We had a meeting planning the future of the Effective Altruism Kansas City group. We discussed:
- Group values and goals
- What we as a (currently small) local group could do to maximize our positive impact
- Communication structure for internal and external communications, individual responsibilities
- How we should direct members' desire for action
- Whether it makes sense to spend any time/resources on local charities
Some discussion on each below.
Group values and a vision
Up to this point, we've only really done discussion groups and a few workshops - nothing in particular we did really involved action on behalf of the group (with the exception of we had at least one person sign up for the GWWC pledge). People have been asking where the group is going and when they can do something about the problems we've been talking about.
Actions we could take to maximize positive impact
A problem facing Effective Altruists is that the good we do can feel very distant - donating some portion of your salary isn't sexy or salient. So in terms of action itself, doing something like volunteering at a food pantry may not be as impactful as donating the equivalent in salary to an effective charity. However, such action could be argued to:
- Keep interest in altruism alive and well by staying connected to the community
- Signal boost Effective Altruism ideas both by getting the word out and signalling virtue in a way people understand
Additionally, applying EA tools in a local context (impact evaluations, searching for the biggest problems and most effective solutions) can be a good introduction for people who haven't asked these classic questions before.
Along these lines, these are some projects we're considering taking on as a group:
- Helping a group of us get practiced presenting EA ideas well, reach out and schedule presentations/workshops with other organizations to spread EA ideas and get giving pledges
- Doing basic impact estimations on local charities and publishing our research, to help money that's earmarked to be spent locally be as effective as it can be (while encouraging donors to look internationally and prominently mentioning the different in impact). Think of this like a local GiveWell. We hypothesize that the impact differences between these local (US) charities will be smaller than the gap between international options, but large enough to be meaningful while also signal boosting EA and the EA KC group.
- Finding some neglected cause or intervention for a local problem (e.g. concentrated poverty) and coordinate with other groups to direct resources to that cause
- Reaching out to students we know at local schools, getting them involved/trained in EA, helping them found university groups and spread 80,000 Hours type ideas. Related, offering free career coaching to people considering the impact of their career.
For the immediate future, we'll be prioritizing the local impact evaluations idea and getting a website up. This is because one of our members has been contacted by a corporate representative at his company who's interested in EA thinking, whose decisions could lead to a lot of new funding going to effective charities.
This is never an easy thing to figure out, but for now we're thinking of a 3-part communication structure:
- An email list for broad external/internal communications and loosely engaged members, supported by a website
- A Discourse (or other community communication program) for discussion between engaged members on topics & projects
- A group chat for urgent communications between organizers
Desire for action and working locally
This is a bit of an open question. Do you think local work makes sense, given the lower direct impact but potential signal boosts and personal/community support?