trying to figure out alignment field-building. If you are thinking hard about alignment talent search, I'd love to talk to you!

Bit of background:

  • on a gap year from a CS degree in Edinburgh
  • done a bit of uni group community-building and assisted alignment-adjacent research
  • from Germany, sometimes in Berlin :)

Topic Contributions


Update from Open Philanthropy’s Longtermist EA Movement-Building team

Hi Claire,

what are your thoughts on "going one meta-level up" and trying to build the meta space? Specifically creating opportunities like UGAP, the GCP internships, or running organisers' summits to get more and better community builders? I'm unsure but I thought this might be at odds with some of the points you raised, e.g., that we might neglect object-level work and its community-building effect. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sustained effort, potential, and obligation

So when I entered university I was probably capable of doing 0.5 hours per day on average.

hahah I feel this

Call for action for German university groups!

(I'm an organiser at EA Edinburgh and from Germany.)

Yes. Your point about the social culture at German universities seems crucial. The lack of an extensive extracurricular life in and around the university should lead to smaller EA groups (because of people not looking for student groups, less enthusiasm from organisers, lacking knowledge about how to build such groups, ...)

In terms of action plans, I think an important component is getting EA group organisers excited and ambitious. Communication between large, vibrant EA groups and German groups would be good for this. Show them what is possible. And then we probably need upskilling.

Apart from that, German groups probably need the same things as other groups. I think that this is mainly, again, excited organisers, who are willing to put in time. Just in case this is interesting to you, I'm thinking about running a “bootcamp” in the UK for new organisers, fellowship facilitators, etc. to get them excited about organising. (Approaches similar to this seem to have an amazing track record.) Would be happy to chat about this!

CEA’s Community Building Grants are becoming more targeted; the EA Infrastructure Fund will start evaluating grants for some EA groups

Thanks! I need to ask a lot of clarifying questions:

When you say "This is because the type of centralized support CEA might provide and the type of skills/characteristics required of someone working full-time running a university group or a city/national professional network might look very different depending on the ultimate model.", (1) does "This" refer to the fact that you have 2 subteams working with focus locations as opposed to everyone working on all locations? (2) If so, could I reword the explanation the sentence gives to "We need to work on focus locations to figure out the ultimate model before scaling up with that ultimate model"? In even more words, "We want to hire knowing for what model we are hiring, and we want to grow CEA knowing for what model we are growing it as soon as possible."

I really want to know how you mean this!

(3) I interpret your staff capacity being limited as "we need to prioritise" and the prioritisation coming out of that being "prioritise building a model based on focus-locations, then scale later". Correct?

(4) Your staff capacity being limited also suggests the major priority of hiring. I understand CEA is hiring quite fast, but I don't have any idea how  fast. Do you think you are prioritising hiring highly enough?

(5) What do you mean by "we think that this focus will enable faster scaling in the long term"? Firstly, again, which "focus" exactly is this referring to? Secondly, isn't "focussing" more intended to improve the quality  at the expense of speed of scaling? Intuitively I would say scaling is what enables faster scaling in the long term.

Maybe I can give some context from my side so we can find the crux of this quickly, and we are working in the same direction. I mostly see the lack of a pipeline into full-time CB in non-focus locations in stark contrast to all the extremely high-impact low-hanging fruit in CB and think "This can't be the best we can do".  It seems imperative we find a way to funnel talented EAs everywhere into this neglected career path. Hence my insistence on rolling things like the CBGs out in as many locations as possible.

I'm really interested in getting to the bottom of this. I hope I don't come across as intrusive into CEA's decisions without having any background knowledge. My interest is not to criticise CEA, but to solve this problem I see! :)

Uses of EA Retreats, Case Study UK Uni Organisers’ Retreat Dec 2021

I'm running two retreats this week whilst working with Swarthmore College EA. Both retreats are along the lines of what you described as a bootcamp

Ah, super exciting! I'll DM you

Uses of EA Retreats, Case Study UK Uni Organisers’ Retreat Dec 2021

I agree you could let someone run a social straight off. In general I guess people are more likely to agree to running a social if they are already a fellowship facilitator (fellowship social), and more likely to agree to become a committee member if they are already organising socials. The whole idea of moving people down a funnel etc.

To your skepticism: Thanks for raising the point! It's true that if we had perfect organiser training either locally in the groups or in one big bootcamp, it's unclear the bootcamp would cost less organiser hours. However organisers locally often don't have the time/skills to train new organisers. So the comparison probs isn't decisive. Hope that makes sense!

Uses of EA Retreats, Case Study UK Uni Organisers’ Retreat Dec 2021

Thanks for asking! The pitch goes something like this:

Uni groups are constrained by their organisers' time. The typical way of getting a new organiser is to find an excited EA and to slowly give them more and more responsibilities (e.g. intro fellowship facilitator -> run a social -> committee member). This takes time and there's dropout at every stage. The observation is that organisers are usually the most motivated after a retreat/conference/... So we might be able to significantly speed up this process and reduce dropout by having a retreat-ish thing early on. Several group organisers have already recognised this and have sent newer members to these things. There seems to be high value in running something specifically aimed at people in the early stages of organising.

So I propose to run a "bootcamp", where newer organisers, facilitators & similar are skilled up and gain lots of motivation from interacting with others in-person. This seems doubly useful since other organisers seldom have time to skill up new organisers and few new organisers would read into CB resources on their own (especially if they are not yet highly excited about CB).

I'm imagining something like 30 -40 people, 3 nights, with learning and upskilling sessions and ample opportunities to socialise with other participants.

Some ideas for sessions: how to 1-1s, facilitation training, mental health, pitches for EA short and long, people management & project delegation, Personal productivity, Effective planning, Movement building strategy and strategic prioritization for groups, creating positive epistemic norms, "Agenticness" (as explained in my post), how to trade money for time

Some more thoughts:

  • We will still need a good amount of highly engaged EAs present to set good norms and get the advantages of information dissemination. Maybe like a fourth to fifth
  • We will need programming options for different stages participants are at (e.g. not everyone will need full-on group strategy)
  • Unfortunately it probably can't be an international thing, since it might be hard to make people at an early stage travel internationally
  • If this is successful, that would increase the chance that CEA would take over running bootcamps in the future


I am very interested in any thoughts or potential collaborators! if someone wants to contact me.

Uses of EA Retreats, Case Study UK Uni Organisers’ Retreat Dec 2021

Agreed! In the meantime, it's definitely worth it contacting a prior organiser of an organisers' retreat for guidance. Henry Sleight ran this one, and Jessica McCurdy ran the one in Boston.

CEA’s Community Building Grants are becoming more targeted; the EA Infrastructure Fund will start evaluating grants for some EA groups

CEA has asked EAIF to assess applications from groups that are not eligible for CBG funding. CEA chose to do this rather than hire more staff, as we believe there will be benefits from us running a more focused programme.


We expect to include more universities in this list as we build up capacity for our university program. However, we think there are benefits to piloting our university support program with a smaller number of groups. 


This seems to be saying there was the option of hiring more staff and rolling out the CBG programme and support to more groups, but CEA chose not to. What benefits could possibly come from that? Sounds like lost impact?

A huge opportunity for impact: movement building at top universities

My understanding is that CEA is limited by the time of their employees. Because hiring rounds and all the support rolled out to focus groups as listed above take time

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