Deciding which development events are right for you

Deciding which development events are right for you

Last updated: 4th October, 2023

1. Theory of change

We encourage you to read our paths to impact: how EA groups can improve the world (three-minute read) page before you continue on this one. Many of the ideas on that page will (i) inform which kinds of events you run and (ii) provide context for the rest of the information on this page. We also encourage you to look at the post-intro fellowship strategy considerations page (3-minute read) for further context on development and growth. Both of these pages have links to further information you can look at; we recommend not following any of the links and instead just reading those two pages and then returning here!

2. Focus on quality over quantity

An issue we have seen EA groups make in the past is trying to run too many events at the same time. Trying to run speaker events, socials, a fellowship (or two), workshops and maybe more might feel like the 'correct' thing to do to be a 'good' EA group. However, trying to run too many things at once can mean that the quality of the events is worse, making them less useful. Additionally, having too much on your plate can mean you are less effective as an organiser making you develop less! We think it's useful to look for 'low-hanging fruit': things you can do that are relatively low cost in terms of time and effort, and have a good chance of having a high impact. An example of this might be meeting group members informally to watch a pre-recorded EAG talk instead of planning a workshop, inviting a speaker, marketing the event, and booking a venue.

3. Don’t be afraid of attrition

Sometimes people will decide the core principles of EA just don’t make sense to them. That’s normal and fine. Really aggressive marketing/“sales funnel” tactics to keep people engaged when they’re drifting away often come across as pushy and alienate people further, and should be avoided. If someone stops showing up and you’ve reached out a few times, it’s possibly best to accept that EA may no longer be an interest or priority for them. However, sometimes people are just particularly busy for a while but then get involved again in the future.

Similarly, it may be tempting to try and change what EA is in order to retain people who disagree with core principles of EA such as impartiality and cause-neutrality. However, these ideas are central to what makes EA so impactful and are what leads to potential orders of magnitude more good being done. So, we think it is really important for groups to preserve this fidelity.

While some attrition is fine, it is important to carefully notice what types of people are dropping off. Does it seem like gender, ethnic, or socioeconomic minorities are dropping off disproportionately? If that is the case, then there might be other elements of your group that are turning people away beside the core ideas of EA. It seems like a shame if people who could really do a lot of good are turned off for these reasons. We think this is important especially for newer groups because of founder effects where members of a group often resemble the original founders. There are some good resources for making your group more welcoming here.

4. Keep developing yourself (the organiser)

Making progress on solving major problems in the world is hard. Really hard. There are so many uncertainties, complicated ideas, and unsolved problems. By continuously learning more about EA ideas (by things like reading the EA forum, listening to the 80k podcast, and taking classes in related subject matter) you are able to give honest, faithful descriptions of your beliefs and what is happening in the movement, you are able to be humble and honest while also having actual insights to contribute. You will also likely make better-informed decisions about your career and increase the impact of your contributions to EA and the world!

We think uni group organisers should be spending a significant amount of their time learning more about the pressing problems in the world, how people in EA have engaged with them so far, what the biggest current uncertainties are, how to reason about them better, and ways to make progress on them. See our how do EA groups produce impact? page for further information.

5. Focus on developing engaged members

We think it's good to do broad recruiting at the beginning of the semester, as with any club or activity. But beyond this big push of raising awareness, we think it’s most often better to pay more attention to people who seem very interested in - and willing to take significant action based on - EA ideas (See this post by Jessica McCurdy).

Lots of people may find the ideas passingly interesting and enjoy discussing them, and we think it is probably good to include some of those people in your group. However, from an impact perspective, someone who dedicates their career via carefully considered cause prioritisation is likely to have orders of magnitude more impact than someone who makes slight changes to their decision-making such as just shifting some of their current donations.

Since your time and efforts as a group are limited, we recommend focusing attention on those people who want to reason deeply with and enact significant EA principles in their life. We think it is useful to have lots of 1-1s with these people and have activities specifically for them, like sessions where the most committed participants apply to 80k advising. We recommend trying to distribute your time proportionately to impact.

6. Don't reinvent the wheel

There are lots and lots of EA resources out there that can help you decide what events to run. Be it on this page, the EA Forum, other organisers on the EA Groups Slack, or any of the newsletters on the "things we recommend you sign up to" page; it is very unlikely that you won't be able to find a ready-to-go outline of an idea you've had. We encourage you to look at this resource centre and the others things we mentioned before trying to write something from scratch.