All of Sindy_Li's Comments + Replies

Why I'm concerned about Giving Green

I appreciate you writing up these comments! There are some great suggestions here as well as things I disagree with. As the author of the "extremely positive" post let me share some thoughts. (I'm by no means an expert on this so feel free to tell me I'm wrong.)

1. Quantitative cost-effectiveness analysis

Summary of my view: I'm pretty torn on this one but think we may not want to require a quantitative CEA on charities working on policy change (although definitely encourage the GG team to try this exercise).

On one hand I think it's great to at least attempt... (read more)

Thanks for your comment! I agree with Alex on his points and -- apparently, a lot with you as well :) --  but adding some clarifications on questions/assumptions in your comment re FP research on this:  (1) whether or not FP would research TSM or other similar interventions (absolutely!), (2) additional reasons why CATF is a robust rec and TSM is not (3) where credence in CATF comes from. 

1. Would FP or similar orgs exclude TSM because of low measurability?
I don't really know where this idea originated, but the answer is clearly that we woul... (read more)

Thanks for engaging here. This is a thoughtful and interesting comment, and I think it’s noteworthy that we basically agree on several important conclusions, namely that Giving Green should:

  • Clearly indicate that, currently, CATF looks, in expectation, to be far superior to TSM, not least because even if their own research doesn’t show this, everyone else’s does.
  • Be more clear about the difference in expectation between Offsets and Policy change (some progress has been made on this already).
  • Consider cost in their offset analysis (though that doesn’t mean cal
... (read more)
Why I'm Donating to Giving Green This Year

Thanks for checking -- I think we can leave it here in case someone else missed it :)

Why I'm Donating to Giving Green This Year

Thanks Linch! It's in the last bullet point of the beginning "notes" section and also mentioned in the body of the doc.

2Linch2y
In that case I'm sorry I missed it! Do you think I should delete my comment?
Update on the 0.7% (£4bn for the poor)

Interesting. If most voters are in favor of cutting aid, AND this is clear to the MPs, then why would MPs have an incentive to vote against cutting aid?

  • One reason I can think of is if there is a well-organized interest group that, even though small in size, tries very hard to influence the MPs, leading them to help this group rather than the general population. (This seems to be the case in some areas in US policy.) In this case, you may want to create the impression of having a well-organized interest group -- which seems hard, but I wonder what strategie
... (read more)
Update on the 0.7% (£4bn for the poor)

Related, I wonder if the emails are still a bit boilerplate as after seeing a few maybe the MP can tell how they were generated? I imagine there are people who know

  • generally what works best in influencing lawmakers / lobbying
  • specifically what works well in the UK

so would be curious what strategies they would propose.

(I wonder if something like doing an opinion poll of voters and presenting that info would help, but not sure how practical that is. Perhaps you could partner with someone already doing a poll / a major website or newspaper.)

3Sanjay2y
Thanks for your message sindirella. Our approach came about as a result of conversations with people who know generally what works best in influencing lawmakers/lobbying, and specifically in the UK. Agreed with alexrjl re opinion polls. Implementing a poll/survey is straightforward for us (I used to run a research team when I was a strategy consultant). The reason we're not doing it is that our discussions with experts suggest that there is not much value in doing this.
2alexrjl2y
The opinion poll option would not be helpful as an overwhelming majority of Conservative voters, and a majority of non-Conservative voters, are in favour of cutting our aid commitment.
Computational biology thesis topic suggestions

Hey, I'm working on some research on the most impactful areas within ML-aided drug and vaccine discovery. I can share that with you once I'm done.

2EdoArad2y
Sounds amazing! Could you write a post about it when you're done?
CFAR Workshop in Hindsight

Thanks for sharing your experience! I'll share mine. I attended the workshop in July 2019 in California.

Like you, I also came in with the hope of becoming a hyper efficient rationality machine, overcoming problems like procrastination that I struggled with all my life. I was hoping to be taught how to use my System 2 to fight my lazy, uncooperative System 1 that always stood in the way of achieving my goals.

My biggest surprise was that the workshop was much more about understanding, working with, and leveraging your System 1. I was unconvinced and confused... (read more)

Beneficiary preferences and cause prioritization

Thank you for your post! I am an IDinsight researcher who was heavily involved in this project and I will share some of my perspectives (if I'm misrepresenting GiveWell,  feel free to let me know!):

  • My understanding is GiveWell wanted multiple perspectives to inform their moral weights, including a utilitarian perspective of respecting beneficiaries/recipient's preferences, as well as others (examples here). Even though beneficiary preferences may not the the only factor, it is an important one and one where empirical evidence was lacking before the st
... (read more)
Careers Questions Open Thread

Hi,

Staying in your current job for a bit to help your family (as well as build a bit of runway) makes a lot of sense.

Re future career paths:

  • If you are interested in getting into policy in your home country: I'm not sure which South Asian country you're from, if it's India, I've seen some IAS officers getting degrees from top US policy schools. Having such talents joining the civil service sounds like it could have really positive impact, but I'm not sure if working there will be frustrating. It's probably good to talk to people who have worked there.
    • Anothe
... (read more)
What organization could do the most good with a conversational AI assistant?

Hey Johannes, I don't have ideas for a strictly speaking EA org, but here are some examples where chat bots have helped in public/social sector or humanitarian contexts -- perhaps they can give you some ideas on NGO partners who may benefit:

• DoNotPay, a "robot lawyer" app that uses NLP models to provide legal advice to users, has assisted people with asylum applications in the US and Canada 
HelloVote, which helps voters find voting information and sends reminders to vote 
• UNICEF's U-Report collects opinions from marginalized communities from ... (read more)

What are the "PlayPumps" of Climate Change?

Some more examples I found in their concept note:

  • "to meet emission reduction targets under the Kyoto agreement, the Swiss government committed to purchasing 2 million tons of certified emissions credits between 2015 and 2020 (estimated at $24 million USD1 ) by financing an NGO distributing water-purifying chlorine dispensers in Africa. Did the $24 million reduce 2 million tons in carbon emissions? Almost certainly not, as the assumption households would boil water in absence of the filters was untrue." (Footnote 1. Note that chlorine dispensers treat water
... (read more)
1alexrjl2y
At least Chlorine dispensers seem robustly good. Like, not for climate, but for human wellbeing generally. In fact, under not-completely-crazy assumptions, they outperform deworming. [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/FAA22RbfgC68fRnRs/if-you-mostly-believe-in-worms-what-should-you-think-about]
AMA: Jason Crawford, The Roots of Progress

Hi Jason, your blog is really interesting. I wonder if you have any medium/long term theory of change of how your work or the progress studies community (if there is such a community yet, or in the future) will have real world impact, e.g. how you or others in your community plan to engage with researchers/academics (e.g. to collaborate or build the field), policy makers, investors, scientist, technologists, entrepreneurs etc. And what some concrete changes you hope to see/affect.

(Do you just focus on research or also aim for real world impact? (And in either case, how do you measure the success of your project?)

3jasoncrawford2y
I have a theory of change but not a super-detailed one. I think ideas matter and that they move the world. I think you get new ideas out there any way you can. Right now I'm working on a book about progress. I hope this book will be read widely, but above all I'd like it to be read by the scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs who are creating, or will create, the next major breakthroughs that move humanity forward. I want to motivate them, to give them inspiration and courage. Someday, maybe in twenty years, I'd love to meet the scientist who solved human aging, or the engineer who invented atomically precise manufacturing, or the founder of a company providing nuclear power to the world, and hear that they were inspired in part by my work. I'd also like my message to reach people in education, journalism, and the arts, and for them to help spread the philosophy of progress too, which will magnify that kind of impact. And I'd like it to reach people involved in policy. See my answer to @BrianTan about “interventions” for more detail on what I'm thinking there. I'd like to see the progress community doing more work on many fronts: on the history of specific areas, on frontier technologies and their possibilities, and on specific policy programs and reforms that would advance progress.
What are the "PlayPumps" of Climate Change?

Hey Brian, Giving Green has done some research, including on offsets, and they found some interventions to be effective and others being not. You can read more here: https://www.givinggreen.earth/carbon-offsets

1Sindy_Li2y
Some more examples I found in their concept note [https://7464328d-fa09-4e86-ab1d-b1f5579ca9da.filesusr.com/ugd/ded4f8_9eb9971749864c11b1846ef4f77242d7.pdf] : * "to meet emission reduction targets under the Kyoto agreement, the Swiss government committed to purchasing 2 million tons of certified emissions credits between 2015 and 2020 (estimated at $24 million USD1 ) by financing an NGO distributing water-purifying chlorine dispensers in Africa. Did the $24 million reduce 2 million tons in carbon emissions? Almost certainly not, as the assumption households would boil water in absence of the filters was untrue." (Footnote 1. Note that chlorine dispensers treat water and reduce child diarrhea incidences and hence save lives, but they may just not be good at reducing carbon emissions.) * an EU-commissioned assessment of the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is used to certify offsets under the Kyoto protocol, concluded that “CDM still has fundamental flaws in terms of overall environmental integrity.” It noted that 85% of the projects analyzed have a “low likelihood that emission reductions are additional and are not over-estimated.” (p2)
1BrianTan2y
Thanks for linking this! I've read through this link: https://www.givinggreen.earth/post/overview-of-the-voluntary-offset-market [https://www.givinggreen.earth/post/overview-of-the-voluntary-offset-market] It's quite helpful. That link also links to this article: https://features.propublica.org/brazil-carbon-offsets/inconvenient-truth-carbon-credits-dont-work-deforestation-redd-acre-cambodia/ [https://features.propublica.org/brazil-carbon-offsets/inconvenient-truth-carbon-credits-dont-work-deforestation-redd-acre-cambodia/] I've only skimmed through it, and I don't know how objective it is, but I think this article and the Giving Green report could be good references for carbon offset projects/charities that are too boastful and/or are barely impactful or even net-negative. On another note, I wonder why Giving Green recommends some carbon offset charities even though Founders Pledge has found Clean Air Task Force to be a lot more cost-effective (even on conservative estimates of their success in lobbying). Maybe you know why, but I'll try to email Giving Green's founders to ask about this!
0Davidmanheim2y
This - especially the "offset you flight CO2 emissions" BS, where they "buy" non-counterfactual emissions reductions.
Can we drive development at scale? An interim update on economic growth work

I see. Let me know if I'm understanding this correctly: Founders Pledge aims to have cost-effectiveness estimate numbers, which involves a lot of work especially for topics like growth and climate change, whereas Open Phil takes a more qualitative approach for such topics with higher uncertainty. (If so, I am also curious about the philosophy behind your approach -- I'm really uncertain which one works better, and that's a bigger conversation.)

Re topics to look into, I second Michael's suggestions: labor markets, firms, and monetary policy in developing co... (read more)

Can we drive development at scale? An interim update on economic growth work

BTW, have you checked out Nick Bloom's work on management practice? He shows it's a significant constraint on productivity in LMICs (of course, maybe not as fundamental as institutions/politics, but could still be an important one). This interview with him is interesting: https://conversationswithtyler.com/episodes/nicholas-bloom/

Can we drive development at scale? An interim update on economic growth work

Thanks a lot for your research and writeup! Really nice to see follow-up work on this topic.

A few thoughts:

  • Is growth work neglected? I'm not sure if that's the right question to ask. After all, "micro" development (direct service delivery) type work isn't neglected -- tons of money go into it each year -- but most had no good evidence behind it, which motivated the founding of GiveWell, IDinsight etc. So perhaps whether "effective" work in growth is neglected is the more relevant question. Though I agree with you that it may be hard to assess the field as
... (read more)
1Stephen Clare2y
Thanks for this great comment! I agree with you on neglectedness, I think the field is so broad that by looking at high-level funding we're probably counting a lot of stuff that isn't relevant directly to the question of "would there by impactful work that's currently unfunded?", which is waht we actually care about. Agree also our list of potential orgs working in the space is a bit random and probably misses some good, relevant funding opportunities. Thanks for the info about ODI and IDinsight, too. My concern with wading into specific evaluations is less about establishing a credible/plausible causal link, and more about collecting enough data to build a proper counterfactual. My impression is that substantial policy changes often involve many different organisations, departments, and people, and it's hard to work out whose presence made a difference. Our decision to stop short at this time was based heavily on our colleagues' evaluations for climate organisations, which required a huge investment to confidently work out whose impact was truly counterfactual. In any case, I'd love to speak more about your experience in the field if we take this work further - if you're interested in that, please feel free to DM me so we can keep in touch.
2Sindy_Li2y
BTW, have you checked out Nick Bloom's work on management practice? He shows it's a significant constraint on productivity in LMICs (of course, maybe not as fundamental as institutions/politics, but could still be an important one). This interview with him is interesting: https://conversationswithtyler.com/episodes/nicholas-bloom/
[Feedback Request] EA Philippines’ Local Charity Effectiveness Research and Tentative List of Recommended Charities

It's really exciting to see EA-based charity analysis in other countries! A few quick comments/questions:

  • Re the standout charities, you said "This is because none of the organizations’ Philippine operations have had a full cost-effectiveness analysis done by GiveWell." It may be feasible to adjust GiveWell's CEA for some of these, e.g. for deworming, you can vary parameters like baseline worm prevalence. I'm not sure how doable it is but just an idea to explore.
  • I think it's definitely a great idea to communicate this more widely and promote evidence-based
... (read more)
1onenastassja2y
Hi @sindirella, Thanks for this feedback! Here are some of our initial answers. * Ideally, we would have done a cost-effectiveness analysis on the work of the recommended charities with local operations, and this is more doable than others on the list. We are still in the process of building our relationship with them so that they are more open and willing to share their information with us and finding capable volunteers to conduct this. * Yes, we would also like to be mindful about the best approach on this one. Thanks for the great tip to approach TLYCS and we will contact someone from there or someone previously affiliated to provide insight on this! * Yes, Oxfam in the Philippines do work in a broad range of areas, but they have flagship programs in poverty alleviation and social protection such as cash transfers, where there is some reliable evidence of effectiveness. However, it is correct that we have not found any available evaluation of their specific program yet. The team is reconsidering this, but we will also reach out to their local team to get more information on their financials. * Our team has done some research on EA-aligned animal charities, and when it comes to this, it is still actually limited in the Philippines. Aside from Animal Kingdom Foundation, Fish Welfare Initiative is an org starting up here, but their program is not as concrete in the Philippines compared to other locations (i.e. Indonesia). Thank you again for your feedback, and we thoroughly appreciate it!
£4bn for the global poor: the UK's 0.7%

Thanks for your reply! Please keep us posted here on your plan and how to donate etc. as you figure them out.

Another thought: may be helpful to work with some experienced NGO or someone experienced in political campaigning to craft the fb ads, targeting strategy etc. Seems like a pretty specialized thing worth drawing from existing expertise to maximize the chance of success.

£4bn for the global poor: the UK's 0.7%

Thanks Sanjay! This looks really important. For those considering supporting you, would be helpful to see something like

  • Timeline -- how urgent this is, e.g. when the voting is expected to happen
  • Any details of the plan to the extent you have it, e.g. which Tory MPs are relevant (the journalist mentioned some MPs are angry -- do they know which ones?), rough estimate of budget
  • "I get the impression that it's not clear that the government will win on this." Why is that? (Or mostly based on what the journalist said?)
  • Any lesson from similar previous campaigns (you probably don't time to do a deep analysis, but anything quick would probably help)
6Sanjay2y
Thanks very much! * Timeline -- fairly urgent. There will be a bill going to parliament to change the law, and I don't think anyone knows exactly when that will be, but it can't be this side of Christmas (nothing works that quickly) and it will probably be before April (which is when the financial year starts). Given that they want it to go through and may anticipate opposition, I would guess late January. * Plan: which Tory MPs are relevant: for those which are bound to follow the whip (either because they always follow the whip, or because they are dead against international development) we don't touch them -- there's no point. For those who are more on the fence, probably still little value, as the whip is probably fairly strong (I haven't investigated that last claim very closely, so if anyone has opposing opinions I would be interested to hear them). For those who are against, but who might only abstain rather than rebel (which is what mostly happened when the Conservative party wanted the right to break international law), influencing them to rebel instead of abstain will help. The ask: I think we have two asks: (1) vote against reducing the 0.7% (2) An amendment to the bill so that if it does go ahead, it is written into the Bill that it should be temperary (which is what Rishi said anyway).Budget: as we're using google/facebook ads (and not hiring people) there aren't any "chunked-up" elements of spend -- it's all smoothly spendable. In other words, the more the merrier. If we have only a few thousand, we can use it. If we have a bit more or a lot more, we can use it. * Will the government win: I have discussed this with a few people and heard differing opinions. I don't have a strong opinion on how likely this is. * Lessons from previous campaigns: I haven't studied previous campaigns, but I've spoken to some NGOs working in this space and the thinking that they have outlined is prett
Introducing High Impact Athletes

Thanks for your work -- this looks awesome! In case you haven't, may be worth talking to  similar  groups based on profession like Founders Pledge and Raising for Effective Giving about their experience.

3Marcus Daniell2y
They've both been super helpful, particularly REG!
Returns Functions and Funding Gaps

On increasing and decreasing (marginal) returns:

I see that you said "claiming that expected returns are normally diminishing is compatible with expecting that true returns increase over some intervals. I think that true returns often do increase over some intervals, but that returns generally decrease in expectation."

I wasn't sure why this would be true in a model that describes the organization's behavior, so I spent some time thinking it through. Here is a way to reconcile increasing returns and decreasing expected returns, with a graph. Note t... (read more)

Tom and Peter:

For an early stage charity like ACE it seems that capacity building is indeed a very important consideration (related to Ben Todd's point about the growth approach). E.g. it would allow them to move much more money later, and at the moment moving not that much money is a reason why they don't look so good in our model. Unfortunately we aren't able to incorporate this in our quantitative model (IMO another reason to look beyond quantitative models for decision making at this point, but people may have ways of incorporating it quantitatively --... (read more)

Returns Functions and Funding Gaps

Max, thanks for the post!

For someone like GiveWell that spends a lot of time investigating charities, they may have enough information about the charity's budget to tell when there is (something similar to) a discrete jump in the derivative of the returns function. E.g. the way they talk about "capacity-relevant funding" and "execution funding" in the post you linked to ("incentive funding" is for a completely different purpose that has no direct relationship with returns).

Also, to fix ideas it helps to think what we represent... (read more)

2MaxDalton5y
In response to your first paragraph, I think it's true that GiveWell will have more information about any changes in the returns function. For the reasons given the in the second post, I think it's unlikely that GiveWell charities do have inflection points in their returns functions. I'm not sure from GiveWell's writing whether they think that there are inflection points or not (In particular, I don't think they take a clear stance on this in the linked post). I think your second paragraph is answered by footnote 1 of the first post. I don't fully understand how your third and fourth paragraphs relate to the posts. Are you simply arguing that a fuller analysis would incorporate the size of individual donations, not the total level of funding? This seems like a plausible extension.

My personal take on the issue is that, the better we understand how the updating works (including how to select the prior), the more seriously we should take the results. Currently we don't seem to have a good understanding (e.g. see Dickens' discussion: the way of selecting the median based on Give Directly seems reasonable, but there doesn't seem to be a principled way of selecting the variance, and this seems to be the best effort at it so far), so these updating exercises can be used as heuristics but the results are not to be taken too seriously, and ... (read more)

Peter, indeed your point #2 about uncertainty is what I discuss in the last point of "2) Outcome measures", under "Model limitations". I argued in a handwaving way that because 80K still causes some lower risk and lower return global health type interventions -- which our aggregation model seems to favor, probably due to the Bayesian prior -- it will probably still beat MIRI that focuses exclusively on high risk, high return things that the model seems to penalize. But yes we should have modeled it in this way.

Robin, for what you quoted about increasing returns I was thinking only in the case of labor. Overall you are right that, if the organization has been maximizing cost-effectiveness, then they probably would have used the money they had before reaching fundraising targets in a way that makes it more cost-effective than money coming in later (assuming they are more certain about the amount of money up to fundraising target, and less certain about money coming in after that).

The value of money going to different groups

Something that will complicate the effects is that money given to people may increase not only consumption today but also consumption tomorrow through investment. This could be investments in physical capital (e.g. iron roof, livestocks) or human capital (e.g. health and education). Most of the time when people are given money, some will be consumed and some saved/invested (and consumption itself could have investment effects too, if better nutrition improves ability to work/learn), e.g. see Give Directly recipients.

This is relevant if we think that, for i... (read more)

Is the community short of software engineers after all?

Ben, to recap a bit what people have said: working as a software engineer at an EA organization

  • may not be the most technically challenging/engaging job
  • may not be great for future career development
  • may not pay much

This probably applies more to EA organizations like CEA and 80,000 Hours. Give Directly may be different since you probably work with Mpesa, similar to Wave; and maybe New Incentives too since they do conditional cash transfers.

And Wave is basically like a regular tech company in the above aspects (and probably better because it's a startup ... (read more)

2Ben_Harack4y
Following up on this more than a year later, I can vouch for some but not all of these conclusions based on my experience at the high-impact organization I work for, the Human Diagnosis Project (www.humandx.org) [http://www.humandx.org)]. We've found it very difficult to recruit high-quality value-aligned engineers despite the fact that none of the above items really apply to us. * Our software engineering team performs very challenging work all over the stack - including infrastructure, backend, and mobile. * Working here is probably great for career development (in part because we're on the bleeding edge of numerous technologies and give our engineers exposure to many technologies). * We pay similar salaries to other early-stage startups in Silicon Valley (and New York). On problem I can identify right now is that I've attempted to recruit from the EA community a few times with very limited success. Perhaps I've gone about this via the wrong fora or have made other mistakes, but I've found that generally any candidates I did find were not good fits for the roles that we have to offer. This problem continues to this day. Given that we don't have the issues identified above (to my knowledge), my best hypothesis right now is that we're simply unable to reach the right people in the right way - and I'm not sure how to fix that. If anyone has any particular ideas on this front, I'd love to hear them. That said, if anyone wants to help us out, we're still actively recruiting for a host of roles, including a lot of engineering positions. To learn more, take a look at https://www.humandx.org/team [https://www.humandx.org/team]
Estimating the Value of Mobile Money

Wave is really good! (I use it) Another thing one can do is to work for some mobile money company in a developing country to design products that benefit the poor (e.g. saving, credit, that I mention in the other post), like the American guys I met in Myanmar's Wave Money (but they are still early stage and has many challenges before having an impact). (Not suggesting you should do it though -- involves moving to a developing country etc., and could be much less likely to succeed due to regulations etc.). BTW this is the mobile credit scoring company I had in mind: http://tala.co/.

Estimating the Value of Mobile Money

I just got back from Myanmar and I talked with some people running Wave Money (one of the mobile money companies in Myanmar, and the only licensed one so far; not related to the Wave that Jeff mentioned which sends money to Africa).

  • Getting people to adopt could be a big challenge, depending on the country. In Kenya, the anecdotal story of why mobile money took off so quickly is 1) the need to send remittances, 2) preexisting methods for this being not very good for various reasons (insecurity is one); some also argue that Safaricom's unusually high marke

... (read more)
We Must Reassess What Makes a Charity Effective

Hi carneades, in reply I just want to make 2 general points here:

  1. Many things need to be done in the developing world, e.g.the ones you mentioned: protecting people against malaria, creating jobs, improving the quality of governments... The most effective intervention for one purpose could be not very useful for another, but that's still okay because it would be better than trying to do something that serves multiple purposes but is ineffective in all of them. (e.g. for protecting people against malaria, the most effective intervention could be distributi

... (read more)
1carneades6y
Thanks again. Here are my thoughts. 1. Certainly there are many different kinds of interventions that we can implement. Some interventions are mutually exclusive, others are not. Toms shoes comes and donates shoes to a community, where another organization is attempting to improve small businesses, particularly tailors, some of the few professionals in very small communities. The donation puts many local tailors out of business. Therefore, we either need to develop interventions which are not mutually exclusive or choose between interventions. If we want to do the first, organizations like AMF should help local businesses instead of destroying them. If we want to do the second, we should choose between interventions by asking the people what they need, not deciding what we think is best without ever talking to the people on the ground. If they don't want us to save their lives at the expense of job opportunities, we should not. People should have the right to choose their own interventions, especially when those interventions can do their communities harm. If you want to go in without the community's consent, the least that you can do first is do no harm. 2. As for the studies, at the end of the day I'm a philosophical skeptic [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2sK_EOKb1Q] all the way down (which means that I have so serious concerns about the relation between truth and the scientific method, for legitimate philosophical reasons, such as the problem of induction [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sd8cxXfPJU4] , and the problem of underdetermination [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=co8adINPCns], check out the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for more on that) but we can put that aside for now. As for the trust, I trust the people that live here about what they need, and what they are doing more than I trust foreigners who don't spend much time with the people
Estimating the Value of Mobile Money

Because it is helpful to think about exactly what intervention is needed to help mobile money expand (which may differ by country), I'm throwing here a few potential barriers (mostly based on my own experience in Kenya and Myanmar):

  • Regulatory barriers (India allowed it only recently because of this; in Myanmar it's still ongoing)

  • Network effects: in Kenya I heard that an important reason it took off was that Safaricom had a very high market share (maybe near 70%?); in Nigeria I heard that the fragmentation of the telecommunication market is one reason i

... (read more)
1Jeff Kaufman6y
The intervention I had in mind when writing this post was joining a start-up that has been working on this and has been seeing good results so far: http://www.jefftk.com/p/leaving-google-joining-wave [http://www.jefftk.com/p/leaving-google-joining-wave]
We Must Reassess What Makes a Charity Effective

Hi carneades, thank you for your post! It is great to see a post by an international development professional on effective altruism. As someone who did field work in Africa during PhD, I am sympathetic to what you conclude from your own observation. However, it is important to see what rigorous studies conclude and based on my reading of the literature I have some disagreements.

  1. On job creation, taking into account the environment in most poor countries in terms of infrastructure, legal environment and productivity of the labor force, it would be much mor

... (read more)
1benmusch6y
Want to add this to #1: a) Death & sickness are bad for the economy. It's pretty uncontested that more people use malaria nets than when they are provided for free (can link research on this if necessary). When someone is sick, it's time that they can't spend in the labor force. When someone gets sick a lot as a child, it affects them so that they are a less productive worker in the future. When your child is sick, you have to spend time taking care of them that could have otherwise been hours you earned a wage, spent on goods, etc. So in that regard, this is probably an outweighing factor to a couple jobs. b) Even if malaria nets don't effect wages and productivity at all, the money that would have gone to the malaria net maker doesn't just disappear, it's simply spent somewhere else. So jobs don't go away, they are just created in other areas. So it's not just weighing job creation vs. malaria prevention, it's that malaria prevention probably helps job creation.
4carneades6y
Hey, thanks for the thoughtful response. Here are my thoughts: 1. A may seem better from an international perspective, but if you ask the people here if they would rather have a factory and more jobs, something they could be proud of, a reason for young people to not leave the country in droves, and the feeling that they are able to solve their own problems, or more bed nets, they would pick A every time. I have asked many communities across the country in Community Analysis surveys what they need, they often say electricity, clean water, better roads, and consistently the most popular answer is more jobs. But I have never seen a community ask for bed nets, or a cure for malaria. To them, it is like the flu. The point is that, just because it seems better to you, it does not mean that it is what people want, and who are you to tell people in countries that you have never visited what they need? I agree that it would be more work to subsidize a factory, but the benefits to the morale of the people, (something which is hard to quantify beyond the percent of people that die trying to illegally immigrate to Europe) would drastically outweigh the costs, and you would be listening to what the people actually want instead of deciding for them. 2. But why do governments in richer countries implement these kinds of programs? Surely it is because the people in that country are more educated, and vote in leaders, or vote for initiatives which inevitably improve their health. Programs like AMF which cut the voter out of the loop do significant damage to democracies. When politicians are beholden to foreign companies and governments for aid instead of their people for votes, they will serve the interests of the foreign organizations, not the people. If the appeal is made to the government, not the people, then he people fail to see the importance of the intervention, and it i