Interesting article from Anthony Kalulu from Uganda.
It argues that EA recommended charities have very little impact in the average poor in Uganda.
if you randomly asked one of the people who themselves live in abject poverty, there is no chance that they will mention one of EA’s supported “effective” charities, as having impacted their lives more than the work of traditional global antipoverty agencies. No. That’s out of question.
Anthony argues too that EA solutions are not persistent
If you visited a truly impoverished country like Uganda, you will quickly notice that many of the things that effective altruists call “effective” — from mosquito nets, to $100 business grants that are provided to groups of 3 people — are the same short-term, disposable solutions that have not only kept their recipients in abject poverty, but also, they are the very kind of solutions that often disappear the same day their proponents exit.
And that the solutions implemented do not match the communities needs:
In my region of Busoga, Uganda’s most impoverished region, we have one [well-funded] international charity which is among those described by the EA movement as being “effective”. That charity is also working with rural poor farmers here, principally on maize.
But the thing is: every household in our region that depends on maize, lives in chronic extreme poverty, and has lived in chronic poverty for eternity. Neither the effective charity nor the other big antipoverty agencies that came before it, have changed this.
By contrast, those farmers who are growing crops like sugarcane, no charity or antipoverty agency has ever supported them. But today, every village in our region that you visit, is covered with sugarcane. It is also the same with many other crops (rice, tomatoes, water melon etc) that are at least providing rural farmers with some tangible income.
The solution advocated by Anthony through the article are grassroots organizations:
In the name of being “effective”, EA has instead indoctrinated its followers to strictly support a small, select list of charities that have been labelled “most effective” by the movement’s own charity raters like GiveWell, Giving What We Can, The Life You Can Save etc, of which the named charities, right now, are all western.
But that is the very ingredient that makes traditional philanthropy a sector that keeps the world’s extreme poor on the sidelines. And by consolidating itself as a movement that completely never supports grassroots organizations directly, EA has proved to be more of a blockade to those of us who live in ultra poverty, even more than traditional philanthropy.
What can we do to help improve this situation?
Here is a brainstorming of some ideas:
Seek feedback and listen to local though leaders, and invite them to participate in the global conversation about eradicating poverty
Conduct third-party surveys of the intended beneficiaries of poverty relief. So far the only instrument of this kind I've seen is GiveDirectly's program.
If you are a charity working in eg Uganda, try promoting your hiring rounds among your beneficiaries and their surrounding communities
Lead, together with local EA organizers, incubation programs of grassroot and effective efforts
Try to identify the best local grassroot efforts to support. This might be tricky because these efforts are usually not scalable, so spending $100k on a study might be pointless when the org only has capacity to absorb $50k. Maybe we could study better the effects of a grassroot support foundation.
Train and support local EA organizers to run talent identification and nurturing programs, like localized versions of Carreras con Impacto
Which of these seem better? What other things could be done? Do you have capacity to run a minimal version of any of the ideas above?