Types of groups

Types of groups

Last updated: 4th October, 2023

1. City groups

City groups hold events in cities or other geographical areas where members live close enough to attend regular in-person meetings. Common activities include:

  • Running meetups such as socials, discussion groups, speaker events
  • Having 1:1 chats with group members
  • Fostering connections between members

Less active city groups meet monthly on average and aim to be a place where people who are already interested in EA can connect with each other. More active city groups run weekly or fortnightly events including guest speakers, book clubs, outreach events, subgroups based on relevant interest areas, fellowships, EA projects, retreats, career guidance and more.

2. University groups

Universities are an excellent place to introduce people to EA. Uni groups are oriented towards recruiting students, but many universities also allow non-students to attend or help organise groups.

Most uni groups are official university clubs or societies. Being recognised as a student organisation usually gives you certain privileges, which may include having a stall at the clubs fair, funding, booking rooms for free, and appearing in the uni’s directory of clubs/societies. Bear in mind that these groups have to manage some additional admin to remain chartered by their uni, such as:

  • Paperwork to register the club, or to renew/re-affiliate a dormant club
  • Handling receipts and other financial matters
  • Understanding and complying with university policies

Some universities make it difficult for new groups to get registered, and several successful uni groups are not registered. Be careful not to violate any university regulations when advertising your group's events.

Uni groups put on a variety of events, often including:

Uni groups often focus on introducing new people to EA and helping members to apply EA principles to their studies and career.

Most uni groups are named "Effective Altruism University of X" or "X University Effective Altruism", but some groups have decided against using "Effective Altruism" in their name (see this post by KoenSchoen). In any case, if your university takes its name from the city it is in, it's best to ensure you have the word "University" or "College" in your group name so it doesn't get confusing if a city group forms later.

3. National groups

National groups serve people throughout the country and usually act as an umbrella for multiple city and uni groups. Its members typically include representatives from the different local groups as well as national EA-aligned organisations.

A national group may have several functions including:

  • Creating and maintaining an online presence (website, social media, mailing list).
  • Supporting city and university groups by advising organisers, connecting organisers to each other, sharing best practices for local community building, and exchanging event ideas or materials.
  • Coordinating the translation of EA texts into the local language(s).
  • Running events accessible to everyone in the country (e.g. virtual events, unconferences, retreats).
  • Having one-on-ones with people who are interested in EA.
  • Connecting members with one another and the international community.
  • Creating strategy and goals for the country’s EA community.
  • Assisting group members with tax-deductible donations to high-impact charities (e.g. through providing advice or setting up a charity that funnels donations to high-impact charities).
  • Providing advice to group members on high-impact career paths.
  • Assuming a representative role for external matters (e.g., media requests, press inquiries) and the rest of the (global) EA community.

Unless your country is very small, it is probably best to have a distinct national group and city group (even if they are run by some of the same people). This allows the national group to concentrate on activities that benefit everyone in the country who might be interested in EA – while the city group focuses on holding in-person meetups in a populous part of the country. It also makes it easier for new city groups to form. The exception is if your country covers a very small area (e.g. Singapore or Andorra) – in this case it may not be necessary to have separate national and city groups.

The national group's website, branding and activities should ideally be accessible to everyone in the country who might be interested in EA. Consider hosting events online, organising multi-day events that people can travel to, translating EA content (if needed), and providing advice about donations and careers (including one-on-one online meetings).

Having separate city and national groups can prevent the situation where a person joins the "national" group mailing list or social media pages only to find out that they can't participate in activities because they live in a different city – and they miss out on getting a welcoming introduction to the community.

In addition, residents in smaller cities/towns sometimes feel very excluded when events are only run in big cities, especially if the advertising suggests that these events are country-wide. We should do our best to prevent such negative feelings!

At a minimum, national groups require a professional online presence and friendly, responsive leaders who are able to host meetings with interested group members.

When starting a national group, it's important to keep in mind that serving as an active member can require significant time and commitment. If a member of a national group is also an organizer of a local group, they may have less capacity to take care of their local group.

4. City-uni hybrid groups

Some groups hold events that explicitly cater to both students and EAs from the surrounding community. This usually works if the city is small with only one major university in the city.

Note that students and non-students often have different preferences for the style, location, and time of events. City-uni partnerships need to ensure that their events and messaging are welcoming to both students and non-students. For example, non-student newcomers may not feel particularly welcome at an event held at a university campus cafe, so it might be best to hold your events off-campus.

The simplest form of a city-uni partnership is for a city group to use the university to recruit group members: student members of a city group can register a club at their university, and use the clubs fair and other promotion tools to attract new people to the city group.

Some city-uni hybrid groups later split up into a city and a uni group as they grow. In areas with distinct city and uni groups, it is often healthy for the groups to host some events collaboratively even if they have separate leadership and little overlap in attendees. These events can provide an opportunity for students to network with more experienced EAs. It may also increase the likelihood that students remain engaged in EA because they can join the city group after graduation or even during holiday breaks when their uni group is less active.

5. Workplace/professional groups

An EA workplace group is a community of people interested in EA who work for the same institution / company. Some EAs have started groups at their companies, such as EA Microsoft.

Meanwhile, an EA professional group is a community of people interested in EA who work in the same field/profession – they don’t have to work for the same employer. Examples of professional groups include the EA Consulting Network, EA Finance group, and the UK Civil Service and Policy network, which are talked about in this post by Anneke Pogarell and Jona Glade.

Learn more about why and how to start a workplace/professional group in this sequence of posts by Anneke Pogarell and Jona Glade. You can also read a summary of various profession-based EA groups here.

6. Virtual groups

Virtual groups are groups whose activities take place primarily or entirely online. Usually these are based on a specific subgroup within EA like an identity, cause area, or profession. Examples of virtual groups include Effective Altruism Anywhere (a virtual group serving EAs who don't have a nearby/local group), the Spanish-speaking EA community (online group for Spanish speakers), Effective Environmentalism, and Effective Altruism for Christians. Virtual groups come with their own unique advantages (such as the ability to reach a wider audience) as well as challenges (for example, coordinating across time zones), but in general can contribute significantly to the geographic diversity of the EA movement.

7. Groups focusing on a subset of EA ideas

EA covers a very broad range of ideas. Some groups focus on a smaller subset of EA ideas e.g. AI safety, effective giving, existential Risk, effective Animal Advocacy, etc.

Sometimes these groups are subgroups of a city or uni group.

8. EA combined with other topics

Some groups have chosen to cover both EA and other topics, most commonly rationality and Astral Codex/Slate Star Codex. The intention is usually to appeal to anyone interested in EA and anyone interested in the other topic, however, there is a risk that these groups only appeal to people who are interested in BOTH EA and the other topic, so before starting a combination group consider carefully whether it is better to have separate groups with some overlapping members.

We encourage all EA groups to incorporate rationality ideas into their activities, with a focus on how rationality can help us have a larger impact.