Community Builder Writing Contest: $20,000 in prizes for reflections
TLDR: I am running a writing contest for community builders.
The judges and I are looking for reflections that achieve one of the following goals:
Help you improve your community-building efforts (e.g., by gaining clarity on your theory of change, planning your career, or reflecting on an event/project you recently completed).
Help others improve their community-building efforts (e.g., by sharing a strategy, lesson, or story that others would benefit from).
Note that we are especially excited about submissions that focus on longtermist community-building. However, reflections that focus on general community-building efforts and neartermist community-building efforts will also be considered.
EDIT: Submissions received by April 30, 2022 will be reviewed (note that submissions received by March 31, 2022 will be eligible for early-bird prizes). Each person (or team) can submit up to three entries.
Note that the deadline has been extended in response to feedback.
What kinds of submissions are you looking for?
Broadly, we are looking for submissions that either help you or help others improve as a community-builder.
Reflections that help you:
We understand that the prompt “write reflections that help you become more impactful” is rather broad. Here are some examples of things we’d be excited to see:
Write down your theory of change
Reflect on a key uncertainty
Find ways to achieve your goals more effectively
Imagine a future version of yourself two years from now that is 10X more impactful than your present self
Engage in structured career planning
Take a project idea and consider if there are ways to pursue it 10X more ambitiously or 10X faster.
Apply goal factoring (or other techniques) to help you make a decision
Identify bugs that currently reduce your productivity.
Reflections that help others:
Experienced community builders often have access to models and strategies that could help others, but these insights often don’t get shared widely.
(Note that these are just examples– you can absolutely submit entries that use a different style. As a general rule, do whatever might help you or others become more impactful).
What are the prizes?
We will distribute up to $20,000 in prizes.
1st place- $3,000
2nd place- $2,000
3rd place- $1,000
4th and 5th place- $750 each
Other high-quality submissions- $500 each
Top 3 submissions received by March 31- $1000 each
If we receive more than 30 high-quality submissions, we may expand the prize pool to reward additional semifinalists.
EDIT: We will be awarding three early-bird prizes ($1000 each) to the three best submissions received by March 31.
Who is eligible to participate?
Community-builders (individuals involved in building the effective altruism community) will be best-suited for this contest, but anyone is eligible to participate.
How will submissions be judged?
The judging panel will consist of me (Akash Wasil) and a panel of experienced movement builders.
Broadly, we are looking for submissions that demonstrate high-quality reasoning, truth-seeking, and an impact-oriented mindset.
Here are some tips:
Demonstrate strong reasoning transparency.
Acknowledge why you believe what you believe (note that in some cases this might be “because other people who I trust say so” or “because I have observed this at several student group meetings.”)
Indicate how confident you are in your claims and which of your claims are most important.
Write about topics that are important to you & draw from your experiences.
Ask yourself “are there any ideas I often find myself explaining to other community builders?”
Ask yourself “what do I wish other community builders knew about? What are some things that movement-builders could be doing better?”
Ask yourself “what’s an uncertainty that, if resolved, would help me be considerably more effective? What’s a topic I’d like to seriously think about for a few hours?”
How long should submissions be?
There is no required length, and we encourage participants to err on the side of brevity. If you only need <1 page to articulate your idea, don’t feel like you need to make it long. If you think your idea requires 5+ pages, don’t feel like you need to keep it shorter.
We expect that most winning entries will be between 1,000 and 7,500 words.
Should I submit something?
Maybe. If you have an idea that you often find yourself sharing with others, or if you have a question you have been meaning to dive into, this seems like a good fit.
However, we want to be cautious of a failure mode in which too much time is spent on contests. Contests can incentivize EAs to use their time in ways that are not actually most impactful (see here).
We think many people would benefit from engaging in the kinds of reflections we encourage below, but we don’t think everyone will. I suggest asking yourself, “is this the kind of thing I would benefit from, and what would I have time to do if I didn’t participate in this contest?”
If I were considering participating, I would probably use the following method. Note that the time markers are arbitrary, and you should feel free to deviate. But they are likely within the right order of magnitude– i.e., you should probably not spend 50-100 hours on this contest.
Brainstorm some possible ideas (5-30 mins)
Evaluate the ideas; identify a few that seem especially promising. (10-45 mins)
Ask myself if it would be worthwhile to spend a few hours thinking/writing about this topic. Maybe ask a few well-trusted community builders if they would find it valuable to read about the topic. (30-90 mins)
Start writing, and monitor my progress. If I’m making progress, keep writing until I’m done (2-10 hours).
Will submissions be shared?
We encourage you to post your entry to the forum during the contest using the Community Builder Writing Contest tag. Aaron Gertler put it best: “We want lots of people to read and discuss your submissions — we think the Forum will be a really fun place if good stories start showing up.”
After the contest, we will strongly prefer to share winning submissions that were not yet posted. However, we recognize that you may decide to write about something personal (e.g., a career planning exercise that involves a frank assessment of your weaknesses).
As a result, if you do not want your entry shared, please let us know. By default, we will assume that we can share your submission. If you would not like your entry to be shared, please indicate this in an email and on your Google Doc.
How do I submit an entry?
We also encourage you to publish your entry on the EA forum with the Community Builder Writing Contest tag. (Note that we won’t use upvotes or comments as part of our process for choosing a winner).
Who is funding this contest?
This contest is funded by the EA Infrastructure Fund.
Why are you running this contest?
We believe that building and strengthening the effective altruism movement (“community building”) is one of the most effective ways to have an impact (see more here).
We also believe that community builders have to a lot of responsibilities to juggle. Community builder time is a valuable resource, and it’s often spread between various activities (e.g., planning events, running retreats, having conversations with promising members, reading direct work).
We expect that some community-builders would benefit from spending more time reflecting (e.g., clarifying theories of change, examining uncertainties, brainstorming ways to be more efficient, sharing lessons learned).
We hope that this contest will give those individuals a structured opportunity to reflect, compensate them for their time, and allow their insights to be shared with others. (see more about why I’m excited about contests here).
Can I receive feedback on my ideas?
You can email me at email@example.com with any questions.
I may be able to offer quick feedback on ideas. You should feel free to send me an email asking questions like, “which of these three ideas do you think is most promising?” or “Do you think this idea would be worth writing up?”