Frequently Asked Questions

What does “community health” mean?

When we refer to community health, we’re referring to the state of the community’s ability to achieve its potential for positive impact. For example, the community’s health might be at risk if people who would make great contributions to the community are repelled by its culture, or if leaders don’t get important feedback about effects of their work.

Do you only care about avoiding risks?

Nope! We’re trying to track the whole EA ecosystem and think about ways the default can be improved upon. Often that’s mitigating risk, other times it’s trying to create value that might otherwise get missed. We care about the net effect, not minimizing risk.

What are some examples of the work you do?
  • Advising on decisions that have a lot of potential downside risk and helping the decision-makers to weigh these up against the positives.
    • e.g. projects in less established and/or more sensitive fields, such as policy work or work involving minors
  • Handling cases involving interpersonal harm in the community. This often involves one or more of:
    • Listening to people talk through what they have experienced
    • Talking to people who have caused harm to others about how to improve their behavior
    • Restricting people who have caused harm from attending CEA events
    • Informing other EA groups, projects, or organizations about the problem
  • Advising organizations and groups in the EA ecosystem on good cultural practices, as well as providing focused support when tricky situations come up.
  • Sometimes we support individual community members who are dealing with personal or interpersonal problems, such as a mental health-related struggle or a conflict between multiple community members.
  • Considering how to foster better norms and practices in the community, e.g. around community epistemics or sustainable working.
  • Within the area of epistemics, for example, this sometimes involves:
    • Giving feedback on other people’s talks or courses about epistemics, EA, and rationality
    • Attending conferences or programs with the goal of trying to support people thinking about epistemics
    • Giving talks at conferences and workshops about epistemics
    • Developing and supporting the use of epistemic tools e.g. this chrome extension and this sequence
What are some examples of work you don’t do?

While our scope as a team is broad, we don’t have the capacity to work on everything we might like to. There will be many potential projects which could improve the health of the EA community that we are unable to prioritise. If you’re thinking of working on something in the realm of community health, we’d love to hear from you. We might be able to recommend resources or connect you with others interested in similar work.

In addition, there are some kinds of work that we don’t consider to be within our scope:

  • We don’t offer therapy ourselves.
    • We might be able to direct you towards mental health resources, but we don’t provide mental health services ourselves.
  • We’re not the HR department for CEA. We have the wonderful CEA People Ops team for that.
    • However, we have provided some HR-style support to some smaller EA organizations in the past and may continue to do so where appropriate.
  • We’re not responsible for admissions to EA events such as EA Global, though we often give input

It's common to assume things are covered by others in the community when they aren't; feel free to check with us to see what's already being done in a space, but we recommend not assuming that everything important has been thought of or is being owned by someone else!

How do I know which of you to contact about a personal or interpersonal issue?

Not all of us are designated contact people (go-to people you can contact about personal or interpersonal issues). Some of our team members are focused on other areas of our work, such as early field building or epistemics.

Julia Wise and Catherine Low are our primary contact people for the EA community. Catherine Low is a good contact person for situations relating to EA groups. For any issues in the high school outreach space, or in community epistemics generally, contact Chana, and for concerns involving international coordination, you may wish to reach out to Fynn.

Other team members may take on the role of contact person in specific situations (e.g. when attending particular camps or conferences), at which time their role as contact person will be made clear. In other situations, people who are not on our team may be the designated contact people, for example, within a local group or at a conference.

If you fill in our form and indicate your concern, we can be sure to send it along to the right person. Alternatively, if filling in a form feels annoying to you, you can email the team at community.health.special.projects@centreforeffectivealtruism.org with the same information (feel free to use this template if you find getting started tricky).

You can also contact our team members individually through their anonymous forms (linked here).

I’m worried about bothering you, or am not sure this concern I have is important/real enough to be worth flagging. Should I really contact you about X?

Yes! That’s what we’re here for. Please have a low bar for contacting us about things, and we will triage. Even if we aren’t able to follow up with you, you’re doing us a service by giving us more data about happenings in the community. You can let us know about a concern via our form.

Why have you been working on specialist areas, such as communications? Isn't there someone with more expertise?

There are a lot of things that need to go right in order for the community to achieve its potential for impact, and there’s comparatively limited capacity within the community to make sure all our bases are covered. We try to find better experts to work on the areas we identify to strengthen the community, but that’s often not possible. In those cases, we try to get support from others and push forward ourselves when we expect that to be better than no one doing so. We also sometimes hire specialists onto our team. For example, in the case of communications, CEA has now been able to hire a Head of Communications to take on this work instead, and we’re thrilled that someone with more expertise and time is able to take this on.

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