Hi! A bit about me:
• I'm CEO at VIVID - an organization aspiring to scale effective self-improvement.
• I've been the executive director of EA Israel for the past 2.5 years
• My writings on the forum mostly discuss criticism and different approaches to community building, and the importance of branding in the context of EA.
Virtually, anything discussed in VIVID's announcement post below. Specifically: We're hiring, we can provide value to wellbeing professionals, and we'd love to hear your feedback on our mobile app.
• I'm good at moonshot planning - Brainstorm with me about ambitious projects that seem unachievable!
• Advice on community building. You can find EA Israel's sharable resources here: bit.ly/EA-Israel-Resources
• User experience advice.
• My superpower is matching people with music they'll like, try me!
Let's chat about this! It's definitely our focus, and I have some writeups and frameworks about this topic that I was planning to turn into a post sometime soon. Would be happy to hop on a call about this.
First, unfortunately, I think that KPIs of this sort can only capture a portion of the overall impact of this cause area, and that more heuristic analysis is needed here.
This is mainly because many internal obstacles are the root or are the bottlenecks of many other cause areas, or as I like to summarize this notion, "people are both the recipients and carriers of most interventions".
For instance, a global change in the human development field could result in less violence, less addictions, and even more moral behavior in general. On the other side of the coin - the bottleneck of many cause areas is increasing and unblocking the potential of talents (e.g. when research is the bottleneck).
Second, about the KPIs:
1. I agree with the first KPI you suggested*
2. The second might need to be a bit more nuanced: Are we marginally increasing the professional effectiveness of many people, by a small number? Or is this intervention able to increase it significantly for specific people? Because of the arguments in the previous paragraph, this might be crucial.
3. I think that we need to add KPIs of immunity to value drift, and/or their opposite, of alignment to personal values. I would argue that large portions of this cause area's impact are derived from these KPIs (which are also highly neglected).
* Minor note: I think you might need to expand this KPI when looking beyond the perspective of classical utilitarianism; From the perspective of preference utilitarianism, there might be additional personal sources of value beyond wellbeing that you might want to check if they are increased by "human development" interventions. I'm not sure how to go about it, but probably a construct of self-fulfillment is important to measure as well (not only life satisfaction). I think this conflict is quite unique to this cause area compared to other cause areas.
I haven't investigated this personally, but there are likely evidence-based interventions for carers' wellbeing. One of VIVID's upcoming pilots is with a company that provides home care services for seniors, and their CEO is using our platform to provide carers with interventions she's familiar with.
It might be a little bit too early since we're still in beta stage, but if anyone wants to work on this area and scale known interventions, we'd be happy to provide free subscriptions for that.
Don't you think that CEA can run a large community shift, by changing the guidance and incentives for local groups?
(Thank you so much for the material! Seems better than the material I have today, but I think we need much simpler and more communicative material for proper out-facing community building)
On the one hand, I have a strong urge to say something like: But David, community building is not only useful for "trust" and "vetting people"!
On the other hand - In the last 2.5 years as a community builder, I was fighting desperately trying to make EA groups more practical and educational, instead of social and network-based.
I'm not the only one. I know many other community builders who tried to argue that our resources should focus on "tools", and less on anecdotes about why the maximization mindset is important and anecdotes about the most pressing cause areas.
Instead, I think that the value that we provide should be something in the lines of providing them with actual tools for applying the maximization mindset, and for prioritizing their career/donation/research/etc opportunities by social impact.
Almost everyone I spoke with agreed with this notion, including multiple representatives from CEA - but nothing changed so far regarding groups' resources or incentives.
So, if the main value of community building was meant to be for vetting, then I'd say that the community failed. I don't strongly believe this is the case right now, but I think that many perceive this to be the main value we provide. Anyhow - SBF is a great example, but I think that trust failures are not the only reason why this shift is needed.
My view is that instead of being social-focused, we need a more practical form of community building. EA distinct itself from the traditional NGO world or from other communities using “impact” as a buzzword, because we care about maximizing impact. But then, groups don't really have the resources to actually help people maximize their impact. After 2.5 years, I still don’t know where to find a good, simple article or video that describes how to create a theory of change (which is needed when submitting grants to EA funders!), or a clear article describing the practical aspects of “Thinking at the margin”, if I want to send those to community members. It takes an absurdly long time to find a good article about the basics of cost-effectiveness estimates, compared to how rooted this idea is in the movement. How long does it take to find an advanced handbook on conducting cost-effectiveness research in the context of social impact? I don’t know, we found none and had to write such a guide in EA Israel.
I strongly agree with the notion that "community" isn't binary:
And I have a few ideas what a less community-centered EA might look like. To preface the ideas, however, “community” isn’t binary.
But I think that the suggestion in this post goes too far on the non-community side of the spectrum. I think that communities provide significant value (such as motivation or connections), and thatthis is the bottleneck for impact for many people. And I also wouldn't denounce the concept of "being an EA" too quickly, as it still means something like "I think carefully about helping others, compared to the default scope-insensitive notion of doing good".
But convincing people of this basic concept is really an easy win in my opinion. The more important challenge in my view is getting people to develop their own, independent outlooks on maximizing impact.
Hi Trevor! I'm also a fan of CFAR's techniques.
One of the unique things about VIVID is that you can build whatever techniques you want into the personal-change plans you create.
In addition, if there are any CFAR-inspired techniques that you'd like us to consider adding to the "instruction presets" in VIVID, let me know!
That's a very good question!
First, a disclaimer - VIVID is not a clinically verified intervention, so it shouldn't replace therapy in any case.
VIVID and therapy are virtually two methods to overcome internal obstacles. I think a helpful way of looking at this question is whether you'd like to try another method in addition to your therapy. This method could be VIVID, a coacher, reading a self-help book, and so on. There are pros and cons to adding another method, and your therapist might be a good person to talk discuss this with.
There's an edge case to this outlook:
In some sense, the practice in VIVID can be compared to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy exercises, with a minor emphasis on the "cognitive". These could range from "lite" exercises to exercises that are identical to CBT worksheets (some of the 'instruction presets' in the app are essentially CBT worksheets).
Therefore, if someone is already doing something similar with a therapist, I wouldn't think of VIVID as aseparate method. It might, though, be beneficial to add your therapist as an accountability buddy and do the same exercises in VIVID. As a mobile app, VIVID has many benefits that empower this process, including self-testing, situation-based prompts, and optionally follow-ups from your therapist between sessions.
(I'll also add a FAQ section on the website, thanks!)
Thank you for writing this post. Even without agreeing with the exact distinction as it's made on the table, I think this is a good framing for an important problem. Specifically, I think the movement underestimates the importance of having a mismatch between how it presents itself and its exact focus.
The way I think about it is:
(1) An individual encounters the movement and understands that the value they're going to gain from it is X → (2) they decide to get involved because they want X → (3) it takes quite a while (months to years, depends on their involvement) to understand that the movement actually does Y OR sees they don't get the value X they expected → (4) There's a considerable they're not as interested in Y and doesn't get as involved as they originally thought they would.
It means that the movement: (1) Missed many people who would've been interested in Y, (2) invested its resources sub-optimally on people who seek X instead of people who seek Y.
I've experienced this on a weekly basis in EA Israel before we focused our strategy and branding on the members-focused approach. Even after doing that, I have dozens of stories of members being disappointed that the movement doesn't offer them concrete tools for their own social action (as much as it offers tools on how to choose a cause area), or disappointed that the conferences are mostly about AI safety and biosecurity.
Even with a strong member-first approach, the movement could still invest considerable resources into organizing AI safety conferences and biosecurity conferences - which would also attract professionals from outside the movement. And the movement could still be constructed in a way that gets people from the EA movement to these other conferences and communities.
I'm a bit time limited at the moment, but would be happy to discuss this with people working on this topic. I wrote before about this mismatch as a branding problem, tried to address this through better ways to explain what EA is, and got the chance to present EA Israel's member-first approach at conferences (linked above) since CEA was interested in some different community-building results that came out of EA Israel. If you're working on this topic and think I might be helpful, feel free to get in touch!
One last thought - I think that @Will Aldred's framing in the comments is correct in describing a connection between how this approach could shape the structure of the movement. Moreover, l think this goes even beyond incentive structures - for instance, the mismatch described above between X and Y could be a good explanation for why commnuyt building efforts leans toward "multi-session programs where people are expected to attend most sessions". This is because the current branding requires us to gradually move people from wanting X to understanding that Y is actually more important. This is kind of the opposite of product-market fit.
I'm not saying that either of the approaches is incorrect, but I think this mismatch is harmful. I hope this is resolved either way.