Geographic diversity in EA

by AmAristizábal2 min read15th Jun 202017 comments

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Hi, I´m from Colombia (first post) and I want to share my thoughts on lack of geographic diversity in EA.

I suspect that due to lack of diversity, questions that could be relevant to EA have not been considered enough and here I share some of the ones that I deal with the most (although I don't have a strong position about most of these things and probably I just have not been aware if they DO HAVE been considered, in that case I would appreciate a lot if you could send links or recommendations):

-Whether giving locally could be better (or not) for donors in low and middle income countries:

Countries with weak currencies such as mine face high exchange rates (especially in hard times such as this pandemic). I have the intuition that with a volatile dollar price it doesn't always make sense to donate to EA recommended charities and perhaps donors could allocate better their donations by donating locally. In my case I just switch to save and donate later (because I'm young and my salary is low haha) but what if I still want to donate a little bit to keep motivation? Or what if I want to convince my friend's uncle to donate?I still want to have an informed opinion.

-Spot regional differences within countries when answering different types of questions: Even if my country's GDP is higher than many countries where effective donations according to EA are allocated, there are many regions within my country where poverty is extremely high, even higher than in richer cities from poorer countries. Those differences are hard to spot if EA spots “poverty” as a whole without zooming in geographical zones.

-Addressing the real potential of going into policy in LMICs: EA recommends policy careers but I suspect that it's an even more important path in LMICs, where policies are weaker, policymakers are even less evidence based and where institutions have a lot more potential to improve.

-Whether there is a chance to adapt EA to other cultural values:

Individualism vs collectivism: I feel that EA was born in cultures that value individualistic goals (even if the focus is on the world as a whole). For example, I see EA deeply linked to “western”´s understanding of freedom, independence of thought, skepticism, mistrust for authority and social norms, etc… However, other cultures with more collectivist mindsets can struggle to link altruism to those specific values. In many cultures altruism is deeply linked to religion or family bonds and giving is prioritized when you help those that surround you. Even if there is no rational argument to value more a life in my country vs a life in sub-saharan Africa, what if EA is losing an opportunity to take advantage of these cultural drives towards giving by, for example, strengthening local networks of charities.

Nationalism: Even if I'm not fond of nationalism I do recognize it as a huge drive for altruism in my country (probably in many others as well). I won't convince my friend's uncle to donate to Against Malaria but I could convince him to donate to a colombian charity. Could we use those emotional bonds to promote doing good in an effective way at the same time?

-I wonder if there is a bias when EA talks about problems not being “neglected” enough when dismissing some cause areas or focus topics: an example that comes to my mind is gender inequality in governments or in the workplace. In EA there is a whole focus area on improving institutional decision making, which is great (actually there is where I want to focus); but what if there are easier and more urgent steps to be taken towards IIDM in LMICs such as focusing on women's access to governments (something that in high income countries is not that neglected and has been widely addressed, or at least a lot more than in other countries). So would donating to organizations that are promoting women participation in governments in LMICS be a good cause to donate, taking into account that institutions in these countries face a huge problem that comes even before cognitive biases or poor decision making processes and it's that there is not enough representation of 50% of the population?

I would love to know what has been said about these topics and feel free to reach out.

Update: Due to this post I addressed the topic during the EA Unconference, here is the link to the video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byWYr2oH1y8

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