Nov 15, 2018
I've been asked the following questions a few times now by people from non-high-income countries:
To the best of my knowledge, there is no central resource for people from non-high income countries with generic advice on how to best "go about effective altruism" in their countries.
Maybe we can use this thread to collect information on this topic.
Context: Effective altruism has mostly been applied in high-income countries and so there are perhaps some crucial limitations in how far things can be applied in non-high income countries. The people who have approached me sometimes say that the prominent EA causes (global poverty, animal welfare or global catastrophic risk) are harder to promote in their countries.
To a first approximation, if a cause in a given non-high-income country is X times less effective than the top cause globally, but >X times easier to promote, then it might make sense to focus on moving resources (time and money) towards a more local cause.
In other words, perhaps people in a given non-high-income country would, for instance, be easily convinced to give to or work for a charity that is very effective at improving health or reducing poverty in their country, but the charity is not as effective as effective global poverty charities such as GiveDirectly. However, because GiveDirectly is a much harder to promote in said country, it is more effective to promote national charities.
To start off the discussion, here are some examples of generalizable things one might look at. I'm not very certain in any of these suggestions and they might not apply to many countries. I also haven't spent much time thinking about putting these together and they should maybe more thought of as inspiration than anything.
1. For instance, the Global Burden of Disease visualization tool study let's one look at different countries' disease burdens. One could find out whether one's country has a comparatively large disease burden relative to other countries in their reference class. Then one could find out whether relatively little is spent on the disease (whether it is neglected) and whether it is perhaps relatively solvable (see the 80,000 Hours problem framework).
2. One might also find effective causes by using Google Scholar and search for generic terms that might uncover studies looking at effective policies AND the country in question. For instance, use the following search term:
Or to find high economic costs facing one's country, use the following search term:
"100..1000 billion dollar" OR "USD 100..1000 billion" OR "US * 100..1000 billion" AND countryX
or look at cost-effectiveness studies by using the following search terms:
"benefit cost ratio" OR "net benefit" OR "Internal Rate of Return" OR "Net Present Value" OR "Incremental cost-effectiveness ratio" AND countryX
3. One could also see whether high impact policies would apply to one's country, such as tobacco taxation (see "The Single Best Health policy in the World: Tobacco Taxes" and 80k's tobacco taxation profile).
It might also be easier to get people to provide global public goods, such as promoting policies that reduces greenhouse gas emissions (see for instance my paper on the most effective climate change policies).
Or it might be possible to decrease the risk of global public bads by for instance finding out whether one's country does particularly poorly on the Nuclear Threat Initiative's index or country profiles.
4. With some reading done, one could perhaps survey reputable scholars in one's country on what the most effective causes in their country are (There might already be some out there, e.g. this is a a bit of trivial example saying that economist agree that Cuba has bad economic policies, but there might be more useful surveys. The Copenhagen Consensus has an interesting research methodology on finding good economic policies in different countries).
5. Or perhaps one can work on improving institutional decision making. Or perhaps the very best thing might be to increasing sustainable growth in one's country, perhaps by improving performance in the World Bank's Doing Business indicators.