It took me a while to finish reading this report, so I know I’m joining this comment thread late. There were lots of good thoughts shared in other comments, so I’ll try to focus my thoughts are areas that are different:
---There could be a donor coordination problem for this particular opportunity. Donational might not be able to do a pilot with less than $40k, and anything over $40k would be more than needed. How do donors know if they are fully funded?
---Have you seen the write-ups of ImpactMatters (https://www.impactmatters.org/)? If not, it may be worth looking at them. That organization was founded by Dean Karlan, who is one of the top economists doing randomizes controlled trials of development programs.
---In terms of the write-up, there was some discussion of certain key points not coming through strongly. To address this, one idea would be to put a lot of the details from the main body into an appendix.
---This report focuses a lot of the sample evaluation of Donational, but the summary of Rethink Grants suggests that it is trying to do more than just evaluate opportunities and promote the good ones. If I’m understanding correctly that Rethink Grants is also doing things to try to make the underlying organizations better, then it might be great to have more details on that.
It’s great to see more efforts to evaluate and promote top giving opportunities. Rethink Grants seems promising and I'm interested in seeing where it goes.
Interesting post. It seems to intertwine multiple issues:
The three questions above should be addressed separately, then brought together into a more coherent view. I wish a presidential candidate would actually do that and relate it to their policy preferences, but I doubt most will.
I'm cautious about arguments to simply increase taxes to spend more on good causes because governments tend to implement ineffectively. I'm also cautious about arguments to increases taxes for the rich or corporations, as they usually don't address the potential for higher taxes to create a drag on broader economic growth.
Good post. It is consistent with my experience in publishing. One other thing EAs can do to help promote these books is review them on Amazon. The star ratings influence purchasing decisions of many people, so maintaining a high rating for these books can boost sales.
Peter and Holden, thanks for sharing your feedback. I’ll provide some additional thoughts to
address your comments.
Peter, regarding your comments about possibly over-diversifying, that is an issue I considered. My giving this year is more spread out than in the past several years. I wasn’t trying to optimize on a single dimension of giving (e.g. giving to learn, maximizing expected immediate impact, etc), but to balance multiple factors. When weighing everything, I was unable to come up with one charity that I viewed as clearly standing out above the others.
Peter, regarding UNICEF, over the past few decades, they have been leaders in a substantial amount of the most high-impact interventions in global health, including being a partner-of-choice for many very sophisticated funders helping to implement these programs. One way of thinking about large, multi-project organizations is that the additional money you give them will allow them to expand their lowest priority programs. That is a reasonable view, but it also doesn't account for several benefits of supporting large organizations. These benefits include:
·1. Enabling UNICEF to maintain its organizational infrastructure, which helps to successfully implement the high-priority projects that are funded with restricted grants from other donors. That is, my donation may increase the effectiveness of all of their other programs.
2. Helping UNICEF help other charities be more effective. As an example, UNICEF hosts an
annual meeting for suppliers of mosquito nets so they can learn from each other and improve the entire sector (http://www.unicef.org/supply/index_39977.html). Another example is documentation of how they were promoting deworming to others in international development over a decade ago (http://www.unicef.org/eapro/Prevention_of_intestinal_worm_infections.pdf
3. Allowing the organization with boots on the ground to decide which programs get funding.
I understand that there’s a lot of skepticism about large organizations in international development because so many have focused on ineffective programs, but UNICEF’s track record suggests that is less of an issue for them. There may be other large, multi-program charities that share this trait; I imagine that Oxfam does, given that I've heard it described as one of Peter Singer’s favorite charities. It is not possible to track something like X additional vaccines for the $Y dollars I give UNICEF, but I don’t think that means the benefits to giving to it are small.
Holden, thanks for clarifying GiveWell’s views about the “upside” component of your recommendations. You discuss the upside in terms of providing transparency, more information about the intervention, and incentives. I am comfortable with these reasons in theory, which is among the reasons SCI didn't make my list., but have trouble when these are applied to a charity that is not as cost-effective as others (my view of GiveDirectly). The gap between our views may be closed by your statement that you believe there is not a huge difference in cost-effectiveness between GiveDirectly and the other top charities.