EA London Community Building Lessons Learnt − 2018

Here is a list of some ideas that I came across in the last year that may be use­ful for other EA com­mu­nity builders

  • Be aware of differ­ent cul­tures, it may not make sense to just copy and paste ideas from other groups (be­tween coun­tries or even within the same city)

  • Keep on ex­per­i­ment­ing with differ­ent ac­tivi­ties, events, ideas

  • Keep on ask­ing mem­bers for feed­back, es­pe­cially on what they think the best/​worst thing about your com­mu­nity is, and what they would change about it

  • At­tempt low cost ways to see if there is in­ter­est be­fore spend­ing a long time on ac­tivi­ties. Some ex­am­ples of things I tried with­out cre­at­ing de­tailed fo­rum posts out­lin­ing what I was go­ing to do

    • Ask­ing ques­tions when peo­ple join a FB group

    • Creat­ing a pub­lic com­mu­nity di­rec­tory for oth­ers to reach out to one another

    • Reach­ing out to peo­ple on LinkedIn who have some in­di­ca­tor of in­ter­est in EA

  • Real­is­ing that at­ten­dance and events are just part of a com­mu­nity, and po­ten­tially not the most im­por­tant part

    • When you are events fo­cused, you are com­pet­ing with many things—fam­ily, friends, hob­bies, Net­flix, cin­ema, etc. If your fo­cus is more on helping peo­ple do­ing good, it’s no longer about hav­ing peo­ple turn up to an event, it’s about keep­ing peo­ple up to date with rele­vant info that is helpful for them. When there is a rele­vant op­por­tu­nity for them to do some­thing in per­son, they might be more in­clined to do so

    • Peo­ple who are likely to have the most im­pact, or be able to help other mem­bers the most are very likely to be busy with their jobs and so op­ti­mis­ing for at­ten­dance may miss out these people

    • How to provide value to peo­ple that don’t turn up to events

      • Newslet­ter—up­dates on jobs and re­search, sense of wider community

      • On­line sub groups—al­low­ing for con­nec­tions, ad­vice and self organising

      • Men­tor­ship con­nec­tions—ad­vanc­ing ca­reers, a low cost way for peo­ple to feel like they are helping oth­ers, and for newer mem­bers to see what value they can get from a group

      • Reach­ing out to or­ganise 1-1s with members

    • Main point of events might be con­nec­tions rather than ed­u­ca­tion, up­skil­ling or achiev­ing projects

    • When you do de­cide that an event is use­ful, think about the pur­pose of events and how to op­ti­mise for that - (art of gath­er­ing notes)

    • Pix­abay, un­splash are both good for free pho­tos for FB events

  • Be­ing con­nected to other com­mu­ni­ties is use­ful—re­duces group think, al­lows more learn­ing from other groups and po­ten­tially meet­ing oth­ers who might be interested

  • Be proac­tive in reach­ing out to in­di­vi­d­u­als that have in­di­cated some in­ter­est. Mes­sag­ing in­di­vi­d­u­als in re­lated EA Face­book groups, LinkedIn etc

  • Spread­ing cul­tural norms

    • As a com­mu­nity or­ganiser peo­ple might look to you when try­ing to work out what is ex­pected as a group mem­ber and so it makes sense to have an in depth un­der­stand­ing of com­mu­nity guid­ing prin­ci­ples and to try to em­body these as best as possible

    • I think this ex­cerpt from the Kel­sey Piper pod­cast is a good ex­am­ple - “Maybe pretty early on, it just be­came ob­vi­ous that there wasn’t a lot of value in preach­ing to peo­ple on a topic that they weren’t nec­es­sar­ily there for, and that I had a lot of thoughts on the con­ver­sa­tions peo­ple were already hav­ing. One thing you can do to share any rea­son­ing sys­tem is just to ap­ply it con­sis­tently, in a prin­ci­pled way, to prob­lems that peo­ple care about. Then, they’ll see whether your tools look like use­ful tools. If they do, then they’ll be in­ter­ested in learn­ing more about that. I think my ideal EA move­ment has in­sight­ful nu­anced, pro­duc­tive, takes on lots and lots of other things so that peo­ple could be like, “Oh, I see how effec­tive al­tru­ists have tools for an­swer­ing ques­tions. “I want the peo­ple who have tools for an­swer­ing ques­tions to teach me about those tools. I want to know what they think the most im­por­tant ques­tions are. I want to sort of learn about their ap­proach””

  • Boundaries are im­por­tant—this is some­thing I’m still think­ing about but hav­ing trans­par­ent crite­ria for join­ing groups and events makes it eas­ier for groups to achieve their goals and for valuable con­ver­sa­tions to oc­cur rather than ev­ery­thing be­ing open to ev­ery­one and con­ver­sa­tions not be­ing focused

  • Start with who—it’s im­por­tant to think about what type of peo­ple you want in your com­mu­nity, some­times tak­ing lower hang­ing fruit early on can limit fu­ture growth/​im­pact. For ex­am­ple hav­ing a lo­cal group mainly con­sist of stu­dents may put off pro­fes­sion­als from get­ting involved

  • Com­mu­ni­ties are built on peo­ple hav­ing mul­ti­ple 1-1 con­nec­tions with each other rather than a one to many con­nec­tion with the or­ganiser. Think about ways to in­crease the chances to form these 1-1 con­nec­tions. This may be re­peated op­por­tu­ni­ties to talk to the same per­son about a shared interest

  • First im­pres­sions are im­por­tant, peo­ple can of­ten judge a com­mu­nity by their first in­ter­ac­tion with it, whether that’s in per­son or on­line. It may be worth re­mov­ing chances for peo­ple to have an av­er­age first im­pres­sion and fo­cus on mak­ing sure all the ways peo­ple can hear about your com­mu­nity are seen as high value. For ex­am­ple EA Lon­don re­moved Meetup.com as one of the ways peo­ple heard about EA be­cause it of­ten gave a worse im­pres­sion of effec­tive al­tru­ism. With FB we are able to mes­sage peo­ple when they join and the web­site can be mod­ified to provide value to people