
Thanks for this - it looks great! Just a few thoughts.
1. How much time did you invest in the entire process?
2. Impact measurement:
Overall, I like the idea of the multi-touch attribution model useful but it'd come down to how you operationalize it. In particular, I wonder whether the expected impact of an individual is sufficiently operationalized in a way that's going to be useful and pragmatic for you. For Future Academy, we found some combination HEA and 80K's IASPC quite useful (although we haven't seen the process to completion yet).
3. Time allocation across programs:
Do you have forecasts from previous iterations of the programs that can inform the time distribution?
4. The Lean start-up BML seems like a good model to me. Perhaps batching the different phases in a quarterly way by front-loading the build and then have the rest of the quarter (time period) be about the measure and learning part.
Great that you did the analysis. The "importance" section appear too conservative to me (e.g., it seems as if you're ranking it on scale of 25).
Thank you for the detailed feedback! I’ll quickly try to answer:
Weakly held opinion that you could be investing too much into this progress. I'd expect to hit diminishing returns after ~50-100 hours (though have no expertise whatsoever)
I agree that there are diminishing returns and wouldn't see too much value in continuing at this point. The time spent on strategy (about three weeks for the two of us) was also the first time working in this new role, getting to know each other and getting to know stakeholders in the community. As we wanted to lay the basis for the next years of the organisation, this didn't seem overly long, especially as we could present the document to the board within the first month of my joining.
That sounds very sensible
Thank you. All those comments make sense to me. I just messaged you privately to request your email so I can share our impact documents.