EA Israel Strategy 2020-21

post by GidonKadosh, sella · 2020-09-26T13:22:37.169Z · score: 55 (24 votes) · EA · GW · 4 comments

Contents

  Context
    Summary for community builders
  1. Background & current status
  2. Goals & activities
    Main goal
    Secondary goals
    List of current activities
    Why we set broad goals
    Why we invest in direct-work projects 
  3. Current Focus
    Emphasis on highly-engaged individuals
    Emphasis on the success rates of our onboarding process
    Emphasis on our ability to scale
    Emphasis on handling donations properly
  4. Vision
  5. Branding strategy & audiences
    Branding goal
    Avoiding common misconceptions
    Pragmatically focus on diversity
    Emphasizing our community value
    Defining audiences
  6. Risks
  7. Location-specific considerations
    Opportunities
    Disadvantages
  8. Uncertainties and crucial considerations
None
4 comments

Context

This is the first time we are publishing EA Israel's in-depth strategy. This document will be updated over time, as our opinions change, and its most up-to-date version can be found here.

This post is a copy of the document's current version, and we will publish a new version to the forum once a year. In order to help keep track of the updates we make to this document, we will log significant changes in this document.

The contents of this document are important to the way we operate, and we are sincerely looking for feedback. For this purpose, we added questions we are particularly interested in feedback on at the end of each section. If you have feedback on any of those (or anything else), please comment on this forum post. For anonymous feedback, please use this form. You can also contact us at effectivealtruismisrael@gmail.com.

Summary for community builders

Throughout this document, we share links to different docs we work with, which might help other community builders:

We also cover a couple of nontrivial opinions we hold on community building:

1. Background & current status

The EA Israel group exists from Q4 2018.

We divide its members into four categories, which as of Sep 26, 2020 consist of:

2. Goals & activities

In this section, we define a broad scope of goals for EA Israel. Please note that in the next section we demonstrate how we prioritize these goals.

Main goal

Our main, high-level goal is to maximize our long-term impact as a community. Although this might seem like a trivial point for EAs, deliberately putting this definition in the focus of our group accounts for how we prioritize the secondary goals listed below.

An important aspect of our viewpoint is that we don’t see EA Israel as a separate organization from the rest of the movement. Through a multiplayer perspective, we should allocate additional value to courses of action in which we have a comparative advantage. In this sense, advocating for EA in Israel is easier for us than for other parts of the community.
This is our main motive for focusing on community building specifically in Israel, and why on the other hand we don’t see our scope limited to Israel given opportunities that are promising enough.

Secondary goals

These are instrumental goals that outline our top strategies and focus areas aimed at achieving our main goal of maximal impact.

List of current activities

We maintain a list of activities, which includes activities we currently run, activities that are ready for launch but are waiting for an interested volunteer to lead, and activities that require more thought before they can be launched. You are welcome to glance at it before continuing with this document. It might offer additional context for the rest of the document.

The list is hosted on Airtable, and also includes an activity update form, which we ask the contributors to fill once a month before our contributor meetings.

Why we set broad goals

We believe that in certain contexts, defining a broad set of goals can be better than exclusively focusing on the top priority goals. This is particularly relevant when utilizing willingness of volunteers to participate, as opposed to allocating funding or executive attention. This may be unintuitive in an EA context, where we often think of a fixed set of resources that we want to allocate optimally to maximize outcome. However, we claim that in the context of assigning projects to volunteers (especially new ones), the mindset of identifying opportunities is more fitting than that of prioritizing fixed resources.

We have two reasons for this stance:

Why we invest in direct-work projects

Pretty much all local EA communities invest resources in community building (by definition), yet there are vastly differing views about whether local EA communities should invest in performing direct-work projects (or, alternatively, leave all direct work to dedicated EA organizations and encourage community members to join such organizations).

At the initial stages of EA Israel, we explicitly chose to focus on community building and not engage in direct work. However, we received frequent feedback that people want something to do, and that they get the sense that we’re “only talking”. We believe there is a strong cultural effect at play, where Israelis tend to be very action-driven (“Tachles” attitude), though other contexts may also play a part, such as the framing of our community as a national group (specifically in comparison with the framing of a university group which has a more intellectual context).

Following are some key points regarding how we filter and prioritize direct-work projects today:

Possible feedback for this section: (1) Do you disagree with our openness for a broad scope of activities? (2) Do you think that we shouldn’t distinguish between volunteering and management resources? (3) Do you think that more diverse activities on offer doesn’t lead to a more diverse community? (4) Do you find any of these goals irrelevant for an EA local group? (5) Should we encourage our volunteers to work on projects for building the global community? (6) Do you disagree with the goals of influencing the nonprofit sector or academia? (7) Do you think we shouldn’t evaluate each project separately, but rather have a general approach of focusing only on community building?

3. Current Focus

Our biggest current bottlenecks are management resources and funding. This section describes how we prioritize and allocate these resources.

Emphasis on highly-engaged individuals

Since we founded the group two years ago, we encountered a vast interest in EA, with about a hundred participants in most of our events. So far we’ve been approached by 3-6 individuals per month who want to become more involved. But still we don’t have a sufficient number of highly-engaged members who can mentor others or lead activities that would get newcomers into deeper engagement circles. For this reason, we deliberately put more emphasis on the onboarding of members who are more likely to have the ability and capacity to lead projects, and we invest much less in our outreach efforts.

Emphasis on the success rates of our onboarding process

When we first began formulating our onboarding process, we realized we had low rates of success. Most of the individuals who approached us didn’t follow through with activities they showed initial interest in or with learning about EA. Low success rates lead not only to a loss of potential members, but also to a waste of the effort invested in them.

We break down failed cases into three main categories:

  1. Individuals who don’t relate to EA concepts enough to participate and are unlikely to change their disposition.
  2. Individuals who don’t relate to EA concepts due to misconceptions about them or about the community, such as believing it consists only of individuals of a narrow type (e.g. quantitative professions).
  3. Innate difficulty of individuals to commit to new activities, even when they truly want to participate.

How we tackle each of these cases:

If we judge that an individual belongs to category (1), we prioritize our efforts elsewhere.

Most of our attempts at reducing category (2) failures are done by attempting to improve our branding and online material, and less so on an individual basis. You can find our branding strategy below.

To address category (3), we emphasize the following:

Emphasis on our ability to scale

Our group is growing quickly, and the management resources required by our board members is growing respectively. We’re taking steps to upgrade our community infrastructure in order to support larger scales:

Emphasis on handling donations properly

We are about to receive our first large donation from a private donor, who approached us a few months ago. We have put a strong emphasis on utilizing these funds towards activities that are concrete, measurable and do not require high operational complexity. This will allow us to validate our ability to handle such funds, gain experience, and identify where we need to improve - with less risk of underutilizing the donation.

Our plans for allocating this donation:

Our full funding request can be found here.

Possible feedback for this section: (1) Should we be focusing on other things? (2) Any ideas on how we can onboard more highly-engaged members that will lead community building activities? (2) Any other way to improve the success rates of our onboarding process? (3) Please give feedback on the onboarding process document! (4) Are there other actions we should be taking to prepare for a larger scale? (5) Should we have different parameters for how we choose projects for funding? (6) Should we choose other projects for funding?

4. Vision

In this chapter, we discuss our vision for EA Israel in a few years from now. We break our vision down into concrete objectives, and specify metrics for keeping track of our progress on these objectives.

Our vision: A well-structured organization that coordinates a strong community and a few central large-scale projects, and produces significant impact.

  1. well-structured organization:
    1. Has clear and structured organizational processes.
    2. Actively works on mitigating our top risks.
      • Metrics: A dedicated survey (among our board members and several participants) about how we handle our top risks, which should be launched yearly just before our yearly risk review.
    3. Provides significant support for EA projects (networking, funding, mentoring, volunteering, etc.).
      • Metrics: Concrete metrics for each project, and documentation of the support we provided each project.
        In addition, help the foundation of at least 2 EA organizations until 2024.
    4. Has a transparent, successful management board that the community is satisfied with.
      • Metrics: Surveys about satisfaction from the community management, about the stability of the board, and considering the overall success through other metrics..
    5. Runs a successful onboarding process, measured by a high ratio between individuals who started the process, and those who eventually become highly engaged and aligned with EA.
  2. The Community:
    1. Diverse in demographics and skills. As an intermediate step, we strive to have a significant representation of different demographic groups, in order to help newcomers of each demographic group feel more welcomed.
    2. EA-aligned (even at the expense of the size of the group)
      • Metrics: We aim for at least 25% of our contributors circle to be highly proficient with EA, and at least 50% moderately proficient with EA. We are still looking into ways to evaluate proficiency with EA.
    3. Part of the global EA community
      • Metrics: we will measure the amount of GWWC pledges, EAG attendances, people who collaborate with EAs abroad, and people working at EA orgs. We also intend to survey for donations.
  3. Few central large-scale projects

Eventually, we want to be certain enough about specific impactful project opportunities we have as a group, and focus our management and funding resources specifically on those.

These projects can be focused on either community building, EA knowledge, fundraising or advocacy, as described in our secondary goals.

  1. Overall impact
    We intend to evaluate each of our activities separately in order to evaluate our overall impact and spot which activities are more promising than others.

Disclosure: So far we weren’t as good at measurement as we wish we would be, and as we are publishing this strategy document we are also implementing the means of measurement described in this section.

Possible feedback for this section: (1) We welcome any suggestions for metrics! (2) Should we also be measuring our work by community size, although this doesn’t reflect quality? And if so, do you have any idea of how to measure quality in this sense? (3) Do you have any good way of measuring proficiency in EA concepts?

5. Branding strategy & audiences

We think of “branding strategy” as an answer to the question “How do we want EA Israel to be perceived?”.

Our current answer to this question:

Branding goal

We aspire that the overwhelming majority of individuals who identify with EA’s concepts will identify with our brand. This is far from trivial, because:

Therefore, we should use our branding tools in such ways that newcomers’ perception of EA and EA Israel will attract as much of those who would identify with EA concepts if they spent a couple of hours reading about EA.

For this reason, we aim to communicate only EA core concepts. For instance, we try not to communicate that our community is suitable only for analytic individuals, which can be easily communicated by having a plain academic-like design style. We believe this focus is important for avoiding misconceptions, engaging more potential EAs, and encouraging diversity.

Avoiding common misconceptions

We want to avoid perceptions of the EA community as being focused exclusively on one domain, cause area or ethical framework, such as AI Risk, GiveWell charities, philosophy, utilitarianism, etc.
For example, something as simple as having the latest Facebook posts and upcoming event focus on Biorisk may result in a biased view of EA for individuals who scroll on our page at that time. To avoid that, we strive to:

Pragmatically focus on diversity

Lack of diversity (both demographic and intellectual) is already a significant, self-reinforcing problem in the EA community (1 [EA · GW], 2 [EA · GW], 3 [EA · GW], 4 [EA · GW], 5 [EA(p) · GW(p)]).

Our primary method for tackling this is by making sure that our image attracts the type of audiences we aim for. For instance, if we look like a community of mathematicians and philosophers, we will mostly attract more mathematicians and philosophers. We do this by:

Another method we use is focusing our outreach efforts on audiences with backgrounds we’re missing, such an Israeli community of women in Hitech.

Emphasizing our community value

We want newcomers to quickly recognize the value they can receive from participating in the community:

Defining audiences

We define “audiences” in the context of community strategy as the type of individuals who are the intended recipients of our communications (such as Facebook post or website page).

We believe that clarifying the definition of these audiences is highly important because it shapes our decision-making process regarding:

Another reason for this importance is that even without audience definitions, we are still biased by the mental model each of us has for the audiences we’re addressing. Instead, we want our volunteer writers to intentionally define their audiences.

We define each audience using the following dimensions:

We also hold a list of “typical communities”, in which we expect to find many potential EAs, and target them for collaborations or for advertising our activities. Examples of such communities are alumni of university excellence programs, debate communities, groups for EA-relevant professional domains.
We compiled this list of typical communities by considering the following attributes:

Possible feedback for this section: (1) Do you think we’re putting too much emphasis on the way we are perceived publicly (vs. investing in personal connections)? (2) Any feedback on our brand personality traits? (3) Are we tackling the problem of diversity correctly? (4) Should the community value of “Learn practical tools and frameworks” receive such emphasis, or do you think EA is more about asking the right questions than providing concrete prioritization and measurement tools? (5) Do you disagree with how we define audiences? (6) Do you disagree with how we define “typical communities”?

6. Risks

In order to assess the risks EA Israel is involved with, once a year we:

  1. Conduct a brief Pre-mortem exercise in order to detect new types of risks.
  2. Review the state of risks we have mentioned previously, in order to modify our current risk-mitigating solutions.

Our currently most significant risks are:

You can find our full risk assessment, along with solutions for each risk, in this document.

Possible feedback for this section: You’re more than welcome to comment directly on our risk assessment document!

7. Location-specific considerations

In this section we will describe several key features of community building that are specific to EA Israel.

Opportunities

Disadvantages

Possible feedback for this section: (1) Any additional advantages/disadvantages of national groups? (2) Are any of our advantages/disadvantages invalid in your opinion, or not significant enough to be mentioned? (3) Do you disagree with our approach to Israelis’ local preferences?

8. Uncertainties and crucial considerations

As explained at the beginning of this document, critical questions are mentioned at the end of each section. If you believe there is a missing critical question, this would be of great value to us. We welcome any sort of feedback, thank you!

We intend to make changes to this document as we make progress. Therefore, once a year we will create a new forum post referring to this document, note all significant changes, and copy all unresolved comments from the old forum post of the previous year.

Possible feedback for this section: Do you have feedback on the way we collect feedback? Do you have feedback on the way we collect feedback on the way we collect feedback?


Note: Throughout this document, the term “Israeli” refers to all individuals and organizations within the country of Israel, and is not a reference to ethnicity, culture, or political viewpoints.

Thanks to Edo Arad, Nadav Brandes, Asaf Ifergan, and Shay Ben Moshe for their valuable comments and feedback on this version.

4 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by BrianTan · 2020-09-27T04:39:24.835Z · score: 20 (8 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hey Gidon and Sella, thanks so much for posting this strategy document! It's very well-written, and I like and agree with the vision of EA Israel. I also like your emphasis on onboarding, branding strategy, and having multiple goals, and how your group does a pre-mortem.

I'm also just very impressed with how much EA Israel has done since Q4 2018, which is around the time EA Philippines was started as well. I did not know that EA Israel was running this many activities. It's great that your community also has a bias to action as well - I am thinking that EA Philippines should do something similar.

Here are just a few things I wanted to say or ask:

1. It seems like you've made a customized version of CEA's concentric circles / funnel model when you talked about your member categorization, which is your board, contributors, participants, and followers. Is it correct that people in your participants category need to be volunteering for EA Israel or be currently participating in a reading group? If so, it seems like your funnel is more for measuring how engaged people are with EA Israel, and not about how proficient they are with EA or if they're trying to live this out in their career or donations. I am thinking that EA Israel should also have separate "funnel metrics" where you categorize people based on CEA's concentric circles / funnel model. The recent 2020 EA groups survey asks for these metrics, so it would be useful for EA Israel to post and measure its funnel metrics on that too. This would also help you measure the size and quality of the EA community in Israel.

2. Do you and your board have any thoughts on how big you want EA Israel or your funnel to be 5 years from now, i.e. how many are board members, contributors, and participants to EA Israel? Or how many sub-groups you'd like, and what type of sub-groups these would be (i.e. cause-specific, profession-specific, or university groups)? I think this could be an important thing to include or think through as part of your vision, or as long-term metrics you want to target.

3. I think something missing from your vision is if EA Israel plans on setting up university groups. Does EA Israel have any plans on this so far? I think it's okay for EA Israel not to try setting this up within the next 12 months, but I think it should be a goal within the next 2-5 years. University groups are a bigger part of CEA's strategy now, and I think it would be good to put in your vision that you aim to have university groups.

4. What do you think is EA Israel's current % of time allocation between community building vs. direct work projects? Do you have a sense of what should be the ideal allocation for EA Israel across the two, or across your different projects?

comment by sella · 2020-10-02T09:43:55.708Z · score: 10 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Brian, thanks for the kind words and the insightful feedback!

Here are my thoughts on the points you raise (not necessarily coordinated or representative of EA Israel in general):

1. I totally agree with your point about having separate metrics for proficiency with EA vs. engagement with EA Israel. In practice, our contributors and participants groups are actually some mix between these two metrics. For example, EAs professionally working in high-priority paths were often included in them (if they were interested) even if they were not actively engaging with EA Israel. All of this is to say - I don't think we're neglecting people who are proficient or involved in EA in practice, but this only strengthens the case for referencing these metrics explicitly.

2. I agree there is room for some more longterm planning. To be honest, it has been very long since it was unclear whether EA Israel would survive months, let alone years. It was only fairly recently, when Gidi started working part time (and received CEA's community building grant which allowed him to do so), that we've been able to more meaningfully organize and plan. We've started with defining this strategy, which focuses mostly on the upcoming year, and have not yet done meaningful longer term planning (and will probably only do so after our new mode of operation settles a bit). Regarding many of your specific questions, such as the number of sub-groups, and how those would be divided - I genuinely don't know, and prefer an experimental/empirical approach rather than trying to dictate our end goal from first principles.

3. I think the comment about student groups is a great point, and wanted to share a few thoughts on this. Students are actually our top-priority audience group, and a majority of our outreach efforts are focused on students (including a new academic course, a new fellowship, thesis consulting with effective thesis and more). In fact, reading this comment I re-read the strategy doc and was surprised to find out students are not mentioned even once given how much we prioritize and discuss outreach to students internally. I think we should definitely update this fact as part of our strategy. The other when referring to student groups is the specific framework, for which student groups are one possibility. I am generally in favor of this, though less certain as to whether this is the right way for us to try and get students involved. Formal student groups are less common and popular in Israel than in many other countries (see David's comment about some reasons why), so we're still thinking about how to onboard and organize students. We're going to try fellowships this year, there are also "cells" which are groups of students organizing to take action on a specific topic (e.g. sustainability, or various political groups). Long story short, engaging students is one of our top priorities, though we're still not willing to commit to a specific framework for doing so.

4. I would roughly estimate that about 80% of our time is dedicated to community building & outreach, while only about 20% of time is dedicated to direct work projects. In terms of the optimal ratio, this is a bit challenging to phrase in a way that isn't misleading. As we mention in the strategy doc, a main driver of our involvement in direct work projects is new members' interest in doing them, and the fact that we think it's a good way to get people more involved. Since one of our top priorities is to grow the pipeline of people becoming deeply involved, and (given our strategy) this would have the effect of having more people working on direct-work projects (at least in the early stages of their involvement), then I would love to see the percentages of direct work projects go up. However, I would not want people working on community building & outreach to switch to working on direct-work projects.

Thanks again, and please keep the questions and feedback coming!

comment by Davidmanheim · 2020-09-30T11:33:35.434Z · score: 9 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I won't address all of these, especially since I'm not deeply involved in all of them, but on #3, there has been some discussion, and they are doing some work on this. We are trying to start such groups, but it's different than most other countries. This is mostly because college is done post-mandatory military service, starting at age 21 or older, and usually even later than that, so the students more career focused. That gives less time for activities like EA groups.

comment by Jan-WillemvanPutten · 2020-10-13T15:46:41.171Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Sella and Gidon,

Great to read all this, thoughtful considerations on many topics. I think the EA Netherlands (EAN) strategy is comparable to yours and therefore I would love to collaborate in the future. First a few comments from our experience:

1) About direct work / broad scope of activities

I think the Dutch and Israeli mentality are very similar, people want to do stuff when they are part of a community. In addition to the pro direct-work arguments and goals you've mentioned I think you can add another goal of direct projects: changing the way people in "regular" business and government act.

E.g. Unilever is one of the largest food companies of the world and uses a lot of animal products. Changing the companies stance on animal welfare would have enormous impact. Of course, people can't do that alone. Therefore encourage people to start EA Communities within companies, sectors and government (example from another community: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/BG68BvbaaT32u76kr/how-we-promoted-ea-at-a-large-tech-company-1). I spoke to George Howlett recently who coined the term workplace activism for this. He once started the EA Workplace Activism network which I would like to expand over the coming years.

We spark local business / government communities in multiple ways, ranging from lunchtime talks to young professionals to in-depth EA workshops to civil servants. These projects have direct effects (providing EA knowledge to influential people in Dutch society), but also indirect effects as growing our own community and putting attention on effective donations. These groups are usually way more affluent than students and are therefore also able to donate larger sums to effective charities. We just started on this project, but the first steps are promising.

I think focusing on business and government is more effective than focussing activities on existing (non-effective) charities. They are very hard to move in the right direction. Most of the times they even don´t focus on the right cause are, something that is even harder to change.

In addition I would like to stress that direct work is never a substitute for classic community building work, e.g. high quality events, fellowships, book clubs and all kind of other activities we also work on here.

2) University groups / funnel

CEA's recent focus on university groups is spot on in my opinion. Before the change of focus we already decided to spend quite some time kickstarting local university groups (The Netherlands has a relative large numbers of good universities). We help them providing our network, advice and knowledge. This is something we definitely will continue working on.

However, I still believe national groups are key to keep people engaged with EA after they graduated. Higher educated people often move to other cities after graduation and are probably interested in other types of EA communities and activities, something that university groups can´t offer. National groups are able to fill this gap. In that way Effective Altruism can overcome the status of youth movement (https://www.overcomingbias.com/2015/08/youth-movements.html).

University groups also cause a clear division between the younger university groups and the older national groups. I think that university groups make the national group more attractive to older groups, because it has the potential of increasing the average group age of national groups. Reason for this could be that young professionals are usually more reluctant to meet students that other young professionals.

3) Leadership structure

Our structure is a bit different. We have three board members with a seasoned history in EA. They have limited capacity (time-wise) but a well-developed EA network, experience and knowledge. The board gives advice to the management team, but also oversees the long term strategy of EAN.

Marieke and I form the management team. We have (for EA standards) quite some professional experience with on average ~10 years of working experience in multiple sectors. EAN shares the same goals as you: I am mainly responsible for direct projects and Marieke mainly for EA Community and Network. We get help from a heavily involved core team and many other amazing volunteers to work on these two goals.

I feel this structure offers the right checks and balances and gives us room to scale in the future. Our only current bottleneck to this is a lack of funding, something that still occupies a lot of management’s time. We need to change this soon if we want to sustain our current level of activities, let alone to grow the activities and to improve quality.

I am definitely open sharing materials and experiences, but also would love to hear more from you, especially about the way you measure all your metrics. We could learn a lot from that. Good luck!