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The podcast version of this AMA and its transcript are now here

TLDR: Share questions for Rob Mather (founder and CEO of the Against Malaria Foundation) in the comments of this post, by the 19th of December. Ask about anything! 


Comment on this post to ask Rob Mather, the founder and CEO of the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), the charity that has protected 448,414,801 people with malaria nets, anything by the 19th of December. 

I’ll be interviewing him live on 19th of December, at 6pm UTC. The interview will be hosted live on this link. I’ll ask the questions you share on this post (and possibly some of my own). Although we might not get through all of them; we'll get through as many as we can in an hour.  

We'll aim for two dollars a net, two minutes an answer, so try to post short questions (1-2 sentences). Feel free to ask several questions (or add follow ups), though! If editing your question down would take a while, don’t worry, I can shorten it. 

Though the questions won’t be answered in the comments of this post, don’t worry if you can’t attend the live event. We’ll post a video recording and perhaps a podcast version in the comments of this post. 

Some context for your questions:

  • AMF distributes insecticide treated bed nets to protect sleepers from the bites of malaria carrying mosquitos, that would otherwise cause severe illness or worse. You can read about the toll of malaria on this Our World in Data page, and the effectiveness of bednets in this GiveWell report
  • Since 2009 AMF has been featured as a GiveWell top charity. 
  • Rob founded AMF in 2005. Since then, it has grown from a team of two to a team of thirteen. In 2006, they brought in $1,3 million in donations. In 2022, they brought in $120 million. AMF has received $545 million in donations to date, and has distributed 249 million bed nets. 
  • Currently, AMF’s team of 13 is in the middle of a nine-month period during which they are distributing, with partners, 90 million nets to protect 160 million people in six countries: Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia. 
    • Rob tells me that: “These nets alone can be expected to prevent 40,000 deaths, avert 20 to 40 million cases of malaria and lead to a US$2.2 billion improvement in local economies (12x the funds applied). When people are ill they cannot farm, drive, teach – function, so the improvement in health leads to economic as well as humanitarian benefits." 
  • Impact numbers: Once all of the nets AMF has fundraised for so far have been distributed and have been given time to have their effect, AMF expects that they will have prevented 185,000 deaths, averted 100-185 million cases of malaria, and led to growth worth $6.5 billion in local economies.

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:20 AM

How does the availability of malaria vaccines change AMF's strategy going forward?

What, if anything, would you do differently if you were starting AMF today?

I have organized two small fundraisers with AMF, and in both cases, Rob was incredibly proactive and helpful, taking time to immediately respond to emails and hop onto calls. Many thanks, but a question remains: where does he find the time, and which time-management strategies does he use?

I understand that (unlike most EA or EA-adjacent organizations) AMF is almost entirely run by volunteer labor. Could you talk about your decision to operate this way, and what challenges or benefits you’ve gotten from this approach?

Are AMF looking into being involved with malaria vaccine distribution?

How does AMF collect feedback from the end-recipients of bednets? How does feedback from them inform AMF's programming?

Top advice to new charity entrepreneurs?

In what situations does it seem like a good idea to start a new (initially small) charity rather than supporting existing efforts?

(E.g. looking at the outside at Malaria work in 2005 one might have felt like this was a huge area with a lot of attention from big global health organisations and it would be surprising if a new small organisation could be able to bring something different / useful that existing organisations couldn't)

Bit of context - I've just started a TB charity and am curious about this for TB too!

Relatedly:

Do you think the Effective Altruism community could/should be doing more to start new projects vs funding / staffing existing projects?

Now you have a bigger team have you found that comes with much more overhead in people management, internal communications etc?

If so, how did you adapt? What worked and what didn't?

The global health community seems to view verticalisation / silo'd provision of health services as non-ideal. (E.g. one ecosystem set up for HIV work another separate ecosystem for Malaria, another one for maternal health etc. But if you're ill you want to go to a primary care facility and get whatever it is you need.) Do you have any concerns about AMF's work being silo'd from other health work in this way?

Can you talk us through, as transparently as you can, the costs and benefits of being so transparent?

On what frequency do you think about organisational goals and strategy internally? (If you're happy to share) E.g. do you set quarterly goals, think about big picture strategy annually etc

I notice that on your Distributions page, you have distributions pencilled in for the Democratic Republic of the Congo up to 2025. Are these distributions contingent on additional funding? If not, which countries would you be most likely to expand your distributions to in 2024 and 2025 if your funding gap is closed? Thanks!

AMF has leveraged corporate support and partnerships perhaps more than other charities do. Does that seem true to you? If so, is it something you think lean nonprofits should be doing more?

Did you get pushback from people in the early days who questioned the usefulness of the role AMF you could play or your model of delivery? How did you handle such pushback?

Relatedly / alternatively: In the course of running AMF have you ever struggled with worries about whether you're on the right track or doubted your choices? How have you handled this?

What's your opinion of the other kinds of work that the Global Fund funds for malaria prevention?

(E.g. At one extreme: GF funds a sensible portfolio of activities and if you were going to spend multiple billions you couldn't do that much better. At the other extreme: The majority of malaria work could stand to be a lot more effective than it currently is - maybe even nets would be a much bigger part of the portfolio)

Relatedly/alternatively:

What do you think of interventions that save lives in a less direct and/or less measurable way? E.g. funding research into vaccine development, strengthening health systems, policy advocacy etc?

I've published the podcast version of this AMA, with a transcript, here. Thanks for all the great questions!

Thanks for all the great questions! We will host the meeting, at 6pm UTC, here. Feel free to join us live (where there may be time for more audience questions), or wait for the recording to be released afterwards. 

Is the recording and/or a transcript available?

I published it yesterday, you can find it here. Thanks for waiting!

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