Why do we look for charities implementing proven programs? | GiveWell

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Why do we look for charities implementing proven programs?

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International aid has a checkered history: some programs have had great results; others have largely failed. We believe that charities that run programs that have already been proven to work are more likely to demonstrate themselves to be worthy of your donation.

The most successful projects have been in the area of health and include such large-scale successes as the eradication of smallpox and the dramatic reduction of infant mortality in Africa (see our developing-world health overview). For a full list of health programs that have been rigorously shown to save lives and reduce suffering, see our summary of proven health programs.

There are a number of examples of ways in which well-intentioned projects have failed to achieve desired results. Building wells has often failed to reduce water-related illness (detailed analysis here); agriculture programs in Africa have failed to increase crop yields; programs providing textbooks and other supplies have not raised students' test scores, and many other developing-world education programs have weak, if any, evidence of success.