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Are you an aspiring effective altruist in a city or university with no EA chapter? Well, you should start one!

This past fall, as I helped launch EA at Georgia Tech, I have been surprised by how much support is available to us community builders and how much potential we have for impact.

In this write-up, I will: 

  1. Briefly state the case for community building
  2. Introduce the many resources available to help get you started
  3. Address some common concerns


The importance of community building

Many contend that community building is among the most high impact opportunities for EAs. If there are no chapters in your area, you’ve already found a low hanging fruit! A lot has been written on this topic so I’ll keep it short.

First, here are some relevant resources:

To summarize, community building is important because it:

  • Multiplies impact by persuading others to take effective actions
  • Fosters collaboration and discussion within chapters
  • Increases engagement with the movement

Here is some corroborating evidence from the 2018 EA Survey:

23% [of EAs] said their group was important for helping them get more involved in the movement, and those introduced to effective altruism through their group are disproportionately likely to take the Giving What We Can pledge or change their career plans for effective altruism reasons.


The support available to group founders

You won’t be alone in starting a chapter. Here are some ways to learn from others’ experience and insights:

  • There are many advisors you can meet with to guide you every on every step of the process. In fact, CEA recently hired staff to work on organizing student groups full-time.
  • You can join hundreds of organizers on Slack or Facebook to ask questions and learn more about running an EA chapter.
  • Organizers continually report on their experiences running groups, sharing their successes and failures.

There is plenty of funding to get you off the ground. Here are some opportunities for you and your group:

You don’t have to work from scratch. Here are some existing program materials:

  • Host seminar series such as an intro to EA fellowship, a career planning program, or a longtermism fellowship using an existing syllabi (CEA, GCP).
  • Find guides to running socials, hosting discussions, advertising at activity fairs, and much more (CEA, GCP).
  • Download templates for promotion and marketing.


Addressing common concerns

First, many are concerned about finding other EAs.

  • There are many resources to connect you to fellow EAs. Try searching LinkedIn for people involved in EA causes, as well as the aforementioned Slack or Facebook groups. There may be many EAs waiting for someone else to start a group. Be the one to make a difference!
  • You don’t need to start with a large group of EAs. This is anecdotal, but at Georgia Tech, we just had a few to start. After eight months of EA activities (and just three months of being a chartered club), we have engaged about 35 people in spending 20+ hours learning about EA through our introductory fellowship.
  • You may not even need to start with any other EAs if you’re motivated and know a lot about EA. Our group president, Michael Chen, was prepared to single-handedly start the group and run introductory fellowships.

Next, recruiting non-EAs can seem like a challenge.

  • Most groups have found success with simple advertising like messaging email lists, promoting at activity fairs, and putting up posters.
  • Remember, persuading just one person to be as effectively altruistic as you are will double your impact.

Lastly, many worry about having the time to be an organizer.

  • There are many low-cost opportunities to start with. Read here about how one London organizer runs a group spending under 30 minutes a month.
  • Even small meetups can turn into large and active groups over time.

I hope this was helpful for anyone interested in starting a new chapter. If you have any questions or resources to add, please let me know!

If you’re ready to get started, send an email to chapters@effectivealtruism.org. If you are at university, check out the University Group Accelerator Progam.





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Thanks for writing this! 

I broadly agree that starting an EA Chapter isn't very hard. Though your point on the amount of time one may sink into being an organiser might be missing some nuance. In speaking to other uni groups and from personally helping run the Bristol group, if you really want your group to do well it's going to come at some cost to your time. For example, you are going to have to put in effort to get the most out of really promising folks in your university groups with 1-1s; it can often take you some time to figure out how to set up an introductory fellowship the first time around. 

There is a bunch of help available with GCP and funding for stuff like productivity tools to save you time, but if you really want to get a lot out of your group you should be okay with the fact that it's going to take up time and effort. 

Yeah it definitely takes time to do it right. But even if you personally do not have the time, starting the group first and focusing on finding people who do have the time could accelerate growth.

Agreed. In my experience, running a group successfully takes a lot of time. You can get funding, improve productivity tools, and meet with many helpful folks, but at the end of the day, a group really scales in proportion to how much time you put into it. 

I agree with the overall thesis though. Starting a group is not as daunting as it may seem at first glance, and I personally find it quite rewarding! 

Thanks for writing this Gaurav! 

Thank you for writing this! Would you be open to helping small EA groups (such as a few in Africa) grow and expand?

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