Looking For a Unique Way to Do Good – Seeing a New Role in the Network Structure

From Jan’s article on What to do with people?, we get what strikes me as a unique and valuable way of looking at doing good as part of the EA community. This take is useful for breaking down the structure and causes of EA in a way that opens up new opportunities. The main term I’d like to draw attention to is decomposition. I’ll leave this paragraph here for further reflection.


What happens if you take your “build hierarchical networked structure” hat? You pick, for example, “effective altruism movement building” as an area/task (it is likely somewhere near the top of prioritization). In the next step, you attempt to do the hierarchical “decomposition” of the area. You can get started just by looking on past and present internal structures of CEA, with sub-groups or sub-tasks like Events, Grants or Groups. Each of these “parts” usually needs all of theoretical work, research and development, and execution and ops. After a bit of looking around, you may find, for example, there are just a few people systematically trying to create amazing events. There are opportunities to practice: CFAR is often open to ops volunteers, EAG as well, you may run an event for your group, or create some new event which would be useful to have for the broader community. All of this is impactful work, if not impactful job. Or, you may find out there isn’t anyone around exactly working on research of EA events. By that, I mean questions like: “How do events lead to impact? How we can measure it? Are there some characteristic patterns in how people meet each other? What are the relevant non-EA reference classes for various EA events?” When you try to work on this you may find out it depends on specific skills, or requires contact with people working on events, so it may be less tractable – but it’s still worth trying. I would also expect good work on this topic to have impact, attract attention, and possibly funding.

– Jan’s What to do with people?

So, perhaps the next time someone you know is looking for a role to take on, perhaps they could create their own by taking some time to draw out and decompose the network structure of EA causes.