EA Global Tips: Networking with others in mind

post by kuhanj · 2021-10-28T07:47:06.741Z · EA · GW · 3 comments

Contents

  Summary/Context:
  The Importance of Coordination:
  Tips for Networking with Others in Mind 
  Applications for EA Global Networking (especially for group organizers)
  Suggestions for Experienced Community Members
  Results/Impact of this Approach to Networking
  Conclusion
None
3 comments

Summary/Context:

EAs tend to be pretty good at thinking about people other than themselves. One situation in which I don’t see this as much is when networking, where I've seen people largely focus on their careers/questions+uncertainties/projects/funding opportunities/etc. 

EA Global London 2021 is a day away, and many attendees are searching for attendees to schedule meetings with (which I, and many others, usually strongly recommend over attending recorded sessions, and most other sessions too). I thought now (or more accurately a few days ago, oops) might be a good time to write down some thoughts on:

Some concrete tips I’d encourage for EAs when networking (especially for EA Global):

I’ve listed some concrete ways I’ve applied these principles at previous EA conferences in the post, and how doing so has helped generate impact (and more specifically, Stanford EA and SERI succeed). 

The Importance of Coordination:

My favourite article on the importance of coordination in EA is “Doing good together—how to coordinate effectively, and avoid single-player thinking” by Ben Todd. 

In it, he writes: 

 The historian, Yuval Harari, claims in his book Sapiens that better coordination has been the key driver of human progress. He highlights innovations like language, religion, human rights, nation states and money as valuable because they improve cooperation among strangers.

If we work together, we can do far more good. This is part of why we started the effective altruism community in the first place: we realised that by working with others who want to do good in a similar way — based on evidence and careful reasoning — we could achieve much more.

But unfortunately we, like other communities, often don’t coordinate as well as we could.

Instead, especially in effective altruism, people engage in “single-player” thinking. They work out what would be the best course of action if others weren’t responding to what they do. But once you’re part of a community that does respond to your actions, this assumption breaks down. We need to develop new rules of thumb for doing good — the strategies and approaches that work well in a single-player situation often don’t work once you’re collaborating with a community.

Tips for Networking with Others in Mind 

Given the above, here are a few recommendations for networking in EA (which apply in general, but especially for EA Global given its status as the schelling/default networking event for the community):

Applications for EA Global Networking (especially for group organizers)

Here are a few concrete things I did to network at my first EA Global while running Stanford EA:

Suggestions for Experienced Community Members

As a more experienced organizer and well-connected member of the community now, things I want to do more of (which I’d also encourage other experienced community members to do) include: 

Results/Impact of this Approach to Networking

I think this approach to networking (both by myself and other group members) has led to a substantial portion of the success of Stanford EA and SERI, including:

Conclusion

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I always find it helpful to remind myself that my goal as an EA is for the most good to get done, not to necessarily be the one “doing” the most good directly. Networking in the EA community offers a clear way to put this goal into practice. I’d love for more of this spirit at EA Global, and in the community in general - not that there’s necessarily a significant shortage at the moment, but there’s always room for more. 

I’d love to hear others’ networking suggestions in the comments, and for those of you attending (both in-person and virtually), I hope you have a grEAt EA Global!

3 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Alex Barnes (--alex--) · 2021-10-28T10:26:53.689Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you! This is really useful and actionable advice.

Hypothetical Example
Let's say you are at EAG to build EA Supply Chain and Logistics and you run into a software engineer who is eager to skill up . You could:

In that 5-minute conversation, by listening to their needs and interests, you can deliver immediate actionable advice that could have a high long-term impact. Or you could focus on yourself: is self-focus more effective? More altruistic?

comment by Tessa (tessa) · 2021-10-29T18:09:52.664Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Another fantastic post, Kuhan! I like this agentic vision of networking, where the goal is "improve EA networks by building useful connections between people, groups, and projects" rather than "improve my own network by connecting to EAs". It's a more exciting (and ambitious!) goal to have :)

One tiny way to implement this is by asking, towards the end of an EA networking conversation

Is there anything else you can think of that I might do for you?

In my experience, if you or your interlocutor come up with a real request here, you get a nice burst of camaraderie, an emergent sense that you're on the same team.

comment by SebastianSchmidt · 2022-07-24T19:39:35.620Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks so much for this Kuhan!
I notice that I tend to become much more self-centered around conferences and hyper-networking social interactions. This is a great +1 for calibrating one's priorities more towards focusing on being of service rather than being served.