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I say this at EAGx events and in various posts, but I still don't think I say it enough: running EAGx events is a huge amount of work, and most of this work is done by dedicated and hard-working EA community members and national group staff. My colleagues and I support these teams, but I think we get too much credit.

I'm continuously impressed by EAGx teams; their thoughtfulness, their focus on impact and the sheer amount of effort they put into ensuring these events go well (and they do). There's not been a team I haven't enjoyed working with.

I think there's more I could do to make working on EAGx events more enjoyable/efficient/worthwhile, but at the very least I want to be extremely open about my (and CEA's) gratitude towards these people for all they do, have done and will do.

Applications to EAGxBerlin, EAGxAustralia and EAGxPhilippines are open, and Berlin closes tonight. (Adding this because these teams would probably rather I promote their events than just thank them)

I know that at least at the events themselves, people attending are often grateful to the organizers, because they are often interacting with them before / during the event.

But online, it might be nice to have a space to acknowledge individuals by name somewhere (e.g. in an impact report?)

Thanks Ollie :) - they're also a lot of fun to work on, and its really fulfilling to see all the connections and potential impact being created at the end of the process as a result of the team's work.

I'm pretty excited about picnics.

Picnics, or more specifically, free, inclusive events which take place outdoors, probably with cheap or bring-your-own food, seem like a great EA community event format:

  • They're cheap - venue and food are often the most expensive line items for events, but this format radically reduces the cost for both.
  • They help attendees connect - connections are one of the key sources of value from EAG/x events, and picnics help people connect without any frills.
  • They're easy to scale - we see increasing returns to scale for EA community-building events and picnics allow you to reach a lot of people without much additional work per attendee (assuming you choose a large enough park).
  • They're relaxed - no admissions, no stages, no microphones, soft grass and hopefully sun. Seems like a great environment to meet other people in.
  • They're good for the COVID-cautious - no masks required!

Obviously, this isn't my idea: EA NYC and EA Oxford held them recently and they seemed well-attended, and there's another one in SF this weekend. I just wanted to give this idea a shout-out. There could be value in something like an "EA picnic day" where a tonne of EA groups host a picnic on the same day, one in every major city. 

This is a frequent event format in the warm weather for EA NYC, in addition to our annual 150-person picnic (that is more unconference-adjacent). The main issues we've run into are:
• Public spaces that close by a certain time that is not easily discerned
• External noise and difficult hearing announcements, especially if we are trying to do lightning talks
• Inclement weather
• Dogs descending on our snacks
Overall though, I think they're great!

We've also found people really enjoy large group walks, even just through a portion of the city. We had >50 people join a walk through lower Manhattan one winter. Compared to a picnic, it's easy to quite literally walk away from a conversation.

Thanks, Rocky! 

Dogs descending on our snacks

I think you mistakenly listed this as an "issue", FYI

Haha 100 percent! Holding a lightening talk at a picnic Ajay sounds pretty ambitious, but be EAs are nothing if not ambitious ;)

Main disadvantage is the possibility of rain.

Picnic day sounds great.

Ollie, are you thousands of ants in a human suit and if so, is this a ploy to increase your welfare.

I'm actually a flock of seagulls with a laptop.

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Years ago in Cambridge our wee end of year thing was a picnic in a lovely garden, was fantastic.

Agree! This also seems like a good place to plug that we're hosting a picnic for GWWC pledgees, effective givers and the pledge curious on Sunday 30th July in Regents Park, London details: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/events/xPk9y8GJfTReRRvh5/giving-what-we-can-social-picnic-london

"pledge curious" now officially in the EA lexicon? Love it.

Often a problem with events is how to ensure a high enough density of "people your target audience is excited to talk to". Eli touches on this here. I don't really see how picnics can manage to do this?

Yes, I expect they'll do worse on fostering great mentor-mentee relationships and I'm not proposing this as a fix-all. That said, I reckon the casual setting might mean the bar for attending is lower, especially if it's in an EA-dense city e.g. I can imagine a good mentor might not want to give a talk at a uni group, but might swing by a picnic. 

I often hear (and sometimes think) that EA is still "mostly students" and that means we need to outreach to "actual adults" more. I checked, and 45% of my Twitter followers (EA-heavy, I think) thought the average was 25 or lower.

If EAG attendance is anything to go by, this picture seems basically false. The median EAG attendee is 28.2 years old (mean 29.2). EAGx is not that far behind, with a mean of 27. The average age of the 2022 EA survey respondent was 26.

I'm glad to see some actual facts to counteract what seems to be a false narrative. Is the median applicant age similar to the median attendee age? I'm wondering if in the application/admissions process there might affect this.

See my reply to Vaidehi :)

Does median age change a lot when you look at total applicants vs accepted applicants? Do EAG(x)'s aim for any kind of age quotas?

For EAG:

Mean age rejected = 28.7
Median age rejected = 26.1

So yes, a bit.

We don't aim for age quotas.

Do you count PhD students as students? (although I reckon the main concern is that we have too many undergraduate students)

On the naïve (false) view, no, I mostly meant undergraduates.

It seems likely that the culture of university EA groups could be improved. I’ve also heard other pessimistic/critical takes on EA uni group organising lately.

In the spirit of claiming that “EA is often actually good” (sometimes a surprisingly hot take), I wanted to rave about EA Warwick, the EA uni group I was part of several years ago and what people from that group have accomplished since, possibly in part because of that group. For context, Warwick is a barely-top-10 UK university where a Giving What We Can group formed quite early (~2012?). 

Alumni of EA Warwick (~2014 - 2020) include:

  • A research scholar at the Centre for the Governance of AI
  • An independent research consultant working with EA orgs
  • A senior ops role at a major safety-focused AI lab
  • A leadership team member at Open Philanthropy
  • A senior researcher at Rethink Priorities
  • A research fellow at the Global Priorities Institute
  • A senior biosecurity researcher at the University of Oxford
  • A PhD student in reinforcement learning, focused on AI alignment
  • A research analyst at the Center on Long-term Risk
  • A researcher at Founders Pledge
  • A research fellow at the Cambridge Existential Risk Initiative
  • A team member at EA Cambridge
  • An Economic Adviser to the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
  • Me

And many other people who I’ve either forgotten or who are pursuing other (likely awesome) non-EA things. Feel free to mention if you're an alumni! 

Again, I’m unsure to what extent these people would credit EA Warwick with influencing their career path, if at all. I'm also unsure if the model EA Warwick used is the right model for today's context.

But still, I think this is pretty neat. If I helped any of these people (other than me) get into these careers even a little bit while I was organising this group, that’s something I’m very proud of.

What do you think EA Warwick did that made it more successful than other university groups?

I don't think Warwick's success is abnormal compared to other university groups? 

Yep, I don't have reason to think it was more successful, this is anecdata.

Maybe worth noting that it's probably been around for longer than many other EA groups, so others might not be able to point to many alumni several years into their career.