This article is cross-posted from Charity Entrepreneurship blog
In 2019, the Charity Entrepreneurship team graduated 13 alumni, who went on to launch six new charities, five of which implement interventions selected by our research program. How was this outcome accomplished, and how did these charities come into existence?
In 2016, Joey and Katherine Savoie started Charity Science Health, an organization that sends SMS text message vaccine reminders to people in India. Shortly afterwards, they were approached by Brenden Eappan, a pre-med student who wanted advice on how to make an impact. Joey advised him to found a charity. He placed an ad for a co-founder, and was joined by Nikita Patel. The two of them started Fortify Health -- an organization focused on getting major Indian wheat mills to supplement their product with iron and folic acid. Both Charity Science Health and Fortify Health went on to receive GiveWell Incubation grants. At time of writing, Fortify Health in particular is estimated to have a 25% chance to become a GiveWell Top Charity, and has been awarded a $1,005,716 grant in order to scale up it’s operations. This was evidence that it could be high-impact to establish a full-time organization focused on identifying promising interventions and mentoring skilled individuals to execute them. As a result, Joey, and Karolina Sarek decided to found Charity Entrepreneurship, a research and training program that incubates multiple high-impact charities every year.
The most important part of starting a successful charity is choosing a promising intervention in the first place. Some interventions are much more cost-effective than others, and even a very well-quantified, beautifully implemented program will not be the most cost-effective if the intervention itself is not cost-effective. It is common for researchers to have an in-depth knowledge of the particular intervention they are interested in. This makes a lot of sense if you are evaluating a single, pre-existing intervention or charity. For Charity Science Health and Fortify Health, however, the aim was to implement one of the most promising of all possible interventions. Therefore, the ideas for Charity Science Health’s “text message vaccine reminders” and Fortify Health’s “iron and folic acid supplementation of wheat” were chosen by spending thousands of research hours doing shallow reviews of approximately 45 potential intervention ideas, with a focus on doing just enough research to eliminate non-viable candidates and identify promising ones.
At Charity Entrepreneurship, this same methodology was used to launch the charities in the first formal Incubation Program. Using the above research processes, we generated promising candidates for good interventions, designed a curriculum, opened applications and selected promising potential founders, as well as set up infrastructure to provide them with stipends, seed funding, and legal support. At the end of our program, six new charities were launched.
TOBACCO TAXATIONFrom the left: Joel Burke, Caleb Parikh (Good Policies), Michał Trzęsimiech (PEN)
Our review found that bringing tobacco taxation policy in Low and Middle Income Countries in line with World Health Organization recommendations would save tens of millions of lives. The Center for Global Development calls tobacco taxation the single best health policy in the world, and GiveWell is investigating opportunities to influence government policy in this area. To further this and similar policy-shaping efforts, we have helped Caleb Parikh and Joel Burke launch Good Policies, which is beginning work in both Mongolia and Armenia and is currently fundraising. Read their Jan 2020 update on the EA forum.
We’ve also helped Michael Trzesimiech (of LEAN and EA Hub) launch the Policy Entrepreneurship Network, aiming to identify unique opportunities in the space of health policy in low- and middle-income countries, as well as scalable ways of evaluating online campaigns.
VACCINATIONFrom the left: Varsha Venugopal, Fiona Conlon (Suvita)
A randomized controlled trial (RCT) by Nobel laureates Duflo and Banerjee suggests that word-of-mouth campaigns cost-effectively increase vaccination rates in India. To harness the power of nudges to combat vaccine-preventable diseases, we have helped Varsha Venugopal and Fiona Conlon launch Suvita. They are currently preparing to launch a pilot program to achieve operational proof-of-concept and to better understand contextual factors that will guide iterative improvements.
HAPPINESS RESEARCHFrom the left: Clare Donaldson, Michael Plant (HLI)
We have provided incubation support to help Michael Plant and Clare Donaldson launch the Happier Lives Institute (HLI). HLI conducts theoretical research into the nature and measurement of subjective well-being (SWB), as well as applied research asking how resources can be best used to increase global well-being. They have recently hired economist Joel McGuire as a full-time research analyst, and are seeking research interns who can contribute to their research agenda.
DISSOLVED OXYGEN FOR FISHFrom the left: Haven King-Nobles, Thomas Billington (FWI)
Our report finds that insufficiently oxygenated water is one of the main causes of suffering among farmed fish, which are numerous and historically have been neglected by the animal movement. We helped Haven King-Nobles and Thomas Billington launch the Fish Welfare Initiative, which aims to reduce the needless suffering of billions of fish by researching and executing targeted, highly scalable welfare interventions. After a preliminary survey of six different fish farms and processing facilities in four different countries, the Fish Welfare Initiative is conducting scoping research in South and Southeast Asia to identify the most promising regions in which to begin its pilot program.
TALENT GAPS IN THE ANIMAL MOVEMENTLauren Mee (AAC)
Many in the farm animal advocacy movement report that it is challenging to find the right staff to expand their organization. Staffing decisions are particularly difficult when an organization aims to expand into a new country or is hiring relatively senior staff. We’ve helped Lauren Mee and Jamie Harris launch Animal Advocacy Careers, where they have begun systematic investigations of what works in hiring and training in the animal movement. Their initial focus will be on addressing skills gaps in the movement, and Lauren has recently moved to Berlin to understand more about the challenges facing European organizations. A Charity Entrepreneurship Demo Day gave each newly launched organization an opportunity to connect with mentors and funders late last year. All charities delivered lightning talks at Effective Altruism Global 2019 in London. Each organization also had a stand at the Effective Altruism Global Career fair, many looking to connect with potential hires within the effective altruism community.
We are awed and impressed by the hard work of each of these founders and wish them the best as they scale effective, impactful organizations. There is plenty left to do, and our organization will continue to incubate new charities every year. Not all the charity ideas we came up with last year were founded. There are still two promising interventions from the previous year that have not yet been implemented: Research into institutional “asks” for corporate campaigns targeting farm animals, and feed fortification for egg laying hens. In addition, we have expanded our research team, and we will continue to identify more promising interventions in preparation for next year’s incubation program.
We encourage everyone who is interested in our activities to sign up for our newsletter to be notified when applications open again for this year’s incubation program. We will also keep you up to date on the latest job postings and notify you of our recent activities.
I know I am biased because I work at CE, but I am extremely grateful for all the entrepreneurs and their work so far. I worked in a startup environment, so I know it's not easy to take this enormous responsibility that includes: providing high-quality research, managing contacts with business owners/governments/charities, responsible hiring, communications, operations, tons of traveling, and many many more. I am particularly excited about Fish Welfare Initiative since my biggest wish for fish is that they have their own "Open Wing Alliance". I hope many of you here on the EA forum will support these new charities and share your experience with them.