Observations of community building in Asia, a 🧵
This is a lightly edited twitter thread I wrote after EAGxSingapore. I figured it might be useful to post to the Forum as well.
these are my takeaways (with some interpretation) not just problems people told me.
summarized a bunch to fit into the 280 character limit (flag emoji FTW).
good > perfect
Asian CB’s please correct me + enhance!
Everyone—please ask clarification questions!
What do we do with people? This isn’t unique to Asian CB’s, but there are strictly fewer and less attractive opportunities available. I might do a separate thread or add to this thought later.
Some countries have less traction with English & worry about EA being presented as Western concept (e.g. Japan & Iran). Translation of key texts seems important, and could be a way to engage newer EAs with a concrete project (see a test from Estonia).
Countries with lots of internal issues may have difficulty gaining EA traction, but it may be a matter of perspective and approach. A Turkey CB mentioned that the fact that another group from Iran was able to get traction was inspiring, since they perceived Iran as having worse problems
Multiple CB’s suggested that after talking to other EAs they started thinking more about city / uni group building rather than trying to build national groups to start with. For large countries (India) there are many choices, …
..But some countries (Nepal, Pakistan, Vietnam) have 1 or 2 (Kathmandu, Karachi, Ho Chi Minh & Hanoi) major cities that are likely to be viable for EA groups. Kathmandu has all of Nepal’s top uni’s and best talent pool so in practice EA Nepal ~= EA Kathmandu.
A few CBs want to/are starting local groups in liberal arts unis which they feel are more EA aligned. A challenge in Turkey is that vegans are abolitionist and against welfarism, and was concerned about discussing farmed animal welfare within EA.
In Japan (+ others?), many students study abroad. There may be an opportunity to get those students interested in EA before they go (and connect them to local EA groups in the West), and catch them again after they return.
E.g. 1 uni group struggled with reading group retention. It seemed plausible they could focus on their existing ~8 engaged members, or do a “trial week” for their reading group to help attendees evaluate fit early on.
There is uncertainty over what messaging works best and non-existent testing. People mostly rely on their insights. More testing seems good, e.g. how much do you need to incorporate native philosophy vs. localizing examples and stories. bad e.g. “Asking someone who grew up or has spent a lot of time in LMICs to imagine a child drowning in a lake is not a hypothetical—it’s something they might see and ask themselves every single day. This thought experiment loses a lot of its power. What are some alternatives?”
Asking someone who grew up or has spent a lot of time in LMICs to imagine a child drowning in a lake is not a hypothetical—it’s something they might see and ask themselves every single day. This thought experiment loses a lot of its power. What are some alternatives?
Vietnam doesn’t have a big book-reading culture, so EA books could be less likely to be a way in. Perhaps focusing on blogs or podcasts or other formats is more promising?
Many of us (including myself) learnt a lot from Israel on volunteer management and early stage group priorities. I believe a lot of value I provide CB’s is expanding the option space and generating lots of specific examples. I wish more CB’s from around the world had attended.
Early stage groups (which is most Asia groups today) could benefit from The Lean Startup model of validated learning—trying to optimize early activities to learn as much as possible about their target audience(s), rapidly iterate and do cheap tests. http://theleanstartup.com
In the Philippines, they spent a lot of time on local priorities research but it got people more engaged. I want to explore ways to 80⁄20 this, and other promising projects which have the risk of scope creep. (ex #1)
Saying “let’s do validated learning” and doing it are not the same thing. Are there ways to jumpstart peoples’ journeys into this mindset? It’s more challenging with vounteer/part-time CB’s who have competing priorities. Perhaps framing it as personal development could help?
I think groups need to orient themselves to finding their “early adopters”—the people who will join the community because they see the potential of what it /could be/. These are different from the people who will join when the community is established and thriving.
(most) (early stage) (asian) groups need more support. caveat caveat caveat limited resources/ diminishing returns/ impact hard to measure / incubation is hits based etc etc. i still think they need more support.
- EA career guide for people from LMICs by 15 Dec 2022 14:37 UTC; 245 points) (
- 3 Jan 2023 6:21 UTC; 2 points)'s comment on What are the most underrated posts & comments of 2022, according to you? by (
Hi! Singaporean here. Just sharing my thoughts on this.
> Some countries have less traction with English & worry about EA being presented as Western concept (e.g. Japan & Iran). Translation of key texts seems important, and could be a way to engage newer EAs with a concrete project
Yes, this is a big bottleneck. A lot of EA terms do not have compelling equivalents in English, let alone local languages. Given how much of EA is very textually dense and jargon-filled, this can be quite awkward. I imagine translation takes up a lot of bandwidth for small EA chapters. Not to mention, a lot of the overseas valuable resources/connections EAs tend to take for granted are practically only for English-speakers.
What you said “EA being Western” is very true. Even though Singapore is very Westernised, I try as much as possible not to introduce concepts that are associated with the West. Because then EA is mentally categorised as “this Western idea” instead of its own thing.
> A Turkey CB mentioned that the fact that another group from Iran was able to get traction was inspiring, since they perceived Iran as having worse problems
I think it’s also about shared experiences. There’s some ideas such as freedom of speech or secularism that Western EAs tend to assume to be true, that are not as established in other regions.
As an organizer of EA Kathmandu University, I particularly found the insights on focusing on cities and attracting a talent pool, as well as the importance of finding early adopters, to be valuable takeaways. It’s great to hear about the unique challenges and opportunities faced by our fellow EA groups in Asia, and I appreciate the emphasis on good over perfect, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building EA groups, and we need to be willing to learn and iterate as we go.