Running Effective Altruism Groups: A Literature Review

post by Fods12 · 2019-07-08T13:22:14.981Z · score: 42 (20 votes) · EA · GW · 9 comments

This is a link post for https://drive.google.com/open?id=1t_F8gJ69X-gDBeCWoN50iL5UzPBxV8DE

Contents

  Introduction
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9 comments

This post is a link to a literature review conducted by myself (James Fodor) and Miles Tidmarsh to assist organisers of EA community groups in making decisions about how to better run their groups. Below is the introduction to the literature review. The full text pdf is available here.

Introduction

The purpose of this literature review is to summarise the extant literature concerning the evidence for effective methods and strategies for running local EA community and university groups. The focus is not primarily on running larger organisations that attempt to produce original EA research or organise larger scale activism, though some of the lessons contained herein may also be relevant to such organisations. The review focuses primarily, but not exclusively, upon evidence generated within the EA community, including qualitative and quantitative evidence produced by various local groups and organisers from around the world. The primary objective is to provide practical advice that will assist local group leaders in making decisions pertinent to the running of their group. The review covers several major areas of group activity: marketing, community, and management. It is intended that this review will be updated as more evidence becomes available.

Because much of the evidence is ambiguous, we have decided to include as much of the raw data as possible rather than present only our interpretation of it. Thus each subsection begins with our brief recommendation based on the evidence we have reviewed, followed by excerpts from the papers that informed this recommendation. Readers are encouraged to critically evaluate our conclusions on the basis of the evidence presented, given that they may interpret the evidence somewhat differently to us. Finally, we observed in the process of compiling this review that the evidence base for effectively running EA groups is not as extensive or as robust as we would desire it to be. We hope that producing this review may prompt others to publish more results or investigations into effective practises that could be of value to the wider EA community.

9 comments

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comment by KathrynMecrow · 2019-07-18T20:14:15.580Z · score: 14 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I think I nested this below Jon's comment in a reply so I will re-post as a new comment and retract the previous:

Hi there! Thank you for this write-up. Before starting this post, I want to be clear that I currently work for The Giving Games Project. I wish to add a couple of points and, if I may, offer some clarifications to this document.

"Giving Games" are a broad category of outreach activities, including "Speed Giving Games" (i.e. tabling activities where participants are asked where they would like to donate $1. Speed Giving Games, which I believe you are referring to in your review, are designed to offer an effective and exciting hook with the goal of gathering as many email addresses as possible so you can follow up into the future. They are not designed to provoke long-term behavioural change, they are designed to get as many people into the top of the funnel as possible with the expectation that many will not engage further. Eli Nathan here [EA · GW] discusses this approach in the broader context of Fall Outreach events and mentions Oxford who follow-up with sign-ups throughout the academic year and appear to utilise (I welcome corrections here from the group) a "Get as many chances at a second pitch as possible" approach. As such, I might suggest you a) clarify that you are discussing "Speed Giving Games" not "Giving Games" (which are longer-events and used in a ton of different contexts) and b) clarify the aims of a "Speed Giving Game" verses a "Giving Game."

On long-term behavioural change and Giving Games. While Speed Giving Games alone are not designed to provoke long-term engagement, both Speed Giving Games and Giving Games can be combined with activities such as pledge weeks. An examples of this combination model is designed here ("We had a huge turnout of 110 students, which resulted in a total of $1,100 being donated to the three amazing charities, with Against Malaria Foundation receiving the highest number of votes. Ten students were inspired to take the 1% pledge. We felt it was really beneficial to have the Giving Game outside to involve people who otherwise might have not attended the event. It took no more than 15-20 minutes of their time and they were very receptive to One for the World’s mission! The Giving Game was a huge success that helped spread the message of effective giving.") Given Aaron's comment below, you may wish to amend or footnote the comment, unless he objects of course :)

On the Giving Game (not Speed Giving Games) impact, we describe here how we approach this here [EA · GW]. We will release these results by the end of 2019.

As a meta point, I encourage you to reach out to me (kathryn.mecrow@thelifeyoucansave.org) [EA · GW] if you would like testimonies on the impact of Giving Games (Speed or otherwise) or information on the Project more broadly, I am always happy to help and would have been able to point you at some of our most recent write-ups. Many of them are here.

comment by aarongertler · 2019-07-08T23:06:10.996Z · score: 10 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thank you for compiling this! It's now the best resource of its kind of which I am aware.

One note related to my own cited post (footnote #6), with another five years of hindsight:

While our initial Giving Game didn't bring in any new members, another Giving Game later in the year found someone who went on to lead/co-lead the organization for the next three years. It's anecdotal evidence either way, but that plus a few other recruits from later Giving Games updated me toward them being a good activity to run for purposes beyond group bonding.

comment by DavidNash · 2019-07-18T15:59:30.672Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for writing this up, I think it's really useful to collate these resources together. Although I think some of the sources are a bit out of date and some recent write ups indicate the opposite advice in some situations - one example being outreach techniques.


Facebook advertisement, direct messages and meetup.com subscriptions are very effective
for outreach but are costly. Email lists and word of mouth are not effective.

I would say that email lists and word of mouth have been the two most useful ways of building up a community in London, this could potentially be down to how it's done, but we stopped doing FB adverts and meetup events as it would generally attract people who aren't as interested in EA.


I also have this list of various community building resources I have found useful over the last few years that might have some things that could be added to the literature review.

comment by Fods12 · 2019-07-22T08:40:11.180Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Hi David,

We deliberately only included information which is based on some specific empirical evidence, not simply advice or recommendations. Of course readers of the review may wish to incorporate additional information or assumptions in deciding how they will run their groups then of course they are welcome to do so.

If you have any particular sources or documents outlining what has been effective in London I'd love to see them!

comment by DavidNash · 2019-07-22T10:54:59.113Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA · GW

I guess I have concerns with over valuing metrics that are easier to collect which might lead to optimising for the wrong activities.

There is the impact report from EA London for 2018.

comment by Jon_Behar · 2019-07-10T17:04:46.703Z · score: 6 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for writing this, great resource!

Couple of things to note re: Giving Games

1) I think it’s really important to distinguish between speed GG (basically tabling events) and longer GG workshops. Groups have had success with both approaches, but they accomplish very different things. Speed GGs are really about starting a lot of conversations, getting people onto mailing lists, and trying to identify a small percentage who seem like they might buy in a lot. GG workshops are about digging into the ideas behind high impact giving, and trying to get people on board with them.

2) This upcoming semester we’ll be working with One for the World to collect a lot of great data on how GG work for groups (pledges, attendance, subscriptions, etc, absolute and relative to a control). This will incorporate a lot of improvements that have been made over the years, and should be the most representative of what groups could reasonably expect going forward.

3) There’s a field experiment from a few years back that found groups running GG workshops attracted more attendees than speaker events, especially if the speaker wasn’t a VIP (such as a charity CEO)

(I founded and operated the Giving Game Project and continue to advise it).

comment by ColinBested · 2019-08-02T19:34:22.238Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

This review is wonderful. Thank you very much for making this.


What do you think are the 1-3 areas for further research that are most pressing/valuable?

For me, it looks like more work on the mechanisms and perhaps stories of behaviour change towards a given set of outcomes (careers, projects, donations) would be a good area. Another is about seeking a better understanding of how the engagement/sales funnel works (how individuals can move through it in a clearer way, step to step, perhaps with staggered events, in series, that aim for deeper engagement and more specific recommendations).

I'll aim to structure future reports so that they will be more useful for reviews like this one.

Past report: http://bit.ly/EATOreport2018

comment by Davidmanheim · 2019-07-10T06:06:15.935Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Great work

Note typo/missing word: "Public talks on non-core topics don’t new members or regular attendees."