I work at IDinsight where I focus on using data and evidence to help leaders alleviate poverty worldwide.

Topic Contributions


Launching SoGive Grants

Thanks for taking the time to engage with these arguments and provide detailed responses. 

I would argue against the fundamental premise of the arguments that you set out here. As I understand your position, the need and value for transparency in donor characteristics is something whose value should be proven. In the alternative, non-transparency is the status quo. To be frank, this troubles me. I would argue that transparency in philanthropic sources of funding should be the status quo and the onus should sit on the philanthropy to articulate why and for what reasons transparency is not possible with logistics and funder time and resource constraints holding very little weight (especially in light of funding being less of a general constraint in the space at this time). 

This conversation for me raises the larger question of who holds the power in philanthropy. In much of philanthropy, as you are similarly stating in your response, organizations have a policy where donors are able to stay anonymous and the sources of their funds are not made transparent to the public. Those seeking grant funds are often required to be radically transparent about their operations and plans for the use of these funds. The mere fact that donors hold resources also imbues them with relative power and different standards for public disclosure. 

I would urge EA-aligned funders to more deeply consider the implications of non-transparency in exacerbating many of the issues we have observed for decades in the Global Development sector. 

As you state, there is a shared desire that "sources of funds be made as accountable as possible". I agree with the logistical and operational challenges around the appropriate level of transparency, the reporting measures required, and where one draws the line. However, this is a situation where I hope that perfect does not get in the way of good. Iteration and experimentation around appropriate levels of transparency can help move the funding model toward a more equitable playing field. 

Launching SoGive Grants

I agree that this norm does not largely exist at the moment, however, I would argue that there is a trend towards greater transparency in philanthropy (see Charity Navigator evaluations of charities and many other charity evaluator criteria that include transparency). I think part of this trend is driven by the EA movement itself and the radical transparency that is exhibited by GiveWell and Open Philanthropy, particularly when compared to funders that are older. 

I would argue that transparency is fundamentally and intrinsically important in a number of ways. I will share a few thoughts here but I don’t believe this is an exhaustive list and would require much more time to flesh out fully:

  • Power Asymmetries: I would argue that the redistribution of funds is essentially the redistribution of power. Resources (money) provide implicit and explicit power and consequently, the distribution of resources through philanthropy or any type of spending is power distribution. For this reason, philanthropic spending can exacerbate power asymmetries and it can create new power asymmetries. This power may manifest through which voices and ideas are given a platform, which cause-priority areas are perpetuated or otherwise, and who is given the power to make these determinations. In the Global Health and Development space, we have seen a very large push towards greater transparency in the movement towards ‘decolonizing development’. A great example of this can be seen in India, where the Supreme Court of India upheld laws that limit the ability of foreign donors to give in India. This is a tangible example of so-called ‘beneficiaries’ pushing back against the power involved with philanthropic giving and seeking to exercise greater control over the sources of funding. 
  • Conflicts of Interest: I currently assume that the donors to SoGive are morally and ethically aligned with EA philosophy and have generated their funds in ways that do not actively oppose the EA movement. However, this is just an assumption and I would prefer greater transparency to validate this assumption, especially given that “most of the funding comes from a small number of major donors”.  
  • Perceptions of procedural justice: Transparency is a core element of perceptions of procedural justice. SoGive’s program officers are essentially acting as fiduciaries to those that provided the funds. Now I appreciate the level of transparency provided on the methodology for assigning grant funding, I think this goes a long way towards increasing perceptions of procedural justive. However, I would argue that this would be enhanced by transparency on the source of funds, which the program officers are thereby distributing, to ensure that there is alignment through the full process of resource acquisition through to fund distributions. 

If one is interested in receiving funding, then I agree that many of these considerations may not be relevant to them. I would hope that those requesting funds care about the source of those funds and whether it is in alignment with their moral frameworks. 

I raised the original question in the hopes of better understanding SoGive’s philanthropic model, the source of its power, and the implications of SoGive on the Effective Altruism movement more generally. As we have seen, the EA funding space is essentially an oligopoly. From what I can see from SoGive’s website, I have great confidence in their methodology however I have been unable to find details on funding sources. 

I would hence urge greater transparency from SoGive on the sources of its funds. 

Launching SoGive Grants

Would you be able to provide some more details on the source of the funds, please? I understand if this may be private. However, I think being transparent about where funders are sourcing their money from is a valuable norm in the funding space. 

Neil Buddy Shah has been appointed CEO of the Clinton Health Access Initiative

Very exciting to see the role that Buddy will be taking on and also the influence of evidence-driven decision making in the wider philanthropic environment. 

How should people spend money to be more productive?

Employing a personal assistant - I understand that there was a presentation on this at the most recent EA Global conference. Also, there has been a general movement towards both acting as, and employing, personal remote assistants to support professionals with life administration and other more procedural tasks. It would be interesting to see the cost-effectiveness of this intervention. 

My hypothesis is that this would be highly effective for those professions who, a) spend a disproportionate amount of time on administrative tasks, b) the opportunity cost of their time is high, c) they are highly-focused and require deep-work time. 

EA for Jews - Proposal and Request for Comment

Hi Jeremy - I am going through a similar process currently and would love to connect and see if there may be ways to combine efforts / share learnings. I wrote more about my project here.

Why I find longtermism hard, and what keeps me motivated

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I deeply empathize with the pull to help people now, while rationally agreeing with longtermist arguments. One insight that really stood out to me was:

"One thing I’m heartened by is that working on the long run feels hard in precisely the way I think we should expect effective altruism to feel hard" 

This intuitively makes sense to me, particularly within the framing of neglectedness. Similarly however, I do wander whether the opposite could be true and whether the sense of something feeling hard may be our intuition providing a signal that the work doesn't align with our personal ethic (for whatever reason)? 

I have personally struggled with this. I am trying to give my intuition more weight relative to pure rational reasoning as I have found that I can often learn a lot about my moral intuitions by stepping back and trying to unpack the uncomfortableness that I may feel. 

Yale EA’s Fellowship Application Scores were not Predictive of Eventual Engagement

Thanks for sharing. Firstly, as someone who went through the Yale EA Fellowship, I have to thank the organizers for their thoughtfulness through all stages of the Fellowship. 

I have two questions: 1) how have you thought about DEI in the selection process and minimizing any risks associated with unconscious bias or other systemic bias that may lead to certain individuals not being admitted to the program. 2) Has the team considered leveraging an expimental or quasi-experimental approach in thinking about how the selection process may influence the engagement of the cohort. 

AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

What decision-making frameworks did (and have) you find to be generally be more successful and persuasive? 

For example, did you find that the use of data and evidence led to a higher likelihood of aligning disparate stakeholders? What role did anecdote / story have? Did you observe median voter theorem to hold when decisions had to be made? 

The intersection of foreign aid and EA: a U.S. case study

This was a great summary of US foreign aid. I appreciate the research that went into this to synthesize deeply yet succinctly the key features of the system. I recently read Prof Angus Deaton's book, 'The Great Escape' in which he argues against broad based foreign aid, especially in the form that is described in this piece. I key element of his argument (as I understood it) is that there is a correlation between countries that receive aid and countries that depend on aid. Prof Deaton goes on to argue that those countries that are receiving aid are the ones that are actually negatively impacted by receiving aid due to corruption, poor administration, institutional challenges etc. Furthermore, Prof Deaton goes on to argue that how aid is provided will only perpetuate these issues in receiving countries. 

Given these challenges, I would be interested in your views on the very premise of foreign aid as an effective use of resources. 

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