Last updated: 4th October, 2023. We plan to update this page further in the coming months.
1. Why organise social events?
The goal of social events is often to facilitate connections and feelings of community among group members and to have fun! Social events can also teach people about EA concepts, but many group members choose to use socials as a way to get to know each other outside of the context of EA.
Social events are often more comfortable for people who already know each other, and can be less fun for new people, or people who are less confident conversationalists. Hosts should join people who are sitting by themselves, or who are listening but not contributing to the conversation, and make them feel welcome.
We think it’s very important to be running regular socials in your group. Here are a couple of reasons why:
- People will be more likely to come to other events you organise if they are friends with people in your group.
- Even at socials, conversations often relate to EA, and these conversation can be valuable. These chats can go deeper and become more personal than ones that occur in more professional settings.
- EA can sometimes feel instrumental or utilitarian. Regular socials can provide an outlet to just hang out and have fun without a particular goal in mind - building relationships without a motivated agenda. We think this is healthy for groups, and reduces the feeling that the only reason to engage is for utilitarian purposes.
- Especially at university groups, people are looking for communities they can join. If EA groups only ever run events that are centred around learning as opposed to enjoyment, this may put off prospective members. EA is hard: having a group of organisers and people are you who can empathise with you and support you can be really helpful and motivating! The best EA groups enable people to have fun while engaging with impactful content or making progress on their goals, and often that is because they’ve built friendships with people they can work or learn together with.
2. Key considerations
We think it’s extremely useful for socials to be regular and recurring; ideally, on a weekly basis at the same time at the same place. It is usually easiest to do this after another event, e.g., your introduction fellowship or any other recurring thing you are running. You could have a social after your organiser meetings - this can help core members connect more!
We also recommend figuring out the easiest way to get food to people regularly. Look towards how groups of friends at your university get food together: this could be dining halls, popular eating spots, or cooking at someone’s house. Look to copy this! Discussions and hangouts around food are easier to navigate, and much easier to do regularly if you can find ways to do it that don’t involve spending lots of club funds.
3. New people joining the event
If you are expecting people who are new to EA to come along to your social event, it is helpful to give a short introduction to EA - preferably, you can invite new people to chat with some experienced members of the group to give them an overview; if this doesn’t work, you can give a short speech to the whole group. Check out the communicating about EA section for ideas on what to say in an introduction, or choose one of the short introductions to EA. One thing somes groups have found useful is having some socials only for current members and others where new people can join.
EA London analysed the gender split of their events and found that their social events were male-dominated while other events (talks, reading groups) were gender-balanced, so it is worth considering whether your social events are appealing to a diverse group of people interested in EA and mixing them up.
4. Should my social be structured or unstructured?
Having a structure for your social event gets conversations flowing and helps people to get to know each other. Some structure is ideal in situations where:
- You are expecting people who are new to EA.
- Many attendees don’t know each other.
- Your group has people who dominate conversations.
- You think a structured meeting would be more productive than an unstructured one.
Unstructured socials require less organisation and allow people to talk about whatever they like. Running these is fine, but it’s best to run some structured social events as well. If you’re concerned about meetings getting formal, kick off with a casual activity to get everyone relaxed and familiar with each other.
An anecdote from one organiser: “I ran a casual picnic with no structured conversation, and half the people that turned up were unfamiliar with EA. Several of them talked to each other about ideas that potentially contradict EA principles, probably thinking all along they were learning about EA. I attempted to guide their conversations a bit, but it came off a bit forced. In this situation, it would have been better to have some structure to the social event. Those new people would have gotten a more accurate picture of EA during their first event.”
5. Who should you invite?
For some socials, you may want want a specific group of people to get to know each other; e.g., the people who are doing an introductory fellowship together. On the other hand, sometimes you may want it to be an open situation where anyone can turn up!
We recommend having a rough goal/intention before you plan your social. We also want to highlight that it’s okay to have socials that you don’t run officially for your group, but are just you hanging out with people; these could be your friends outside of EA too! In the same way that it can be nice to have a balance of structured and unstructured socials, it can also be nice to have a balance of socials with different groups of people, or people who are at different stages in their engagement with effective altruism.
Finally, when inviting people, it can often be useful to direct message people as opposed to using group chats; some organisers have found much higher rates of replies when doing this!