Amy Labenz

Head of Events at the Centre for Effective Altruism

Topic Contributions


Announcing What We Owe The Future

Pre-ordered my hardcover! I'm excited :) 

The best EA Global yet? (And other updates.)

We put a lot of emphasis on networking and tried to communicate the importance of reaching out to fellow attendees. We also worked with Swapcard to improve the networking app, and felt that this had a positive effect. In general, we think most of the connections resulted from chance conversations or booked one-on-one meetings--- and we were pleased to see that people reported having around 12 one-on-one meetings each. (We can also confirm that people who had more meetings had more connections, although causality is not clear.)

The best EA Global yet? (And other updates.)

Sure! We'd be happy for some red-teaming or suggestions on how to improve our work.

[Updated] EA conferences in 2022: save the dates

Thanks! The last time we hosted three (Bay, UK, East Coast) was in 2017. I’m very excited to do it again.

We planned to host two in 2019 but had to cancel the SF event due to COVID and only hosted one in-person EAG in 2021 (with the EA Picnic as a smaller in-person event this year).

Should EA Global London 2021 have been expanded?

Maybe it is important for folks to know that I have personally relaxed a lot about COVID risk. I think for most people in our target audience/demographic (young vaccinated people) the value of attending EAG is worth the risk. This is not because I think we create a space with near-zero risk of COVID exposure, but rather, as I say below, COVID is not the bulk of the risk/cost of this event. 

I don’t make EAG decisions based on my own models alone, which is why I consult community leaders and the COVID Board, and why we encouraged attendees to do their own calculations and decide their own risk tolerances. I expect people shouldn’t come if they are particularly cautious and (as you stated) some didn’t. (As a parent of unvaccinated young children, I think about my risk tolerance differently than I expect a typical attendee does - I understand this is a personal thing that will vary by people’s circumstances.) I’m glad people could decide for themselves whether the value was worth the risk (many chose to attend, some didn’t). Perhaps I should have been more explicit about this.

Should EA Global London 2021 have been expanded?

Thanks, Nathan! It was great to see you at EA Global. 

You're right that we didn't share the specifics of our reasoning - I think that might have been the right call at the time given the tradeoffs of spending time on public communications vs. object-level preparation for the event, but I can understand how community members felt in the dark and we regret that.

To make explicit some of our reasoning: we think that the cost from COVID of the event was likely quite small relative to other costs of the conference. A back-of-the-envelope calculation from one of our COVID advisory board members suggests that the total counterfactually-adjusted COVID cost was ~1% of the other costs of the event (primarily attendee time, but also financial costs). We think that doubling the number of attendees may have grown the fraction of all costs attributed to COVID from 1% to something more like 2% — so while higher, it was still not one of the biggest costs of the event as a whole. So I want to acknowledge that, while we considered this aspect of the event and took precautions to limit the spread of COVID, we genuinely didn’t view COVID risk as a major cost to attendees: we probably spent more time worrying about whether the logistics would work. We stand behind this prioritization.

(The BOTEC was done after we had decided to expand the event, but when we consulted our advisory board, community leaders, and our own judgment of the benefits and risks before the expansion, it felt very clear that the benefits would exceed the costs by a large margin, to the extent that a detailed BOTEC didn’t seem like a good use of time. Our post-decision calculations seem to validate that view.)

Regarding staff capacity, we have been very stretched as a team this year. I fully came back from parental leave in mid-April. We ran EAG Reconnect in March, the EA Picnic in July, the EA Meta Coordination Forum in September, and EAG London in October. For much of that time, I was the only full-time staff member on the Events Team: we had one other part-time employee and two contractors. COVID-related precautions added (rough guess) 20-40% additional production time. We brought on two part-time contractors to help with admissions processing in the final weeks and brought on two additional contractors to assist with production for the week of the event (and, as usual, were helped by many wonderful volunteers during the event itself). 

We knew we were stretched too thin and ran a hiring round, but the new hires had just started or not yet started at the time of EAG London (and running the round took capacity from the otherwise stretched team). I hope and expect this will pay off in 2022. 

saulius's Shortform

Thanks for the suggestion! 

We've added a spreadsheet microcovid estimates for a few different scenarios to our COVID Protocol. You can see the whole protocol here. Link to the estimates here

See you soon :) 

Managing COVID restrictions for EA Global travel: My plans + request for other examples

Hi sbowman, thanks for asking! 

We are following the honor system for testing, and will not be requiring proof of the test results. When you arrive, we will ask you to confirm that you have taken one in the last 48 hours and that the result was negative. 

As for the tests themselves, a DIY kit would work. We describe some details in our COVID protocol

  • The conference venue cannot facilitate onsite testing so please take a test before you arrive and stay at your accommodation if you have a positive result. 
  • UK residents can order free test kits online or collect them from a local UK pharmacy. (From 4 October, you’ll need a collect code to pick up test kits from a pharmacy.) 
  • Attendees arriving from abroad can order a Day 2 test kit in advance and have it delivered to their hotel address.
  • Attendees who cannot afford a test, or are unable to order one in advance, can collect a test from the EA Global team at the following times:
    • Thursday 28 October, 11:00 am - 7:00 pm
      The Grubstreet Author, Milton Street, London, EC2Y 9BH
    • Friday 29 October, 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
      The Brewery, 52 Chiswell Street, London, EC1Y 4SD

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to with any other questions! 

Nathan Young's Shortform

Hi Nathan, 

Thank you for bringing this up! 

1) We’d like to have a larger capacity at EA Global, and we’ve been trying to increase the number of people who can attend. Unfortunately, this year it’s been particularly difficult; we had to roll over our contract with the venue from 2020 and we are unable to use the full capacity of the venue to reduce the risk from COVID. We’re really excited that we just managed to add 300 spots (increasing capacity to 800 people), and we’re hoping to have more capacity in 2022. 

There will also be an opportunity for people around the world to participate in the event online. Virtual attendees will be able to enjoy live streamed content as well as networking opportunities with other virtual attendees. More details will be published on the EA Global website the week of October 11.

2) We try to have different events that are welcoming to people who are at different points in their EA engagement. For someone earlier in their exploration of EA, the EAGx conferences are going to be a better fit. From the EA Global website:

Effective altruism conferences are a good fit for anyone who is putting EA principles into action through their donations, volunteering, or career plans. All community members, new or experienced, are welcome to apply.

EA Global: London will be selecting for highly-engaged members of the community.

EAGxPrague (3-5 December) will be more suitable for those who have less experience with effective altruism.

We’ll have lots more EAGx events in 2022, including Boston, Oxford, Singapore, and Australia, as well as EA Globals in San Francisco and London as usual. We may add additional events to this plan. The dates for those events and any additional events will go up on when they’re confirmed.

In the meantime, if your friend is interested in seeing some talks, they can check out hundreds of past EA Global talks on the CEA YouTube channel.

Suggested norms about financial aid for EAG(x)

One thing that you might already know, but could be helpful to spell out: CEA already subsidizes much of the cost of the conference. The main reason we don’t just subsidize it all is that having some cost for attendees means they have personal investment in coming. At some past events like EAGx where ticket costs were very low, a lot of slots got wasted because people claimed the free or low-cost tickets and then didn’t show up. But we don’t want to keep people away because higher prices are difficult for them, which is why we do offer financial aid.  

On how to compare yourself to other attendees: We haven’t asked this lately, but in the past we’ve asked attendees how good a use of time the event was for them. (I realize this doesn’t fully answer the question of how to compare yourself to others, but it might help.) Here are the responses from the last time we asked this:

It’s hard for us to say whether EAG tickets should count as “personal” or “altruistic” spending. The overall goal of the event is to have a positive impact for the world — that’s why we host it. On the other hand, it would be kind of suspect for us to tell people “You should pay for your ticket out of your donation budget!” because the event is also enjoyable for attendees (we hope!), and it’s hard to make donation decisions clearly when you also personally benefit from the donation.

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