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EAGx Relaunch

For those of you who have been following, Effective Altruism Global X (EAGx) — the locally organized international conference series of the Effective Altruism community — has been relatively inactive since late last year. This post is an update on why it had a hiatus and how it has changed.

 

For full information about EAGx in its current form — including application information, and publicly-accessible resources for EA event organizers — check out our extended EAGx Organizer FAQ.

Why did it take so long for this to go live?

We’d like to apologize once again for the long delays in republishing the EAGx organizer application. We’ve had some shifting of staff within the organization that has left the project rather lacking in staff time. Additionally, the feedback we received from organizers and attendees engendered some skepticism about the cost-benefit ratio of EAGx relative to other things we could encourage people to do. Rather than push forward with a project of uncertain benefit, we waited until we had the time to more properly consider our options and pivot our strategy accordingly.

What’s changed from last year?

Many things!

We’re imposing less structured event oversight.

One of the biggest pains both on the organizers’ end and on our own was getting approval and access to the relevant files, accounts, and funding to make their events happen according to our (former) organizer agreement. While it was there for a reason — we wanted to help events to be good, and had some resources to try to help with that — it often ended up becoming more prohibitive than useful. So we’re offering resources, but leaving it to the organizers to make use of those resources or their own arrangements as makes sense to them. If you’re accepted as an EAGx event it’s because, beyond thinking it would be great for the event to happen, we trust your motives, discretion, and operating ability. We want the resources we offer to be provided by demand, rather than imposed by assumption of demand.

We’re offering more flexibility and dependability of funding.

We found that the funding needs of EAGx events were all over the board, from self-funded, free-venue affairs to expensive full-fledged productions. (This isn’t a comment on the competency of the organizers; some environments are just far more amenable to cheap events than others.) Given the range of organizers’ funding needs, we want to offer the opportunity to apply for funding that makes sense for their circumstances. We’re offering US$5000 upon acceptance, to be used at the organizers’ discretion, as well as straightforward funding criteria so you know what to expect.

We’ve standardized the conference structure.

Historically the conferences have varied quite a bit depending on the context and aims of the event organizers. Events targeting students were afternoon- or day-long affairs, comprised of e.g. an introductory talk, 80,000 Hours workshop, and call to action in a lecture hall or community hub. We focused on conveying the core principles and inciting interest in them and our associated community. While we continue to think that this is an important function, CEA believes that, at least at the moment, our efforts to improve the world are bottlenecked by our ability to help promising people become fully engaged, rather than attracting new interest.

 

To focus on this aim and make the brand less confusing, EAGx events are whole-weekend events. They generally take place in established communities and focus on building concrete projects or forwarding the field. Events of other structures such as large speaker events, workshops, and salons no longer fall under this title, although they are more often the structure of event we recommend to local groups.

 

We also used to offer a “themed” conference option — that is, allow conferences to use the EAGx brand while focusing on some specific topic within EA — but are now refocusing EAGx events on EA more generally. We may sponsor themed events but not under this brand.

We’re accepting fewer and more-developed organizing groups.

We think that there are particular circumstances in which EAGx events are highly effective means of engagement, but that many circumstances benefit more from shorter events of a different structure. We have come to believe that we should focus our time on increasing the engagement of people who are highly promising, rather than growing the number of people who are loosely aware of EA. Given this shift in strategy, EAGx events are to be closer to EA Global events in scale and caliber, aimed at engaging particularly skilled current or potential EAs.

 

This is also operationally useful; restricting EAGx to just a few of the most established groups should prevent organizers from getting too overwhelmed, help participants know what to expect, and let CEA use its resources where they will go the farthest.

 

We are therefore expecting to have no more than half a dozen EAGx conferences over the next twelve months, contrasting the dozen we had over the past year. This events will look more like those by the Oxford, Berlin, and Australia groups than like other previous EAGx events.

We’re offering stipends to primary organizers.

Running an EAGx conference is a big undertaking, to which the primary organizers have generously donated many hours. Where this conflicts with time spent on work or school, this can be a costly endeavor. To support the people who make these events possible we’re offering stipends of £1200 (US$1500) per primary organizer for up to three organizers.* If possible, we hope this will help organizers free up their time and attention by e.g. reducing hours at work or paying for time-saving services.

 

* This is based on a high estimate of 85 hours of work, at CEA’s contractor rate of £14 (US$18) per hour. Organizers may apply for more funding, to be disbursed depending on their skills and needs.

 

Comments (21)

Comment author: MichaelPlant 23 July 2017 01:01:06PM 3 points [-]

This is less of a question about EAGxs themselves than the reasoning behind the change. I'm curious about this line of thinking:

EA believes that, at least at the moment, our efforts to improve the world are bottlenecked by our ability to help promising people become fully engaged, rather than attracting new interest.

Could you say 1) why CEA has come to believe this and 2) what this means you'll be trying to do differently (besides these specific changes to EAGxes)?

This isn't a critical question, would just like to know more.

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 24 July 2017 07:17:26PM 7 points [-]

Thanks for the question.

In brief, we're of the view that a) EA is more talent-constrained rather than funding-constrained (https://80000hours.org/2015/11/why-you-should-focus-more-on-talent-gaps-not-funding-gaps/), and b) the people we'd like to have do direct work in many cases already exist in the EA sphere but don't have the affordance or nudge to dedicate themselves to EA work full-time.

We, in collaboration with 80,000 Hours, have been tracking the rate and value of engagement of people we try to engage with EA. We have figured out ways to easily and systematically do early-stage engagement of potential EAs with e.g. the Doing Good Better book giveaway, 80,000 Hours decision tool, and Giving What We Can pledge. However, our sense is that the majority of value comes from the few people who are most engaged, and that effective use of talent requires greater levels of engagement. (It's more valuable to have e.g. one full-time, knowledgeable employee than the same number of hours of labor from many, short-term volunteers.) Similarly, funding that is more values-aligned can be put towards more flexible, less conventional funding areas. The scalable vehicles we developed aren't very equipped to increase engagement.

We've been really impressed many people already in the community, but when we encourage them to work for an EA organization, start their own EA project, and/or seek out other EAs with whom to collaborate, this often falls flat for lack of funding, support structure, or a clear sense of what to do/read next. In addition to the shifts in EAGx, we're attempting to address this with EA Grants, sequenced EA content, changes to EA Global, the Involvement Guide on effectivealtruism.org, and increased funneling to 80,000 Hours' one-on-one career coaching.

We'll have more on this on the CEA blog shortly.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 24 July 2017 10:31:51PM 3 points [-]

the people we'd like to have do direct work in many cases already exist in the EA sphere but don't have the affordance or nudge to dedicate themselves to EA work full-time.

Would you view the large number of rejected EA Grants proposals as evidence against this view and toward a view of funding constraints? (Of course, you can answer "yes" to that question and still think the view I quoted is accurate because of a larger balance of evidence pointing toward the quoted view.)

It's cool to see CEA thinking systematically about the entire funnel of EA talent.

Comment author: Maxdalton 25 July 2017 07:44:32AM *  10 points [-]

The main reason that we could not interview more people for EA Grants at this stage is that we had a limited amount of staff time to conduct interviews, rather than because of funding constraints.

I think you are right that the number of excellent EA Grants proposals suggests that small projects are often currently restricted by receiving funding. However, I think that this is less because there is not enough money, and more because there aren't good mechanisms for matching small projects up with money. You could say it is funding-mechanism-constrained. Of course, EA Grants is trying to address this. This was a smaller trial round, to see how promising the project is, and work out how to run it well. We will reassess after we've completed this round, but I think that it's very possible that we will scale the program up, to begin to address this issue.

[I'm working for CEA on EA Grants.]

Comment author: mhpage 26 July 2017 05:49:07PM 7 points [-]

Max's point can be generalized to mean that the "talent" vs. "funding" constraint framing misses the real bottleneck, which is institutions that can effectively put more money and talent to work. We of course need good people to run those institutions, but if you gave me a room full of good people, I couldn't just put them to work.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 25 July 2017 05:27:06AM 0 points [-]

large number of rejected EA Grants proposals

Is there info about this somewhere?

Comment author: Maxdalton 25 July 2017 07:26:32AM 4 points [-]

[I work for CEA on EA Grants.] We received over 700 applications, and we only offered interviews to roughly the top 10% of applicants. (We'll do a more detailed writeup once the process is over.)

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 25 July 2017 07:08:45AM 0 points [-]

It was in a email sent to rejected EA grants applicants.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 23 July 2017 10:07:15PM 3 points [-]

A related question -- even if CEA believes that, why does CEA believe it with enough credence to have it dictate a particularly more onerous EAGx format? Are the costs in loss of flexibility and increased expense sufficiently outweighed by the benefits?

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 24 July 2017 07:20:47PM 6 points [-]

Ah, the wording makes this unclear. It isn't that we're dictating that more events take on the more onerous format, but instead restricting the name "EAGx" to the few events who already believe it is best for their region to run a full-weekend event. In fact, we're encouraging most groups /not/ to do this, and instead run smaller, more targeted events.

The real shifts are a) discouraging groups from running events that are more intensive than suit their circumstances and b) using a different name for the less-intensive events to avoid the confusion of expectations experienced by lots of attendees last year. (To the latter, one of the main feedback types events received was "the content was too elementary" or "the content was too advanced," often about the same event.)

We're still providing funding and support to events not entitled EAGx.

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 24 July 2017 10:32:19PM 2 points [-]

That makes a lot of sense; thanks for the clarification!

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 04 August 2017 07:17:55AM 1 point [-]

What's the timeframe in which CEA will be accepting applications to host/organize EAGx events?

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 17 August 2017 01:29:53AM 0 points [-]

The next upcoming deadline is August 30th, with new application deadlines every quarter. You can find more details about this here: https://www.eaglobal.org/eagx-when/

Comment author: LawrenceC 23 July 2017 06:27:17AM *  1 point [-]

Awesome! Glad to hear that EAGx is still happening. I think it makes a lot of sense to pivot away from having many EAGx conferences of variable quality to a few high quality ones.

While we continue to think that this is an important function, CEA believes that, at least at the moment, our efforts to improve the world are bottlenecked by our ability to help promising people become fully engaged, rather than attracting new interest.

I'm curious what prompted this change - did organizers encounter a lot of difficult converting new conference attendees to more engaged EAs?

I'm also curious about what sort of support CEA will be providing to smaller, less-established local groups, given that fewer groups will receive support for EAGx.

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 24 July 2017 07:27:35PM *  3 points [-]

I'm curious what prompted this change - did organizers encounter a lot of difficult converting new conference attendees to more engaged EAs?

They were often stretched so thin from making the main event happen that they didn't have the capacity to ensure that their follow-up events were solid. We think part of the problem will be mitigated if the events themselves are smaller and more targeted towards groups with a specific level of EA understanding.

I'm also curious about what sort of support CEA will be providing to smaller, less-established local groups, given that fewer groups will receive support for EAGx.

Local groups can apply for funding through the EAGx funding application, as well as use the event-organizing resources we generated for EAGx. Depending on the size and nature of the event, they can receive individualized support from different CEA staff working on community development, such as Harri, Amy, Julia, and/or Larissa. If they're running a career or rationality workshop they may be able to get 80,000 Hours' or CFAR's advice or direct support.

Here are the event-organizing resources, if you'd like to check them out: https://goo.gl/zw8AjW

Comment author: Ben_West  (EA Profile) 26 July 2017 09:38:20PM 0 points [-]

Depending on the size and nature of the event, they can receive individualized support from different CEA staff working on community development, such as Harri, Amy, Julia, and/or Larissa.

Could you say more about what kind of (smaller, local, non-EAGx) events CEA would like to see/would be interested in providing support for?

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 02 August 2017 12:13:42AM 1 point [-]

In brief, large speaker events and workshops, depending on the needs of a local group. Perhaps self-evidently, large speaker events are best for nascent chapters trying to attract interest; workshops for augmenting the engagement and/or skill of existing members. There's some information about this in the Organizer FAQ, as well a prompts about this in the EAGx organizer application and on the "Get Involved' tab of effectivealtruism.org.

Comment author: Ben_West  (EA Profile) 13 August 2017 05:55:46PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: LawrenceC 25 July 2017 04:31:50AM 0 points [-]

Thanks! This makes sense.

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 23 July 2017 01:14:53PM *  1 point [-]

did organizers encounter a lot of difficult converting new conference attendees to more engaged EAs?

I am curious about this too.

In particular it feels to me that post event follow at EAGxs I have been to was weak. Does CEA think this is true of EAGxs to date? If so there a plan to improve on this? If there is not a plan can I offer my help to CEA to develop one?

Comment author: Roxanne_Heston  (EA Profile) 24 July 2017 07:35:30PM *  1 point [-]

Wonderful of you to offer! Follow-up hasn't been weak across-the-board but it's certainly a hard thing for organizers to juggle on top of everything else.

We have limited resources set up for this at the moment, such as: a) the ability to reach out to Harri for local group advice and funding, b) copies of Doing Good Better you can use for a book club, c) the chance to request EA Global tickets to raffle off, d) a series of follow-up emails to attendees, and e) brief advice for running a follow-up event (https://goo.gl/w9fkYS).

Happy to take suggestions for other things we might do.