Uses of EA Retreats, Case Study UK Uni Organisers’ Retreat Dec 2021

post by Luise · 2022-01-16T23:03:08.793Z · EA · GW · 9 comments

Contents

  1. Motivation to Community-Build
  2. Impactful Connections “Matching”
  3. Generic Information Dissemination
  4. Incubating EA Projects
  Miscellaneous
None
9 comments

Context: Community builders are trying to figure out what the most effective community building (CB) techniques are. One uncertainty is when and how EA retreats are useful. Specific points of contention may be how severe diminishing returns for successive retreats are and if, for uni organisers to get motivated and inspired, EA professionals need to attend the retreat. To make some progress, I’ve compiled some positive outcomes of the recent UK Uni Organisers’ Retreat and a few mild criticisms of its usefulness. 6 other attendees have contributed to this list. Still I wrote about one sixth of the points, so it may skew towards my views.
 

This is NOT a quantitative analysis of the impact of this retreat or retreats in general. I’m not making any cost-benefit calculations, this is simply to be read as a curation of notable positive outcomes (+ some criticisms).

 

Thanks to Jessica McCurdy for coming up with the idea for this post. Thanks to Kris Chari, Jemima Jones, Tom Blake, Erin Robertson, Halfdan Holm, and Aryan Yadav for writing most of the points below. And thanks to Kris, Jemima, Aryan, and Jessica again for editing suggestions!
 

I’ve structured the uses of the retreat into 4 categories + miscellaneous. Whenever I quote in the following, I’m quoting one of the 6 contributors mentioned above.

 

1. Motivation to Community-Build

2. Impactful Connections “Matching”

(I.e. matching someone with a person who can offer them exactly what they need, e.g. a job opportunity.)

3. Generic Information Dissemination

(“Generic” is meant as opposed to “customised”, i.e. information relevant to every organiser as opposed to a specific organiser. If it was only relevant for a specific organiser, I’d put it under Impactful Connections “Matching”.)

 

3.1 Information about CB group strategy & tools

3.2 Information about cross-group/meta level strategy & tools

 

3.3 Information relevant for both group and cross-group/meta level CB

 

4. Incubating EA Projects

 

Miscellaneous

With that thought, I shall end the list. I want to reiterate that this is not a cost-benefit analysis of the retreat, but simply some thoughts that can serve as a memory aid in further discussion on EA retreats. In that way, I hope this post will help in creating better EA retreats and figuring out better CB strategies in the future!

9 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Chris Leong (casebash) · 2022-01-17T00:58:23.674Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

"I personally am seriously thinking about running a “bootcamp” for new organisers, fellowship facilitators, etc. as a direct result of the retreat. I’ve spoken to Jessica McCurdy from CEA about this and there’s a ~50% chance I’ll actually do it"

I'd be curious to hear more about this idea. What's the plan?

Replies from: Luise
comment by Luise · 2022-01-17T10:06:21.099Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for asking! The pitch goes something like this:

Uni groups are constrained by their organisers' time. The typical way of getting a new organiser is to find an excited EA and to slowly give them more and more responsibilities (e.g. intro fellowship facilitator -> run a social -> committee member). This takes time and there's dropout at every stage. The observation is that organisers are usually the most motivated after a retreat/conference/... So we might be able to significantly speed up this process and reduce dropout by having a retreat-ish thing early on. Several group organisers have already recognised this and have sent newer members to these things. There seems to be high value in running something specifically aimed at people in the early stages of organising.

So I propose to run a "bootcamp", where newer organisers, facilitators & similar are skilled up and gain lots of motivation from interacting with others in-person. This seems doubly useful since other organisers seldom have time to skill up new organisers and few new organisers would read into CB resources on their own (especially if they are not yet highly excited about CB).

I'm imagining something like 30 -40 people, 3 nights, with learning and upskilling sessions and ample opportunities to socialise with other participants.

Some ideas for sessions: how to 1-1s, facilitation training, mental health, pitches for EA short and long, people management & project delegation, Personal productivity, Effective planning, Movement building strategy and strategic prioritization for groups, creating positive epistemic norms, "Agenticness" (as explained in my post), how to trade money for time

Some more thoughts:

  • We will still need a good amount of highly engaged EAs present to set good norms and get the advantages of information dissemination. Maybe like a fourth to fifth
  • We will need programming options for different stages participants are at (e.g. not everyone will need full-on group strategy)
  • Unfortunately it probably can't be an international thing, since it might be hard to make people at an early stage travel internationally
  • If this is successful, that would increase the chance that CEA would take over running bootcamps in the future

 

I am very interested in any thoughts or potential collaborators! Luise.antonia@hotmail.de if someone wants to contact me.

Replies from: casebash
comment by Chris Leong (casebash) · 2022-01-17T10:34:52.987Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
Intro fellowship facilitator -> run a social -> committee member

Seems like you could let someone run a social essentially straight off, as it's pretty hard to mess up a social.

That said, I agree with your core point, it's important to provide people exciting opportunities when they're most enthusiastic:

This takes time and there's dropout at every stage. The observation is that organisers are usually the most motivated after a retreat/conference/...

That said, your ideas for sessions all sound really useful:

Some ideas for sessions: how to 1-1s, facilitation training, mental health, pitches for EA short and long, people management & project delegation, Personal productivity, Effective planning, Movement building strategy and strategic prioritization for groups, creating positive epistemic norms, "Agenticness" (as explained in my post), how to trade money for time

I guess my main skepticism is the following:

This seems doubly useful since other organisers seldom have time to skill up new organisers

It seems like there is a lot of effort in running a retreat and that this would likely involve multiple people, so I don't see you coming out ahead here. That said, I expect you'd end up with more highly trained organizers at the end of this both because of increased amount of training time for each organizer and from the peer-to-peer exchange of ideas.

Replies from: Luise
comment by Luise · 2022-01-17T11:52:26.319Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I agree you could let someone run a social straight off. In general I guess people are more likely to agree to running a social if they are already a fellowship facilitator (fellowship social), and more likely to agree to become a committee member if they are already organising socials. The whole idea of moving people down a funnel etc.

To your skepticism: Thanks for raising the point! It's true that if we had perfect organiser training either locally in the groups or in one big bootcamp, it's unclear the bootcamp would cost less organiser hours. However organisers locally often don't have the time/skills to train new organisers. So the comparison probs isn't decisive. Hope that makes sense!

Replies from: casebash, Edward Hayles
comment by Chris Leong (casebash) · 2022-01-17T13:28:15.442Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I guess that makes sense.

I suppose organising such a bootcamp is probably one of the most useful things that national level organisers could be doing.

comment by Edward Tranter (Edward Hayles) · 2022-01-21T05:30:24.650Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Background: I'm running two retreats this week whilst working with Swarthmore College EA. Both retreats are along the lines of what you described as a bootcamp ("where newer organisers, facilitators & similar are skilled up and gain lots of motivation from interacting with others in-person"), but for ~18 people.  I think talking together about this sounds promising! 

I agree with your response to casebash:

It's true that if we had perfect organiser training either locally in the groups or in one big bootcamp, it's unclear the bootcamp would cost less organiser hours. However organisers locally often don't have the time/skills to train new organisers. So the comparison probs isn't decisive. 

How are you thinking about the intended ‘quality’ (broadly defined, somewhat similar to production value) of the proposed bootcamp, relative to: the quality of generic EA retreats, the retreat mentioned in your post, or a larger event like Icecone? I’d love more details on this.

Replies from: Luise
comment by Luise · 2022-01-21T16:39:40.687Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm running two retreats this week whilst working with Swarthmore College EA. Both retreats are along the lines of what you described as a bootcamp

Ah, super exciting! I'll DM you

comment by MichelJusten (MJusten) · 2022-01-17T02:15:01.901Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for writing this up! It would be really cool to see some reproducible programming and advice for folks interested in organizing an organizers retreat. They seem very valuable. 

I'm aware of such a resource for group member retreats from Olivia Jimenez "Next Steps" retreat resource, but I don't know of any content that could help a group organizer plan an organizer retreat. 

For example, there is a nascent EA Midwest collaboration arising between UChicago, UW–Madison, Northwestern, and U Michigan. I could see us running an organizer retreat in the future, and some resources on key considerations and programming would be useful.

Replies from: Luise
comment by Luise · 2022-01-17T09:15:34.069Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Agreed! In the meantime, it's definitely worth it contacting a prior organiser of an organisers' retreat for guidance. Henry Sleight ran this one, and Jessica McCurdy ran the one in Boston.