Fellowships & Multi-Week Programs

Key Points about Fellowships

  • Fellowships are multi-week discussion groups for committed participants. We highly recommend groups to run these, since they are one of the best ways to get people to learn about EA and specific EA-related topics.

  • If you have the capacity to run one, introductory fellowships can be great for giving people a good understanding of EA ideas and building your EA group. They've also been used to start new groups successfully. Some groups also run in-depth and cause area-specific fellowships.

  • You can also consider sending members of your EA group to EA Virtual Programs’ introductory program or other programs.

  • If you’re interested in running your own introductory fellowship, here are the key resources you can use:

    1. We recommend you use the updated EA Handbook (launched in August 2022) as the curriculum for your intro fellowship. A Google Doc version of the curriculum is available here, which you can use if you'd like to make some modifications.

    2. We recommend you use this updated facilitator guide to help you run effective discussions.

    3. You can read the section on funding and support below for details on how to apply for funding to run your fellowship, whether it's for expenses you incur or for your time spent organizing a fellowship and your EA group.

    4. This EA Forum post by Marie Buhl has other resources for intro fellowship organisers.

    5. Marie Buhl (marie@centreforeffectivealtruism.org) is available to support groups running intro fellowships.

Below is a table of contents on what's included in this resource:

Contents

What is a fellowship?

EA fellowships (also sometimes known as EA Programs, Scholar's Programs, or Seminar Programs) are programs for small groups of admitted fellows who meet multiple times to learn about some aspect of effective altruism. Fellowships are an excellent way of providing people with a solid understanding of effective altruism principles and motivation to take action. They also generally create consistent attendance and shared understanding better than one-off events.

Many groups run fellowships for their own community, and online fellowships open to people from anywhere in the world are advertised on the EA Virtual Programs platform.

Should I run a fellowship?

CEA has found that fellowships are one of the most effective ways to set people up with engagement in the effective altruism movement longer-term. However, they take a significant amount of time to run, and poorly-run fellowships run the risk of putting off people who might otherwise be interested in EA, so we encourage you to think carefully about whether your group is well-suited to run one.

A fellowship might be a good fit for your group if your organisers:

  • Are confident at public speaking and facilitating discussions

  • Have plenty of time to plan and execute the fellowship

  • Have good organisational skills

  • Are very familiar with EA

If you'd like your group members to be able to attend a fellowship, but you don't want to run one right now, you can recommend that they sign up for EA Virtual Programs who run online Intro and In-Depth Fellowships starting every month.

Yi-Yang Chua, who runs EA Virtual Programs, wrote a forum post about when groups should run their own fellowship, collaborate with an experienced organiser, or collaborate with EA Virtual Programs.

How to run an Introductory Fellowship

Curriculum

Introductory fellowships typically have a curriculum with weekly readings (and sometimes exercises) that is distributed to participants. Participants do the readings in advance of a weekly fellowship session and then discuss the readings in-session.

We recommend you use the updated EA Handbook (launched in August 2022) as the curriculum for your intro fellowship. A Google Doc version of the curriculum is available here, which you can use if you'd like to make some modifications. We also recommend you use this updated facilitator guide to help you run effective discussions.

This is an 8-week curriculum with 1-2 hours of reading per week and 1-1.5h weekly discussion sessions. The curriculum was developed by staff from CEA, which incorporated feedback from community members, subject matter experts, and fellowship facilitators.

The curriculum's goal is to introduce people to some of the core principles of effective altruism, to share the arguments for different problems that people in EA work on, and to encourage participants to think about what they want to do on the basis of those ideas.

Note that this curriculum requires people to read chapters from The Precipice, so you'll need to buy the book for your participants or make sure they have access to it otherwise. You can get books for fellowships via CEA's Group Support Funding or via Open Philanthropy. – see the "Fellowship funding and support" section below.)

There are several other pre-made curricula that you can use; see the "Further resources" section of this page. We encourage you to think about which curriculum will work best for your group, but we recommend the curriculum above as a default starting point.

Format

Different groups use different formats. Here are three options:

  1. The most common option: Accept many applicants from a pool and split them into groups of 3-5 fellows. Assign a facilitator to each group. The groups can meet at different times of the week for weekly discussions. Groups using this model often have social events for all their fellows.

  2. Invite approximately 15 people from a pool of applicants to attend weekly discussions. During the discussions, participants split out into smaller breakout groups, each with a facilitator (but the groups and the facilitators can change every week).

  3. Run the fellowship through a series of regular one-on-one meetings (or one-on-two meetings). The facilitator’s time commitment is greater with this model, but some groups report that 1-1 dynamics feel more warm and supportive than large group discussions. Additionally, facilitators can tailor the programme to the individuals involved. EA St Andrews and Stanford EA have tried this model. EA St Andrews now uses a combination of 1:1 meetings and group meetings.

Fellowship advertising

We have a separate page that we recommend you read with tips and templates on how to advertise your intro fellowship and attract as many applicants as possible.

Fellowship Selection Process

Most groups have an application process for their fellowship. Some groups simply have applicants fill out a form, while others will interview candidates. Having a lengthier application process can filter out people who may not be as interested upfront, which may or may not be the outcome you want. Some groups also report that participants are more committed and have better attendance after going through a more demanding application process.

Groups vary in how selective they are with their candidates. This raises similar trade-offs as having a lengthier application process. Yale switched from a more selective process to a less selective one because they found out their assessment of applicants was not predictive of future engagement. However, LSE has a slightly different experience.

When you're assessing applications, we recommend anonymizing them when you evaluate them, e.g. by giving a black background to the square where people put their names.

Encouraging Diverse Applications

Yale EA has had some successes encouraging a more diverse group of people to apply by adding to their information:

"We are committed to building a diverse cohort of Fellows. There is some evidence suggesting that underprivileged individuals tend to underestimate their abilities. We do not want the application process to dissuade potential candidates and we strongly encourage interested students to apply regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, physical ability, etc. We also encourage both undergraduate, graduate and professional students, as well as individuals from all intellectual backgrounds and majors to apply."

Funding & support

Both CEA (for all types of EA groups) and Open Philanthropy (for university groups) can provide funding for fellowship costs.

You can get funding for costs such as books in the reading list, Zoom subscriptions for online fellowships, room/venue hire, food and drinks for in-person fellowships, advertising, and more. We have this guide for how you can get EA books for members.

To get funding for your time spent organizing a fellowship and/or your EA group, you can apply for Open Philanthropy's Uni Organizer Fellowship and/or CEA's University Group Accelerator Program (when applications open again). Learn more about funding options for groups/organizers here.

Marie Buhl (marie@centreforeffectivealtruism.org) is available to support groups running an Introductory Fellowship with any curriculum.

EA Virtual Programs run regular facilitator training sessions that often have open spots for local facilitators. We recommend that new facilitators attend a facilitator training session. You can run one yourself (if you have previous experience facilitating for an EA fellowship) or ask to join one run by EA Virtual Programs. Please contact Yve Nichols-Evans for more information about the latter (yve.nichols-evans@centerforeffectivealtruism.org).

Other kinds of fellowships

In-Depth Fellowships

In-Depth fellowships are often used for graduates of the introductory fellowship or other people who are familiar with effective altruism but want to deepen their involvement and understanding.

Resources for In-Depth Fellowships:

Career Planning Programs

Career planning programs are often used for graduates of introductory fellowships or other people who are familiar with EA but want to spend time to plan out their career more. These are usually run by university groups that want to engage their members more deeply, like EA Stanford and EA Oxford. The Global Challenges Project has a guide on how to run a career planning program here.

Cause-Area Fellowships

Some groups run fellowships focused on giving people a strong familiarity with one cause area. Here are some cause area fellowships groups have run in the past:

Animal Welfare

AI Safety

Longtermism / Existential Risks

EA Virtual Programs' The Precipice Reading Group Syllabus and Discussion Outline

  • This is a syllabus to discuss Toby Ord's book, The Precipice, over 8 weeks. It also includes a discussion outline to help you facilitate discussions about the book.

Global Challenges Project's Longtermism Program

  • The typical EA intro fellowship/program contains readings on longtermism, but it begins with and focuses on global health and wellbeing interventions. Some people might come to your EA group specifically looking to learn more about longtermism, or maybe you would like your group to have an introductory program dedicated to longtermism.

    The Global Challenges Project and Rani Martin created a curriculum for a separate longtermism program that can be run either alongside or instead of the traditional EA intro syllabus. You can find the curriculum and facilitator guide here.

Reading Groups / Book Clubs

Reading groups sometimes fall under fellowships, but we have a separate section for this here.

Template materials

This section contains a number of templates and samples for various materials you might need when running a fellowship. These have been drawn from Introductory Fellowships, but can be adapted to other types of fellowships.

Advertising

For sample advertising materials (flyers, Facebook ads, mailing list text, etc.), see our page on Publicising Introductory Programs.

Application templates

Acceptance/rejection emails

Completion certificates

End-of-fellowship surveys

Info sessions

Further Resources

Curricula for Introductory Fellowships

Curricula designed by other university groups:

Curricula designed for non-student community members:

Because the fellowships have been formulated and primarily used by people who live in high-income western countries, some groups have chosen to modify the syllabus to suit their local context. An example of this is EA University of the Philippines Diliman's fellowship syllabus, made with the help of EA Philippines.

Advice on running fellowships