Could EA Community Building be an Easy and Underfunded Win?

There is a lot of effort in the effective altruist movement right now. Community building would include anything broadly related to recruitment and retention for the EA movement, aiming to get existing EAs to become more EA (and less likely to quit EA) as well as getting new people to become EA. This seems prima facie to be very high impact for many classical reasons like the haste consideration that recruiting one person now seems to double your impact.

However, not too much EA effort seems channeled into community building at the moment. GiveWell, 80K Hours, Animal Charity Evaluators, and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute are all primarially research organizations. Organizations like 80K Hours and ACE once were outreach / community building organizations, but then intentionally rebranded and refocused specifically on research, eschewing community building. GiveWell has considered many times to improve effort put into marketing, and chosen not to.

As far as community building goes, we have Giving What We Can and The Life You Can Save doing individual and mass marketing respectively for trying to convince people to help the extremely poor. We also have the Centre for Applied Rationality providing outreach and rationality training. And Leverage Research has provided some work, creating THINK for recruitment and the EA Summit for retention/unification. There are also several independently-organized meetup groups.

It just seems like there could be more here. While there are many EA meetup groups, no one seems to be doing much work to figure out how to scale this approach to create many more groups in many more areas, or spreading best practices between the groups. The amount of EA outreach that is not focused on global poverty seems really minimal. The community building that is done seems like it could grow far more in sophistication, especially in terms of measurement, transparency of that measurement, and improving based upon those results.

All of these ideas seem like easy wins that are currently underfunded in both time and effort.

I’m not sure at the moment how far this analysis goes. I haven’t put much thought into comparing the marginal impact of more research versus more community building. I also imagine groups have pivoted away from community building for a good reason – I just don’t know what that reason is.

Anyone have any ideas?


Also discussed on Facebook here and here.