EA Geneva Fellowship 2020

Notes by Vaidehi Agarwalla from conversations with Naomi Nederlof from EA Geneva (04/2020)

Update 24.08.2020

Naomi published an EA forum post on the first 6 months of the fellowship. I’ve moved the sections of this document which are covered in the forum post to the Appendix, and I’ve left the other bits that weren’t discussed in the post here.

Notes from 04.2020EA Geneva’s Goals

  • Push people into action. People have the urge, but don’t know how.
    • Most often careers, but other things too, like: research, organising a company giving game, even small things like sewing coronavirus masks
    • At least having the conversation about small actions - people are practicing effective altruism
    • Give accountability and structure to people
  • Easier to make events based on demand - know who the community members are
  • Strengthen the community and making connections

They cut out their intro workshop - time investment vs how many people stuck around in community

  • iterate/prepare intro workshop every time (creation also took time)
  • Hassle of following up
  • Only 1-2 stuck around
  • Looking for a contact point vs learning about EA
  • Social/unstructured event was not that appealing but fellowship was more appealing

Notes from 08.2020

On creating goals for the fellowship

Naomi: Great question, and this is also a point that we are still trying to figure out. Tips, especially about the formulation of goals, are always welcome. What we did so far:

Deliberately framing the first meeting as a meeting to formulate the goal. The goal often consists of a longer time goal (e.g. transitioning into a high-impact career) which is broken down into time-bound sub-goals. Before the first meeting I go through the application form and flag potential discussion points. For people who mainly want to learn more about effective altruism, I used our learning grid to have a systematic overview of EA's core ideas.

Evaluating the goal after 3 to 4 months, to consider if the goal is attained and to reformulate a (new) goal.

And often people do already have an idea what they want to work on when they are applying, so then we just start with that

We have some categories that goals often seem to fall into:

  • Career planning
  • Starting a start-up
  • Answering a research question

Learning more (and then go through the learning grid to flash out what exactly)

Going through these options, combined with discussing what attracted people to EA, often gives enough possible goals.

Content of group sessions

The content of the group sessions is a combination of topics that fellows have expressed an interest in, presentations of fellows themselves, and subjects that we (the community builders) think are important for fellows to learn more about. As fellows are working on a diversity of causes, we usually choose topics that serve all the different causes, such as bayesian thinking, longtermism or coordination within a community (to establish desired norms and epistemics).

Attending the group sessions

The attendance differed between the evenings, and was low during the summer months. As we had very different kind of events, it seemed to differ between the evenings. We tried to be clear beforehand what we were going to do, but sometimes it's hard to communicate the content of an evening well. But in general the participants valued the evenings and they were evaluated with an 8 on average.


The forum post has the more up to date version of this information. I’ve left it here for reference. The bits that weren’t covered in the forum post are up top.

Application: I would recommend an application process indeed, to avoid confusion about 'base level dedication and competency' for the group organisers.

Rolling basis

Most fellows had had very little interaction with the local Geneva community but knew a bunch about the EA community. Getting really invested into the community, 7/19 really invested. Also, some hardcore people who’ve been involved for a while - so fellowship is an excuse to have regular contact with them via email.

⅔ of the community part of it - this is the core community. Some people who hang around may feel pressure to apply since there’s a buzz around it. Hardly any public events now (some in the future maybe).


Our fellowship consists of 1-1 calls, where the frequency depends on the available time of the fellow. In practice I check-in with the majority once every month and this seems to be a frequency that allows the fellow to think about their career, read about EA/their causes and connect with relevant others in between the calls. I prefer to have calls when the fellow has had time to think about stuff and make progress on their goals (we define fellowship goals at the beginning and throughout the program). We often use the calls as an accountability moment as well.

Next to the 1-1's, we offer group sessions once every two weeks. They consist of one hour of co-working, one hour of knowledge exchange through discussion or (guest) presentations (often fellows, or people from the local community) and one hour of dinner/socialising. As we have had only virtual meetings (because of Covid-19) until now, I can only share our experience with them.

The virtual coworking has been surprisingly beneficial for some of our community members and underwhelming for others. I find it hard to draw a conclusion about them, as it seems to differ so much from person to person, but it is a nice moment for everybody to connect to the video anyway.

The main feedback we have gotten about the group sessions is that fellows like it to connect with others and are inspired by their peers. I have the impression that it also has a motivational effect.