Thanks Siebe. On (3) the fund as we currently see it would indeed attempt to address both (e.g. via evaluation on both that FP would also do otherwise), but it's a useful distinction to make.
Thanks! These are useful examples.
Hi Habryka, just wanted to draw your attention to the update above, which is in part referring to some of your comments that have been incorporated in the new version of the report. Thanks for those!
This is to thank you (and others) once more for all your comments here, and to let you know they have been useful and we have incorporated some changes to account for them in a new version of the report, which will be published in March or April. They were also useful in our internal discussion on how to frame our research, and we plan to keep improving our communication around this throughout the rest of the year, e.g. by publishing a blog post / brief on cause prioritisation for our members.
I also largely agree with the views you express in your last post above, insofar as they pertain to the contents of this report specifically. However, very importantly, I should stress that your comments do not apply to FP research generally: we generally choose the areas we research through cause prioritisation / in a cause neutral way, and we do try to answer the question 'how can we achieve the most good' in the areas we investigate, not (even) shying away from harder-to-measure impact. In fact, we are moving more and more in the latter direction, and are developing research methodology to do so (see e.g. our recently published methodology brief on policy interventions).
Some of our reports so far have been an exception to these rules for pragmatic (though impact-motivated) reasons, mainly:
But there's definitely ways in which we can improve the framing of these exceptions, and the comments you provided have already been helpful in that way.
Very quick reply as I don't have much time now: note that this statistic is about intimate partner violence and sexual violence (where there is a clear difference between men and women), not about violence as a whole. This is clear in the body of the report; the statistic was shortened (though still correct) for the executive summary. Of course this doesn't fully change your point, but it does influence it a little bit. (I agree that when looking at violence generally we should compare the two)
Note also, as noted in the edit to the main post, that this report was not arrived at through cause prioritization, and that is not what the introduction tries to do; it merely gives an overview of the problems one could solve in this area. The introduction/overview is hence not what should be most interesting to a cause-neutral reader; that should be the charity evaluations, as they can be compared to charities in other areas.
No problem, thanks for your comments anyway and please let me know if any part of your critique remains that I haven't engaged with. (Please see edit in main post which should have cleared most up)
Habryka: Did you see this line in the introduction of this post?
Thanks for pointing this out, Aaron! Happy that's cleared up.
On the other hand, it does seem like a specific GiveWell charity or two should have shown up on this list, or that FP should have explicitly noted GiveWell's higher overall impact (if the impact actually was higher; it seems like GiveDirectly isn't clearly better than Village Enterprise or Bandhan at boosting consumption, at least based on my reading of p. 5o of the 2018 GD study, which showed a boost of roughly 0.3 standard deviations in monthly consumption vs. 0.2-0.4 SDs for Bandhan's major RCT, though there are lots of other factors in play).
I think I've come halfway around to your view, and would need to read GiveWell and FP studies much more carefully to figure out how I feel about the other half (that is, whether GiveWell charities really do dominate FP's selections).
Please see my updates in the main post and let me know if you still have questions about this. (Do you now understand why we didn't recommend any other specific GW- or FP-recommended charity in this report, but referred to them as a group?)
On the other hand, I didn't like the introduction, which used a set of unrelated facts to make a general point about "challenges" without making an argument for focusing on "women's empowerment" over "human empowerment". I can imagine such an argument being possible (e.g. women are an easy group to target within a population to find people who are especially badly-off, and for whom marginal resources are especially useful), but I can't tell what FP thinks of it.
I hope the reason for this is now also clearer, given the purpose of the report.
Just to clarify, at FP we don't take existing priorities/preferences as a given, but we of course do take them into account to some extent when making recommendations (if only because otherwise nobody would follow those recommendations!). We currently use something called the value-discovery approach, which is about asking members about the underlying values driving their preferences (e.g. do you care about people living in the future?), and then making cause/charity recommendations based on those rather than on cause/charity preferences themselves. We also spend quite some time on educating our community on EA/effective giving principles, e.g. this is a main focus of our Programmes team.
Thanks for these questions Siebe! And I take your point on sharing context; I'll edit in some points in the main post.
1. We have internally compared these charities on something close to a DALY-equivalent to aid our decisions (similar to what GiveWell does in their cost-effectiveness analyses), but have not included this in the report. This is not because of any assumptions the report makes on empowerment (note that it defines empowerment simply as 'improving lives'). It's mainly because of time constraints: we didn't think it was worth putting in the time to present our estimates in a polished way, given the aims we have with this report (making high-quality recommendations to our members). This is also because internally we are still in the process of developing our views on how to compare across causes and outcome metrics.
2. In terms of cost-effectiveness estimates both do better than GiveDirectly (which we also recommend), and there is obviously large uncertainty in such estimates. Furthermore, Bandhan only accepts donations over $320,000 at this point. Last but not least, the organisations differ in marked ways (where they work, programme focus, target group, type of evidence) and might appeal to different people in our community.
3. We do have rough cost-effectiveness models on almost all of the other charities, but unfortunately I cannot make those public. This is partially for reasons of information sharing (I'd have to check with the charities that provided extra info), but also because these models aren't as worked out as the ones in the report, and a one-to-one comparison would in many cases be confusing rather than valuable. In fact, most initial cost-effectiveness estimates of the other charities are higher than the final estimates of the recommended charities, and we had to deprioritise them to a large extent because the evidence was weaker. Moreover, we find that as we do a more extensive cost-effectiveness analysis of a charity (as we did for our recommended charities), the numbers often go down rather than up, so it's likely that our 'final' estimates of the other charities would be much lower than the initial, rough estimates we have now.
I'd distinguish between two ways in which a report can 'be' cause-neutral:
1. Whether its domain of focus/cause area was chosen purely through cause prioritisation
2. Whether its contents are of value from a cause-neutral perspective
Now I agree that this report is not cause-neutral on (1): it was written at least partially because many of FP's community members are interested in women's empowerment.*
However, note that cause prioritisation is just a heuristic to restrict our domain of search: what you want to compare in the end are the (donation) opportunities themselves, not which cause/domain they happen to be in by some categorisation.
Maybe you don't think women's empowerment should be the first domain to check when you are looking for the highest-impact charities overall, but you should at least agree that it is valuable from a cause-neutral perspective to know what the best charities within this particular domain of search are. You might then be surprised that they are actually better than you thought, or you might find that your intuition of other areas having better opportunities is confirmed.
As the methodology of this report allows you to compare the charities to those in other areas (we don't use outcome measures that are restricted to women's empowerment/the analysis is done in a cause-neutral frame), I think it to be cause-neutral on (2). And I hence think it's very much worth discussing (from a cause-neutral perspective of course!) its contents on the EA forum, e.g. how do the recommended charities compare to other near-term welfare opportunities, such as those recommended by GiveWell?
Lastly, I don't think this research provides a post-hoc justification for women's empowerment: in my view it could have as much provided a justification to not donate in that area (if the best charities turn out to be worse than in other areas) as a justification to donate in that area. At FP we do research into areas not to justify our member's initial preferences, but to be recommend high-impact opportunities tailored to those preferences (if high-impact opportunities are available), as well as to be able to make a solid, justified argument to focus on other areas (if higher-impact opportunities are available in those other areas).
*This does not mean that the choice of writing this report was a non-cause-neutral choice: for FP to do the most good we obviously need to take our community's preferences into account. Neither does it mean that one couldn't arrive at women's empowerment as a high-potential cause area through cause prioritisation.