EA Hotel Fundraiser 1: the story

This is the first of a se­ries of posts that ac­com­pany the EA Ho­tel fundraiser, which will run over the course of Jan­uary. It will cover the broad nar­ra­tive of its in­cep­tion, its cur­rent state, and its fu­ture. The next post will be an in-depth statis­ti­cal anal­y­sis of im­pact.

1. Inception

By 2017, there had been var­i­ous ini­ti­a­tives that had at­tempted to re­form EA and Ra­tion­al­ist hous­ing. The idea was sim­ple: find a place that is dirt cheap, then all move there to­gether to lower our cost of liv­ing con­sid­er­ably with­out los­ing most of our net­work. Ex­ist­ing hubs like Lon­don and the Bay were always great for find­ing con­nec­tions and cap­i­tal, but at the price of a liv­ing cost that forced many to com­mit to low-risk, short term strate­gies. Peo­ple talked about mov­ing out to­gether, but no pro­ject man­aged to get off the ground.

Black­pool was a pop­u­lar holi­day re­sort in the 80s. When in­ter­na­tional holi­days be­came cheaper, it fell out of fash­ion. But the coun­cil held on to the city’s main source of in­come. Many of the ho­tels back in the day did not get per­mis­sion to con­vert to res­i­den­tial. They’re still around to­day, and most of them are com­pletely va­cant. This means that ho­tels in Black­pool are among the cheap­est real es­tate in the de­vel­oped world.

By the end of 2017, as­piring effec­tive al­tru­ist Greg Colbourn made some suc­cess­ful crypto in­vest­ments. He used that money to de­ci­sively turn these la­tent in­ten­tions into re­al­ity. He bought a ho­tel in Black­pool, and the EA Ho­tel was born.

2. Cur­rent state

Those that want to do in­de­pen­dent EA work are in­vited to ap­ply to the ho­tel. From the pool of ap­pli­cants, the EA ho­tel se­lects those that meet a min­i­mum bar for ex­pected im­pact. The bar de­pends in­versely on availa­bil­ity. Those that are se­lected are given free room and board, free house­keep­ing, and a stipend. Any wor­ldly ob­sta­cles they may have are taken away for them to fo­cus freely on their work.

Right now, all of the ho­tel’s rooms are oc­cu­pied with peo­ple work­ing on EA pro­jects.

Once a week, res­i­dents are asked to talk to the man­age­ment in a one-on-one con­ver­sa­tion to help them keep them­selves ac­countable. We keep track of their work and ad­vise them where we can.

In the mean­time, the op­er­a­tions team works to con­tin­u­ously up­grade the en­vi­ron­ment, cre­at­ing a space that is more con­ducive to pro­duc­tivity and well-be­ing than any­one could ever cre­ate on their own.

All of this hap­pens on a bud­get of £6,000 per res­i­dent per year. The to­tal cost to sup­port the ho­tel’s ~20 res­i­dents, do­ing EA work se­lected for im­pact, is ~£10,000 per month.

Based on our reg­u­lar in­ter­views with the cur­rent res­i­dents, we think that this is worth the in­vest­ment.

3. What kind of EA work?

To give you an idea of what cur­rent guests are work­ing on, we will de­scribe a few ab­stracted case stud­ies:

A is an as­piring EA en­trepreneur, in the pro­cess of start­ing an effec­tive char­ity. They have some good ideas, but can’t eas­ily get their or­gani­sa­tion off the ground. For that, they need to de­velop their ideas by bounc­ing them off peo­ple. They also need to ap­ply for grants, de­velop a plat­form and work through the for­mal­ities of start­ing a reg­istered char­ity. In­stead of do­ing this in their spare time alongside their day job, they joined the EA Ho­tel for 6 months. Here they meet peo­ple that already have ex­pe­rience in start­ing char­i­ties, who give them good ad­vice. They also learn about some im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tions that lead them to change the scope of their char­ity for the bet­ter.

B is an EA with an eye to com­mu­nity build­ing. They have some good ideas about what peo­ple in the com­mu­nity need. To this end, they host events and re­treats that help EA’s get more so­cially in­volved and helps them get a clearer pic­ture of how to con­tribute. They do this work pro bono from the ho­tel.

C would re­ally like to launch their EA ca­reer, but is still look­ing for a place to start. They move into the EA Ho­tel, where they take a few months to re­ally ed­u­cate them­selves on how the world works. Dur­ing their stay, they iden­tify the cause ar­eas they find most press­ing, and de­cide that they would be a good fit for an ops role. They do a few ap­pli­ca­tions and leave the ho­tel with a fresh job at an EA or­gani­sa­tion.

A fu­ture post might in­ter­view some ac­tual res­i­dents, to let them chime in with their ex­pe­rience.

4. Short and long term fu­ture of the project

Our fund­ing ex­tends to May, and we are fully booked (dorm beds only un­til end of March). We are seek­ing funds to 1) ex­tend our run­way to the in­dus­try stan­dard of 18 months and 2) ex­pand: buy the build­ing next door and host up to an­other 15 EAs. Th­ese cor­re­spond to fund­ing tar­gets of £130,000 and £300,000, re­spec­tively.

In the 6 months that the pro­ject has ex­isted, we have worked con­tin­u­ously to im­prove it in do­mains such as house­keep­ing sys­tems, main­te­nance, com­mu­nity, men­tor­ship, and more. Ac­cord­ing to in­ter­nal sur­veys, the hap­piness and pro­duc­tivity of the res­i­dents is already con­sid­er­ably higher than the coun­ter­fac­tual. We in­tend to con­tinue mak­ing up­grades in the next year. While solid work has already been done, we ex­pect to be able to show much more of it in a year’s time.

The dere­lict ho­tel next door is available to pur­chase for £50-55k. We ex­pect ini­tial re­pairs to be an­other £20,000. This will free up space for 15 more EA’s to do high-im­pact work un­hin­dered.

Look­ing ahead, the en­tirety of our street is made up of va­cant and un­der-oc­cu­pied ho­tels. To­gether these could sup­port a pop­u­la­tion of over 300. If we move to­wards op­er­at­ing a sig­nifi­cant sub­set of them, this would make Black­pool an EA hub on par with Lon­don and the Bay area.

Look­ing ahead even fur­ther, there are thou­sands of va­cant build­ings in Black­pool. EA’s tend to be com­pe­tent and in­no­va­tive peo­ple. If we reach a pop­u­la­tion in the hun­dreds, this might trig­ger a tip­ping point be­yond which Black­pool will be­come a new hotspot of in­no­va­tion. This is what hap­pened in the Bay area in the 60s. The small chance that we can seed Black­pool this way might be an­other source of ex­pected value.

The ask

Do you like this ini­ti­a­tive, and want to see it con­tinue for longer, on a more sta­ble foot­ing, and at a big­ger scale? Do you want to cheaply buy time spent work­ing full time on work re­lat­ing to EA, whilst si­mul­ta­neously fa­cil­i­tat­ing a thriv­ing EA com­mu­nity hub? Then we would like to ask for your sup­port.

For fur­ther in­struc­tions please see our GoFundMe.

To learn more about the ho­tel, and to book a stay, please see our web­site.