Comment author: Richenda  (EA Profile) 10 January 2018 08:37:36PM *  3 points [-]

"I’m not suggesting that quantitive facts should be ignored during the hypothesis generation stage, just that we need to understand the hypothesis space before we can choose appropriate metrics, otherwise we may artificially limit the set of theories that we consider."

I very much agree with this view methodologically. This is why we used qualitative research methods in addition to quantitative for the LEAN impact assessment. There is real risk of narrowing perspective and obscuring important factors from view if you commit to specific metrics prematurely. Qualitative research design is based on the aim of keeping the research process grounded and inductive, always responsive to unanticipated factors, regularly revisiting fundamental problem framing and steering sharply clear of methodological individualism, which is the approach you described (

In the case of the impact assessment (where LEAN was trying to judge how effective our group support programme is, and how much impact groups have), we could look at metrics like group size, the number of individuals converted to EA, lifestyle changes, donations, pledges, events held and so forth. However qualitative interviews were used to piece together more complicated pathways that connect different nodes. The EA network is relatively small, which means that detailed examples can be very informative. I would like to see mixed methods of this kind used more.

If people want to avoid methodological individualism while still using quantitative techniques, social network analysis and multiple correspondence analysis are two quantitative techniques that many sociologists have used in order to tackle similar issues when working with much larger datasets. Social network analysis allows you to map out 'pipelines' of the kind you described in order to identify which nodes in the community are the most prominent and influential in terms of providing critical connections.

We don't, however, even need to do any more empirical analysis of EA to know that what you say is true... that many of the most important, high impact and high yield developments and achievements come down to an interaction between different community and information sources all coming together in a fortuitous way for a given trajectory. We can be sure of this not only by reflecting on examples in EA but also because this is simply a sociological human fact (often analysed and illustrated in the sprawling 'social capital' research field). The question then becomes, as you suggest, how do we cultivate the right environment for these vital spontaneous connections and interactions to take place?

My opinion on this is that we already do very well in this regard. Not through any virtue per se, other than the fact that the smaller a community is, the faster and more readily connections will arise (too small, of course, and you run out of useful nodes). However we definitely can do better, and the most urgent area for practical intervention is restructuring this forum in order to better serve the EA online community. This is something that has come out very clearly both in the 2017 Local Group Survey but also our interviews with group organisers. I think it is also quite self evident. On offer for budding EAs are either dead backwater Facebook groups with no life, or monstrous central groups with hundreds of members where only the most confident EAs feel comfortable posting. The forum is similar. Although the option of anonymity probably empowers some people to speak up, there is a much larger collective of lurkers who will feel too intimidated to contribute. A system of subforums that allow sheltered zones targetted at different kinds of EA would encourage a good deal more to come out of the woodwork and allow them to connect to one another. Individuals could then progress from a newbie friendly subforum to more 'advanced' or in depth content and conversations. I'm very happy that CEA will be taking on a restructure of the forum in the coming months.

Another area that can be optimised is the streamlining and organisation of content into a more user friendly and accessible format. This is something LEAN will be working on in the near future both in terms of making existing content more navigable but also in terms of continuing to make bespoke introductions between aligned individuals and organisations, but also helping EAs and EA groups to find one another more easily (like through our map of EAs) and through maintaining up to date contact information, and ensuring that it is easily found.

Comment author: KevinWatkinson  (EA Profile) 04 January 2018 03:43:26PM 0 points [-]

I note the mention of Peter Singer. I don't know a great deal about different areas of EA, but he features quite heavily in the EAA space (he is often considered a parent of EA as he is considered a father of the modern animal movement). Perhaps it would be worthwhile emphasising and working on areas where there is overlap between different moral theories. I tend to think this doesn't happen enough, but it could be a worthwhile area in which to allocate more resources that could help mitigate some of those issues.

Comment author: Richenda  (EA Profile) 04 January 2018 07:23:20PM 1 point [-]

Hi Kevin, I'm sure some would benefit from more resources on moral theory. I think casebash is right, though, that we are comparatively strong on theory, but comparatively weak on available practical actions. With the LEAN programme we still have a fairly long wish list to deliver for groups on before we'd be in a place to be worrying about adding theoretical material. The responses in this assessment so far suggest that most organisers are very happy with the quality and variety of written resources that already exist, but that they want to see existing content tidied and presented in a more uniform and accessible way. It also seems that organisers would most value new material in the area of movement growth and outreach technique, and on the issue of impact assessment methodology. So this would probably be the first thing to address before writing more theoretical exposition. That said, if EAs want to write such pieces and post them in personal blogs or here on the forum, you can be sure that many organisers are watching the forum and finding that useful.

Comment author: Nekoinentr 04 January 2018 07:25:35AM 4 points [-]

Surely if someone gave you a few hundred dollars to sustain a staff member such as yourself to spend a few man days leveraging volunteer tech & design effort, you'd do it? So less a matter of prioritizing things and more a matter of the EA Community Fund covering low hanging fruit like this so you don't have to take time you presumably don't have laboriously convincing someone that this is worth those few hundred dollars.

Comment author: Richenda  (EA Profile) 04 January 2018 07:04:47PM *  4 points [-]

I mostly agree. However there are definitely some strategic, management-level things that have to be decided when it comes to the Hub. There are an infinite number of fantastic ideas from EAs regarding what things they might want to see, and it's not a straightforward matter to judge how best to go forward. Particularly when it also means making sure we complement the platform that CEA is developing. Some factors include major choices about things like which codebase we continue with, creating a structure that allows highly skilled EAs in tech to contribute to some degree when they want to, and also making sure we don't waste resources making a start with something unless we're confident we'll be able to maintain it appropriately in the long run. Those are just some of the matters involved, and in this regard available bandwidth, both of myself and our tech labour has been a limiting factor for sure.

However we've been making a lot of fast gains since we hired our new tech officer, Larissa, in November. We also have the guidance of seasoned EAs working in tech, and I'm very optimistic about 2018!

Comment author: casebash 03 January 2018 11:46:56PM *  5 points [-]

I also feel that EA hub is outdated. Firstly, I'm not a fan of the green design - I suspect that a more modern design would add credibility to the whole enterprise. Secondly, the interface isn't particularly well designed. I think it might be better if there was just one point for the people in each city and clicking there showed you all the names. Lastly, it seems like it would be nice if you could get notifications when a new person is found near you and if people to opt-in to receive messages from other EAs. If done well, we might make it significantly easier for new EA groups to get off the ground.

I also think that the difficulty in finding actions to take is very concerning. EA needs more do-ers than thinkers, but right now, we have a negative selection against do-ers because there are plenty of interesting ideas to think about, but much less clear actions to take.

Comment author: Richenda  (EA Profile) 04 January 2018 04:41:57AM 2 points [-]

We agree about the EA Hub. However we were overstretched across too many projects, and have been in the process of identifying which things to prioritise, and which cost-effective things we can deliver to a high standard. This assessment and decisions in the next few months will be critical for the direction of the site.


2017 LEAN Impact Assessment: Qualitative Findings

  Quantitative Findings Qualitative Findings Evaluation and Strategic Conclusions Methodology   This document is the second in the LEAN Impact Assessment Series, briefly summarising relevant data from our qualitative interviews with 31 EA group organisers. Click here to read the previous report from the series [1]. The third and penultimate... Read More
Comment author: SiebeRozendal 18 December 2017 02:56:36PM *  2 points [-]

Thanks for these findings! Especially looking forward to see the strategic analysis.

Some small remarks:

  1. Surprised to see that not many people use when the average boost is 21% to attendance. In Groningen it's definitely helping us, especially with some more diverse participants than our personal networks (although repeated attendance seems lower for people coming through
  2. The graph under 'Practical support and new ideas' is wrong, it's the same as the one above.
  3. Percentages would have been a little nicer to read than numbers, as the number of respondents varied

A random idea to help groups: A checklist with 'easy to do stuff that improves groups'/low hanging fruit, that groups can go through to evaluate themselves. On the list could be things such as (or whatever else you think works best):

  • Automated sign ups for mailing list
  • group
  • Website

If it's being used, it can be supplemented with short walkthrough or links to how-to's.

Comment author: Richenda  (EA Profile) 21 December 2017 07:21:56PM 0 points [-]

Thanks Siebe, I'll add your suggestion to our list of stuff to do.

I'm glad was helpful for you guys. I think that there are demographic differences in terms of which places have strong participation and which places don't. In the UK I had never heard of until I became involved in EA. We know that it ends up being highly useful for a minority of groups, and non trivially useful for others. We allow people to experiment with it, but then aim to check in on groups every few months or so and close down the groups if it turns out to be no good for that particular location. I have been toying with the idea of contacting Meetup to ask if they would share their internal data on regional use patterns. I doubt they'd want that information public though.

Comment author: Henry_Stanley 09 December 2017 03:57:31PM *  2 points [-]

Thanks for putting this together!

Given that most EA groups don't have websites, and that only 6 out of 10 of those that do said that the website was 'significantly useful', should we just get rid of websites altogether? Having a domain name that forwards to a Facebook group might be enough, and (beyond renewing the domain name) has basically no overhead at all.

Comment author: Richenda  (EA Profile) 10 December 2017 04:14:09AM 2 points [-]

It's a fair question, and one I've been seriously thinking over since I took over LEAN. As Tee suggests, websites are enormously useful to a small number in a way that makes up for the time and resources 'lost' by making it available in cases where it doesn't pan out as that effective. Secondly, a lot of the answers we got in interviews amounted to 'well right now we haven't made use of our website, but that's because we don't have the tech manpower and need help to get what we want from this'. So I think there are groups that would be making good use of it if it was more user friendly, or if we were able to provide some minimal support for content management. Overall I think that the static site generator you're working on is a perfect compromise. We'll continue taking a critical eye, and may still pull the plug at a later date if we think it's not cost effective. But right now I think it will be.


2017 LEAN Impact Assessment: Quantitative Findings

  Quantitative Findings Qualitative Findings Evaluation & Strategic Conclusions Methodology   The Local Effective Altruism Network (LEAN) is a Rethink Charity project initiated in 2015, which focuses on providing material and informational assistance to university and local EA groups around the world.   This document is the first in the... Read More

2017 LEAN Impact Assessment

Rethink Charity is happy to announce that the Local Effective Altruism Network (LEAN) is conducting an impact assessment due for completion in November 2017. LEAN is now in it’s third year of operation. Although we have previously assessed specific services, this will be the most comprehensive investigation to date. We... Read More
Comment author: rhys_lindmark 18 August 2017 04:01:06PM 1 point [-]

Thanks for aggregating this information, Richenda! One quick bucket of thoughts around EA groups + universities:

  1. How are LEAN/CEA/EAF thinking about university chapters? Have they been an effective way of building a local community? Are there any university-focused plans going forwards?
  2. Are there other movements trying a university-focused strategy? Could we partner/learn from them? I'm thinking about something like Blockchain Education Network (see and

Thanks Richenda!

Comment author: Richenda  (EA Profile) 23 August 2017 05:33:18PM 1 point [-]

Hi Rhys,

Yes, Universities are especially good environments in which to start EA groups for a number of reasons (lots of young people with plenty of free time who are actively reaching for new ideas, experiences and activities, a lot of infrastructural support from institutions, student unions, a captive audience, etc.)

We are very mindful of the differences between local groups and University groups. Internally we work on building expertise about these differences, and customising the support and advice we give based on the nature of the group in question.

We have also drawn on the expertise of other successful student based movements. For example, the Secular Student Alliance has some excellent group growth and management guides which we pass on for recommended reading (while giving full credit, of course).

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