Working (6-15 years of experience)
163Joined May 2022


Thanks for sharing. Looks a very interesting report. I think very plausible that this is a non-sticky area of policy... or perhaps that there are strong forces which tend to make donors revert to a less-effective equilibrium. 

Hi Nick,

I want to clarify I'm positive about the idea too - I think there's definitely space for this. But I think there will be more impact if it compliments existing efforts in this area and thinks hard about what is really neglected. 

I've worked in development for about 10 years, some experience with evaluation of grass-roots projects but mainly working implementing projects funded by governments/donors. I try to stay anonymous on here, but I've lived and worked in Central, East Africa and South Asia for about 7 years. Never worked in Uganda. 

CGD has a few work streams on aid effectiveness, I went to a presentation on their Quoda index a while back: I would recommend anything Owen Barder has written on this topic.

I think the examples in CGD's report are where they have recommended things, and then actually seen them happen. This is really quite unusual in terms of research/policy impact. 

They've definitely done lots more work that hasn't necessarily led to neat case studies of change. For instance, they host the IDSI who look at making cost-effective decisions in health for LMICs:   I think it's true that CGD doesn't try to compare education and health or climate and governance... but they definitely have thought hard about cost-effectiveness within health for instance.

We may be talking past each other but in my experience - diplomats and aid practitioners often dislike govt to govt direct aid (budget support) because it cuts them out... it gives govts the chance to choose their own priorities rather than having them dictated by donors/external experts.

I think you could be right that smaller country funders might be easier to influence. Generally in my experience the Scandinavian donors do better projects & are able to focus more on poverty rather than being pushed around by political priorities/flashy ineffective projects.

Thanks for your comment.

Agree that govt aid projects don't consider impact in the same way.

Dambisa Moyo (who worked for the World Bank for 2 years - before going to Goldman Sachs) is one view on how aid effectiveness... but I think it's fair to say the consensus is that govt ownership is generally seen as a GOOD thing in aid effectiveness literature.

Absolutely agree that development aid is very important and that a lot of the money is not spent on very good projects. Glad to see that the thread also notes that some of this is inevitable because major donors have many different competing priorities.

I look forward to hearing more about how this organization will be different from others which are already thinking about aid effectiveness. I think there's definitely a huge problem here and space for a new approach. 

I think this thread might be overestimating the tractability of this problem... Aid effectiveness definitely isn't a new topic - there have been lots of lobbying efforts, Paris agreements, Accra agenda. etc. Organizations like Centre for Global Development have been looking at these issues for a long time and obviously there are lots of researchers and academics in this space. 

In my experience development agencies are slow to update their practices (but quicker to organize interminably long workshops about updating practices). E.g. we've known for some time that cash transfers are an effective way of doing humanitarian aid in many/most contexts - and we still see that they are not the common way of doing things.

I feel very uncomfortable mutiplying, dividing adding up these wellbys as if they are interchangeable numbers.

I have skimmed this - but if I'm reading the graph right... you believe therapy generates something like 3 wellbys of benefit per attendee?

And you say in your elephant bednet report "We estimate the grief-averting effect of preventing a death is 7 WELLBYs for each death prevented"

So a person attending therapy is roughly equivalent to preventing one parent's grief at death of a child?

This doesn't seem plausible to me.

Apologies if I have misunderstood somewhere.

Appreciate the effort that has gone into this.

Agree with others that automating this across the relevant organisations would be a good idea and probably very simple to implement.

At some point if you have enough donors, coordination becomes important.

Can someone explain what EA infrastructure covers?

Thanks for bringing these issues out. I think your case that EA participation is not very diverse is strong.

I think you're right that spending money has to be part of the solution.

My own suggestion would be some kind of survey or study of underrepresented groups to gather more information about why they participate, barriers they see or experience etc.

This could be a good first step if it doesn't exist already?

Edited to add - if it turns out a survey is a good idea, I'm happy to help.

"Theory of change: EA promotes caring about effectiveness over other goals like getting credit, but wanting credit or recognition for your work is natural. Rewarding people for maximizing impact over credit increases the health and future effectiveness of the community."

You're asking people to trade-off public credit/recognition with the possibility of anonymous cash prizes. I'm sure no one is going to turn down free money, but I'm unconvinced many people would have kept their brilliant ideas to themselves were it not for the chance to receive $5-10k.

This sounds more like a prize to reward people for 'doing the right thing', than a prize that will actually lead to people 'doing the right thing' more often. There's nothing wrong with that per say - but I wanted to bring that out and see if I have misunderstood the idea.

Thanks for the comment. I don't think that these recommendations would significantly change GW's funding allocation to be honest, they just lead to more accurate estimates of what will still be a very cost-effective program.

My caveat is, I think there is a larger potential decrease in cost-effectiveness from the second point on burden of malaria. It's unsatisfactory I think that the estimates in several of these smaller countries are significantly different. It's possible that the cost-effectiveness of SMC in some of these geographies could be quite a bit lower than Givewell estimates, simply because there is less malaria in those countries than previously thought. 

One of the problems I would have liked to have gotten into - is that other febrile diseases are often misdiagnosed as malaria (or no diagnosis is performed other than just assuming fever = malaria). 

My hypothesis going into this analysis was that I might be able to investigate this further, and perhaps show that some of the disease burden is not malaria. But I haven't really turned up many good resources on this. 

Given that Givewell have a lot more resources than just me & malaria is a big part of their programming, I think best way forwards is for them to look into the issue and try to get to the bottom of how much malaria is really out there.

I really think you need to commit to reading everyone's work, even if it's an intern skimming it for 10 minutes as a sifting stage.

The way this is set up now - ideas proposed by unknown people in community are unlikely to be engaged with, and so you won't read them.

Look at the recent cause exploration prizes. Half the winners had essentially no karma/engagement and were not forecasted to win. If open phanthropy hadn't committed to reading them all, they could easily have been missed.

Personally, yes I am much less likely to write something and put effort in if I think no one will read it.

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