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Less than three years ago, the only EA group in Finland was dependent on a single organizer for its existence. Now I would argue that the Finnish EA community[1] is resilient enough to withstand the departure of some of our most active organizers. (Of course, that would not be desirable, but it would not be a disaster either.) This post is a very brief overview of the actions that lead up to where we are now. At the end, I will also tell my story of how I got involved. If you want to read more about EA Finland I can highly recommend Ada’s post (EA Finland: from a philosophy discussion club to a national organization). In addition to being a more detailed description of what happened, it includes some key-takeaways hopefully useful for other community builders.

Early build-up

EA Finland and EA Helsinki were founded around 2013, but their activities faded away until Onni Aarne decided to re-establish EA Helsinki in 2018. Until 2021, the monthly meetings were attended by around 4-15 people and the EA Helsinki organizing team consisted of Onni as the main organizer and an actives’ chat with about 8 people willing to help out when needed. 

The first fellowship

In January 2021 we ran our first intro fellowship. We received 49 applications, and of the 40 accepted, 34 completed the course. The organizing team continued to grow as there was a sudden need for activities and in the beginning it was quite anarchic without responsibility areas, structure or plans. If you joined a weekly coworking session, you were likely to be assigned a task, and if you didn’t, you had little chance of knowing what was going on. In our first strategy meeting in July 2021, we shared clear responsibilities having about 20 actives involved in community building. During fall 2021, EA Finland was revived and the second Finnish university group EA Aalto was launched. 

Funding and even more groups

By January 2022, however, many volunteers were feeling overwhelmed and this was no longer a sustainable way of working if we wanted to improve the community. Thus, we started thinking about hiring people to work for EA Finland. (Sidenote: I cannot recommend a recruitment process with consensus decision-making among six employee candidates who are also friends.) In May, we gratefully received funding for four part-time employees from the EA Infrastructure Fund. This was also the first time we received any funding for community building in Finland, as before that any small costs had been paid by the members, we were reluctant to add any layers of bureaucracy before getting a person on board who already had the skills and interest required and we had organized our events almost exclusively online during the pandemic so hadn't found any effective use for the money.

That spring 2022 two more local groups also emerged in the next largest cities Tampere and Turku. In August, two more students contacted us and said they wanted to start EA groups at their universities. So we have now grown from 1 to 8 groups in 1.5 years (with a disclaimer that most of them are small and the continuation is uncertain). 

In October, we rented a small office/community space. That is because we wanted to have more live events in Helsinki (without having to book spaces weeks in advance), create a more open community especially to new EAs here, and cultivate EA collaborations.

My story

When I got involved in EA Helsinki in 2019 the university group was my only link to EA for almost a year, and I remember the monthly meetup discussions as one of my monthly highlights. It could be intimidating to often be the only non-STEM person and woman in the group, as well as the youngest. But it didn’t matter who I was when we were discussing making the world better and I liked the focus on things that really matter.

When the pandemic started, everything was moved online which increased my engagement. I remember being skeptical when Onni and Aleksi wanted to organize a fellowship. I am glad they followed through anyway, because it is one of the most important factors in why we are where we are today. It also feels surreal that it is less than two years since that first fellowship.

Thanks to the fellowship, the organizing team essentially doubled, and I took on the responsibility to be the coordinator, even though I was going on a 6-month student exchange. Initially, I planned and organized the monthly actives’ meetings from Germany. At some point, however, I took a break from community building for a month or two and was pleased to see that the chaos did not increase significantly. When we started thinking about recruitment, applying was a major decision for me, as it also meant I would be slowing down my studies. However, I am glad I did. These past six months working at EA Finland have been instructive, there have been both ups and downs, and above all it has been inspiring to be part of a young and growing movement with lots of untapped potential.

  1. ^

    For brevity the headline states that this is the history of EA Finland but in reality it is an overview of the Finnish Effective Altruism community as I know it, which is a larger than only the national organization.





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