Top down interventions that could increase participation and impact of Low and Middle Income Countries in EA

This is a Draft Amnesty Day draft. That means it’s not polished, it’s probably not up to my standards, the ideas are not thought out, and I haven’t checked everything. I was explicitly encouraged to post something unfinished!
Commenting and feedback guidelines: I’m going with the default — please be nice. But constructive feedback is appreciated; please let me know what you think is wrong. Feedback on the structure of the argument is also appreciated.

Posted on draft Amnesty Day, one day late oops

Thanks to Ben Garfinkel, Surbhi Bharadwaj and Mo Putera for feedback

This is a list of things that could help increase participation of LMICs in EA. Many of these actions involve tradeoffs (e.g. on people’s time, efforts and resources) so probably the community shouldn’t do all of these things. Some of them might not currently be worth the trade-offs. However, since the community is serious about trying to increase diversity, and insofar as a number of these are actually pretty low cost, I think many of these might be worthwhile.

See also this great post (has more specific suggestions that overlap with some of the ones highlighted here). This post has been drafted in parallel to this EA career guide for people in LMICs (which is a more bottom-up approach).


  • Strongly encourage senior EAs to attend events that are accessible to people in LMICs: Having virtual conferences and EAGxs in LMICs seems great, but for these events to be successful it is important for senior people in EA (who are still overrepresented in high income countries) to continue to attend them. As the number of annual EA events increases, senior EAs could start prioritizing conferences in their own hubs and it could become increasingly hard for people in LMICs to network with them. If senior EAs underestimate the importance of attending conferences that are accessible to people in LMICs, then personal outreach to these EAs could help them make better prioritisation decisions. There may also be ways to make participation in these events more convenient or attractive to senior EAs.

  • Alternatively, making EAGs as inclusive as possible for LMICs. Some measures that could be done:

    • Advertising events further in advance, considering that people from LMICs might struggle more with visa appointments (as already highlighted here).

    • Provide immigration support like invitation letters for conferences and events and make the process smooth for LMICs attendees.

    • Advertising events more broadly in LMICs by sharing events with local community builders, orgs and universities (even nudging community builders in LMICs to advertise an EAG seems low effort and worth doing).

  • Consider hosting at least one annual EA Global in a more visa-friendly hub, instead of the UK and the US. For example, it could be worthwhile to host an EA Global in Mexico City or India (depending on visa requirements).

For funders/​EA orgs

  • (probably too obvious) Diversifying demographics of staff working at funding organizations. This will come too from bottom-up approaches (community builders in LMICs could encourage EAs in LMICs to apply to jobs in these organizations).

    • In the short term, these orgs could reach out more actively to community builders in LMICs when they have open positions.

    • See more specific recommendations about hiring here.

  • Shoutouts to very inclusive processes: someone could spot hiring and recruiting processes that have been particularly successful at attracting diverse candidates and share recommendations to replicate them. For example, we have heard that the last LPP Summer fellowship in Oxford had very diverse demographics. Apparently, they spent some time sending emails to universities in many LMICs when they were advertising the event.

  • Funders could review their internal processes scanning incentive structures that are detrimental for diversity. For example, incentives for grantmakers to invest in projects that absorb large sums of money ignores the fact that the purchasing power of funding is a lot higher in LMICs (projects are cheaper). Therefore, that could become an incentive not to invest in projects in LMICs.

    • Many processes could be worth keeping fixed, even if they trade off against diversity. However, others could be worth adjusting or compensating for.

  • Providing operations support and fiscal sponsorship to current LMICs organizers and projects.

  • Create and fund projects for upskilling individuals in LMICs in hard and soft skills. For example: we are currently creating an English lessons program for Spanish speakers (we won’t provide the lessons but will facilitate the activity by finding providers, funding and a selection process). Other community builders in non-English-speaking countries could run similar initiatives if it is successful (reach out for more details).

Community Health:

  • Anticipate possible community health issues that could interfere with diversity and start conversations about best practices. Some ideas:

    • Advice to interact when there are language differences:

      • What should be the default language in certain settings? How does that change with locations, ratio of english speakers vs non-english speakers?

      • Which behaviors should be avoided/​promoted?

        • For example, a non obvious situation: Some english speakers insist on speaking in spanish with me because they want to practice. This is mostly fine and nice in social settings (they often do it because they want to be inclusive, which I appreciate a lot). However, this can become annoying in some professional situations when I insist on speaking in English for the sake of fluency and getting feedback on my work. I start feeling that they are more focused on practicing their second language than taking me seriously or listening to what I’m saying. Sometimes it can be better to switch to that second language, but this depends on both people’s level of comfort and fluency in both languages. Would it be good to make it a norm to ask for language preferences in conversations?

        • Speaking slower when there are people whose main language is not the one spoken during the conversation.

  • Tips on cultural adaptation and power dynamics in new EA hubs in LMICs:

    • Cultural clashes can be hard both for EAs from LMICs who move to high income country hubs and for high income country EAs who visit LMICs. This can bring very high reputational risks and generate situations in which people feel uncomfortable and demotivated by EA. Some tips that we can think of:

      • If you are from a high income country or if you are from an LMIC and are in a position of power: be wary of blindly replicating social norms that you identify in EA without allowing local cultures to express their own preferences and intrinsic behaviors. This includes things like using excessive jargon or replicating interpersonal dynamics common in existing EA settings. Cultural exchange between EA and future LMICs hubs can be extremely rich and fruitful for both ends, but if newcomers perceive that belonging to EA is to adopt already existing social norms, we would lose the opportunity to shape a real global EA culture and the relationship will be unidirectional.

      • Be conscious of the particular challenges that people from LMICs may face in navigating the social norms that exist in EA spaces. For many people, adapting to (elite) American or European culture can already be difficult or emotionally taxing in various ways. Introducing additional idiosyncratic or experimental social norms—or organizing activities that encourage people to step outside comforting social boundaries—will tend to further exacerbate the problem.

      • Some examples: We believe that concerns such as the ones expressed here and here can be particularly relevant for geographic diversity.

      • Other posts could be done about similar practices

    • Be particularly wary of power dynamics (this post is very relevant)

      • Consent might be expressed differently in different cultures. Never assume consent based on your own social rules.

      • Avoid tokenism or referring to diversity as an instrumental goal in offputting ways.

      • Avoid speaking on behalf of “The global south” if there aren’t enough people from the global south in the room. If it is unavoidable, flag this fact to the room.

    • Be particularly wary of starting community building activities in LMICs without the active participation and decision-making of local people.

To make this more balanced...

Here are things I think are going particularly well for diversity (compared to other environments and cultures):

  • EAs usually value content over form. This is a huge relief for people from LMICs who aren’t fluent in some forms (this applies to language, social formalities, etc).

  • EAs value honesty, feedback and expressing boundaries. This can create safe environments for minorities.

    • However, this is tricky because it can lead to an illusion of consent when there isn’t verbal communication, and power gaps and cultural differences in expression of consent can lead to bad misunderstandings and uncomfortable situations.

  • EAs are often empathetic and altruistic, making it easy to ask for help, clarification and advice.

  • EAs are non judgemental and usually receive this type of feedback very openly.

    • Personal case: I’ve never received backlash from EAs when expressing frustration with social situations. They usually empathize, apologize and look for solutions. Most “undesirable” situations come from blindspots or misunderstanding, but rarely from bad intention.

  • The community health team is receptive, professional and helpful.

  • EA’s power structure is relatively less hierarchical compared to many structures that people from LMICs can be used to (like academia in their countries, although this is a huge generalization based on few cases of anecdotal evidence).