This post is a project plan for a Cause-specific Effectiveness Prize, intended to be launched locally in Israel, as a part of EA Israel’s activities.
The project is currently in the stage of market research, and we wanted to post this plan in order to receive your feedback before we continue.
We're continously updating this plan in this document.
This project’s aim is to establish a competition/prize for cost-effectiveness, between charities that work on the same cause.
Our assumptions for potential value in this project:
- Encourage a conversation of impact effectiveness within local charity culture.
- Drive innovation inside specific causes. Both in terms of creating/researching new interventions, and in terms of publicizing those interventions. For that reason, this project can actively put a spotlight on interventions rather than on charities.
- Spark interest in EA within charities that aren’t naturally involved in EA. As of today, when a charity that doesn’t involve with EA’s top causes encounters EA, the message that charity receives is mainly “you better switch a cause or change everything you’re doing”; a message which doesn’t take into account personal attachments to that charity’s cause, and the emotional difficulty of changing assumptions. Instead, this charity could receive a message of (and potentially even guidance for) “here is how you can apply evidence and reason in order to improve your impact”.
In general, we want to test the potential of this route as a lead for new EA causes, and as a community-building approach (either by reaching out to new potential members, or encouraging individuals to move into EA-related causes from non-EA-related causes).
- An important consideration regarding the cost-effectiveness of this project, is the potential of this project to provide resources we otherwise would have to work much harder for. Many donors have strong preferences to donate locally and are reluctant to donate to our top charities for that reason, but could find this project attractive. New volunteers had also shown much interest in this project.
- Regarding the previous argument, this project can also spark the interest in EA by donors that aren’t naturally interested.
If successful, this project could be launched:
- Locally, in other countries.
- Globally, calling out for charities all over the world that are involved in a specific cause area.
- Could evolve (after it is somewhat known within local charities) into more complex forms such as Impact Prizes, which seems very complicated to implement or pitch well without having an existing strong status.
The general outline of this project consists of three main steps; Gathering resources for the project (especially funding), publishing the contest, and evaluating results. To simplify the evaluation process, we will pick a couple of different cause areas for the prize.
Below is a scale for the actions that can be undertaken by prize candidates. These actions are ordered by the amount of effort required by the charity.
- Level 1: Figure out what to measure, then employ measuring techniques (a required action for applying).
- Level 2: Make modifications in current interventions. Such modifications could be minor, for instance, increasing social influence by text modifications (example. Video about such modifications).
- Level 3: Duplicate an intervention that is carried out somewhere else. We hypothesize that a majority of charities in Israel haven’t done that global-level research.
- Level 4: Innovate an intervention based on subject-matter experience, theory or adjacent causes.
The prize requirements should be adjusted so charities can undertake only level 1 actions, and still have a chance of winning (in order to minimize the effort required by charities for competing). Nevertheless, we should provide guidance (at least through online material) for all levels.
- Do we provide counseling to charities? Personal counseling, or online comprehensive guides?
- RCTs are the golden standard of measuring impact, but are expensive and complicated. What easier alternatives do we allow? What’s the level of evidence and reliability we accept?
- Evaluation process: Are charities required to file documents, do we pay for third-party analysts? Should we have a committee? How transparent can/should we be about the results?
- How much money do we need?
- There might be extremely important distinctions between the definition of the project: Is this a grant, prize, contest?
- Not enough charities will care or want to put in the effort we require.
- Such contests might eventually discourage knowledge sharing between charities.
- Legal risk - let’s not get sued.
- Is EA Israel ready for such exposure, or for handling this amount of money? Could this create a misleading image of EA as mainly focused on cause-specificity (given that it’s our only project with this approach).
- Miscalculating how complex our criteria for evaluation are, or leaving out opportunities for disruption of results.
- With other prize-focused projects in EA community.
- With prize-focused organizations in Israel, such as Midot.
- Market research (with charities)
- Amount of money that will create interest.
- Intent of participating. What would make them apply?
- What information do they have today, or they can make available, for analysis?
- Evaluate resources needed for this project: What personal do we need, evaluate costs.
- Funding - starting with our current funding leads.
- Writing down precise definitions and requirements for the prize.
- Definitions (and resolving the open questions).
- Legal consulting.
- Creating online materials.