Richenda comments on Review of CZEA "Intense EA Weekend" retreat - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Dunja 06 April 2018 11:44:53AM *  2 points [-]

Thanks for this, great info and presentation and a very well planned event! That said, I'm in general rather skeptical of the impact such events have on anything but the fun of the participants :) I don't have any empirical data to back this claim (so I might as well be completely wrong), but I have an impression that while such events help like-minded people to get to know each other, in terms of an actual, long-term impact on the goals of EA they don't do much. And here is why: those who're enthusiastic about EA and/or willing to contribute in a certain way will do so anyway. For them online information, or a single talk may even be enough. And the other way around: those who aren't much into it will rarely become so via such an event.

I am aware that this may be quite an unpopular view, but I think it would be great to have some empirical evidence to show if it's really wrong.

My guess is that events organized for an effective knowledge-building in the given domain (including concrete skills required for a very concrete tasks in the given community, some of which were a part of your event) would be those that would make more of a difference. Say, an EA community realizes they lack the knowledge of gathering empirical data or the knowledge of spreading their ideas and attracting new members. In that case, one could invite experts on these issues to provide concrete intensive crash-courses, equipping the given community so that it can afterwards put these skills to action. This means a hard-working event, without much extra-entertainment activities, but with a high knowledge gain. I think networking and getting to know others is nice, but not as essential as the know-how and the willingness to apply it (which may then spontaneously result in a well networked community).

(Edit: I once again checked the primary goal of your event and indeed, if you want to provide a space for people to get to know one another, this kind of retreat certainly makes a lot of sense. So maybe my worries were misplaced given this goal, since I rather had in mind the goal of expanding the EA community and attracting new members).

Comment author: Richenda  (EA Profile) 13 April 2018 01:23:07AM 2 points [-]

Hi Dunja,

Actually there is empirical research on this! LEAN interviewed EA group organisers as part of the 2017 LEAN Impact Assessment, and actually face to face, in person experiences such as retreats and EAG frequently came up as the most significant, landmark influence for a fair few successful organisers in actually kick starting them into getting something going, and also giving them the confidence, reassurance and optimism to see it as a worthwhile investment of their time.

I was slightly surprised by how much of a big factor this was for people, but the evidence seems pretty strongly supportive at this stage.


Comment author: Dunja 14 April 2018 11:47:29AM 2 points [-]

Hi Richenda, great stuff, thanks for sharing the link! that's indeed a big impact and it's valuable to know for future events. It fits very well with what Evan and Jan have written below :)