Berkeley REACH Supporters Update: September 2018

by stardust5 min read16th Sep 20184 comments

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Since our big fundraising push at the end of June (thanks!), REACH has been making progress on a number of fronts.

Finances & Structure

The June fundraising push let us commit to a 13-month lease (Aug 1, 2018 - Aug 31, 2019).

In June, we raised about $18k in one time donations, which allowed us to pay the $11k deposit for the space and have a bit left over for administrative expenses as well as saving some for the future.

Since late June, the Patreon monthly pledge total has fluctuated between $4,400 and $5,600 (with some people adjusting pledges up and some down), currently at $4,478. We have continued renting out rooms, bringing in another ~$1.5k/month. This allowed us to fund some improvements to the space on top of paying rent from July - September! (See below for specifics.) We also recently heard that we will likely be receiving a grant which will allow us to pay a part time manager for the space! (Details forthcoming once it is officially announced.)

REACH incorporated as a non-profit (Berkeley Rationality and Effective Altruism Community Hub Incorporated) in May with a three-member board: Sarah (Stardust) Spikes, Andrew Rettek, and Doe Dearr. We have received our Employer Identification Number (EIN) which has allowed us to open a bank account for REACH. The board began the application for 501(c)3 status on 8/2; we have heard that it takes anywhere from 3 to 9 months to be fully processed.

In August, Stardust started an external (mostly remote) 20hr/week job, but is still the Executive Director. We are working on setting up payroll for a part-time manager for the space.

Survey & Stakeholder Meeting

In July, we ran a survey (around 40 responses, detailed analysis here) and a stakeholder meeting (around 30 attendees). Here’s some of the feedback we heard:

You weren’t sure when events were happening, when it was okay to drop in, and whether you had to be quiet during coworking hours.

  • We started announcing and running intentional coworking days at least once a week, which include facilitated (quiet) pomodoros with announced breaks for chatting and sometimes a group lunch expedition. Room C is generally open for people who want to chat or take video calls during poms.
    • There is less-structured coworking with no quietness rules from 11am to 5pm on weekdays whenever there is not a structured day scheduled, though if everyone present decides to start doing sync’d poms, that is very welcome!
  • We created a list of people who are authorized to host events in the space, now known as REACH Stewards.
    • If you want to host something, get a steward to co-host with you! (ask in #event-planning channel on Discord)
    • If you want to have access to the space when there’s not an event going on, ask a steward for access (in #at-reach-now)
  • We try to keep the events calendar on the website up to date, as well as continuing to post them on the FB page.

Although you like the location of the space, you found it cluttered and crowded.

  • Despite the rent increase, we decided to stick with the current location for now.
  • We’ve replaced the bulky wicker chairs with sturdy folding chairs that can be hung compactly on the wall when not in use.
  • We’ve removed some of the less functional furniture in favor of items that take up less space and taken most of the “stuff swap” items to goodwill.
    • There’s still a small amount of free staple clothing (t-shirts, pants, dresses) and costume items.
  • We’ve also set up two of the 4 side rooms as primarily coworking spaces, with the ability to host people short term, as opposed to bedrooms that can occasionally be used for coworking or other events.

The social norms at REACH can be confusing.

  • We’ve created a Code of Conduct and have set up nominations for the REACH Panel, which will handle disputes as well as vetting REACH Stewards to help keep the space running smoothly.
    • Panel voting will occur 9/19-9/26. Only REACH Stakeholders will be able to vote, and the vote will happen via the new stakeholder mailing list (if you were not already invited and believe you meet the criteria, you can request to join. The criteria are any of the following: donated at least $50 to REACH, volunteered at least 5 hours, or run at least 3 events).
    • Note that current Stewards are interim until the Panel is in place to set up the authorization process.
  • We expect the CoC to change and evolve along with the space, so if you see anything there that seems like a bad policy, feel free to bring it up with Sarah or any REACH Steward you feel comfortable with.

Upcoming Improvements and Experiments

We have a prioritized list of further space improvements and volunteer tasks.

  • We have made most of the improvements mentioned in the survey (seating, the shower, lighting, coworking setup).
    • There is a standing desk in room C now with 2 monitors, as well as a couch
  • We are planning to create a sound-isolated section of Room C for taking calls.
  • We would still like to replace the kitchen sink.

We’re going to continue pushing for a variety of events.

  • We got requests for more serious EA events (e.g. talks from community leaders, rationality practice, public double-crux sessions, speakers from other intentional communities).
    • We have since been more proactive in terms of inviting speakers from the community, including 3 speakers in the last 2 weeks
    • We’ve also taken on a new series of Thursday Rationality meetups (though Stardust dropped the ball on scheduling last week, pushing last week’s event to Monday)
  • On the community-focused side, we heard that you’d like to see movie nights, writing events, and more group music events
    • There have been some movie nights, but there are not currently plans for recurring movie night events at REACH
  • Please get in touch if you’d like our support to run any events, especially of the types mentioned above!

At the July stakeholder meeting, we realized that many of you don’t know where to find information about REACH. Here’s a start:

REACH website: https://www.berkeleyreach.org/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/reachberkeley/

REACH Resources (e.g. checklists for event hosting)

Event Request form (use if you want to host events)

Discord: We don’t want the invite link on the public web due to privacy concerns, so ask Stardust for an invite if you need it.

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4 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 9:14 PM
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Thanks for this update!

I have a question as a donor, that I regret not thinking of during the fundraising push. Could you identify a few possible future outcomes, that success or failure on could be measured within a year, that if achieved would indicate that REACH was probably producing significant value from an EA perspective (as opposed to from a community-having-nice-things perspective)? And could you offer probability estimates on those outcomes being achieved?

I certainly understand if this would be overly time-consuming, but I'd feel comfortable donating more if I had a good answer to this in hand.

Edit: Kelsey on Discord proposed a few possible outcomes that might (or might not, depending on how you envision REACH working) be answers to this question:

  • The regular meetups REACH hosts get ~50 people to attend at least four EA meetups a year when they wouldn't have attended any.
  • As a result of the things they learned at those meetups, at least ten people change where they're donating to or what they're prioritizing in the next year.
  • At least five people join the community via REACH events/staying there/interacting with people staying there, and at least one of them is doing useful work in an EA priority area.

I am not very good at making up numbers in this way and have stopped trying. I am not a superforecaster :) So I'm not going to make any actual predictions, but I'll give some categories where I see potential for impact.

First, let me give an overview of what has been achieved so far based on the metrics I have access to:

  • number of visits (909 logged visits between 4/26 and 8/30, with about 300 unique visitors -- this is a lossy collection strategy, not everyone who comes in actually signs in, I'd guess at most 80% of visits get logged, but again, I'm bad at estimates. Thanks to Alison Eliot for transcribing the written sign in sheet!)
  • number of events (~3-6 per week since April, the events have all been on the google calendar at https://www.berkeleyreach.org/calendar, so I could figure out the exact numbers if it was important but I don't feel urgency around it right now. Looks like about 90 that have been posted on FB.)

Here's a sample of testimonials from the REACH survey in July, in response to the question "If applicable, describe a time that REACH really made a difference for you."

Every time I go to REACH I meet new people and find ways to help out. I love REACH and I'm excited to help make it a successful community center.
It really made the idea of hosting (co hosting to be accurate) a meetup feel less intimidating.
Default place to meet up, has made it way easier to make friends and get connected to the community, perfect space to run AR games, lots of randomly running into people and becoming friends
I learned what actually Focusing is, there.
The EAG pre party was great and I'm glad I can direct people to REACH for meetups
Moving to the Bay it is good to know there is a "default couch" available if I need crash space on a particular day
Kind of every time I visit. I am meeting so many more of our community, I am actively contributing. I can feel a difference in me after every single visit.
1) I have made at least one friend that I don't think I would have met otherwise.
2) Before arriving in Berkeley I worried about finding cool people to socialize with of of work. REACH solved this problem for me, I just have to go there.

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Some possible things I could see trying to measure in the future:

  • Number of people hearing about and getting a job based on an interaction at REACH (I don't know if this has happened yet or not)
  • Plan changes in the 80k sense (people deciding to move toward more effective jobs, do earning to give, etc)
  • Number of EA projects that began as a result of conversations at/facilitated by REACH
  • Cross-pollination of related projects (e.g. someone at one X-risk org meeting someone at another X-risk org that they wouldn't have otherwise met/spent time with exchanging useful information that helps with coordination across projects -- I believe this one has happened a few times already)
  • Other forms of collaboration (e.g. when Malcolm was visiting, I let him know about a Complice room feature request that would be helpful for REACH, and he worked on it with me in the room giving input on design decisions -- we could've had this collaboration over fb messenger, or could've met up somewhere else, but having a default place to do it made it much more likely to actually happen, and lead to quick feedback loops)
  • Number of fulfilling romantic relationships fostered (this is of arguable value, and measuring the fulfilling part seems hard)
  • REACH Panel dispute resolutions? (this could end up being net negative if it ends up just stirring up drama, but I think there are some important conflicts in the community that need to be addressed and currently are not)
  • Mental health outcomes? (I'm not confident that REACH can do anything concrete for mental health in the community, but people have self-reported that the structured coworking days have been good for their productivity/motivation which had been flagging due to depression/anxiety)

FWIW, at least one person has gotten at least one short-term-contract from REACH.

Just now saw the edit.

The regular meetups REACH hosts get ~50 people to attend at least four EA meetups a year when they wouldn't have attended any.

This seems plausibly already the case? There were no EA meetups in Berkeley before I started REACH.
Most of the EA meetups draw 8-25 people and it's not always the same people (there's a core set of 4 or so who are usually there).

As a result of the things they learned at those meetups, at least ten people change where they're donating to or what they're prioritizing in the next year.

This I'm not sure about, happy to hear any anecdotes if this is the case for anyone!

At least five people join the community via REACH events/staying there/interacting with people staying there, and at least one of them is doing useful work in an EA priority area.

I would say at least 5 people have become significantly more involved in the community than they would've in the counterfactual. Some of them are at least applying for jobs in EA priority areas.