.impact updates (1 of 3): New leadership, organizational overview and changes, LEAN

post by georgie_mallett · 2016-09-26T00:17:34.677Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · EA · GW · Legacy · 12 comments

New Leadership

Hi all! I’m Georgie - I recently took over as Executive Director of .impact, so I wanted to introduce myself and provide some updates on where we’re headed as an organisation. I’d be more than happy to talk to anyone who would like to chat about .impact operations, or if you’d just like to have a general chat! You can schedule a time to talk here.


Organizational overview and changes


Thus far, .impact has had numerous teams with several moving parts. With the help of some remarkable volunteers, we have been responsible for several notable projects, including:


The EA Hub

The EA Forum

The EA Newsletter (which has reached over 10,000 subscribers in less than a year, with the help of volunteers including Tom Ash, Pascal Zimmer, Sören Mindermann, and Michał Trzęsimiech among others)

The Annual EA Survey

The EA Wiki

EA Australia’s website and donation routing system

The Local Effective Altruism Network (LEAN)

The first Local Group Survey

Supporting Students for High-Impact Charity (SHIC)


The Hub and the Forum are monitored by Harysh Ilanghovan (.impact's Director of Technical Operations) and some of our volunteers. The monthly EA Newsletter is composed by the volunteers I mentioned, among others. We will continue to produce the annual EA Survey, as it is not only extremely valuable for the movement, but also significantly informs and enables our internal evaluations and outreach strategies. We have decided to scale back our time on the EA Wiki, so as not to spread ourselves too thin.


The majority of our time will be spent on LEAN, with some new projects in the pipeline (more to follow on this in subsequent posts).



The Local Effective Altruism Network (LEAN)


.impact is responsible for launching and developing LEAN, the Local Effective Altruism Network. LEAN has a database of around 300 groups: 155 of these were seeded by us, and 57 either contacted us directly or responded to a page on the Hub where we offered to help set up groups. These groups are sometimes made up of hundreds of members, while others are just starting and only have one organizer operating as a point of contact.

We offer a number of resources to support these groups, the details of which can be found on the LEAN website. Our most recent LEAN Newsletter also includes some examples of our achievements and work. You can find specific details about the resources and support we offer on the site, so rather than repeating that content, I will use this opportunity to explain our strategy moving forwards.


Beginning with the LEAN website, we intend to build our public-facing presence as the ‘go-to’ for high-touch community building and local group support.


We have already responded to many of the requests logged in the Local Group Survey, including creating websites, fronting web hosting costs, setting up paid meetup accounts, providing Mailchimp access, and providing tips on fundraising and ideas for events. We will continue to provide these resources to all groups. However, there are particular subsets of local groups that we’d like to focus on.


There were two very evident conclusions we were able to draw from the Local Groups Survey, which seem to be true even when accounting for the sampling issues and biases:


  1. Most of the impact comes from the largest groups (you can pick your jaw up off the floor now)

  2. Local Groups risk death or dormancy due to loneliness (is someone chopping onions around here?)


Therefore, the subsets that we’d like to focus on are: “medium-sized”* city groups and groups with only one organizer.


To address the first observation, we will be working closely with a few medium-sized city groups in order to develop them into “large groups”**. City groups arguably have a more difficult task ahead of them than university groups, who have an existing infrastructure that enables their activity. This assistance, therefore, is (ever so slightly) less tractable but more likely to be counterfactual.


To avoid dormancy, as in the second observation, we will be developing high-touch relationships with groups that have only one or two organizers. In the survey, most reasons for group dormancy included lack of motivation stemming from the inability to find a co-organiser or others with a high enough level of enthusiasm for organising meetups or events. The difficulty in finding co-organizers made the prospect of starting a group more intimidating, and the sense that no one in the area knew about EA led to apathy and, thus, inaction. We will focus on either locating a co-organizer for these groups, or acting as a remote co-organizer. This means increasing our contact time with them (via video calls and emails), and ensuring that this communication is substantive and ongoing.


LEAN have a number of former, or experienced, local group leaders who have kindly volunteered their time to Skype those who are just starting out; many people who have spent a year or more growing a local group have a wealth of knowledge to impart to those who are either completely new to the process, or would like to strategize to scale up, or have more specific issues to address. This is a great form of community support. If you would like to help with this project, or would like to Skype one of our experienced local group leaders, please do reach out to us.


On a related note: in the EA Survey, only 19% of respondents found the EA community ‘very welcoming’ (45%: welcoming, 27%: neither welcoming nor unwelcoming, 5%: unwelcoming, 4%: very unwelcoming), so perhaps we can tangentially address this (as well as some other community issues) via our support.


In general, increased and ongoing communication will be an approach that we will take with all groups: less spam, more personal conversations. We want to provide the resources and support, but more importantly, we want it to be fun - because who doesn’t love good, clean, well-organized fun?


We will still be providing all groups with numerous resources and reaching out to everyone with new, exciting initiatives. And if you like new, exciting initiatives, you should probably keep your eyes peeled for the second and third installments of .impact’s updates, which will be up on the Forum soon!


If you have any feedback, or have an interest in opportunities to donate or work with us, please do get in touch.


For Georgie and .impact operations: georgiedotimpact@gmail.com

LEAN, especially if you’d like to try your hand at building a local group: lean@eahub.org


* “medium-sized” broadly refers to groups with 4-10 committed organizers, who have events that could attract over 80 participants. 

** “large groups” broadly refers to those with 10+ committed organizers, who have events that regularly attract over 80 participants, are responsible for a number of GWWC pledges and have a somewhat established presence in the local community.



Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Ozzie Gooen (oagr) · 2016-09-27T05:15:22.267Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Great work, I'm really looking forward to following your progress!

comment by Nick_Robinson · 2016-09-26T22:46:21.347Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Excited to see LEAN grow! And happy to help. Thanks for the update :D

comment by Tom_Ash · 2016-09-26T18:29:33.374Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Great post - thanks Georgie!

comment by [deleted] · 2016-10-06T05:06:54.399Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

I am extremely confused about infrastructure of all these organizations, resources and other stuff. I hope you or someone else can answer a few questions:

  1. How is .impact related to Centre for Effective Altruism?
  2. What's the difference between LEAN and eahub?
  3. There are so many websites and resources. What are the most useful ones?
  4. How many of the groups are situated not in developed western countries? Does percentage of English-speaking people in country predict how many EA groups there are?
comment by georgie_mallett · 2016-10-06T16:08:09.612Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Hey! Thanks for the questions :)

  1. Both .impact and CEA are completely independent, other than helping each other out in a general sense, or choosing to collaborate on particular projects where it makes sense to do so.

  2. The purpose of LEAN (Local Effective Altruism Network) - a .impact project - is to seed local EA groups and support their leaders with guidance, expertise and technical resources. The purpose of the EA Hub (eahub.org) - also a .impact project - is to have a centralized site where EAs can put up an individual or group profile, record their actions and donations, find a local group in their area, find various resources etc.

  3. This is dependent on what you're looking for. LEAN and its website (localeanetwork.org) is good for starting and building a local group, the EA Hub is good for finding other EAs and groups, the Newsletter is good for keeping up to date with everything going on in the community. I could try and recommend the best sites and resources if you had a particular goal in mind?

  4. I just did a very quick, rough search and there's around 110. And there are undoubtedly more resources in English than in other languages, so this likely reflects in group demographics. If it's something you're interested in, there are some non-English language sites listed here: https://eahub.org/links#non-english-languages

Hope this helps.

comment by BenMillwood · 2016-10-10T12:56:01.146Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

How would you compare LEAN with GWWC's chapters? Do you support GWWC chapters directly?

comment by georgie_mallett · 2016-10-10T14:56:18.203Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Hey Ben :)

We do support GWWC chapters and 80k chapters, any local EA groups.

The groups that we've seeded have been general EA groups, but if for some reason the group leaders wanted to focus on GWWC or 80K, that would be fine and we'd still support them.

Most of the support we offer applies to any local group. The websites we make for groups are from a standard template we made, so they're general EA sites, but we let the groups adapt them, so I suppose they could turn them into GWWC/80K specific sites if they wanted to.

comment by Kerry_Vaughan · 2016-09-28T21:12:00.384Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the post.

A quick strategy question for you. You mentioned that

1) Most of the impact comes from the largest groups 2) Local Groups risk death or dormancy due to loneliness

Given 1), I'm interested in why you've decided to work on interventions for 2). It seems plausible that a better use of resources would be to double down on the large groups and seed new groups mostly for the purposes of seeing if they get large.

comment by georgie_mallett · 2016-09-29T21:20:10.388Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the question, although I’m sad that you didn’t include my jokes... ;)

I had this in an earlier iteration of the post (I’d cut it for the sake of brevity) so I’ll just paste here with some additions:

“There will be comparatively more time spent on converting medium-sized groups into large groups: we know that most of the impact so far has come from this. [In addition, focusing on city group growth is more likely to be counterfactual than focusing on university group growth]

So why spend any time at all on making sure that groups don’t die out? Well, we want to grow the community, but there is also an abundance of value in:

a) Making the community welcoming b) Building a diverse community c) Strengthening the commitment of existing EAs

...and thus having an overall greater impact.

If there is a recurring issue that people feel lonely or unwelcomed by the community [see the EA Survey and the Local Group survey], this is something we need to address for the long-term impact of EA.

Likewise, if group growth is solely dependent on pre-existing hospitable conditions and no one is helping the less likely candidates, not only do we reduce our chances of having a counterfactual impact, we’ll also miss out on a wealth of viewpoints that represent valuable opportunities for impact. [As well as making local group work more susceptible to the Schelling Effect.]”

On seeding new groups and seeing if they get large vs improving our services for the hundreds of groups we’ve already seeded:

Seeding groups and simply “seeing if they get large” would be ok - it would mean we nudged them to take the first step - but it wouldn’t be great. The point is that, based on what we’ve observed from the hundreds of groups we’ve seeded, we think they wouldn’t “get large” without our intervention. We think most of them would die out, so our work to provide encouragement and guidance is extremely valuable.

comment by Kerry_Vaughan · 2016-09-29T22:12:05.580Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this.However, I'm still a bit confused.

You seem to be saying that devoting resources to smaller groups is useful for:

a) Making the community welcoming b) Building a diverse community c) Strengthening the commitment of existing EAs

But, presumably, all of these goals are better accomplished by spending resources on the groups with the most people since all of these benefits depend on the number of people in the groups.

It could be that you think preventing groups from dying out is important for improving diversity in the community, but this could only be true if some demographics are systematically more likely to trying to start an EA group and fail. Otherwise, we would expect the demographics of chapter leaders to roughly match the demographics of EA as a whole.

The reason I'm asking all of this is to try to compare models of why groups succeed and why groups fail. Presumably, our goal is to create vibrant, self-sustaining communities like those in SF, London, Boston and elsewhere. I have a lot less on-the-ground experience than you do, but I think there are roughly four phases that a group needs to go through to be effective and sustainable.

1) The group is founded by (or quickly attracts) a highly dedicated, energetic, and skilled founder. 2) The founder is able to attract a small group of highly dedicated chapter members to help found the group. 3) The group establishes tactics for regularly attracting new chapter members. 4) The founder sets up a system for passing leadership of the group onto a highly dedicated chapter member.

I think the skill of the founder matters a great deal because getting people to join a chapter is much harder early on than it is later. This is because chapters are more valuable the more people are in them. We should expect that recruiting the second person is going to be much harder than recruiting the 20th person.

My rough hypothesis is that we probably lack the ability to substantially improve the skills and abilities of founders and so the supply of excellent founders is probably the bottleneck on establishing sustainable groups.

If this is true, then it makes sense to spend time identifying and cultivating highly-dedicated founders, but it probably doesn't make sense to spend much time trying to save groups from disappearing. I'm interested in whether your agree with this model and if not, where you think we disagree.

comment by georgie_mallett · 2016-10-05T16:57:36.773Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this, I don't think we disagree all that much actually - let's chat about it in our Skype.

And for anyone else that wants to chat: calendly.com/georgiedotimpact

comment by Gleb_T · 2016-09-28T16:33:48.848Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Nice to see this progress!