Groups Spotlight

This page features different EA groups and group organisers from around the world.

Harvard AI Safety Team (HAIST)

Published October 27, 2022 | Written by Alexander Davies and Trevor Levin

The Harvard AI Safety Team (HAIST) is a research-focused student group aimed at encouraging highly talented Harvard students to pursue careers in technical AI alignment, as well as AI strategy & governance.

Give a brief overview of your group

Currently, we are facilitating seven groups of a technical intro fellowship (based on AGI Safety Fundamentals), two governance fellowships, an advanced reading group for current HAIST members, and ML upskilling sessions (based on MLAB). About 60 total participants attend these programs each week.

We are especially excited about the Research Fellows program we recently launched with MIT AI Alignment (MAIA), which pairs students with research mentors (including grad students in the Theory group and Embodied Intelligence group, as well as researchers at groups like Anthropic and Redwood Research). Together with MAIA, we hope to counterfactually send more than a dozen students to do research at AI safety orgs this winter, and even more this summer.

How did you start your group?

We started in spring 2022 as a few core students who would meet for two hours a week, read a (printed!) paper together, and discuss it; we came up with this format by thinking about how we would most like to spend 2 hrs/week on alignment. The entire first semester of HAIST was focused on people already considering a career in AI alignment. We think this format worked well in establishing the culture of the group as serious, research-focused, and socially connected (though don’t have a great counterfactual to compare against).

What is the best advice you have about AI safety community building?

Most importantly, HAIST wants AI safety to be motivated not just by mitigating existential risk and maximizing utility, but also as one of the most interesting, exciting, and important problems humanity faces. When we talk to new people about AI safety, we don’t just talk about AI as an existential risk; instead, we often talk about our current research, or particular parts of the problem we find especially interesting. This also comes through in our website and outreach copy and strategy (marketing to top CS and math classes).

Second, we found that using existing networks of technically talented people was very successful (over 120 signups, which we mostly attribute to this). This meant asking EA-friendly people within technical social groups to promote our program and sending interesting & technical outreach emails to listservs/Slacks/class discussion boards. This was also less costly than other forms of outreach (like tabling).

Third, at least for AI safety, we think legitimacy and prestige are important: having smooth operations, an office space, a nice website, and highly knowledgeable facilitators is an essential part of our strategy in competing with traditional academia (not to mention big tech and finance) for top students’ career attention. (Good operations and having our own space also help make the meetings low-friction and enjoyable.)

Fourth, look beyond your own university for opportunities to make an impact: we shared lots of resources with MAIA and helped them recruit a very impressive cohort to their intro program, and in turn they helped us set up the Research Fellows program.

Do you have a key goal for your group? How are you working to achieve this?

Like lots of EA-aligned groups, our goal is “cause more excellent people to work on the most pressing problems,” albeit with a particular focus on AI-related careers. We quickly noticed that prompting ourselves with “What if we were actually trying to achieve this goal?” is surprisingly useful in generating strategy and programming ideas.

  • If we want the best math and CS students to do AI safety, have we tried…marketing the fellowship to the classes and groups that top math and CS students are in?

  • If we want people to do alignment research, have we tried…creating opportunities for them to do alignment research?

  • If we want our best Intro Fellows to do research at alignment orgs, have we tried…asking them to do that? And so on.

We’re still learning and expect to have additional forehead-slapping moments in future months, but we think this prompt is very useful for lots of EA and AI field-building groups.

Brown EA

Published September 23, 2022 | Written by Sabrina Chwalek

Brown EA started three years ago in the Fall of 2019, when Emma Abele and Nick Whitaker founded the group. While the group started off small, it grew quickly during COVID, and hundreds of Brown students have now gone through their Intro Fellowship.

What is the best advice/resource you've found (or made) about EA community building?

I put together this Notion page for Brown EA leadership, and I think it’s been pretty useful for onboarding new organizers and keeping track of our group’s activities.

What has been your most successful event, and why?

We've been doing a lot of outreach and tabling this fall, and we've gotten over 300 sign-ups for our mailing list. This resulted in ~50 people attending our two intro talks, which were well-received! We also ran out of chairs for people at both talks :)

What is the strength of your group?

We’ve built up leadership capacity over the past couple years and have a core team of ~10 organizers. This has allowed us to run multiple programs and events each semester and have a strong presence on campus. Our leadership team also consists mostly of juniors and seniors who’ve been involved with EA for several years, so I think it helps to have people who are knowledgeable about EA and have subject-area expertise.

EA Durham

Published 25th August 2022 | Written by Jemima Jones

Effective Altruism Durham was founded in 2017, but reached a new size and depth over the 2021-22 academic year when I (Jemima) led the group on an EAIF grant alongside part-time studies. Next year, recent graduate Shannon Morrison will run the group full-time, and we’re very excited to see how much more we can achieve!

What's your best advice about community building?

Email the operations head for each academic department of your university and ask them to circulate an advert for the intro Fellowship! This allows you to reach a larger number of students than other methods and they are more likely to read messages from their department (and consider opportunities mentioned by them more seriously!) Most departments were happy to do this for us, and most of our fellowship applicants and future engaged members came from this. We had 57 applications for our intro (Arete) Fellowship in first term and 98 applications in second term - largely due to this tactic!

Two recommendations for what to include in the advert are:

  1. a link to the syllabus - this convinced several people to apply!

  2. a short line e.g. ‘we especially recommend this Fellowship for philosophy students interested in ethics, because…’ or (compsci interested in AI) to encourage suitable people to apply!

It may be hard to find the relevant person to contact for your university. My suggestions are:

  1. look online for staff directories! Durham has these available.

  2. If you’re not sure who to contact, try emailing multiple people separately, or cc in the person.

  3. If someone isn’t replying to you, cc in someone superior to them in their department and you’ll often get a reply.

What challenges have you faced as a group, and how did you manage them?

Durham expanded really rapidly as a group, which posed challenges for developing a community feel where members are friends and feel happy chatting to each other in their free time about EA. Creating a sense of community was the goal of our first retreat, and a main goal of our visit to EAGxOxford and our second retreat.

For example, we arrived early at EAGxOxford and held Durham-only socials rather than mingling with other attendees in the evening. The second retreat felt like a turning point in building a sense of community among Durham EAs, with members meeting up outside of organised events and socials going on past their end point.

A sense of community is still a challenge Durham faces, but with our (small) group house and excellent exec, we’re off to a good start for building a great community over the coming year!

High Impact Medicine (Hi-Med)

Published 20th July 2022 | Written by Abe Tolley and Akhil Bansal

High Impact Medicine is a professional community building organization that brings together medics to engage with opportunities to have a wide-reaching positive impact with their careers.

They set out to foster local, engaged communities of medical students and doctors, including those not familiar with EA: they have local chapters in Cambridge, Oxford, and Berlin, as well as in the UK & Germany more broadly.

Photo from Hi-Med’s Cambridge Fellowship Cohort 2022

How did you start your group?

The group started in 2021 when a few medics met and got excited about the potential to do a lot of good in the world! We wanted to form local groups of medics and consider how we could leverage their skills and knowledge in a number of different high impact fields.

Give us a brief overview of your group.

We have 3 main paths to impact:

  • Outreach & community building: our chapters run talks and socials for medics of all grades, from students to doctors working in hospitals or outside of clinical medicine

  • Knowledge building around impact in medicine: we run a fellowship and host a podcast (Spotify link) and talks

  • Career advice: we help members explore how they can have a large impact in their careers through mentorship and research opportunities

To learn more about us, here is our website.

What is the best advice/resource you've found (or made) about EA community building?

We have developed an 8-week fellowship exploring impactful careers for those from a medical background. The fellowship introduces core ideas on impact and focuses on cause areas such as global health, biosecurity, mental health and effective giving. We successfully ran the fellowship for over 50 med-students and junior doctors earlier this year (across 7 fellowship groups and 4 continents), with many staying involved with Hi-Med subsequently, writing capstone projects and a few making proximal career changes and taking giving pledges.

What is the strength of your group?

We have been really surprised (and overwhelmed) with how many medics have been interested in joining our community; we think it is a testament to the fact that medical professionals generally want to do good with their career, are empathetic and have an evidence-based lens at looking at the world. So our greatest strength is our community!

What challenges have you faced as a group, and how did you manage them?

Our biggest challenge is sustainable growth; we are trying to manage this by leaning on the expertise and advice of people who have been in a similar situation

What’s the biggest lesson/best advice you’ve learned from organising so far?

Have fun and enjoy getting to know and working with others in the community!

EA Graz, Austria

Published 23rd June 2022 | Written by Helene Kortschak

EA Graz in Austria was founded by Lukas Trotzmüller and Jan Beck in 2016, gained momentum in 2019, and is currently organised by Lukas Trotzmüller and I (Helene Kortschak). EA Graz is a small but tight-knitted group, with several of our members having signed the GWWC pledge and changed their career paths because of their engagement with our group.

What's your best advice to give about community building?

Our top advice about community building is to make people feel welcome and comfortable in your group. At least in our experience, personal connections are what has been keeping the group together above all else. To this end, we like doing short warm-up activities like gratitude exercises at the beginning of meetups, so that people start getting to know each other on a more personal level and foster a feeling of connectedness between everybody.

What is the greatest strength of your group?

The greatest strength of our group is probably the strong friendship between members. Since we are a rather small group, we know each other really well, try to support each other, celebrate our achievements, cheer each other up when we get rejected for jobs, and in general enjoy each other’s company every time we meet.

What has been your most successful event, and why?

One of our most successful events was a talk about cultured meat, given by one of our group members who is very passionate about the field. Since Graz has quite an active animal activism scene, around 30 people attended the talk, which was filled with lively discussions and a Beyond Meat Burgers tasting (which at the time were brand new in Austria).

EA Australian National University

Published 23rd May 2022 | Written by Jenna Ong

Effective Altruism ANU is in Canberra, the capital city of Australia — home to many civil servants, MPs, exceptional researchers, and kangaroos. The group was formed in 2017 but lapsed in 2020 when COVID-19 hit, and has since been re-built by Nick Anyos, Jenna Ong, and Ben Anderson.

What is your group up to currently?

Probably the most “unique” thing we do is a weekly talk series, hosting a range of speakers every Tuesday for a 30min talk + 30min Q&A followed by dinner and chats. We mostly hear from university academics and active members of the EA community — on topics such as climate change politics, foreign aid, founding an effective charity, and more.

These events attract 15-25 people (both students and non-students) and we think they are a good entry point for people who are interested in a certain topic (like AI or climate change) and who don’t yet know they are effective altruists at heart. We are also mid-way through running our first fellowship (Intro to EA) and are looking forward to the EAGxAustralia conference happening in July, right here in the bush capital!

What is the best advice/resource you've found about EA community building?

Our best sources of advice have been members of the EA community: other group organisers or people with experience in community building, previous organisers of our group, our mentor from the UGAP program run by CEA, and individuals from the CEA Groups Team. Nothing like a 1-1 chat for learning the ropes and generating some social motivation to put plans into action!

EA ELTE (Eötvös Lóránd University in Hungary)

Published 17th March 2022 | Written by Baksa Gergely Gáspár

ELTE or Eötvös Lóránd University is the biggest university in Hungary. Effective Altruism ELTE was started in September 2021 through them running an introductory fellowship for about 25 people. Since then, they have been having fun monthly socials, and recently they have started an in-depth fellowship as well as an intro fellowship with a new cohort. EA Hungary did have a few members already, but besides them, almost everyone else joined from EA ELTE.

What is the best advice you've gotten about EA community building?

I think the best piece of advice I have gotten came from interviewing one of our fellows on their experience in the program, as they pointed out the importance of socials on top of fellowships, where people have the opportunity to meet and listen to lightning talks by other fellows even after the end of the program. Another important aspect is that when starting a community in a country that has a smaller EA presence, you can still receive a lot of help from those few members, as well as from nationals living abroad. For example, we even have Hungarians facilitating fellowship groups from London!


What's something more unique about your group?

One unique part about our group is the fact that there is a lot of people with a social science / humanities background, and fewer people with an IT / hard science background, as opposed to the more broad EA community. Of course, this is not on purpose, it just happens to be the case that it’s much harder to advertise in the Facebook groups of people in the hard sciences, because they only let students in those groups who take part in the academic program.


We are working on developing other ways to reach these students, for example by trying to connect to already existing student societies, so EA doesn’t miss out on them! I also learned that EA attracts people from diverse backgrounds, so you have to maintain an environment that is welcoming and engaging to everyone.


Starting EA ELTE had a lot of different challenges (and so many opportunities to learn!), but all of our volunteers found it an engaging and fulfilling experience!

EA at Georgia Tech

Published 15th February 2022

Effective Altruism at Georgia Tech was founded in Fall 2021 by Michael Chen, Anish Upadhayay, and Gaurav Sett. Since then, EA @ GT has grown to 9 organizers, 124 current fellows and 48 past fellows. Their goal is to help their members maximize the positive impact they have over the course of their lives. They strive to accomplish that goal by providing their members with a diverse array of seminars and connecting them to opportunities to do good better.

What is the best advice/resource you've found (or made) about EA community building?

Quentin: I relate strongly to Thomas Woodside’s “Get In The Van” EA Forum post. Leilani Bellamy recommended The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker to me, which led to a paradigm shift in the way I think about organizing events.

Michael: I am deeply indebted to everyone on the EA Groups Slack who has helped answer all the questions that I have and shared resources that they’ve created. And I’m thankful for everyone who has contributed to the curricula of our seminar programs in the EA Groups graphics folder on Canva.

How did you start your group?

Michael: I had always wanted to start an EA group, but I thought no one would be interested in participating. Then, I received an email from the Centre for Effective Altruism about advertising Stanford EA’s virtual EA Fellowship. I met Anish Upadhayay who had just finished Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save; he was also interested in starting an EA group so we decided to start EA@GT! We facilitated several cohorts and were astounded by the increasing interest we found: Spring 2021 had 8 participants, Fall 2021 had 35, and at the time of writing, Spring 2022 has over 120 (66 for our Introductory Seminar, 28 for the Precipice Reading Group, and 39 for AI Safety Fundamentals).

I initially had serious doubts that I could do a decent job of facilitating discussions for the program, and I thought it would be best to just have Stanford EA provide the facilitators for our first program. But facilitating has been a lot easier than I thought – the readings just really click with some people, and your role as a facilitator is mainly just to guide the discussion along and clarify misunderstandings.

What challenges have you faced as a group, and how do you plan on managing them?

So far, our largest challenge has been engaging with interested fellows after the intro fellowship. One way we hope to solve the challenge is by running additional programs. This semester, we are running a technical AI safety program and a reading group of The Precipice; in the future, we hope to run programs focusing on AI governance, biosecurity, alternative protein, longtermism, s-risks, and career planning. We also plan to prioritize engaging past participants individually via 1-on-1 meetings and inviting them to general meetings.

What’s the biggest lesson/best advice you’ve learned from organizing so far?

Quentin: Any organization is in a state of triage. I am constantly surprised by the quantity of tasks that would be helpful for EA@GT; I am constantly saddened by the number of hours in a day.

Michael: I’m probably subscribed to the newsletters of a dozen other groups, and it’s been very helpful to see what activities other groups are running and what opportunities are being shared so that we can consider doing the same for our own group. The EA Anywhere Slack is another great place to stay up to date with opportunities which I can repost to our own group.

This school year, I’ve only been taking classes part-time, and it’s been incredibly helpful for having lots of time to dedicate to group organizing (among other things, like preparing for job interviews).

Signups from our seminar programs have mainly been driven from all the mailing list publicity we’ve done. If your school has department mailing lists, that’s an incredible opportunity for outreach. We started offering a free book for everyone who filled out our interest form, and I think that might have driven additional interest.

Naomi Nederlof, EA Geneva / EA Switzerland

Published 11th January 2022

Naomi is the Executive Director of Effective Altruism Switzerland and the founder of the Swiss Existential Risk Initiative (CHERI). She was also formerly a Program Manager and then the Executive Director at EA Geneva.

What first drew you to effective altruism?

The critical approach towards doing good, while simultaneously acknowledging that it is possible to make a difference. It is only not trivial to do so, and many attempts toward doing good fail.

Before discovering EA I worked for several non-profits, where I observed many initiatives with the best intentions that are not reaching their goal. And often it was taboo to mention that, or to in-depth discuss the impact these groups were having. So it was refreshing to discover EA, where impact is being discussed in-depth and that also gave me tools to think about it.

What is the best advice/resource you've found about EA or EA community building that you still use today?

I like the funnel model and use this model to create our yearly strategies. I also sometimes reread the article about effective altruism community building, as it often inspires me to think deeper about certain aspects of community building and helps me with formulating our strategy and my weekly prioritization.

What has the community come to mean to you?

A lot. I have met so many fantastic people through the community, the people are so friendly, supportive, interesting, and cool. I have also learned a great deal through the community and developed myself. You are great!

What are the biggest challenges as a community organizer?

The number of different things you could do, but don’t have the time to do them all, and the fuzziness of the impact. I believe that organizing a community is a high-impact thing to do, but the impact is so hard to reliably measure and the counterfactuals are often unclear.

How do you spend your leisure time?

With the surge of Omicron and sitting inside a lot, I try to go into the mountains whenever possible. During the week I spend the majority of my leisure time with my horse and spend an evening a week with my improv group, and when we can go again I would like to continue bouldering/climbing. I also just love to read whatever attracts my curiosity.

What is something that in your view is consistently underrated?

An EA groups newsletter might not be the best audience for this, but I do think that the importance of community building is sometimes underrated in the movement, even though during the last year I have seen a growing interest. I find it interesting that it is sometimes hard to find good community builders, how many low-hanging fruits within community building (CB) there sometimes seems to be, and I have the impression that not all EAs that could be a good fit rank community building high among their career options.

I’m wondering if this has something to do with the lack of attention for community building and the insecurity, lack of formal development opportunities, and other conditions that are currently part of CBing-as-a-career (and e.g. that at 80k working for an EA group is not mentioned on the page “work at an EA organization”, etc.).

EA at UCLA, USA

Published 10th December 2021

About Us

Effective Altruism at UCLA was founded in 2018 with two founding members in its inaugural year. It remained with only a few members until COVID-19 struck, forcing the club online, where the founding members and some new recruits successfully took on and trained the new leadership of the club through virtual fellowships. Upon return to in-person schooling, EA at UCLA has rapidly grown its leadership and active membership to 7 board members and 25 fellows.

What is the best resource you’ve found?

We attribute our growth and surge in leadership ambition to the support and guidance of the EA community. Two of our organizers attended a University Organizer Retreat in August of 2021 which not only gave them concrete tools to expand the club but also super charged their (infectious) excitement to be a part of our growing community. The friendships and connections made at this retreat have been invaluable to our entire board.

What are the strengths of your group?

The main strengths of our group are our ambition and our ability to create community. We currently have two exciting projects underway:

Our Director of Community Engagement, Leilani Bellamy, is organizing an Intercollegiate Retreat for California University students. She is working closely with Aris Richardson (Berkeley) and Sydney Von Arx (Stanford) to organize an intellectually engaging and exciting weekend for students to engage with EA club members outside of their university groups.

Recognizing the need for alternatives to fellowships within EA uni groups, we are piloting a High Impact Project program which will support driven members to pursue their EA interests and create a piece of work with value to the EA community. Members have proposed projects that include research, literature reviews, and videos communicating EA concepts. Each of these will be posted to the EA Forum upon their completion. Our purpose is to support members with an itch to apply their EA knowledge to the real world to make the first step towards doing so. Feel free to contact us at effectivebruins@gmail.com for more details!

Aside from our ambition, we have cultivated a supportive and friendly community through weekly social events in the fall quarter. As a result, the members of our club have become quite close-knit and our close contact has created a cooperative, welcoming, and productive environment for members to learn together and encourage each other in their endeavors to do more good.

Do you have a key goal for your group? How are you working to achieve this?

Our main goal is to support our members towards a lifelong path of high-leverage impact. We perceive there to be three main components of this: 1. Providing educational opportunities like fellowships and workshops in an environment that encourages members to take EA ideas like cause prioritization, longtermism, and moral circle expansion seriously. We want all of our members to be able to have knowledgeable conversations about key EA issues. 2. Creating a friendly and welcoming community environment where each member is friends with at least 3 other members. We believe a peer support network within EA is critical for maintaining motivation towards achieving one’s EA goals. 3. Connecting our members with the greater EA community. This takes the form of members attending intercollegiate or global EA events, having 1-1’s with community members, participating in the forum, taking up opportunities for research and internships, and more! We view our group as a funnel for channeling promising new EA members into our global community.

Lenni and Michel Justen, EA University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Published 9th November 2021

What first drew you to effective altruism?

Lenni went on a gap year after high school and met loads of wandering backpackers who seemed to be living really meaningful and inspiring lives without wealth or excess material possessions. At some point it became apparent that the only reason going to university and spending long hours working would be worth it for us was to give back to the world somehow – a still vague notion at the time. This was especially true given how fortunate our upbringing had been and how uniquely placed we were to make an impact.

Thankfully, after listening to Toby Ord and Sam Harris talk about existential risk and the Giving What We Can pledge on the Making Sense podcast, our vague aspirations of improving the world were formalized. We became convinced that becoming aspiring effective altruists was the best alternative to becoming traveling monks or something along those lines. There are many things one could do in life, each with their own trials and tribulations, but trying to do good as best as possible just seemed to us like it was a really good baseline.

What is the best advice you’ve found that you still use today?

Acting on your beliefs about doing good will make you act differently than a lot of students around you. This advice has come from a mixture of conversations and forum posts on productivity and class enrollment. Commonplace college undertakings like spreading time over lots of clubs, enrolling in classes for funsies, and sometimes even going to classes may just not mesh well with lives lived trying to do good better.

This can be hard though! It can be scary to spend less time on classes, the very thing you thought you went to college for, especially if a perfectionist attitude towards school has always been the default. But ultimately classes and other involvement are instrumental towards your goals, they’re not the end goal.

We’d recommend thinking hard about those end goals and not being surprised if different priorities than many of your peers lead to different actions than many of your peers.

How do you spend your leisure time?

When Lenni pokes his head above the dark lair in which he works he likes to spend his time skateboarding, climbing, and being with friends. He also likes justifying long walks somewhere when he clearly should have biked or taken the bus. His guilty pleasure is watching people from warm places suffer through Wisconsin winters (I think it builds character).

Michel shares Lenni’s joy in climbing, friends, and skateboarding. (He thinks Lenni is the best skateboarder in EA but is willing to update on new evidence). He also enjoys freestyle skiing and running, but the love for running might become traumatic after his first marathon in two weeks. A guilty pleasure of his is over-outlining blog or forum posts that don’t get written. Oops.

What has the community come to mean to you?

EA Global London really changed what the community means to us. (It was a treat to meet so many of you recently!). We had always been impressed by the EA community we interacted with online – a wonderfully helpful and intelligent group of individuals. Finding out that the same people were also wonderfully nice and funny in person sealed the deal on the effective altruism community just being the coolest thing.

The Spanish-Speaking EA Community

Published 29th September 2021

Describe your group

The Spanish-speaking EA community aims to act as a space to facilitate discussions and make resources available to all Spanish speakers, regardless of geographic location. Our ultimate goal is to make the ideas of EA accessible to a Spanish-speaking audience and build a solid foundation for the future growth of the community, breaking the current language and cultural barriers.

What is the best advice/resource you've found?

Communication is the key to creating a healthy community and working more efficiently.

Good, constant communication is fundamental in order to build trust and a strong connection with group members.

How did you start your group?

The Spanish-speaking EA community was born in February 2020 to foster communication, build alliances between the different local groups and projects and to avoid duplicating efforts in the community. Originally, it started as a translation project aiming to translate foundational EA texts into Spanish and make them available on a new website that would function as a directory of groups and resources. However, the community aspect quickly took over, and we expanded our activities to include regular meetings, a reading club, speaker events, and even a Spanish version of the EA fellowships.

What has been your most successful event, and why?

Not quite an event, but our most successful initiative so far has been the creation of our Slack channel (which has just passed 200 members!) and is our main way to coordinate different projects and stay in contact with everyone. It also functions as a centralised, lively space where Spanish speakers can keep up to date with activities and discussions, find resources and a community of like-minded people.

What is the strength of your group?

Diversity and the common goal of having an EA space in Spanish.

What challenges have you faced as a group, and how did you manage them?

Although we are all Spanish speakers, we come from very different geographic and socioeconomic contexts. One of the reasons why we started this community is that we thought it was important to tailor the communication of EA principles and advice to the Hispanic cultural context, but it soon became apparent that there is no one-size-fits-all approach: a Spaniard and a Venezuelan may speak the same language, but their circumstances and opportunities available to them are likely quite different! This geographic diversity also made us struggle with a range of time zones in order to offer events for everyone. We realised that local groups still had a key role to play and that we had to determine what kind of content and projects made sense to localise and what should remain under the scope of the global community.

Good communication and active reaching out have also been key in order to make sure that everyone’s voices were represented.

Do you have a key goal for your group? How are you working to achieve this?

Our main goal is to build a solid foundation for the future growth of the Spanish-speaking EA community. Because of this, right now we’re emphasising the creation of content tailored to a Spanish audience (in the form of both original and translated texts, for which we have a group of volunteer translators and editors), as well as building networks, making relevant academic contacts in the Hispanic world, and supporting new local and university groups.

What is a funny, interesting, or inspiring story from your group?

The group was born at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a way, the switch from a focus on in-person interactions to online ones contributed to the initial success of the community: it was precisely because everything was taking part online that it seemed unnecessary to restrict events to a certain local group.

Communication and collaborations between different local and national groups developed in an organic way, in order to avoid the duplication of efforts.

EA Blue

Published 30th August 2021

Describe your group

EA Blue is a university group founded in 2019 in Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines (because we are an unaccredited organization in our university, we can’t use our school’s name but can use our school’s color; hence EA Blue instead of EA ADMU). We’re the first student group in the Philippines under our parent chapter EA Philippines, and over the past year have grown from a small group of 5 student organizers to a more engaged group of 13 core organizers and 42 members.

What challenges have you faced as a group, and how did you manage them?

EA Blue was still a budding group in its second year of organising when the pandemic struck. With very few core team members and systems in place, organising in our first semester was slightly difficult, but luckily in our second semester we recruited more core team members who graduated from our first fellowship. As the year progressed, we slowly set up more systems (e.g. project management systems, org structures, etc.) that helped make organising more efficient.

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found?

  1. Running a student group becomes more fun and members become more engaged when you have avenues for fun or bonding (like study spaces on Discord), form close-knit relationships in the org (especially with co-organizers), and emphasise a welcoming culture so that no one is afraid to share what’s on their mind.

  2. Apart from meeting different student chapters abroad, we find it valuable collaborating with, supporting, and being supported by EA Philippines and other local student chapters (EA UP-Diliman and EA DLSU-Manila).

  3. There is no “copy-cutter model of groups” to follow in EA (as mentioned by Joan Gass in her talk, “Goals for university groups”). Hence, while we find it very helpful and valuable to model some of our systems or work after other EA groups, we also try to tailor and test activities or strategies based on our university’s culture e.g. we found that some EA resources need to be more contextualised for us to communicate them better with our members.

What has been your most successful event, and why?

We held two Introductory Virtual Fellowships over the last year with a total of 48 graduates from ADMU and other schools in the Philippines. These fellowships were both quite fun and resulted in new core team members and more engaged members. Through these fellowships we’ve also been able to connect our members with the wider EA community in virtual conferences like the EAGxAPAC or EA Student Summit.

Do you have a key goal for your group? How are you working to achieve this?

EA Blue aims to be a welcoming, productive, and engaging community of Ateneans using evidence and careful analysis to think about how they can help others as much as possible. We hope to better support our members in not only learning about and discussing EA but also in having initiatives to help them plan out and prepare their careers for higher social impact. For the coming academic year, EA Blue plans to initiate new programs such as a Career Planning Club and In-depth Fellowship to continuously engage with our current members while continuing with the Introductory Virtual Fellowships to welcome new members. We also hope to create more social events together with other university chapters to get to know our community on a more personal level!

What is a funny, interesting, or inspiring story from your group?

When the EA Student Summit came around in October 2020, some of our members were a little concerned about the schedule– lots of the talks, workshops, and icebreakers were from 11pm to the wee hours of the morning! This didn’t stop our excitement though, and a lot of us just stayed up or took naps to not miss this cool event.

You can read more about EA Blue’s achievements & learnings in its second year of organizing in this EA Forum post!

Arushi Gupta, EA New York City

Published 4th August 2021

What first drew you to effective altruism?

I’ve wanted to make an impact on the world ever since I was little. I used to visit India with my family every year, and I’d see kids in dire poverty on the streets. It seemed obviously unfair to me that they were in this situation and that I lived a life of such privilege, purely due to an accident of birth. I felt like it was imperative for me to solve these problems. I cycled through a couple of different career ideas throughout high school and college, but couldn’t figure out what was a good fit for me and would actually have an impact on the world. During my sophomore year of college, four years ago, I was googling advice on that topic and found 80,000 Hours. I felt as though someone had taken my jumbled thoughts about having an impact out of my head and written them down with much more clarity than I ever could have. After that I immediately started meeting every single EA I could, and eventually I ended up here :)

What inspires you about effective altruism?

It’s incredible to get to meet people every day who are so thoughtful and passionate about doing the most good for the world, and it’s probably the most inspiring job I will ever have.

Feeling like I’m on a team has been a really positive development for me. When I was younger I used to despair about the number of massive problems in the world and felt like I was alone in trying to solve them all. I still get overwhelmed by the number of problems in the world sometimes, but I feel so much better knowing I’m part of a huge group of people trying to work on them thoughtfully.

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found that you still use today?

I love the Pocket app for saving articles to read later. The EA Forum Digest newsletter has made it much easier for me to keep up with the Forum.

What has the community come to mean to you?

It’s one of the largest influences in my life; since joining the EA community four years ago, I’ve continued to meet wonderful people all the time, and now count a number of EAs among my closest friends.

EA Estonia

Published 6th July 2021

Describe your group

Effective Altruism Estonia is a group of students and professionals with varying degrees of knowledge of EA principles. Our group consists of a board and more than 50 other members in two cities: Tallinn (the capital of Estonia) and Tartu (home of our highest-ranking university). All of our members are volunteers.

Our group’s primary goals are to:

  1. Create a strong community of effective altruists across Estonia.

  2. Help our members make wiser decisions with their careers and donations.

  3. To benefit the international EA community the best we can.

Our main activities are Lightning Talks, Introductory Fellowships, co-working sessions, and various discussion groups. When permitted, we will begin to reintroduce social events (e.g. dinners). Our highlight of the year is the annual Summer Retreat (with strawberries and sauna).

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found?

Before starting any project, look for people who have tried something similar in the past. The EA community is large, and so, with any project idea you might have, there is a chance someone else has already tried it and learned a lot in the process. Ask from the EA Groups Slack, search the EA HUB, or Google it. Coordination is important!

Otherwise, you might spend several weeks assembling a new Introductory course for Effective Altruism before finding out that “Introductory Fellowships” are a thing (definitely not me, though).

What has been your most successful event, and why?

I think our Introductory EA Fellowships have been the most successful in introducing new people to EA. Our discussion groups are small (3–⁠4 people), which means every new participant has a chance to connect with the others. I think that’s a primary reason why 75% of participants decide to join the EA Estonia group after the Fellowship.

We also focus some of our discussions directly on career planning, which is appreciated by our target audience (high schoolers and university students).

What is the strength of your group?

Well, firstly I think Estonia is a great place to live, in general. If anyone in the world wants to register a non-profit in Estonia, they can set it up in just a couple of days on a computer on e-estonia.com.

Advertising aside, I think we have a strong board and many great mentors and connections — from the former group lead Risto Uuk, who is currently focusing on AI policy in Europe, to Kristina Mering, the lead of Nähtamatud Loomad (the Estonian branch of Anima International). And, of course, Jaan Tallinn.

EA University of Melbourne, Australia

Published 28th May 2021

Describe your group.

We’re a group of around 30 people, based at the University of Melbourne, Australia that’s been around for 4-5 years. We try and act as a way for University of Melbourne students to hear about effective altruism, or to engage further in it if it’s something they’re interested in. Our events include careers workshops, discussions events and community socials. We also just started our fellowship program this year, called EA Scholars, based off other groups’ fellowship programs, which has been really exciting. We’re very grateful to other university groups for always being open to lending their resources.

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found?

Talking to past group organisers, and other older EAs. We’ve been building stronger connections with EA Melbourne, for example, through a mentoring program with our students. That’s been really helpful for our members, who not only get insights into new developments in the EA community, but to give more nuanced views of EA and how it can be practised in reality.

What is the strength of your group?

We actually grew a lot during Australia’s COVID-19 lockdowns last year. I think a strength of our group has always been its community, and because we were able to transfer those friendships onto Zoom fairly easily, it made a really welcoming space for any new members. We had a lot of Zoom socials during this time, so that everyone still felt connected during COVID-19. It made for a really stimulating and relaxing environment.

EA New York University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Published 5th May 2021

NYU Abu Dhabi was founded in 2010 to nurture intercultural empathy, listening, and understanding, and has students from 135 nations under the palm trees.

We’re blessed to have such an unparalleled level of diversity. There is probably no other campus in the world where EA students can casually bump into fellows and listen to real-life stories about malaria net distribution, experience growing up around refugee camps, and worrying about getting food for the next meal. In February 2021, we ran the first iteration of the Arete intro fellowship. We had 23 fellows and facilitators representing 17 different countries, ranging from Bangladesh and Bulgaria to South Korea and South Sudan, and had splendid discussions across 3 cohorts and several time zones. We also had fellows from the American University of Sharjah and we look forward to working together closely to build a tight-knit community in the UAE. In March, EA NYUAD hosted in-person (physically distanced) outings for its Arete Fellows, funded by a Group Support Grant from CEA. Vegan meals were provided as part of the outings to places like trampoline parks and archery workshops. The CEA-funded outings were immensely helpful in building a sense of community among fellows who had previously only known each other virtually.

As a new group, we felt welcomed into the EA community as other university groups such as EA Harvard and EA Stanford invited us to events last semester. Some of our members found external opportunities such as Oxford’s In-depth Fellowship and SHIPS - a student-led program to inspire high-impact career plans - valuable for their personal and professional development. We’re immensely grateful to these initiatives and their organizers for helping us feel more rooted in the EA community.

We find value in having diversity on campus. Our chapter’s Japanese-Chinese founder Koki sees understanding the experiences of people as invaluable. “Trying to see the world from the shoes of those whom we intend to help is likely to make us effective altruists grounded in reality.” Interacting with students from vastly different backgrounds has also challenged preconceived notions of doing good, especially for Zack, our Singaporean treasurer. “Our discussions on global health & poverty really pushed me to reconsider the ways in which my cultural background and privilege have shaped the ways I thought of doing good, and to re-examine where that might not be so helpful.” A former chicken rice addict, he added that the vegan challenge also helped him to kickstart his shift towards consuming as little meat as he can.

Aditya, our Arete facilitator, hailing from India, reflects that “I’ve never felt more integrated with the world than with this diverse community (in ethnicity, gender, age, academic path, socioeconomic background, etc.) on this campus…. Coming from India, where I see the first-hand effects of poverty coupled with large scale industrialization, I understand what development can do. Sharing my perspective and background with the rest of the world was way easier with EA.”

Diversity might also be useful to help us identify blind spots in our epistemics. “If we could have an alien comment on how EA works, we will receive a lot of valuable feedback. Although none of us is an alien to the problems of our world, some of us are aliens to the community that EA initially appeals to - economically, geographically, and culturally” reflects Jaime, a Colombian Junior who now facilitates Stanford’s Arete fellowship.

Chuol, who hails from South Sudan and Ethiopia, has volunteered in his hometown to help child refugees, and finds this experience motivates him to make a larger impact - “I see the spirit of humanity forcing me […] to do what I can for those kids.[…] this has equipped me with power, hope and desire to stand up more for my brethren who need me to stand up for them.”

We wish to explore whether the world will thrive if everyone adopted an EA mindset, whether intercultural empathy and understanding will make us better altruists, and whether there are unknown unknowns in EA that we’ve yet to notice.

EA University of Cape Town, South Africa

Published 5th April 2021

The Effective Altruism chapter at the University of Cape Town is a diverse group of students, with varying levels of knowledge of EA principles and ideas. Some members have been in the society for years and are well versed in EA topics; others are new and may have an interest in politics, philosophy, or economics, but have not directly engaged with EA ideas head on.

The society hosts two main kinds of events: talks from guest speakers and discussion groups. Guest speakers have included Tommie Meyer, the director of the South African Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research speaking on AI safety and Matthew Henshall, founder of SkillUp tutors, on the university-to-career transition. Towards the end of 2020, we virtually hosted Ramon Grosfoguel, a professor of Chicano/Latino Studies at University of California, Berkeley who gave a seminar on the importance and methods of decolonising universities, especially in the developing world.

Discussion groups are usually hosted by a member of the society, who gives a presentation on a topic they are interested in, followed by questions and conversation from other members of the group. Topics discussed include those common to EA, like existential risk, animal rights and effective charitable giving. Discussion groups however sometimes focus on uniquely South African issues – like the impact of COVID-19 on government-run education and housing or effective healthcare system choice for developing countries.

The pandemic has been a challenge for everyone and has changed the way we do things. Adapting our meetings from fun, social, in-person events with coffee, tea and biscuits to fuzzy online meetings with bad connections and awkward silences was quite difficult. Everyone was figuring it out on the fly and the group did its best to keep things going throughout lockdown. For the coming year, we are much better prepared and have planned with the realities of COVID in mind. The online nature of meetings has forced us to think outside the box but also opened new possibilities. Members are encouraged to take part in fellowships and reading groups hosted by EA groups at other universities and we are partnering with an EA organisation in Rotterdam to host joint events, letting our members connect with other EAs around the globe.

Going forward, we have made an active decision to DO more good this year, in addition to talking about doing good. We are hoping to expand the suite of activities we offer to include volunteer opportunities for members of the society. An exciting development in this area is a partnership with the Food Fortification Initiative (a GiveWell standout charity) who have asked our group to help spread awareness about the necessity of food fortification, lobby the local government and map the status of grain mills in the country.

Stijn Bruers, EA Belgium

Published 1st March 2021

What first drew you to effective altruism?

In my early student years, I became involved in many animal rights, social justice and environmentalist organizations. After many years of activism, I decided to look back and reflect on the effectiveness of the many ideas I encountered to improve the world. During my PhD in moral philosophy, I learned about rationality and critical thinking. Applying these rationality skills made me realize that a lot of actions were ineffective and potentially counterproductive.

Changing my mind about many issues was a struggle. In that same period, around 2015, names of Peter Singer, Toby Ord and William MacAskill were popping up. These moral philosophers happened to be involved in effective altruism, doing the same exercise of effectiveness analysis that I was doing. The pieces of the puzzle fell together: the skeptical movement with its focus on science and rationality, joined forces with the social activism movement with its focus on ethics and altruism. I changed the name of my blog to The Rational Ethicist, went to EA Global Oxford, met other effective altruists in Belgium and co-founded EA Belgium.

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found that you still use today?

Definitely the 80,000 Hours website. That caused a career switch: after working at an environmental organization for many years, I decided to study economics. My PhD-research in moral philosophy made me think about the ends, what is the highest good, but we need economics to figure out the optimal means, how to most effectively do good. Now I work at the KU Leuven on a research project in health and welfare economics, hoping in the future to combine my ethics and economics knowledge for cause prioritization research. A career switch and going back to study at an age of 38 seemed risky, but I’m confident that it increased my impact.

What has the community come to mean to you?

Its high degree of openness. Effective altruists are open to the world, by looking for scientific evidence and new opportunities to do good, they are open to others, by welcoming criticism, updating beliefs and allowing people in the movement, and they are open towards others, by being transparent about their personal beliefs and confidence levels. The way how disagreements are discussed and dealt with in the EA community is markedly different (less heated or emotional) from what I saw in other social movements. I am deeply touched by the levels of openness, mutual respect and self-criticism in the EA movement.

What do you think the biggest mistake EA has made so far?

You see? It is beautiful to see a movement of people, sincerely asking such self-critical questions. They even drag any criticism out of you in order to improve the movement. After learning about EA, I changed my mind about a few dozens of important beliefs (see this list of my mistakes and failures). But honestly, I can’t immediately think of a biggest mistake in EA. They are ahead of me and already thought about all my potential concerns. Sorry!

What are your hopes for the future?

Cell-based meat and the expansion of our moral circle to include wild animals in the far future.


Positive Impact Society Erasmus, Erasmus University, Netherlands

Published 2nd February 2021

Describe your group

PISE (Positive Impact Society Erasmus) is a student EA group at Erasmus University in the Netherlands. Our members are students from Erasmus and nearby universities. Our active members currently consist of a board, fellows and five committees: community, book club, career, growth hacking and in-depth. We started out last summer, so most of our events so far have been online, but when possible we try to have offline events in small groups. Our events include expert talks, reading groups, fellowship collaborations, hosting career events and giving games for other student organizations, our own weekly focusmate sessions and many awesome community events.

How did you start your group?

We started our group by looking for potential co-organizers online and in our personal networks. This way, we started out with six really enthusiastic organizers last summer. Our first events were a series of introductory online presentations about 80,000 hours, global priorities research and effective altruism. Through these events and a lot of online and word of mouth promotion, we found our first fellows and committee members around October.

What challenges have you faced as a group, and how did you manage them?

One of the key challenges was that we started out during COVID-19, so most of our events have been online. We try to still make people feel welcome and connected by doing one-on-ones with interested students, hosting offline events in small groups when possible and organizing events like Focus Friday, where members can work together via Zoom. We also try to use the digital era to our advantage by doing international collaborations that may not have been possible otherwise. For example, we collaborated with EA Stanford last semester and had 14 fellows take part in their introductory fellowship.

Do you have a key goal for your group? How are you working to achieve this?

One of our key goals was to attract a diverse and large group of students. This is one of the reasons we experimented with our group name. It is hard to assess the counterfactual, but we have been told by some members that they might not have found out about us otherwise. We also try to collaborate with other student organizations at Erasmus on most events to increase our reach and the diversity of new members we attract (and overcome the founder effect). Our growth hacking team is currently also working on ways to reach groups that are underrepresented in our group. Combined, our approach has led to quite different demographics than in the global community (e.g. more women, more social science students).

What’s the biggest lesson/best advice you’ve learned from organising so far?

Some of our best advice would probably be to give people a way to contribute early on. Figuring out how to do good can be quite daunting, but being able to contribute to community building right away or learn more with a mentor might help overcome this feeling. Most of the PISE members participated in a fellowship or reading group or joined a committee within weeks after first hearing about us, which we think helps people stay engaged, whilst also making us grow rapidly! Many hands make light work :)

Huw Thomas, Groups Associate with CEA and a past organiser of EA Oxford

Published 11th January 2021

What first drew you to effective altruism?

In my last year of school, I’d frequently argue with a close friend about vegetarianism. They hadn’t changed their diet yet, but they’d been reading up and were convinced that animal farming was a deeply unethical practice, and as a meat eater I was determined to prove them wrong. After a lot of arguments during the start of the school day, and some solo reading, I came to the conclusion that he was right, and took the plunge into vegetarianism as I arrived at university (amusingly and somewhat exasperatingly given the circumstances, my friend remains a meat eater to this day!)

This was my first big foray into thinking seriously about ethical questions, and it really lit a fuse. I had a lot of fun inside and outside of my courses at university trying to make progress on what seemed to me like the only questions truly worth thinking through, and gradually (I don’t remember the specific moment) learnt about Effective Altruism. Learning about the ideas was huge, equal parts relief that there were people thinking these questions through in a way that actually made sense to me, and excitement as I picked up on all these new ideas and perspectives. But I think attending my first EA Global was at least as big a moment. It was a crazily motivating experience to be surrounded by all of these amazing people who were actually out there, just wholeheartedly putting these ideas into practice. I had a really great experience, and everyone I met was incredibly lovely, and I came away determined that I was going to do the same.

What is something that in your view is consistently underrated?

Star Wars, Revenge of the Sith - I will die on this hill

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found that you still use today

I think a pretty huge chunk of the progress I’ve made in terms of my personal wellbeing and mental health - not to mention my productivity - for the last four years have come from things in the space of setting boundaries around work, taking more time for myself and dealing with feelings of guilt about ‘not doing enough’. If I had to pick a single resource that’s been most helpful for me here, it’d have to be Nate Soares’ Replacing Guilt series (podcast also available).

What are your hopes for the future?

To keel over in happiness once I can meet people in person again

How do you spend your leisure time?

Over lockdown, I’ve gotten a fair bit more into board games, chess, and recently took part in an epic EA and Christmas themed D&D session with a few others from the EA Oxford committee which I predict is going to suck me into the world of D&D. I’ve also been picking up my guitar more often, which has been fun.

In the before-times, I loved skiing and dancing, and was beginning to get into Salsa. If I’m low on energy, my go-to is to crash on the sofa and watch a sitcom with some Ben and Jerrys.

Jeroen Willems, EA Brussels and EA Flanders, Belgium

Published 1st December 2020

What first drew you to effective altruism?

Back in 2016, I was reading about moral philosophy and I came across utilitarianism. It immediately made a lot of sense to me, the idea that all sentient beings matter morally and that we ought to use our time and resources to alleviate their suffering. I then came across Effective Altruism and thought all this practical advice on improving the world that people shared in the movement was really important and needed to be spread (I still think this, of course). So I looked if there were any EA events happening in my country and saw there was an EAGxFlanders so I went to it. Since then I’ve been trying to help out the amazing people from EA Flanders with various tasks, like editing videos for them.

I was studying in Brussels where every couple of months someone organised a meetup. I felt there was a lot of potential there so in the summer of 2018 I brought some of the more frequent attendees together and then we started to really kick off EA Brussels. I’ve mostly been involved by creating events, such as social meetups and coworking sessions.

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found that you still use today?

Take care of yourself first before trying to maximise your impact. Your own well-being is super important if you want to be effective at improving the world. This may mean taking time to meditate, exercise, yoga, going for walks, eating well, sleeping well… The time you spend on these activities is not time wasted. You don’t want to burn out.

What has the community come to mean to you?

There are so many kind people in this movement. I tend to be a bit nervous in general when meeting new people, but this isn’t the case when I meet other aspiring effective altruists. Because I know they have similar values and intentions as me. Seeing and meeting these wonderful people is a big motivator for me to keep organising events for EA Brussels.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I recently finished my masters in television directing and I made a video on preventing engineered pandemics for it, inspired by Toby Ord’s The Precipice chapter on pandemics. I know that technically isn’t leisure time, but I really enjoyed making the video. Other than that I like watching sitcoms, listening to the 80,000 Hours podcast, scrolling on Twitter…

What do you think the biggest mistake EA has made so far?

Probably promoting "earning to give" as much as they did in the past. When I first discovered EA it took me about two months to get fully behind the movement. I think one of the main things that initially put me off was the idea of earning to give. While I agreed with it rationally, emotionally I didn’t feel like doing my best to earn as much money as possible at all. I think it’s great that 80,000 Hours recognised this and promotes other career paths more now.

EA Anywhere

Published 7th November 2020

Marisa and Sami, co-organisers of EA Anywhere, and their pets.

Describe your group

EA Anywhere is a community for people who can’t attend local EA groups to have regular online meetings to discuss EA ideas and support each other with their goals to have a positive impact. Essentially, we’re a “local group” for people who don’t live near local groups, and we’re doing our best to make sure that every aspiring EA has the opportunity to engage with the community, regardless of geographic location.

How did you start your group?

During the pandemic, one of our organizers (Sami) was “adopted” by two EA groups, where he joined their online meetings and book clubs. However, as local restrictions in many countries loosened, local groups began returning to hosting in-person meetings, and these virtual meetings became less frequent. Sami wanted to continue to foster a place for EAs without local communities to connect, and came up with what’s now EA Anywhere.

What has been your most successful event, and why?

In October, we had Ought host a workshop called “Forecasting Questions You Care About,” which helped participants understand how to forecast and apply forecasting skills to donation, career, cause prioritization, and personal decisions. It was our most popular event, and likely for a good reason – a lot of people in EA hear a lot of hype about forecasting, but many of them either don’t think it’s a good practical use of their time or don’t know how to get started. The workshop offered an accessible introduction to forecasting in a way that was also immediately usable for their day-to-day decision-making.

What is the strength of your group?

Being a totally virtual group, we’re able to offer connections to the EA community that are accessible to almost anyone. Even if someone lives near an EA local group, many people can’t attend because of work or family commitments, transportation issues, venue accessibility, and more. We hope that having a virtual group that anyone can join means that no one gets left behind in EA due to these factors.

What challenges have you faced as a group?

As a relatively new group, we’re trying to learn how to scale thoughtfully and gracefully. We have 80 members on our Slack, and have had meetings with anywhere from 6-30 people, but we know there are way more people in the EA community that could benefit from a group like EA Anywhere. We also want to be mindful of not growing too fast and losing the sense of community that makes local groups so valuable.

EA University of Queensland, Australia

Published 6th October 2020

Describe your group

Effective Altruism UQ is a University of Queensland student society with membership and events open to all. We hold events at the UQ St Lucia Campus and online. Our members are largely UQ students, who study a diverse array of subjects. We view our primary purpose as a university EA group to be career development and EA movement building. During the academic year, we host distinguished speakers, discussions, reading groups, presentations by our members, charity Giving Games and social events.

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found?

Much of our membership growth is due from one-on-one interactions within the UQ and broader Brisbane communities. Elevator pitches at parties, the UQ gym and other student society events have been surprisingly effective at generating interest and attendance for our events. The 80,000 Hours Key Ideas webpage has proven useful as an introductory resource to EA. Our reading group for Toby Ord’s The Precipice was a huge success at attracting and engaging people new to EA.

What challenges have you faced as a group, and how did you manage them?

Since the advent of COVID-19, we had to move most of our events online. While initially disruptive, this motivated us to host distinguished speakers from overseas and made our events accessible to geographically removed people. Our online reading club for The Precipice was a significant draw for new members, as was our online lightning talks event, which featured several people entirely new to EA who were excited to be given a platform to present (incidentally EA-related) talks.

What has been your most successful event, and why?

Our collaboration with the UQ AI and Machine Learning student society, an online talk by DeepMind AI safety researcher Richard Ngo, drew large attendance from both societies and the wider EA community. The audience was very engaged with the talk and subsequent Q&A. Giving audience members the ability to vote questions up or down allowed us to crowdsource question prioritisation. One-on-one conversations with possible attendees generated more interest in the event than simply mass-inviting or advertising.

What is the strength of your group?

Our group has thrived when we have had regular short social discussion events to facilitate a sense of community without excessively impacting study time. These events have allowed EAUQ members with diverse academic backgrounds to share their knowledge, such as in our recent reading club for The Precipice. Our members have demonstrated that they feel comfortable to share dissenting views and engage in good-faith discussion on controversial topics. I strongly appreciate the atmosphere of academic inquiry at our group’s events.

What’s the biggest lesson/best advice you’ve learned from organising so far?

I believe that community groups thrive when as many people as possible are granted opportunities to take on leadership or speaking roles, as opposed to centralising event planning and approval. Effective Altruism is a communal endeavour and I believe that EAUQ, as a university society, should focus on developing the event management and presentation skills of emerging community members.

What is a funny, interesting, or inspiring story from your group?

Before our 2019 Annual General Meeting, it was discussed that EAUQ would have to dissolve due to almost all of our executive members leaving at the end of 2019 and poor attendance at several recent events. However, several members of our community worked to make our 2019 AGM a memorable event in its own right, with several Lightning Talks as the main feature. Due to the high attendance and interest generated in the Lightning Talks + AGM event, several people volunteered to fill the key executive roles and the society was saved. In 2020, our membership, event attendance and leadership team has been strong and it looks like this will continue into 2021, despite losing more executive members to graduation.

Do you have a key goal for your group? How are you working to achieve this?

As a university student society, EAUQ has a focus on career development and movement building. We believe that these aims are best achieved by featuring distinguished speakers that draw new members to our events and expose existing members to EA-aligned research opportunities and by engaging in collaborative learning activities, like reading groups and Lightning Talks. Additionally, we hold an 80,000 Hours-inspired career development workshop at the end of each academic year.

Eve McCormick - EA Cambridge

Published 1st September 2020

What first drew you to effective altruism?

I was quite sceptical of international development aid when I was a teenager, but also hoped to be able to dedicate some of my future resources to improving people’s lives. In my very vague plan, I imagined having to figure out ways on my own to ensure that my donations were actually doing good. When I came across Peter Singer’s TED talk about EA whilst procrastinating from studying my A-Levels, I was very relieved to find that I wouldn’t have to do this by myself after all!

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found that you still use today?

One of the best practices I learnt from previous EA Cambridge organisers is using checklists to track all of the tasks which need to be undertaken in order to run our activities. Given that running events involves many repeated tasks, using a checklist to make sure that none are missed seems to make things run a lot more smoothly! Related to this, an amazing resource, which we have been using for about one year, is our EA Cambridge team in the EA Hub Asana workspace. We’re still figuring out the best way to use Asana for coordinating tasks between volunteers, but it’s great to have access to the premium Asana features by sharing the cost with other groups.

What are the biggest challenges as a community organiser?

In my experience, one of the biggest challenges is managing volunteer organisers, including maintaining motivation, delegating, ensuring tasks are completed by the necessary deadlines etc. So I was very excited to see this EA Forum post from Naomi advising on this topic! In particular, as a paid organiser, I sometimes think I am less willing to delegate tasks to volunteers than I ideally would be, as I don’t want to ask things of volunteers that I am paid to do. I try to regularly remind myself that our volunteers volunteered to help out, are usually very keen to take things on, and can do a better job at many tasks than I could.

Another challenge is coordination – there are so many EA groups now, and it’s impossible to know about all of the resources and experiences from every group which you could learn from (which makes me sad). However, the EA Resource Hub, Groups newsletter and other endeavours seem to help a lot.

What one thing would you want other EA organisers to know about?

One thing we’ve noticed when looking at how our most engaged members first got involved with our group is that they entered through a variety of different activities, with no single activity winning out as the most effective outreach mechanism. Because of this, we try to run a range of introductory EA events with different time commitments (such as both one-off, longer discussions and discussion series), different topics (e.g. speaker events representing a range of prominent EA cause areas alongside more career-focused events), and in different locations (e.g. we tried running events targeted at non-students outside of the university). We are very fortunate to have had the capacity to do this, which many smaller groups won’t have. However, varying even a small number of events could be good for attracting more people (whilst also maintaining some consistency in order to retain people after their first event!)

Stanford EA

Published 4th August 2020

Describe your group

Stanford EA (SEA) was one of the earliest university EA groups to get started (and started out as Stanford THINK - The High Impact Network in 2012). Over the past few years, SEA has grown from a small group with three active members to a group of over 20 organizers and dozens of other members. In this time, SEA has spun off distinct AI Safety and One For the World sub-groups, and are also working with two professors (Stephen Luby and Paul Edwards) to run Stanford’s new Existential Risks Initiative. Other programming includes a quarterly fellowship mentorship program, speaker events, socials, career workshops, and retreats.

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found?

  • 1:1s have been key to getting our group to where it is today. Older and more experienced group members mentoring and having in-depth conversations with younger, less experienced members about everything from population ethics and cause prioritization to theories of change and best practices for running groups have helped give interested students a high-fidelity understanding of EA in a way that gets them excited to join the group, learn more, and apply these ideas to their own lives. We’ve incorporated regular 1:1s into our fellowship structure for this reason.

  • Becoming (best) friends with your co-organizers and hanging out with EAs for fun/outside of EA contexts (e.g. over meals, doing coursework together, etc) has made a huge difference for Stanford EA, and makes group members want to do and learn even more together.

  • Ask for help and get connected with the community! CEA, the EA Hub, the EA Groups slack, and fellow organizers are great resources who can point you to all the amazing work other group organizers have done. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel (though sometimes it can be valuable to!) and can. In particular, I have Harvard, Yale, MIT, Cambridge and Oxford EA to thank for many of the resources we now use for our programming.

What has been your most successful event, and why?

  • Our kickoff event for 2019 with Will MacAskill had close to 200 attendees and great reception. We also received 250 applications for our Existential Risks Initiative Summer Research Program, or ~3.5% of the Stanford student body!

  • Dinners with professors have also been quite successful, and have led to the close connection we have with the professors running the Existential Risks Initiative.

What is the strength of your group?

Having a strong core of highly committed members who dedicate a lot of time and energy towards the group has helped a lot.

What challenges have you faced as a group, and how did you manage them?

We are currently working on figuring out how to improve our programming for more experienced group members (e.g. once they’ve finished the fellowship) - through improving our career programming, more in depth discussions, and projects.

Do you have a key goal for your group? How are you working to achieve this?

Our two primary goals are developing students with well thought out cause-prioritization and high-impact career plans reflecting this, and improving the standing of and research on EA-related topics at Stanford (through connections with professors and initiatives like SERI) and within academia more broadly (helping facilitate connections/partnerships, leveraging Stanford’s brand for good use, etc).

Jessica McCurdy, Yale EA

What first drew you to effective altruism?

I first discovered EA in high school. I am not sure exactly how I found it but I ended up watching Peter Singer’s TED talk and was hooked. I have a super vivid memory of making my first donation to AMF right after watching. It was only $8 but I felt like I was doing real impactful good for the first time.

However, it wasn’t until joining Yale EA that I really identified with the movement and community. I found the people in Yale EA to be some of the most intelligent, inspiring, and caring people I had ever met and I am so lucky to have had them as peers and now as friends. They helped me to challenge my prior beliefs and orient my life towards my values.

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found that you still use today?

I find the EA Hub to be incredible. I wish it existed when I first started organizing. I spent so much time reinventing the wheel back then coming up with syllabi, discussion questions, and reading recommendations. Nowadays, I regularly use the EA Hub to find all of these things and more. I especially love the reading lists and like to send them to people after having 1-1s.

As for advice, the most poignant to me is Alex Barry convincing me three years ago that Yale EA needed handover documents. He was completely right and they have made the group so much better and more sustainable.

What could EA communities do better?

I think EA could still do a lot more to create a welcoming environment that encourages diversity. I have been really happy to see more conversations on this in the past few years but I still think we have a very long way to go. I have met an upsetting number of incredibly talented and passionate people who were turned off from EA because they did not feel welcome. Something I hear is that they felt like people in EA were not interested in hearing their views or were set in certain convictions. This just seems so counter to what EA is about which is constantly questioning and updating. If we truly embrace epistemic and moral uncertainty then we should be open to listening to others and welcoming their ideas. We can learn so much from people of different backgrounds and life experiences and it is important for us to be intentional about encouraging those to be heard.

What one thing would you want other EA organisers to know about?

When I first started organizing I would sometimes feel intimidated to reach out to people in the community for help. I thought people would be too busy and annoyed by my reaching out. However, I have discovered that the people in the EA community are just some of the most generous and helpful people I have interacted with. We all want what is best for EA and to see groups succeed. Additionally, I learned that people genuinely like the feeling of getting to teach and mentor others. So please reach out. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t get a response. However, the much more likely thing that will happen is that the person you reach out to will be excited to share what they have learned and that it will probably make them feel good.

Parth Thaya, EA Microsoft

Published 1st June 2020

What first drew you to effective altruism?

I first came across the concept of effective altruism by reading SlateStarCodex, and it was like seeing a reflection of ideas I’d already thought for many years but had largely kept to myself. Third world poverty and factory farming were two of the biggest issues I’d felt that developed countries, both governments and citizens, were badly neglecting, despite all the low hanging fruit. So, I was quick to embrace EA when I saw that other people had come to similar conclusions with much more rigor.

What has the community come to mean to you?

I credit effective altruism, almost exclusively, for turning me away from a nihilistic view of the world. While I’ve never acted particularly nihilistically, I long held an internal view of “Everyone is terrible, including myself, because we see great suffering in the world that we could help alleviate, but we don’t.” The effective altruism community showed me another way. It made it clear that doing more was better than doing less, and that taking care of yourself and your own life was an important step to being able to help others in the long term. Organizations like the Life You Can Save and Giving What We Can set manageable standards for how much to donate.

What are the biggest challenges as a community organiser?

Finding the time. Everyone is busy and has their own priorities outside of EA, including myself. We’ve sometimes tried to make EA more social, and we’ve had some success there, but we’re at our best when we have a goal to work towards together. That’s when people feel like they’re giving up their time to work on something meaningful, and that they care about.

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found that you still use today?

That EA should be presented to people as a way to answer questions they already care about, rather than something to be proselytised. Typical mind fallacy biases me towards thinking anyone who hears about effective altruism will instantly see it makes the most sense and is the most compassionate approach to giving. Since this does not seem to be true universally, the best people to target are people looking for the answers that EA can give them.

What inspires you?

That ideas that are considered fringe or weird or unusual at one point in time can become the norm later on. And that good and correct ideas have a clear advantage over bad and incorrect ones, even if that advantage is not as big as we’d like, and the timespan for realizing the advantage could be longer than we’d like. It’ll require active effort, but the ideas of effective altruism can, in time, hold a lot more power in shaping the world than they do today.

What is something that, in your view, is consistently underrated?

Water chestnuts – they should be a part of way more meals than they are.

Brian Tan - EA Philippines

Published 28th March 2020

What first drew you to effective altruism?

I first heard about EA through 80,000 Hours in 2017. I was helping organize a “Career Design Bootcamp” - a 3-day conference for students interested in a career in the tech startup industry. A friend of mine who was familiar with EA sent me the link to 80K’s website. He thought it would be a good resource for me to read and use for the bootcamp.

I ended up reading 80K’s whole career guide. I felt that the content was written exactly for me. I was an ambitious university student, and I wanted to help as many people as I could within my lifetime. However, before reading their content, I thought that the best way for me to help people was to start or join a startup, or create content, since those are ways I could help millions of people.

After reading 80K’s guide though, I realized that startups and content creation were only two of the many ways I could help the world. I was hooked to learn more about what problems I could help solve, and how I can solve them other than just through startups or content.

What has the community come to mean to you?

EA has become a large part of my identity. I’ve become good friends with my co-founders, who were all strangers to me when we first started EA Philippines. I’ve met a lot of interesting people locally in our events, and I’m glad to be able to talk to them about EA.

I also feel that I’m now part of a global community of people who share similar values with me, and it’s given my life a lot more meaning. It’s amazing to meet and talk to EAs from other countries - I’ve met with quite a few while I was on a trip in Canada and in an EA conference in Singapore. And I hope to meet even more EAs whenever I’m in a country or city with other EAs.

What are the biggest challenges as a community organiser?

My biggest challenge is keeping myself motivated to keep doing community building work. We in EA Philippines don’t get paid for our community building work, but we are grateful though to have general group funding from CEA for expenses. And I have a full-time job, so there are times when I just want to rest after work. However, I do my best to make sure I do some EA-related work or reading almost every day.

There are community building tasks that I’ve started to find repetitive, especially since we organized 14 meetups in 2019. These include making posters and Google Forms for registration, and marketing the events on social media. I’ve started to feel that I’m not learning, growing, or making an impact as much as I could, and that I could be doing more interesting and impactful activities.

I still want to grow and contribute to the EA community, but I’m just not sure if what I’m doing now is the best way I could be contributing. I’ve started thinking of ways about how else I can help the EA community aside from just event organizing, and I’ll start exploring some of those paths this 2020. We’ve also started to find people interested in joining our core team, so hopefully we can find someone who’s interested to do the tasks I don’t enjoy as much.

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found that you still use today?

I think 80,000 Hours’ original career guide is still the best resource I’ve found, both for thinking about my own career and for giving career advice to others. I’ve read it twice and given a talk about it, and most people I recommend it to find it really valuable.

What inspires you?

People who achieve great, impactful things are what inspire me. I look up to startup founders who’ve created great products, content creators whose content has helped me and many others, and to Effective Altruists who are doing what they can to improve the world and the future.

How do you spend your leisure time?

Honestly, I try to be productive even during my “leisure” time. So outside of my day job and doing EA Philippines work, I’m probably consuming resources related to EA, startups, or product design.

Even the TV series or movies I watch for leisure are usually “productive” too. I watched the entire “Silicon Valley” series, both for the laughs and to learn about startup/tech culture. I watched the movie “Contagion” and the Netflix series “Pandemic” recently, both of which were entertaining and educational. I find it really satisfying to learn something new while also being entertained.

Other than that, I get 7-8 hours of sleep every day, meditate before going to bed, and go to the gym 2-3 times a week. I also spend time with my siblings and parents on weekends, and hang out with friends from time to time.

What is neglected in EA?

I think community builders should be doing more work to find and vet career opportunities in their country or region, especially for those unable to work in or relocate to the EA hubs.

Although there are a lot of opportunities in 80K’s job board, most of them are out of reach if you’re not from the U.S. or U.K., or are unable to relocate there. Finding an EA-related job opportunity is hard, and getting in is hard as well.

As such, I think the work Vaidehi Agarwalla and the Local Career Advice Network are doing is really important. They’re studying what bottlenecks community builders face in giving local career advice or headhunting for high-impact roles locally, and they want to help provide local group members with researched and vetted advice. Their work has started helping me think about what I can do myself to look for opportunities and help people in my locale still have high-impact careers.

What could EA communities do better?

I think EA community builders can do better in coordinating with each other, as well as with CEA. We have 170+ chapters all over the world and lots of community builders, but it doesn’t feel like we’re working as a cohesive unit yet.

One thing I’d like to see community builders do is to share publicly more information about their progress and strategy, whether it be through an annual or bi-annual review on the EA Forum, or monthly updates on the EA groups Slack. We wrote an annual review of EA Philippines’ progress in 2019, and we benefited a lot from reflecting about our progress too.

I’d like to see more community builders share about their successes (to celebrate them) as well as their problems (to help solve them). EA communities might be doing different things, but it would be great to see us celebrating wins together and coordinating with each other more closely.

It would also be great to have video calls with other community builders and/or EAs, just to socialize more and learn from like-minded people.

Sella Nevo, EA Israel

Published 29th February 2020

Sella giving a talk at EA Israel

What first drew you to effective altruism?

When I was thirteen I volunteered for the first time, and realized this was the first time in thirteen years I did something that made a difference in other people’s lives. Over the next decade I spent a significant portion of my leisure time volunteering, mainly in poverty alleviation, work with youth at risk, and refugees. I wanted to create the largest positive impact I could, but struggled to find reliable information on how to do so. When I found effective altruism online, it was exactly the community and body of research I had been searching for quite a while - making it a pretty easy sell.

What has the community come to mean to you?

When I originally stumbled upon the EA community, I was delighted to find a community that shares my values. The community continues to be a constant source of inspiration - with so many people doing incredible and impactful work. But perhaps the most significant impact the community had on my life over the years has been exposing me to new causes and considerations such as animal welfare, moral uncertainty, and others. Having a community of intelligent people challenging one’s views in a positive and constructive way is both rare and underrated.

What are the biggest challenges as a community organiser?

There are very diverse challenges in being a community organizer. One is that communities tend to flourish under consistency, so you want to make sure you organise events, answer questions, and maintain relationships - even at times when other aspects of your life require attention and are keeping you busy. Also, as a person committed to evidence-based change, it can sometimes be hard to focus on advocacy and community-building work, which is often speculative and hard to measure. That being said, being a community organizer is more fun and natural than I had expected, so I recommend more people try it!

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found that you still use today?

Helen Toner’s classic post Effective Altruism is a Question (not an ideology) is something I think all community organizers should keep in mind. Remembering that what we care about is how to do the most good, rather than a commitment to our currently estimated top priorities (especially given the amount of uncertainty we have around many of our top charities and even cause areas), is important to creating a community geared towards openness, innovation, inclusiveness, and challenging of existing views.

What could EA communities do better?

EA could be (somewhat simplistically) thought of as the intersection between being altruistic and being effective (often associated with being analytical and quantitative, though this is not entirely accurate). I think EA communities are great at engaging people who already have an analytical and quantitative mindset, but don’t invest sufficiently at welcoming people from traditional altruistic backgrounds. By explaining why evidence, research and rational analysis are important in a way that is accessible and respectful to audiences that don’t find this obvious, we can grow the community and benefit from a lot of existing experience and expertise.

Catherine Low, EA Christchurch and EA New Zealand

Published 4th February 2020

Catherine (5th from right) at the recent EA New Zealand retreat

What first drew you to effective altruism?

I was drawn to the idea that I could (and should) make a significant difference to others, and that there was a community of inspiring people. I first encountered effective altruism on a Rationally Speaking podcast that featured Peter Singer. Before Peter started talking, one of the interviewers (Massimo Pigliucci) described how he and his wife had read one of Peters’s books and it caused them to move to a smaller house and sell their car in order to have a more positive impact. I found that astonishing. I hadn’t previously internalised the possibility that simply reading one book could immediately change someone’s life, at least not when that someone was the highly skeptical Massimo, who was unlikely to be duped into anything. While I found Peter’s ideas on global poverty and animal rights extremely compelling, it was knowing there were generous, intelligent people out there who allowed these ideas to change their lives gave me some sort of permission to take significant action myself.

What has the community come to mean to you?

I know many people say to “keep your identity small”, for good reasons, but that is not something I follow! The EA community has given me a tribe that I enjoy being a part of, despite its imperfections (and what tribe is perfect?). I get support, motivation, and friendship from being part of this tribe. I know I can personally make a large difference to the lives of many animals and people through my individual actions, but it makes it SO much easier when there are other people encouraging me and when I feel part of a larger project.

What are the biggest challenges as a community organiser?

My biggest challenge is that there are so many projects that I want to work on, all at the same time! But more generally I think the biggest challenge is getting the message out to the people who would be receptive to EA ideas if they came across the ideas (of course the ideas need to be communicated well - I’m not advocating for everyone to preach on their street corner or anything!). I’ve done quite a bit of outreach, with not as much success as I had initially hoped. But despite this, I feel strongly that the impact of EA is far smaller than it could be because the ideas aren’t getting to the people that would use them. I suspect there was only around a 30% chance that I would have discovered EA ever, and I’d like to think it would have been a pity if I hadn’t. I know I’m not particularly normal, but surely there are some more Catherines out there that want to know. Surely!

What is the best advice/resource you’ve found that you still use today?

Why the EA Hub resources of course ;)! Okay, so that website is one of the projects I work on, so that was a slightly cheeky answer. But it does have lots of useful information for group leaders and community members in general, and I use it often, so you should check it out and contribute your own resources!

What could EA communities do better?

Currently, many new people report that EA seems elitist, and therefore fear their contributions may not be enough for them to be a part of our movement, or may not want to be a part of the movement. I’ve heard this concern even from people who have an awful lot to contribute. So I worry that we are missing out on a lot of impact as a result of the messages that we consciously or unconsciously put out. As EA is fundamentally a bit judgemental, and the scale of what we are trying to do is so enormous and potentially anxiety-inducing, I think our community needs to be more conscious about making people feel excited and valued than other movements do. For a totally biased example of the impact of a not particularly elite group, my city is rather unremarkable - it has fewer than 400,000 people and two universities of no international importance. Yet we have a small but thriving EA group that donates, provides value through volunteer projects, and has a few people who have EA aligned jobs or are heading for high-impact careers. So I’d love to see more similarly average places having highly productive EA communities.

Neil Ferro, EA Sydney

Published 4th Feb 2020

What first drew you to effective altruism?

I first came across EA through a TED talk by Peter Singer. He raised some pretty surprising thought experiments on how to balance emotion and practicality, and how you can make the biggest impact. And it really spoke to me. It came just as I was embarking on a journey to find the best way to give back to the world.

What has the community come to mean to you?

The EA community has been transformative for me. As the saying goes, you end up the average of the five people you spend the most time with. When you surround yourself with people who are open-minded, curious and want to make a positive impact on the world, you can’t help but absorb those traits through osmosis.

How has effective altruism influenced the path you’re on?

Over the past 18 months, I have gone from working for a corporation that didn’t align with my values, to having found what feels like my true calling; I have gone from an omnivorous to vegan diet; and I have gone from never having volunteered in my life to volunteering in two separate roles: one as a Welcome2Sydney Ambassador for refugees and asylum seekers, and now as chairperson for the EA Sydney Organising Committee.

What are the biggest challenges as a community organiser?

Biggest challenge I find is that there are so many passionate members of the EA community that want to do the most good but we sometimes let perfection get in the way of the good. Applying the Pareto Principle (8020) is a good antidote to perfectionism.

What is the best advice/resource for community organising you’ve found that you still use today?

This link regarding lessons learnt from organising EA London with a particular highlight being the art of gathering notes

What inspires you?

People that are dedicated to improving the lives of those less fortunate than themselves, and who remain humble and gracious in the process.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I love to read, do yoga, go to the beach and spend quality time with family and friends.

What are your hopes for the future?

Although the EA movement is still comparatively small, I subscribe to something [American cultural anthropologist] Margaret Mead once said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has…"