Bay Area Community - How to Get Involved

This was written by Vaidehi. I’m a volunteer community builder in the Bay - I run monthly house dinners at the Lodge and occasional hikes or picnics. I’m pretty time constrained, so I hope that this doc will help others interested in East Bay community building find it easier to get involved. I can also connect you to relevant folks in San Francisco. Message me with any questions!

The case for community building in East Bay

My very rough brain-stream consciousness thoughts. Happy to go more into depth on any of this.

  • I attempt to answer the question "Why are community building efforts in the Bay Area extremely low hanging fruit?"
    1. By community building efforts I mean activities which:
      1. Further individual's engagement in the EA community, ideas and increase their likelihood of taking actions
      2. I am not referring to movement building / coordination efforts (although also believe these are low hanging fruit)
    2. By low hanging fruit I mean they are time-efficient and resource-efficient
  • Opportunities
    1. EA is in the waters: There is already a fairly high awareness (relative to most other populations) of EA in the Bay Area. This means that we can dive into more in-depth events, rather than first creating an audience that is ready for more advanced content
    2. There is a strong existing community & ecosystem: Promising individuals can quickly be connected to relevant community members. Community members could be more easily inspired to act.
    3. There is an opportunity-skill match: For AI safety, many people with relevant skills are based in the Bay. It may be worth experimenting with outreach to target audiences.
    4. There are no full-time organisers or consistent volunteer organisers in the Bay right now.
      1. It seems like there hasn’t been a consistent organiser (or group of organisers) in the Bay.
      2. Other communities (Boston, NYC) with regular events have had volunteer group organisers hosting dinners (e.g. Julia Wise in Boston) or socials (the EA NYC team for several years before they professionalised in 2020).
      3. These organisers don’t need to spend a lot of time per month on events, but instead run them consistently and regularly.
    5. We are missing a bridge between “newbies” and more engaged EAs
      1. There are lots of (very aligned) temporary visitors: Many people visit the Bay and could benefit from opportunities to network and be introduced, but may not know how to start.
  • Challenges
    1. 1. The Bay is very AI focused: This could make it challenging to make non-AI focused EAs feel like they belong (even non-AI longtermists), or that they can do things.
    2. 2. The existing community may want to engage with more serious candidates who've crossed a certain "bar": This may be a culture issue.
    3. 3. Most existing community building efforts are highly targeted, and/or focused on non-residents:
    4. 4. There seems to be some inertia around community events and organizing:
  • Ways I could be wrong
    1. (If targeting current EAs)
      1. The events we end up running don’t actually result in a lot of changed actions
      2. Existing community members could be a poor fit for current EA opportunities, which would make it resource-intensive to help them
    2. (If targeting new people) Non-EA audience is not very interested in EA or require a lot of convincing to get involved in more EA things. This could be offset by doing more targeted and intense programs which filter on interest.

The current plans for the East Bay

Some general notes

  • We are not funding constrained for sufficiently good ideas
  • This could be a good way to test fit for a full-time CB role (in the Bay or elsewhere)
  • My (Vaidehi’s) goal with organising events in the Bay is to kickstart the community and have lots of people independently organise events. I do not intend to significantly ramp up my involvement (in fact, ideally I’d ramp down and serve as more of an advisor) because I have other side projects / commitments which will likely be harder to recruit for

Ways to get involved (in order of decreasing intensity)

  1. Propose your own ideas - Vaidehi can workshop them and give you advice / connect you to people
  2. Take leadership of & try to run one of these events (so you have the basic structure / timeline already, and i can help with guidance / support)
  3. Provide support as we run these events (e.g manage attendance and/or help setting up events)

Overview of existing events

These are all low-intensity, unstructured socials which have very low overhead to plan. I think these are the lowest hanging events because there is already a lot of knowledgeable EAs, but no schelling point to meet.

  • Lodge monthly dinner (e.g. the one on wed) - I do the logistics for this, there isn't much planning as the event is unstructured social
  • Burrow monthly dinner (managed by Burrow)
  • Hikes: I have plans to run a hike every 2 months, planning for which is also minimal and the event is unstructured (so far have only organised 1 due to lack of time)

Projects in various stages of planning

Most of these events are higher intensity, but for this reason I also think more high impact in expectation. I’m especially excited about epistemics or redteaming workshops. There are many other possible events I haven’t mentioned here such as UC Berkeley / student specific events - I think those could also be exciting and would be happy to discuss them with people.

  • 8 week Careers workshop
    • Goal: Get people to reflect seriously on careers and take actionable steps towards making their careers more impactful.
  • Coworking retreat - Raj, Steven & Vaidehi may plan a coworking retreat in the summer
    • Goal: Create strong, high-fidelity bonds between retreat attendees and give them a space to intensely think about EA ideas seriously
  • Regular picnics - I think given the success of the picnic, that we could do something like this every 2 months (next one would be in May). I've created a quick guide to run the same version again, but you could probably experiment by adding extra things to it. EA Picnic Quick Guide
    • Goal: Mostly a social. I think with someone planning a little bit more / being a bit more ambitious we might be able to increase the quality of the event by 10-20%.
  • EA Rock climbing sessions once in a while? A lot of EAs rock climb and it’s a good way to socialize with the community. It could be nice to have more beginner friendly sessions every so often to help peole get in. There’s’ a messenger group to coordinate people already into climbing where folks can be added
  • EAGx Berkeley: Could be a really good way to kickstart or supercharge the UCB community, and also catch those people who are aware of EA, but might need something more “exciting” to actually get involved in the EA community. The assumption here is that Bay area is one of the few places (Loxbridge also) that has enough people to support both an EAG and EAGx and there is actually value to both kinds of events.
  • Epistemics workshop - I've been thinking of doing some kind of epistemics workshop (1-2 days), but it's very vague rn.
  • Redteaming fellowship - I am super excited about this, but it will require a significant amount of planning. If someone can do this part-time, I’m pretty sure we could get a EAIF grant and could coordinate with the Forum post authors. Update: already being done by training for good

UC Berkeley

Bay Area Projects brainstorm (draft)