Groups: Activity Ideas

Note: This page hasn't been updated for a while. In addition to our suggestions here, we recommend checking out EA Hub's guide to running a group, which includes further information on activities and strategy.

As discussed in the EA Community Building Guide, one of the key comparative advantages of effective altruism groups is to find and foster the development of people who are highly dedicated to, have a sophisticated understanding of, and have skills relevant to ‘doing the most good’, and to integrate these people into the broader effective altruism community.

Here a sample of activities and projects that are well suited to achieving this aim.

EA Discussion Group

The most common type of EA group event, these commonly involve discussing an article, video or book related to effective altruism.

Why EA discussion groups are valuable

The primary route to value of EA Discussion Groups is in increasing participants’ understanding of effective altruism. They are also typically the group’s core activity, and often play an important role in building a social community of effective altruists.

How to run an EA discussion group

The Basics: 

  • Size: 5 - 20 people.
  • Frequency: Biweekly, weekly or fortnightly.
  • Duration: 1 - 2 hours.
  • Target Audience: Introductory to Advanced.
  • Preparation: 1 - 4 hours per session.

Content: Aim for content which will have the greatest effect on participants’ understanding, whilst trying to accommodate the specific interests of group members. The discussion can be general, perhaps using the resources on Groups can also be based around more specific topics, for example the philosophical foundations of effective altruism, animal welfare, the long-run future etc.

Format: A common format for discussion groups is for a moderator to guide conversation through pre-specified discussion points, although there are many different ways to structure the activity. The inclusion of exercises, presentations and smaller discussions can increase variety.

EA Career Planning Group

Groups where members learn about what makes a high impact career, and how to use this understanding to develop their own career plans.

Why EA careers planning groups are valuable

Choosing a career is likely to be the most important decision a person will make in terms of determining the impact they will have on the world. EA Careers Planning Groups therefore have a relatively direct route to producing value, by improving group members’ ability to make this decision.

Careers planning groups may be a particularly promising option at universities, where students are typically in the process of making career plans anyway, and the demand for support in doing so may be particularly high.

How to run an EA careers planning group

The Basics:

  • Size: 5 - 20 people.
  • Frequency: Biweekly, weekly or fortnightly.
  • Duration: 1 - 2 hours.
  • Target Audience: Intermediate to Advanced.
  • Preparation: 1 - 6 hours per session.

Content: The 80,000 Hours careers guide serves as good introductory content, and the advanced career guide, blog posts and podcasts can serve as advanced content on which group activities can be based.

Format: Different formats and activities could include hosting careers-focused discussions, running coworking sessions where members use 80,000 Hours’s template to develop a career plan, having members discuss and develop their plans in pairs, and having members present their plans to the group and receive feedback.

EA Group Research Projects

Groups working together to conduct research on EA-relevant topics.

Why EA group research projects are valuable

Generalist research is one of the talent areas that EA organizations are most short of, and so activities which contribute to reducing this bottleneck are potentially very valuable. EA research projects provide an opportunity for people to develop researching as a skill, test out whether they are a good fit for research, establish connections within EA-related research areas and generally increase their understanding of EA-related areas. There is also potential for the research produced by EA groups to be impactful in itself.

How to run an EA group research project

The Basics:

  • Size: 4 - 12 people.
  • Frequency: Biweekly, weekly or fortnightly research meetings.
  • Duration: 1 - 2 hours of meetings, and 2 - 8 hours of additional independent research per meeting.
  • Target Audience: Advanced.
  • Preparation: 3 - 10 hours per session.

Content: The content of the research can vary widely. For example, it could involve cause prioritisation or charity evaluation research, and cover fields such as economics and philosophy. Projects will likely be more successful if they are limited in scope, and aim to answer a well-defined research question.

Format: Research projects will likely consist of a combination of research meetings and group members undertaking independent research, with different members tackling different aspects of or taking different approaches to a central research question. The research output can be shared on venues such as the Effective Altruism Forum. Employees at EA organizations which conduct research, or indeed other members of the EA community, may be interested in mentoring the project. See the Oxford Prioritisation Project Review for a project example.

EA Student Group Retreats

Multi-day retreats or whole-day workshops for EA group members, to help them rapidly increase their understanding of and involvement with effective altruism.

Why EA student group retreats are valuable:

Retreats enable people to deepen their understanding of effective altruism in a short space of time, and facilitate the creation of strong bonds between group members.

How to run an EA student group retreat:

The Basics:

  • Size: 5 - 30 people.
  • Frequency: Once or twice a year.
  • Duration: 1 - 3 days.
  • Target Audience: Intermediate to Advanced.
  • Preparation: 10 - 40 hours.

Content: Retreats can be based around many different types of content, such as careers planning, research or effective altruism in general.

Format: Similarly, the format of the retreat can follow other styles of EA group activity. A careers planning retreat could have a mixture of presentations, discussions and individual planning. A general EA retreat could contain a mixture of themed discussions, coworking sessions and social activities.