The Program and Your Role

The Program and Your Role

Facilitation: Advice and Tips

What’s the point of the Introduction to Effective Altruism Program?

The primary goal of this program is to introduce the participants to the principles and thinking tools behind effective altruism.

We hope that these sessions will help participants:

  • Learn about arguments for working on specific causes, like global health or biosecurity, that flow from the core principles of effective altruism
  • Consider how they would split available resources among efforts to address various problems
  • Reflect on how they can personally help to address important issues.

Stated differently, we don’t expect that participants will become issue experts, clearly articulate their personal cause prioritization, or know precisely what they will do to help solve these problems by the end of this 8-week program. Instead, we hope that participants will engage deeply with core EA concepts and thinking tools that will help them explore these questions further and decide how they want to act on them.

Your role

What does it mean to facilitate?

Your role is to make a discussion as useful and pleasant for the discussion participants as possible. Your goal in the sessions is not to teach the content of the week but to encourage participants to discuss it between themselves and to provide useful input and structure to the conversation.

Just by being there and starting the discussion on each topic, you’re already facilitating and adding value to the conversation!

Facilitating sessions well is a skill that you will develop over time. It isn’t easy, and there will likely always be room for improvement. For that reason, it’s important to spend time every week reflecting on what went well and what might be improved next time – and then acting on those thoughts. Talking to other people about any challenges you’ve had or how best to run sessions can also be very helpful.

The rest of this document provides advice on how to facilitate in general and how to run each individual session. We encourage you to use these resources, but also to adapt them to your particular group of participants and your personal style. You will have better information on the needs in your particular context than we can when writing a general guide like this, so use your best judgment to determine how you can provide the most value to the group. Feel free to use the suggested discussion questions and activities exactly as they are, and feel free to use them as guidance. The same goes for the facilitation advice in this section – some groups will benefit from highly structured discussions, while others prefer free-flowing conversation. The advice in this document contains suggestions for ways to make your sessions even better, not requirements to stress about keeping to.

Before the Program Starts

Make sure that you:

  • Know when and where your sessions will be.
  • Know how to communicate with other people involved with the program.
  • Make a plan for how to remind participants about meeting times, meeting locations, readings, and exercises.
  • Have read this guide.
  • Have an overview of the program curriculum.
  • Have thought about the goals of the program and your role in achieving them.
  • Know about anything else you need to do before the sessions (e.g. snacks, writing materials, etc.)

How to use the EA Handbook

  • The EA Handbook contains a syllabus for an 8-session EA Introductory Program. For each session, there is a reading list with required readings (and sometimes exercises) that participants are expected to complete before their weekly discussion session, as well as additional optional readings.
  • If you’re organising an Introductory Program as part of a local EA group, make sure to share the EA Handbook with participants well before their first session. You might also want to make it available during the application stage, to help people decide whether or not to apply.