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Introduction

The EA Mexico Residency Fellowship marked a significant milestone in bringing together individuals committed to effective altruism (EA) worldwide, focusing on Spanish speakers and individuals from underrepresented backgrounds.  This post serves as an overview of the program's outcomes and areas for improvement. By sharing our experiences, we aim to provide valuable insights for future organizers of similar initiatives.


Quick Facts

  • 102 participants from 25 countries, comprising 11 fellows and 91 visitors. 36% of the fellows identified themselves as female or non-binary. 32% of the fellows were from LATAM.
  • Generated 714 new connections at an average cost of 371 USD per connection.
  • Weekly cost for hosting a participant was approximately 602 USD
  • 42.5% of participants rated the fellowship 10/10.
  • 30% of respondents valued the fellowship at over $10,000.
  • 40% of participants would consider relocating to Mexico City for an established EA hub.

 

The Importance of the EA Latin American Community


Latin America has a growing interest in effective altruism, but the region lacks established EA hubs compared to North America or Europe. The fellowship is pivotal in developing a stronger EA presence in Latin America. It allows local EA enthusiasts to connect with the international EA community, fostering knowledge exchange and collaboration.


Additionally, hosting a fellowship inspires local individuals to engage more deeply in the EA community. By witnessing the commitment and dedication of international participants, local individuals are motivated to pursue impactful careers and projects, contributing to the growth of EA in the region.


 

Advantages in Comparison to Countries with Visa Restrictions


Compared to established EA hubs in countries with high living costs, Mexico provides a cost-effective alternative. Participants can enjoy the benefits of living and working in a vibrant city without the financial burden often associated with hubs in Europe or North America. This cost-effectiveness ensures that valuable resources can be allocated more efficiently.

Moreover, Mexico offers relative ease of entry for participants from various countries, making it an accessible location for those facing visa restrictions in other regions. This inclusivity allows individuals who might otherwise struggle to participate in similar programs to join and contribute to the fellowship.

Fellowship Program Details

The program took place from November 1, 2022, to January 30, 2023, accommodating both long-term and short-term participants. The coliving space was located in a prime area of Mexico City, fostering both recreational and networking activities. Dedicated office spaces were provided, and meals were delivered daily.

Numerous activities were organized throughout the program, enhancing the overall experience and facilitating connections. The program also hosted EA organizations and events.


What Went Well and Why?

The survey data revealed diverse and extensive connections made by fellows. They engaged with members of the Latin American EA community, university groups, and professionals from various fields. Fellows appreciated the exposure to these diverse networks, which broadened their perspectives and opened doors for future collaborations. 

Forms response chart. Question title: How likely is it that you would recommend the EA Mexico Fellowship to a friend or colleague with similar interests to your own?
. Number of responses: 41 responses.

The fellowship received positive feedback and was highly appreciated by the participants, as evidenced by the high Likelihood to Recommend (LTR) score of 8.48. Remarkably, 42.5% of respondents awarded the fellowship a perfect rating of 10/10, reflecting a high level of satisfaction. However, it is important to note that 12.5% of attendees rated the fellowship below 7/10, indicating areas that warrant further attention and improvement.

Furthermore, participants expressed the value they derived from various aspects of the fellowship. Notably, as we already mentioned, many emphasized the significance of the connections forged during the program, recognizing the immense potential for networking and collaboration within the EA community. Additionally, the strong sense of community cultivated throughout the fellowship was highly cherished, providing participants with a supportive and like-minded environment. These factors not only contributed to the participants' positive experiences but also underscored the opportunities for fruitful collaboration and collective impact within EA.


Analysis of costs

The fellowship cost a total of 5.673.026 MXN, which is equivalent to arround $332.596 USD. If we divide the total cost by the number of participants that would be 3.261 USD per participant. However, not all the fellows stayed during the entire duration of the program. If we exclude flight expenses (due to its variability), the weekly cost for hosting a participant was approximately 602 USD. On average, fellows stayed around four-weeks on the residency totaling a cost of 2.408 USD per stay. 

Cost breakdown:

  • Coliving Space: USD 118.100
  • Office Space: USD 41.900
  • Food: USD 88.000
  • Flights: USD 58.900*
  • Activities and other expenses: USD 25.696

Considering that the most valuable aspect of the fellowship was the connections formed, it is estimated that each connection cost around 465.88 USD. Comparing this to similar interventions in Latin America, like EAGxLatAm (which costs $225 USD per connection), the cost per connection for the EA Mexico Residency Fellowship may seem significantly higher. While some might perceive the cost per connection as slightly high for the region, it is worth noting that the majority of the connections formed through this fellowship were considered close connections, with the potential to build significant career capital. Also, it's important to note that interactions between participants lasted more days than typical activities related to conferences or ordinary networking sessions.


Productivity and Satisfaction

To assess the satisfaction of participants with the fellowship, feedback was collected on seven aspects: the Office Space, the Coliving Space, the Food, the Activities, the support from the organizing team, the selection of Mexico City as the host location, and the selection of fellows and visitors.

The overall satisfaction rating, considering all seven aspects, averaged 76%, indicating that there is still room for improvement to enhance the participants' experience. Some areas can be further improved to enhance participant satisfaction. These include addressing concerns related to the Coliving Space, refining the quality and variety of food offerings, diversifying and expanding the range of activities, and proactively engaging with participants to meet their needs and expectations. The positive response to the selection of Mexico City and the fellows and visitors selection highlights the successful aspects of the program that can be built upon for future iterations.


 

Gráfico de respuestas de formularios. Título de la pregunta: How satisfied were you with the following aspects of the fellowship?. Número de respuestas: .


Office Space: The Office Space received a satisfaction rating of 77.5%. Participants appreciated the dedicated workspace provided, which included traditional offices, private meeting rooms, phone booths, and shared amenities. Some feedback suggested a desire for a more warming, collaborative, and creative environment.

Coliving Space: The Coliving Space received a satisfaction rating of 65%. While participants valued the convenience and camaraderie of living together, some expressed concerns about internet intermittency, the security system of the building, and the high levels of noise at night. Suggestions were made to improve their experience and the quality of the accommodation.

Food: The satisfaction rating for Food was 57.5%. While the provision of breakfast and lunch by the fellowship program was appreciated, some participants felt that the variety and quality of the meals could be improved. There were suggestions for dietary options and catering to different preferences. It's worth noting that in Mexico, and possibly in other middle and low-income countries, some vegan protein bars and beverages may not be readily available or can be extremely expensive. This limitation can impact the ability to provide a wide variety of dietary options. Organizers should consider these challenges and explore cost-effective alternatives to accommodate diverse dietary preferences and restrictions.

Activities: The Activities aspect had a satisfaction rating of 70%. Participants enjoyed the activities organized throughout the program, but some feedback indicated a desire for a higher number of professional-themed activities and social reunions.

Support from the Organizing Team: The support from the organizing team garnered an overall satisfaction rating of 80%. Participants commended the team's responsiveness and assistance in addressing concerns. However, some participants desired more proactive communication and individualized support.

Selection of Mexico City: The aspect with the highest satisfaction rate (95%) was the selection of Mexico City as the host location. Fellows expressed appreciation for various aspects of the city, including its climate, tourist attractions, culinary offerings, and cultural richness. Some participants, particularly those unaccustomed to living in large cities, highlighted concerns related to pollution and the high levels of population and noise.

Selection of Fellows and Visitors: The satisfaction rating for the selection of fellows and visitors was 87.5%. Participants were satisfied with the diverse and talented group of individuals chosen for the fellowship program, which facilitated valuable networking and collaboration opportunities.



 

Areas for Improvement

  1. Defining and Communicating Goals Clearly: Clarity in defining program goals and communicating them to participants is crucial for a successful fellowship.
  2. Setting Realistic Expectations. Organizers should manage participants' expectations by communicating the program's limitations clearly.
  3. Generating More Connections and Social Activities: Intentional planning of social interactions and networking events could enhance participant connections. 
  4. Inviting More Local Participants: Increasing local participation fosters stronger community ties and reduces travel grant expenses.
  5. Amplifying Local Impact Through Events and Talks: The fellowship aimed to enhance its impact in the city by organizing events, talks, and other initiatives. However, on this occasion, all these activities had to be canceled due to issues stemming from the FTX bankruptcy. This setback not only affected the social activities but also hindered the inclusion of more local participants. It underscores the importance of adaptability and contingency planning in this kind of programs. 
  6. Improving Coliving Selection: Careful consideration of coliving spaces is essential. In the context of Mexico, it proved challenging to find a location with the right facilities while maintaining a reasonable price. Unfortunately, the level of noise at the selected venue turned out to be higher than initially anticipated, impacting participants' experience. This underscores the need for more meticulous location selection in future editions of the residency program.

Conclusion

The EA Mexico Residency Fellowship successfully united individuals committed to effective altruism, creating a vibrant community and facilitating valuable connections. While the program garnered positive feedback, there are opportunities for future organizers to refine the logistics, activities, and participant experience. The conclusion emphasizes optimizing productivity and cost-effectiveness while maintaining a supportive and collaborative community for future residency programs.

It's important to note that the program faced unexpected challenges out of the control of the project. These challenges underscore the need for adaptability and contingency planning in future editions of the program, ensuring that both international and local participants can fully benefit from this unique fellowship experience. The program's potential to amplify its impact on the city through events and talks remains a promising avenue for future growth and engagement within the effective altruism community.

Acknowledgments

We'd like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to some remarkable individuals who have demonstrated exceptional self-initiative, played a pivotal role in organizing various activities, and were undeniably instrumental in the resounding success of this program:

  • Nguyen Tran
  • Phil Chu
  • Joaquin Win Lin
  • Eduardo Infante
  • Pablo Staforini
  • Michelle Bruno
  • Claudette Salinas
  • Carmen Csilla

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:52 PM

I think it's very misleading to equate "would recommend the program to a friend" (>40% 10 out of 10) to >40% were 10 out of 10 satisfied with the program. These are two different things.

When I did the survey, I gave it a high mark because which of my friends wouldn't love to spend a month in CDMX with air fare and rent covered. However, this does not mean that my satisfaction was high marks.

I would have given it a lower score for satisfaction because the program seemed unnecessarily costly by locating both a co-living space and co-working space in one of the most upscale districts in CDMX. Also, when I applied to the program, it was billed as a way to help the Mexico EA community and launch CDMX as an EA hub. The program was majority non-Mexican EAs and many of us had little interactions with the Mexican EAs. Some of this was on the participants (including myself) for not being more proactive in finding out who the Mexican EAs were, but the program should have been more hands on in fostering this.

Also the observations about food seem to miss the biggest critique I heard from participants, which was that about half of the co-working-space catered meals sponsored by the residency had meat, people didn't hear a rationale as to why given that EA conferences are all plant-based.

In general, my sense from my time there was that participants felt there was more room for improvement than this post indicates (this my personal perception, so other participants can chime on if they agree or disagree).

I think it would be even more helpful to do an assessment of the EA Mexico community, EA LatAm community, and prospects of CDMX becoming hub 8 months after the fact to see if the residency materially changes those things.

I think EA residencies/fellowships should be subjected to a cost-effectiveness standard of if they would be better for community building than just spending all that money on community builders. In the case of the CDMX residency that was 330,000 USD, which could hire 8 full-time Latin American community builders at 40,000 per person. So to me it seems like the biggest question is if the connections made, benefits to Mexico and LatAm EA communities, and increased viability of CDMX as a hub realistically outweigh what 8 full-time community builders in LatAm would have achieved in a year.

Despite this being a critical comment, this doesn't take away from the fact that there were many positives, such as the strong handle the organizing team had on logistics and many intercontinental relationships made.

Thank you for bringing up the issue with the survey data. I'll review it to determine if it's a translation or interpretation problem.

Regarding your criticisms of the program, I'm surprised because much of this information was shared with participants during the program, and some of it is also explained in this same post. The reason for canceling all planned community activities in CDMX was due to the cancellation of all effective altruism outreach activities in much of the world because of the FTX scandal. This was completely beyond the team's control, and it's explained in the post. Since the outreach activities were canceled, we opened the option to conduct activities within the fellowship to improve them, and we had several volunteers.

However, the program's objective was never solely focused on the Mexican community. It was designed to strengthen the relationship between the Latin American and international communities. This information was provided in the application, and fortunately, this did happen with valuable connections, especially for individuals from mid and low-income countries who couldn't easily make these connections elsewhere.

Regarding vegan food, it was also explained during the program that some participants requested other options, and we accommodated them because we didn't want to force a specific diet on people who didn't prefer it. I want to emphasize that there were always vegan options available for those who preferred them. 

As for the improvements, I agree that communication from the organizing team could have been better, but I believe it's also the responsibility of participants to read the provided information or ask the organizers for clarification.

An yes, it was an expensive program, and we made the cost public to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of similar initiatives in the future and to compare with them. However, comparing it to using the money to pay for full-time jobs doesn't seem fair. At the time we received the grant and paid the contractors, it wasn't a choice between one or the other; funding was available for both. In fact, several individuals involved in effective altruism had grants at that time.

KMF
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FWIW: a focus that has helped me is working out whether I think it's worth continuing our program and whether it's been a success is what concrete actions resulted from the connections. Do you have a sense of any resulting actions?   

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