CEA update: Q4 2020

post by MaxDalton (Maxdalton) · 2021-01-15T09:55:09.408Z · EA · GW · 18 comments

This is a link post for https://www.centreforeffectivealtruism.org/blog/q4-update-2020/


    towards our goals
    program updates
  Program updates
      Progress this quarter
        University groups
        Broad resources & support
        Demand data
      Progress this quarter
      EA Student Summit
      Progress this quarter
      Metric status
    this quarter
      Key Metrics
    and CRM
      Staff support

This is an update from the Centre for Effective Altruism on our work in the fourth quarter of 2020. Most of this information was not included in our annual review, which we began to draft in October.


Our mission is to build a community of students and professionals acting on EA principles, by nurturing high-quality discussion spaces.

In Q4, we began to focus on achieving our annual goals.

Going into the quarter, we had a much clearer scope and goals than before. We began to focus more on those goals, and test out new programs that could further them, like online fellowships and student-focused events. We also reviewed our progress in 2020, made plans for 2021, and began a major fundraising campaign.

Huw Thomas joined the groups team. Now that CEA’s scope and goals are clear, I think that we’re in a position to make several excellent hires. This will be a major focus for next year.

Org-wide/executive updates

Joan (our managing director) took over our groups and recruitment work, and Katie (formerly head of groups) became the interim head of community health (while we search for a permanent manager). This will mean each goal has a single owner, and will also allow Joan and Katie to play to their strengths.

We spun Funds and Giving What We Can out of CEA, as planned.

Progress towards our goals

Other program updates

Program updates


We help local group organizers by advising them, providing resources they can use, and creating online spaces where they can share resources and support each other.

Progress this quarter

University groups

Community Building Grants (CBGs) allow group organizers to professionally engage in local community building activities.

Broad resources & support

Demand data

Demand data (EA Survey, Student Summit)




Community Health

The Community Health team aims to reduce key risks to the EA community’s future. Their work includes fostering a healthy culture, improving diversity, mitigating harm done by risky actors, reducing the harm of negative PR, and identifying risks to early field-building.

This quarter, the team handled:

Progress this quarter



Events enable attendees to make new connections, learn about core concepts, share and discuss new research, and coordinate on projects.

This report covers:

EA Student Summit

Early results from this event were covered in our annual report [EA · GW].

Some additional updates:


EAGxAsia-Pacific, held virtually in November, evolved out of in-person conferences planned by organizers in Singapore and Australia. We also aimed to promote connections between community members in the Asia-Pacific region and community members in other places. Unlike our previous virtual events, the event was scheduled for the convenience of people in Asia-Pacific time zones. 526 people attended the event. As the event was held recently, we do not yet have an in-depth analysis of the outcomes.

Attendees reported 4.4 new connections in the post-event survey (on average). We succeeded in attracting >200 attendees from outside the Asia-Pacific region, which we hope will build international connections.


Attendees seem to be increasingly more demographically diverse than EA Survey respondents; we’ve seen diversity increase as events have gone virtual and become more accessible to people in a variety of countries.

Race and ethnicity data

Attendees’ likelihood to recommend Student Summit to other people was lower than the average for in-person events, while EAGxAsia-Pacific scores were more in line with in-person events:

LTR (2020 events)

Total hours of engagement across events for 2020:

Event engagement 2020

Content engagement seems to drop quite a bit over the course of virtual events — it seems harder to maintain viewership, compared to in-person events. We will consider how to remedy this for future virtual events (for example, with shorter events, fewer talks, or more interactive sessions).

The Events Team is increasingly focused on designing events around specific types of users, in support of CEA’s org-wide goals. We hope that this exploration will help us to find more impactful event formats. The team has spent the last few weeks designing a portfolio of events for 2021. We also continue to receive advice from experts on which in-person events (if any) will be sensible to hold in 2021 given COVID-19.

EA Forum

The Effective Altruism Forum (EA Forum) aims to be the central place for collaborative discussion about how to do the most good.

Progress this quarter

Metric status

Our primary metric is the number of hours engaging with content on the Forum. This metric is up 13% (30-day trailing average view hours is 3452 on December 14 versus 3066 on October 1). Most of that growth comes from a couple of unusually successful posts in early December. From the beginning of October to the end of November, views actually dropped slightly.

Daily view hours (Forum 2020)

You can see other metrics here. We ended the quarter up on most other metrics, particularly the number of comments, notably due to the 80,000 Hours career advice open thread (which has 247 comments as of this writing). 80,000 Hours mentioned they might do these open threads quarterly if there was interest.



Effective Altruism Funds (EA Funds) aims to be an easy and effective way for EA-aligned donors to donate.

EA Funds is now operating independently from CEA, more information here.


The Operations team provides the finance, legal, HR, grantmaking, office management, and fundraising support that enables CEA, 80,000 Hours, Forethought Foundation, EA Funds, and Giving What We Can to run efficiently.

Progress this quarter

Key Metrics

Average score from key internal users: 8.7/10 (measured annually in November)

Grantee satisfaction with grant experience: 4.6/5

Grantee satisfaction with time taken to process grant: 4.7/5


Projected values combining US and UK (USD), as of December 14th.[6]

Budget table, Q4 update 2020

Metrics and CRM

Development of our CRM has slowed this quarter, as we focused on the annual review and following up with leads from the Student Summit. Josh is now leading on developing the CRM, and is exploring next steps.


Joan began to manage all groups work, while Katie switched to a new interim role as head of community health. The main motivation for this was to make sure that each of our organization-wide goals has a clear owner. I also think that this will make good use of their skills: it will free Joan up to pursue her vision for recruitment and university groups, and I think that Katie will be strong at supporting and project-managing community health work.

The following people are now reporting to me and leading on well-specified org-wide goals:

I feel like we now have more clarity about our managers’ goals and responsibilities than we’ve ever had before, and I’m hopeful that this will allow CEA to make faster progress.

Staff support


Huw Thomas will join CEA as Groups Associate.

Sara Elsholz joined as an Executive Assistant (contractor) to Joan and me, and Aadil Kara joined as a part-time contractor.


CEA Morale (2020)

Morale has averaged 6.61/10 over the past 3 months, which is slightly lower than our annual average of 6.66.

Public communications

We released our annual review [EA · GW] and plans [EA · GW] on the EA Forum. In December, we published an update about the Funds/Giving What We Can spinoff.

  1. In 2021, we aim to help onboard 125 students and young professionals, 30 of whom are from 15 particular highly-ranked universities and 10 of whom are Black/Latino. Based on 2019 EA survey data, we currently estimate that there were around 100 new highly-engaged EAs in 2020, 18 from highly-ranked universities, and 6 who are Black/Latino. We are currently gathering additional data on this from the 2020 EA Survey, and we may adjust our estimate as we go. Although we’re uncertain about this target, we think that concrete and specific goals are clearer and more motivating. ↩︎

  2. All students who attended an introductory fellowship, our introductory events, or the EA Student Summit in 2020. ↩︎

  3. Weighted towards the most engaged and underrepresented groups. ↩︎

  4. The event was specifically marketed toward group organizers, though we didn’t verify participation. ↩︎

  5. The Forum’s front page is quite inclusive; any post with a clear connection to effective altruism will appear there (though most posts fall off after a few days, unless they get a lot of upvotes). The prior default option, “Personal Blog”, is used only for posts without a clear connection to EA, and was rarely the proper designation for posts. ↩︎

  6. The expansion budget is the budget we aim to use, which allows us to make additional hires. ↩︎


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by vaidehi_agarwalla · 2021-01-15T15:34:56.782Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Question for the Forum Team on the content from Pablo's work that has been uploaded - is any of this public yet? If yes, could you link to it/some examples of it?

Replies from: aarongertler
comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2021-01-16T00:37:20.021Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Currently, Pablo is working on a series of "stub" uploads. Basically, he has a lot of fleshed-out articles done, but those link to articles he hasn't finished, so we're uploading articles/tags to stand in for those. This will ensure that the fleshed-out articles aren't full of broken links.

Here are some examples of stubs:

These are searchable on the Forum, but they aren't visible on the "All Tags" page because I've made them "Wiki only" for now (so as not to clutter the page/tag selection tool).

Once the fleshed-out articles are uploaded, I'll create a new page that makes everything easier to find, and many articles will become tags. At this point, I'd guess we have at least 100 stubs uploaded to the Forum.

Replies from: vaidehi_agarwalla
comment by vaidehi_agarwalla · 2021-01-16T03:05:41.824Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks Aaron this is helpful!

So would the the final version of this would that the wiki is essentially a bunch of tags? So. e.g. the tag for certificates of impact has an article-length description (written by Pablo) ?

I'm a bit confused :)

Replies from: aarongertler
comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2021-01-18T06:34:03.587Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The Wiki would take the form of a bunch of tags, but a tag can be of any length and use all Forum formatting, so the articles should be flexible.

Many initial tags/articles will have long descriptions, but many others won't. When Pablo finishes uploading the first batch of long descriptions, we'll do a lot of advocacy on the Forum for people to start treating the tags as a Wiki and making lots of updated. This might involve prizes or something like that, but I don't expect the launch to happen for a couple of months, so I don't have details to share yet.

Replies from: Jonas Vollmer
comment by Jonas Vollmer · 2021-01-24T13:04:07.130Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Echoing what Vaidehi said, I think it's somewhat unusual for a wiki to be built into a tag system, so I'd like to advocate for seeing if there's a way to make it more intuitive and less confusing, ideally in a way that doesn't require explaining/tutorials but is immediately obvious to users. Perhaps the solution could be to simply to use the term "wiki" instead of "tags" in most places.

Replies from: aarongertler
comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2021-01-25T07:09:21.053Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think the changes will be less confusing once we have:

  1. A full post outlining what's happening
  2. All of Pablo's wiki content imported and available to read

We're still figuring out some timelines, but I expect (1) to happen within two weeks, and to contain information on the timing of (2).

I do expect us to move to a term like "wiki" or "concepts" instead of "tags" in many places once we're further along in the project.

comment by Manuel_Allgaier · 2021-01-15T18:47:46.218Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

make several excellent hires [...] major focus next year [2021]. 

Great to see you expanding, especially on the groups team! 

How do you plan to hire people - public vacancies or private offers?

 I'm personally in favor of public vacancies as you reach more people and might find better applicants, and also because it makes the whole process more transparent and fair. I feel like EA employers currently often offer jobs privately to people in their network, which makes it seem like knowing the right people is more important than having the best skills. Consequently, people interested in EA might feel like they need to focus more on networking and being visible instead of actual work (also if that's not actually the case). 

On the other hand, public hiring processes cost time which may not be worth it, and there might be other downsides I'm not yet aware of. Curious about your thoughts on this (if you find it worth your time to elaborate, no worries if you have more important things to do!)

PS: Just to be clear, I don't mean to criticize any previous hires - glad that Huw, Sara & Aadil joined your team!

Replies from: Maxdalton
comment by MaxDalton (Maxdalton) · 2021-01-15T22:00:11.179Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

We plan to do most hiring through public vacancies, but we will make occasional exceptions when we think we’re very likely to be aware of the top candidates. 

In the first case we wanted to hire someone who had experience leading a successful university group, and since we work closely with many group leaders we felt like we had a good enough sense of the talent pool to do a closed round (where we invited a small number of candidates to do work trials, interviews etc.) We might do this sort of thing again.

We brought on Sara and Aadil through the same hiring round, for an executive assistant position. Longview Philanthropy and 80,000 Hours had recently advertised a public position for an operations/executive assistant role. With the help of those organizations and their applicants, we were able to cut out some of the early advertisement/screening steps, and focus on some of their top candidates. I think this saved us a fair amount of time without compromising much on accessibility/fairness. We might do similar things in the future.

But I acknowledge the costs you share, and we plan to normally invite public applications (as for this new contractor role [EA · GW], and for a finance/data role that we plan to post soon).

Replies from: Manuel_Allgaier
comment by Manuel_Allgaier · 2021-01-19T10:07:05.707Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you Max for elaborating! 

Happy to hear that you generally prefer public vacancies too. In my impression, this often has not been the case for EA orgs in the past (and the people who upvoted my comment might feel similar), so it's nice to see you publicly write in favor of that. 

It makes sense that you make those occasional exceptions for specific cases and I agree that they seem worth it to save time as long as it does not compromise too much on accessibility and fairness.

comment by Manuel_Allgaier · 2021-01-15T18:52:58.577Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

It seems like your group support in Q4 was mostly focussed on students - is that just a coincidence or will student groups be your main priority for 2021 (compared to city groups, national groups, cause area groups & career groups)?

(Only reply if you have time to elaborate, no worries if not!)

Replies from: Maxdalton
comment by MaxDalton (Maxdalton) · 2021-01-15T22:00:28.439Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yes - student groups will be our main priority for additional support in 2021 (we say a bit more about why here, and we discuss what that means concretely for our groups team here). But we’ll be maintaining or expanding the support we give to all groups, including new initiatives like Virtual Programs [? · GW]. 

Replies from: Manuel_Allgaier
comment by Manuel_Allgaier · 2021-01-19T10:18:39.198Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for elaborating! 

In my experience with running EA Berlin since two years, outreach to students seemed worthwhile but outreach on recent graduates / young professionals seemed even more worthwhile, as they were actively thinking about career plans and most keen to apply the EA philosophy right away  (compared to students who will only make career decisions years later and then may or may not take EA considerations into account). They are often in their early twenties too, usually 21-25 y/o. If you're interested in this, I would be happy to continue this discussion sometimes via comments, email or a (short) call (if you find it worth your time, no worries if not!).

If you feel like CEA is better suited to focus its own programs to students that seems fair to me, and I appreciate that your programs (especially EAG(x) conferences) remain open to other groups as well. I hope this also applies to the CB grant program, so city groups and national groups have equally good chances of receiving funding compared to university groups focussed on students only. 

Replies from: Maxdalton
comment by MaxDalton (Maxdalton) · 2021-01-21T15:56:36.240Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

That's interesting - I'm surprised by that and wonder if it's due to some differences between systems? In the UK people often begin to think about internships in their first or second years, and then look for jobs in the 3rd year, so I think there's quite a lot of ability to influence and discuss career plans early on. In the US degrees are longer, but early on people are trying to decide their major which is also a significant career decision. I also think that students have a lot more time and interest in engaging with new things, and they tend to be easier to reach (e.g. because they all come to activity fairs).  How do you find/target these early-career people? And aren't they already normally in employment/set on a career path?

CBGs remains open to non-student groups.

Replies from: Denise_Melchin
comment by Denise_Melchin · 2021-01-21T22:19:10.471Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

(I'm German, but have lived in the UK for 4.5 years now.)

My best guess is that you are both right, and large cultural differences are at play. I found this really bizarre when I moved to the UK. In Germany, you are an ambitious overachiever if you have a 'career plan' at 22. In the UK this is standard.

Among educated Germans, people take longer to finish their degrees, are more likely to take gap years, change degrees. Internships seem to be much rarer. The 'summer internship' system does not seem to exist as much in Germany, and just is not considered necessary in the same way. Most Germans do Master's (which take 2 years in Germany) as only a Bachelor's degree is taken less seriously. Having children during your degree is more common.

Educated Germans just start full-time employment much later. This is so extreme that in my friendship circle I do not know any German non-EA who has finished their education (all including Master's) and started a full-time job before the age of 27 (!).

Replies from: Maxdalton
comment by MaxDalton (Maxdalton) · 2021-01-22T06:10:02.102Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Interesting! Thanks for sharing.

Replies from: Jonas Vollmer
comment by Jonas Vollmer · 2021-01-24T13:11:23.082Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I agree with Denise's description and Max's, but I don't see how it follows that focusing on professionals is more useful than focusing on students. In fact, I think that Germans taking gap years, changing degrees, etc. makes it more plausible that student groups are a promising target audience, as this allows students to spend more time thinking about EA ideas and make relatively large changes to their careers.

comment by Manuel_Allgaier · 2021-01-15T19:06:52.198Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks a lot for taking the time to write up and share your strategy as well as these quartlery updates! 

comment by anonymous_ea · 2021-01-15T22:54:59.758Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for writing this!