Thanks for your question! I work at GiveWell. The initial calculation we shared in the blog post is a simple one, intended to give a rough sense of the cost-effectiveness of each opportunity given the current limited investigation we’ve done of RTS,S. You're correct that it doesn't account for how RTS,S might interact with LLINs and SMC and the funding needs for those interventions; it's possible that interventions will be layered atop one another, rather than an "either/or" situation.
We expect we would estimate the marginal value if we were deeply investigating an opportunity to fund RTS,S or if it seemed likely that the rollout of RTS,S was going to impact the cost-effectiveness of LLINs or SMC. Going forward, we're also incorporating lower expected malaria rates in some locations in our SMC cost-effectiveness analysis due to the expectation of higher LLIN coverage in the future than the past. We’re doing the same where we’re funding LLINs to be delivered in areas where SMC is expanding.
Thanks for raising these questions! I work at GiveWell, and we're planning to update the EA Global Health and Development Fund page to make the distinction between it and the Maximum Impact Fund clearer—we think we can do better to explain the difference.
Here's a quick summary:
We don't expect to change the overall portfolio of opportunities that we pursue in response to the allocation of donations between these two funds. In other words, as with most giving, there is fungibility. For example, if there are insufficient funds in the Global Health and Development Fund to support a high-leverage opportunity we want to fund, we would expect to seek funding for that opportunity from Open Philanthropy, with whom we work closely, or another donor.
I hope that helps clarify!
Hi Brendon and Tharun,
Catherine from GiveWell here. Thanks for your post - it's generated some good discussion!
First, I want to confirm a few aspects of our banking that have been discussed here:
We agree that consideration of where to hold and invest funds is important. Last year, we began work to revisit our banking practices. We also adopted an investment policy in December 2020 that enables us to invest a portion of our available cash balances in financial vehicles, with the following goals: preserving capital, meeting our liquidity requirements, minimizing volatility, and maximizing our after-tax return.
We are continuing our project to revisit our banking this year. In addition to the interest rates offered on accounts, our decisions about where to hold funds will also factor in our additional needs, such as strong customer service, security, understanding of non-profit vs. for-profit needs, user interface, connection with our various tools and platforms, and international operability. We plan to take this work forward in 2021.
Catherine from GiveWell here. We appreciate the dialogue this piece has generated. We agree that economic growth is an important area to consider evaluating, due to its potential for significant and positive impacts on well-being.
Today, our top charities list comprises charities implementing programs that have been studied via randomized controlled trials (RCTs). By pointing to these trials (and the monitoring conducted by our charities), we can serve our donors by making a public, vettable case for our recommendations and demonstrating their likely impact. We believe these are excellent, cost-effective opportunities for donors to help people alive today.
As John and Hauke note, GiveWell is not just focused on RCTs. We've expanded GiveWell's focus to include new areas that may be more challenging to measure than the programs our current top charities implement,and we will therefore consider potential top charities that don't have RCTs of their work. Our goal in expanding our focus is to identify programs that are more cost-effective than our current top charities (which we believe are highly cost-effective and difficult to beat). We wrote a blog post in February 2019 outlining our early plans for this work: https://blog.givewell.org/2019/02/07/how-givewells-research-is-evolving/.
We plan to expand our focus gradually, starting with areas in which we think we can make significant progress. We're looking into health policy interventions—like alcohol control, ambient air pollution, micronutrient fortification in India, pesticide regulation, and lead paint regulation—based on our understanding of the existing research within these areas and our experience evaluating health interventions. From an institutional and research perspective, we think this is the right starting point for our expansion.
That doesn't mean we'll stop there. In that February 2019 blog post, one of the areas we listed as under consideration for future research was "Increasing economic growth and redistribution." We hope to be able to deepen our understanding of this topic soon, although we don't expect to do so in the very near future, so unfortunately don't have substantive additions to the above discussion at this time.
Preliminarily, we guess that it might be particularly difficult to analyze giving opportunities in "economic growth" broadly because we perceive that growth is the result of a complex interplay between many different areas one could make grants in. These areas include infrastructure development, fiscal policy, monetary policy, industrial policy, peace and stability, individually-targeted programs, health, and so on. We haven't yet done substantial work to map this space, but we expect that considering the more granular cause areas within the broad economic growth space will help us make progress on prioritizing further research.
We look forward to following the research that is done in this space and we are excited that other researchers are focusing on international development, as we think this will improve our research and recommendations in the long term.
"I’m also curious about when the GiveWell/CEA teams realized that the old EA Funds webpage’s description of the Fund’s scope might reasonably be read to exclude the One for the World grant." We realized this when prompted by your comments here.
"With that in mind, would GiveWell support One for the World in taking steps to clarify the nature of its relationships with GiveWell on its website?" We have shared this feedback with One for the World and understand they plan to update their site accordingly.
Thank you for sharing these concerns. We're sorry that this grant came as a surprise, and that you would prefer that it wasn't made via this EA Fund.
Some context on the fund may be helpful in explaining the decision to make this grant. The Centre for Effective Altruism set the original scope of the fund and asked Elie to serve as the manager to recommend grants to the fund. Elie thought that a grant to One for the World may be better in expectation than GiveWell's top charities (the broad mandate for the fund) and staff at the Centre for Effective Altruism communicated to Elie that One for the World was within the scope of the fund. Elie elected to make the grant on that understanding.
However, we at GiveWell didn't confirm the language on the now-previous version of the fund page, which we believe said: "You might choose not to support the fund if you think donations to organizations working in Effective Altruism Movement Building will produce more money for highly effective global poverty charities than the money they receive." If we had done that, we would have had more questions about whether the grant was in the scope of the fund; failure to do so was an oversight by us and CEA.
Elie appreciates hearing from EA Fund donors about their preferences for allocating funding and would appreciate other donors communicating with him about their interests.
Hi HStencil, we just published the grant write-up. It is available here: https://www.givewell.org/about/impact/one-for-the-world/october-2019-grant
Thanks, HStencil - I've passed your feedback on timing of information sharing to the team for consideration.
We hope to publish the One for the World grant write-up soon, but are not sure of the precise timing.
I'm glad to share some quick context for why this grant was made through the Global Health and Development Fund. The scope of the fund, as indicated in the "Fund scope" section here (https://app.effectivealtruism.org/funds/global-development), is to support activities whose ultimate purpose is to serve people living in the poorest regions of the world, including by raising additional funds for charities operating in those regions. The One for the World (OFTW) grant fits into this category. (We recently updated that page to make the fund scope clearer).
One additional process piece that may be helpful to have in mind: each EA Fund manager has discretion over their own pool of funds, and sources and considers grants independently. It's possible there are grants, like OFTW, that fit into the scope of more than one fund. Part of the discussion around grantmaking is understanding other funding the group expects to receive, so we don't believe there's an issue if a group is supported by multiple EA Funds.
Hi HStencil, Catherine from GiveWell here—you're right that the grant was made from the EA Fund for Global Health and Development. Our page publishing process can take a long time, so we haven't yet published our write-up on the grant on GiveWell.org, but we're planning to in the future. We expect that information to be shared on the EA Fund page once it is published.
I work at GiveWell; thanks for your question. There are a few key differences with the Open Philanthropy Project: