Guide to Successful Community 1-1s

post by huwthomas · 2018-11-23T15:06:13.880Z · EA · GW · 6 comments

Contents

  Introduction
  Getting Leads
  Reaching Out Continuously
  Intro 1-1s
    Aim:
    Aims:
    Questions to Keep the Conversation Flowing or Related to EA:
  Mentor 1-1s
    Aims:
    Aims:
    Cause Prioritisation
    Questions:
      General questions:
      Inquiring into cause prioritisation:
  Following Up
    
    1-1s Example Message
    1-1s Example Message
  Common Resources to Send People After a 1-1
None
6 comments

Huw Thomas & Darius Meissner (info.eaoxford@gmail.com)

Throughout this document, “us/we” refers to EA Oxford. A lot of the content and thinking behind this document is based on a similar write-up by James Aung.

Introduction

This document aims to give some tips on running 1-1 meetings with members of your local EA community, based on our experience with running these over the last year and a half in Oxford. It also aims to motivate other group leaders to start experimenting with running 1-1s in their local community.

The main aims of a 1-1 are:

Getting Leads

We tend to find people for 1-1s in pretty standard ways: e.g. through events, Facebook and mailing lists. Here are some ways that we have had success acquiring leads for 1-1s:

If you have less time for 1-1s, you might want to prioritise people who seem most promising, for example by only asking people who pick up books at events for a chat, rather than asking most people. Filter more or less depending on your capacity.

Reaching Out Continuously

Don’t forget to also proactively reach out to current members of your community. Indeed, given that it’s more important to get some people all of the way through the funnel than to get everyone to the next stage of the funnel, you should generally prioritise meeting with people who you know are already engaged. Deciding exactly who the “current members of your community” are is tricky, but attendance at events and knowledge about EA are useful heuristics. We tend to err on the side of reaching out to more people, as we have the capacity to do so.

Hopefully, you’ll know most of your community through 1-1s and other introductory events. To reach out just shoot them a quick message, either by email or, preferably, by Facebook and ask if they’d like to meet for coffee or a walk to talk about EA. We tend to do this about 3 times per year per person (once per term), though we’ll reach out more often – e.g. 6 times a year – if someone appears to be attending events frequently and is keen to learn more about EA in their spare time.

Intro 1-1s

This is the first 1-1 that someone will have with a member of your group. When people attend Newcomers socials and similar events, a big part of their first impression of Effective Altruism will be determined by the other attendees. One of our overarching motivations for running intro 1-1s is that it allows you to reduce the noise in introducing people to Effective Altruism. With an intro 1-1, you can have a face-to-face conversation, provide tailored reading material and make an effort to be a good representative of the community. This decreases the likelihood that the person will be put off by the community as they just begin to engage with the ideas, which is a common failure mode.

Be enthusiastic and show a genuine interest in the attendee. Don’t ‘attack’ the other person’s views, don’t try to ‘win’ arguments, and be especially considerate. Most of the time, you can just chat about what comes up naturally. Keep in mind that in an intro 1-1, you will be the main point of contact with the EA community for the other person, and you will be perceived as a representative of EA as a whole.

Primary Aim:

Secondary Aims:

I recommend over-preparing (e.g. running through the above) beforehand and spending a little time thinking about how each 1-1 could have been improved afterwards at least for your first 5-10 conversations (though I try do this consistently). Running 1-1s is a skill, and being very purposeful about trying to improve will speed up the learning process. See deliberate performance in people management [EA · GW] for more context, and ideas on how to do this.

Mentor 1-1s

These are for people who have already had an intro 1-1, attended a workshop or discussion group, or been involved in Effective Altruism in some other way. Frame these 1-1s to yourself as a way of reducing friction for people on their path to becoming more engaged EAs: identifying arguments and considerations that they haven’t engaged with yet, giving them the affordance to discuss their problems with EA or their current feelings on cause prioritisation, and acting as a commitment mechanism to help them with whatever they most need to do next to develop, such as reading a specific article or book. These conversations will be somewhat more directed and purposeful than intro 1-1s, and you should spend a little time beforehand reflecting on your goal for the conversation. Do be careful about lecturing at people and pushing ideas – it’s preferable to develop a toolkit of questions [EA · GW] that encourage people to explore and engage further.

Primary Aims:

Secondary Aims:

Discussing Cause Prioritisation

This section of the 80,000 Hours career guide and the articles it links to, argue that cause prioritisation could decide 99% of one’s impact - because some problem areas are 100 or 1,000 times more pressing than those that people often focus on - though see Charity Cost-Effectiveness in an Uncertain World for a counterargument. Regardless, it seems that cause prioritisation could determine a large amount of an individual's overall impact. It also becomes more difficult and painful to change our beliefs when we’ve made plans that are based on them. This is why we think it is important for people to think about cause prioritisation first, as the cornerstone of all their other EA-related decisions.

We don’t think people should somehow work out what the biggest problem in the world is entirely for themselves: We expect people to need to defer to experts about certain issues, especially empirical ones. Our aim is to get a feeling of how sophisticated their cause prioritisation models are, to identify which important ideas they haven’t heard yet, and which arguments for and against these ideas they haven’t engaged with yet, and then to nudge them towards thinking about these arguments and ideas, and to follow up with relevant resources.

To do this, we use our toolkit of questions. When we ask questions like “have you thought about cause prioritisation”, people can avoid properly engaging, and simply answer “yes”. Instead, we generally prefer asking open-ended questions, which actually make people engage their models and explain their understanding of a concept - this allows us to jump in to correct misunderstandings, or to socratically nudge them to consider alternative points of view. Some example questions are included below. We generally then have a good sense of which arguments they haven’t yet engaged with, and we've opened the door for them to begin thinking about them. We’ll then send over some resources afterwards to help them engage with these ideas. Your group might also have specific events that are particularly well suited for learning about cause prioritisation that you could direct people to.

Of course, doing this well is reasonably dependent on your having engaged with these resources yourself a lot too - you need to be able to talk confidently about their content, and be able to spot which resources will be most relevant for the person. At the bottom of the page we’ve listed some of the most important articles to understand and to direct people to, but there’s no substitute for spending a lot of your own time reading about EA, keeping up with forum posts and with 80,000 Hours Podcasts.

Most people will at this stage be on-board with arguments in favour of prioritising cost-effective global health interventions, though sometimes there are issues that people still want to discuss, such as whether these interventions neglect systemic change. More common sticking points include the extent to which they have engaged with arguments about prioritising animal welfare or the long-term future. You may also want to discuss specific interventions within causes, for example, why we should be worried about synthetically engineered pathogens, or more specifically, why we need some people to specialise in policy within this space.

Useful Questions:

It’s important to become comfortable with challenging beliefs – asking people for their reasoning, and offering alternative viewpoints. Of course, there is a fine line between challenging beliefs and coming across as confrontational. Sticking with asking questions - rather than stating bluntly when you disagree or arguing for specific viewpoints - tends to work best. Generally, just make sure that you show respect to different opinions, and don’t act like you have all the answers.

General questions:

Inquiring into cause prioritisation:

Following Up

We believe a significant part of the value from all of our events comes from encouraging people to engage with high-fidelity EA resources (in particular books!) in their own time. Giving out a book on an important EA topic, perhaps one you spoke about during the 1-1 (and suggesting that you meet to discuss it at some point in the future) could determine a lot of the impact of your 1-1.

We usually offer people the opportunity to ‘borrow a book from EA Oxford’. This provides us with a nice opportunity to follow up with them after a couple of months and save some money on books. However, we ultimately don’t care a lot about getting the books back, as the expected value per book recipient seems to far outweigh the cost of the book.

We tend to offer people one of the following books (depending on circumstances):

After an intro 1-1, the content we send out is usually pretty standardised, though we may send out one article relevant to what was discussed. After a mentor 1-1, we make an effort to think of the articles that would be most useful to the person we spoke with. We may send articles based on what we discussed, what articles seem relevant to their subject or career path, or simply what articles we believe they would find interesting. Remember that as well as furthering their interests, the follow-up is in part about challenging them. If they indicate interest in a cause area, you might want to send both a relevant piece on this area and a piece on another high-impact area, and explain in the follow-up message that we like to encourage people to explore, and to challenge their beliefs.

Scheduling

In the past, we have reached out to people potentially interested in 1-1s via either Facebook or Email. Emails signal formality a little more, so Facebook can be preferable if you've already spoken to someone a few times, but e.g. if you are worried about coming across as asking for a date, emails are a good recourse.

Aim to schedule 1-1s efficiently (e.g. in offering 1-1s, clearly suggest potential precise times and locations to reduce back-and-forth messaging), this will save you and the other person time. In case you’re running many 1-1s or find scheduling very stressful, consider signing up for and using Calendly (https://calendly.com/), an online service that lets other people book meetings with you.

Experiment with different lengths: generally, we have found that 30 minutes is enough for an intro 1-1, but mentor 1-1s can often take 60 minutes, or in some cases there is scope for chatting even longer. If you’re running a lot of 1-1s, we have found it helpful to try and schedule several back to back, to save time walking to and from a location. Doing this means you have to keep an eye on the time, and let the other person know how much time you have at the beginning.

Intro 1-1s Example Message

Hey X,

How's it going? I'm Y and I'm part of the Effective Altruism [your group] committee – just a quick email to ask if you'd like to grab coffee or go for a walk sometime soon, to chat about Effective Altruism, the EA [your group] community, or anything else!

[Say which times you're available - maybe link your FB profile so that they can contact you quickly on the day - if you’re organising a lot of 1-1s, we’ve found that offering a specific time and then linking to our Calendly account for them to book in a time works well]

Mentor 1-1s Example Message

Hey X,

How's it going? I'm Y and I'm part of the Effective Altruism [your group] committee - was wondering if you’d be keen to grab coffee [or go for a walk] sometime soon, to chat about EA, cause prioritisation, career goals or anything else!

[Say which times you're available, and/or link Calendly. You might want to change this up somewhat if you already know the person]

Common Resources to Send People After a 1-1

6 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Michelle_Hutchinson · 2018-11-24T11:13:47.640Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, this seems like a really useful guide!

One thing I find important in conversations, particularly if I'm doing them back to back, is writing down action points (eg people I want to introduce them to) as I go. People sometimes think it's rude to do this on a phone, so probably having a note book with you is the best approach.

Something I struggle with is making sure that I build up enough rapport with a person fast that they will feel comfortable pushing back on things, and in particular bringing up more socially awkward considerations (eg I've heard that effective altruists don't think it's particularly impactful to get a job doing x but I've been working towards that goal for years, and hate the idea of never getting to do it). I've found it pretty useful watching other people who are really good at getting on with people meet new people, and seeing what they do that makes people feel quickly at ease. Because I know this is a weak spot of mine, I try after some of my 1-1 conversations to think through whether there was anything in particular that went well/badly on this dimension (I waited a while for them to respond after saying y, rather than bulldozering on...; when I pushed back on z I accidentally got into 'philosophy debate' mode rather than friendly discussion mode). I also find reading books that get me to think through these kinds of dynamics useful: I've found 'Charisma Myth' useful enough to have read it a couple of times, and right now I'm reading 'Never Split the Difference'. (A lot of these kinds of books sound like they'll be about getting your own way and persuading people into things they don't want to do, but they actually spend most of their time on how to make sure you properly hear and understand the person you're talking to, and help them feel at ease.)

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2018-11-29T00:25:25.962Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I second the recommendation of "The Charisma Myth". It's the best book I've ever read on social skills, and on a page-for-page basis is up there with the best blog posts I've read on that topic (which is remarkable, considering its length).

comment by huwthomas · 2018-12-05T12:23:04.095Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks both for the info - would be interested in links to the best blog posts you've read on the topic too!

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2018-11-29T00:30:29.024Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Fantastic post, especially the structure. Strong upvote.

Related anecdote: When I co-founded Yale EA, I tried everything, from group projects to speaker events, with wildly varying success. But at the end of the first year, it seemed clear which two things had given us ~90% of our value: Giving Games, and social time (dinner, movie nights, just hanging out on campus).

The second of those surprised me, especially since this was 2014-15 and we cared more about getting people interested in donating than we did about structured career change or helping people explore into EA philosophy. But if you're going to convince someone to make any kind of major change in their life, or at least to do their own research, you need them to trust you, to like you, and to know that you actually care about their interests.

comment by pmelchor · 2019-01-11T11:49:03.235Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Huw, Darius, excellent post!

One question:

sometimes there are issues that people still want to discuss, such as whether these interventions neglect systemic change

What are your go-to resources for answering concerns about neglecting systemic change? Are there any particular articles or posts you point people to?

Thanks!

comment by huwthomas · 2019-01-11T20:31:43.586Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hey Pablo, thanks a lot!

I'll normally rattle off some of the points from this post, and send it after we chat.

This post [? · GW] is also helpful.