Spreading the mantle of heroic responsibility

Eric Rogstad and I started Seattle Effective Altruists, little over 6 months ago. We quickly gained several regular attendees and had about a meetup once a month. Unfortunately, soon after Eric left for a new life of whimsy and adventure, so I came to do most of the organizing and logistics. It felt firmly “my” thing. Its kind of fun to be in charge of something, but isn’t very sustainable and probably healthier to have several involved people.

Edit: I also noticed that it being “my” thing prevented other people from other people making it their thing.

I decided I didn’t want it to be “my” thing, and I wanted to get more people interested in helping. The advice saw somewhere was to ask people to do small things to help out, and then bigger things until they’re pretty involved.

This led me to look for as many things I could delegate as possible. Things like greeting newcomers, making sure meetups are cross-posted, posting meetup notes, etc. This went okay, but there wasn’t that much to delegate, and it didn’t seem to lead to significantly increased involvement. One positive outcome is that I now reflexively ask myself if a given task is something I can ask someone else to do.

The other deliberate strategy I tried seemed to work quite well:

Whenever I found myself talking one-on-one with someone who had come more than once, I would ask them what they were excited about in EA and/or the group. I would talk with them about it, and if we came up with ways the group could help their goal, I would ask them if they would be willing to help organize and lead that meet up. Then, later, I would instant message them about actually planning the meetup.

This worked surprisingly well, three different people have come to lead meetups this way, and there are a couple of other people who are interested. One person led a meetup about existential risk, one about criticisms of EA, and one a factory farming documentary night.

Currently, I’m trying to spread ownership of the group more permanently by creating a core of 3-5 people who take heroic responsibility for the group, as I have seen suggested for student EA groups. Two of the obvious people to ask came from the people I asked to help run a meetup. We’ll see how that goes.