Here's a project idea I have that's been laying around for some time. I think this would be high impact, but I need help to make it happen. It don't have to be this exact setup (which I describe below) as long as the output are more online unconferences for the EA community. 

I don't do grant applications anymore, due to past event that I'm still emotionally healing from. However if you want to write and submit an application on my behalf, that would be very welcome.

Project description can also be found here: 
Lots of EA Online Unconferences - Google Docs

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Total budget: $40k - 85k. 

We need more online events - from my experience running TAISU and AISU, there are many smart people who can’t access existing events because of geographical constraints. I expect this to be true of other cause areas too. I want to hire one person for one year and teach them how to run an online unconference. They’ll run 3-4 events on different EA topics of their choice. If things go well, they secure more funding before the end of the year, and keep going.


Online unconferences are low cost and relatively low effort to run, and are also really great. I think this type of event has the highest cost to value ratio out of any event type that I know of.

Why more events?

EA is growing faster than the infrastructure can keep up with. I’m mostly familiar with AI Safety but I expect the situation to be similar in other areas. Every AI Safety event I know about gets a massive number of applications. There is definitely room for more events. 

Why cause area specific?

Generic EA events are great, but when you’ve picked what problem to work on, it’s much more valuable to connect with people who are interested in the same cause area as you. Those are the people you can have high context discussion with. Those are the people you can team up with to get work done. 

I count “EA Meta” (e.g. ops, events etc) as a cause area for the purpose of this project, because it seems valuable for people who work in this area to meet up and exchange ideas, and find common solutions to common problems.

Why unconferences?

Unconferences are great in many ways, but they are especially great in a rapidly growing movement, where the people at the top, can’t keep up with or even keep track of the need for infrastructure. Unconferences are self organised around the needs of interests of the participants. This makes them more adaptive but also lower effort to run relatively to other types of events.

I’m not saying that unconferences are a one-size-fits-all type of event. There is definitely room for more specialised events too. But everything equal, I think EA would be better off with more unconferences. 

Why online?

Online and offline have different pros and cons. 

One big advantage with online events is that they are much more accessible. This is important! Even if we have lots of in person events, it’s worth having online events too. Accessibility helps in two ways. Firstly there are people who can’t attend otherwise for various reasons. Just paying for their travel may not help since the barrier might be time or visa. Secondly, it lowers the cost (in time and money) to attend for everyone. People who would not be willing to pay the time cost for an entire in-person event can choose to join in for just a few sessions of an online event, benefiting both them and everyone else (I've done this myself). Allowing people to pick and choose among sessions, rather than commit to a full event, opens up for more specialised sessions. 

The other main advantage of online events is that they are almost infinitely scalable, much less work to organise, and much lower organising costs. A single person can do 90% of the work running an online unconference. There are some things that need to be done in parallel during the event (requiring multiple people), but I have never had a problem getting enough volunteers to help out with that.

I’m in favour of setting up a team to mass produce in person unconferences too. That would be great. But it would also be a lot more work,  be much more expensive, and it would also not replace the benefits of this project.

Project Plan

  1. Get enough funding to hire one person, X, for one year.
  2. Ask the Unnamed EA Hiring Org to take care of hiring.
  3. I’ll help X run the first unconference, following my recipe closely.
  4. For the rest of the events X is free to keep to the recipe or innovate as they choose. I’ll be there to advise whenever they ask for it. 
  5. It will be up to X to evaluate if the project is worth continuing. If it seems worthwhile, it will be their job to secure further funding, and either continue organising or to find and train a successor.

I will require one of the unconferences be on AI Safety (the next AISU), unless someone else takes care of this need first. The theme of the other ones will be decided by X, but I would recommend one to be on EA Infrastructure or EA Meta, or something like that.


Salary for one person for one year $30 000 - $60 000 USD
Other expenses (e.g web services) $100 - $5 000 USD
Paying Linda for thier help $10 000 - $20 000 USD
Total $40 100 - $85 000 USD

If you are interested in funding this project, but your willingness to fund is conditioned on who we hire, you are more than welcome to get involved in the hiring process.

I would like to offer a decent salary for this work, to bake in the financial risk of the job into the salary. The risk being funding for one year only, and no guarantee of continued funding even if they do a great job. 

But even if I only get enough funding for the lower end of the salary range, then I think it’s worth announcing the job offer. There are EA’s all over the world, with very different living costs. With lower salary there will be fewer people willing to take the job, but it only takes one qualified applicant to make this project happen.

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Past Funding Attempt

This project was declined funding from CEA event support.
Here’s the exact email, from 19 May 2022.

Hi Linda,

Thank you for applying for CEA event support for your idea to scale up online conferences.

I'm sorry to inform you that your request for funding support has been declined.

Briefly, here's why:

  • I am interested in testing out more online events, but I don't feel confident about outsourcing this testing process in this instance - I'd like to be able to work closely with the person running the event, to give input and get feedback directly.
  • I don't feel confident in the unconference model. I could imagine changing my mind here.
  • It's likely I'll fund an EAGxVirtual event soon - I think this will provide a good opportunity for online engagement with EA concepts.

I realise that this rejection might be demoralizing, but I hope you do not take it as a reflection on your ability to contribute to the community, either through event organising or other work.

Moreover, you’re very welcome to apply for support for a different event.

All the very best,
Ollie Base


I have not had any further discussion with Ollie or CEA. I assume this decision from them is final. In general I assume that if a funder wants to discuss a project with me, they will do so before sending a rejection. 

But for the benefit of people who might be interested in funding this and who has not rejected the project yet, I will now publicly respond to the reasoning behind this rejection.

  • I don’t think CEA should be the only ones experimenting with events
  • I have both participated and organised unconference style events. They are great, if run well, and I know how to run them well. But I’ve also seen unconference style setups that were just not very good, so maybe this is where the discrepancy of opinion comes from?
  • EAGxVirituals are great, but generic EA events are not a replacement for cause area specific events. 

Edit to clarify: This response from CEA is not the reason I don't do grant applications anymore. 

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If anyone cares, I found that the virtual AI Safety Unconference that Linda ran in April 2021 went well and was a good use of my time.