What We Mean By Community Health
Image: EA Israel
What is Community Health?
Community Health refers to our community’s ability to grow and produce value in the future.
From CEA’s strategy:
Bringing people into the community is important, but EA’s discussion norms, culture, and reputation are also big determinants of our long-term success. How we discuss ideas is vitally important because it shapes our ability to learn more, uncover mistakes we’re making, and resolve uncertainties and disagreements. Additionally, EA’s internal culture, reputation, and demographics affect who feels comfortable engaging with our community. We think it’s important that we build a healthy intellectual culture, a positive reputation, and an inclusive community. If we fail to do so, a lot of the movement’s potential could be squandered.
The Importance of Being Welcoming
To do the most good we can, the EA community needs to be happy and healthy. It should foster a stimulating atmosphere, inspire ambition, and support members beyond their EA pursuits. We should all enjoy being part of the community.
“Collaborative Spirit” is one of the guiding principles of effective altruism:
We affirm a commitment to building a friendly, open, and welcoming environment in which many different approaches can flourish, and in which a wide range of perspectives can be evaluated on their merits. To encourage cooperation and collaboration between people with widely varying circumstances and ways of thinking, we resolve to treat people of different worldviews, values, backgrounds, and identities kindly and respectfully.
EA groups should be welcoming and exceptionally considerate, perhaps more so than would typically be required by common-sense morality. On many fronts, EA aligns with utilitarian thought, which some new members may find cold. Warm and caring vibes counter this impression, encouraging people to join, remain involved and collaborate effectively. By reducing our chance of building a bad reputation, we sustain our ability to have positive impacts over the long-term.
For more, Owen-Cotton Barratt’s Awareness/Inclination Model of movements, explains why we should focus more on improving people’s attitude towards EA than increasing their awareness.
Small groups should be open and welcoming to all, but as groups grow, more selective guest lists may improve event outcomes. Consider the purpose of each event and identify the ideal audience. Then advertise carefully to draw in the right people without appearing to exclude others.
When holding more serious events for community subgroups, there are a few different ways to advertise to a target audience. Consider sending personal invites, adding sign-up hurdles to weed out less engaged people, and getting explicit about the event’s ideal audience.
Beware of sign-up processes where you might reject event attendees. By being too selective, you risk losing attendees that you’d rather keep.
Selectivity may also create an elitist reputation for your group, which we generally want to avoid. Always be mindful of the tradeoffs you are making. Finally, be aware of subtle boundaries that keep newcomers out. For example, a tightly-knit local community can be great, but newcomers can feel left out. Try actively including them in discussions and events.
For a detailed description of boundaries and their importance, see Principle 1 of The Art of Community.