About this page
GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can and recommend them to donors. We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning.
The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that we wouldn't be prioritizing the organization in question as a potential top charity. This write-up should not be taken as a "negative rating" of the charity. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.
A note on this page's publication date
The last time we examined Vipani was in March 2010. In our latest open-ended review of charities, we determined that it was unlikely to meet our criteria based on our past examination of it, so we did not revisit it.
We invite all charities that feel they meet our criteria to apply for consideration.
The content we created in March 2010 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about Vipani and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions. With that said, we do feel that the takeaways from this examination are sufficient not to prioritize re-opening our investigation of this organization at this time.
Published: March 2010
Vipani is a relatively small charity focusing on improving incomes in the developing world. It is also a young charity that considers itself to still be in the early stages of its development. Vipani focuses on aiding farmers to increase their agricultural output.1 (For background information on this cause, see our concerns about agriculture-focused programs.)
We reviewed Vipani in late 2009 as part of our process to distribute $250,000 in grants to organizations working on economic empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa.
We believe Vipani is noteworthy because it candidly discusses, on its website, struggles it faced in its programs - even when available data seems at first glance to make the case that it has succeeded.2
In our experience, charities are very rarely willing to share evidence of disappointing impact. We believe that any charity that does so is being unusually honest about the challenges of international aid, and unusually accountable to donors. We expect that charities capable of spotting, documenting and sharing disappointing results are better positioned to improve our time.
We reviewed documents Vipani submitted, and spoke over the phone and had extended email correspondence with Thomas George, President and Founder of Vipani. A rough transcript of our first conversation with Mr. George may be downloaded below.
Mr. George asked that we keep the documents he sent us confidential. Interested donors should contact Vipani directly.
Based on our review, we cannot confidently recommend Vipani to donors, but we feel it is an unusually high-potential organization worth following.
- George, Thomas. Vipani President and Founder. Phone call with GiveWell, October 29, 2009.
- GiveWell. Concerns about agriculture-focused aid in the developing world.
- Vipani. Homepage. http://vipani.org/ (accessed May 4, 2010). Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/5pTymyn7y.
- Vipani. How we impact. http://www.vipani.org/index.php?page=howweimpact (accessed May 4, 2010). Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/5pTz3QC3l.
"Even with varying levels of behavioral modification, Vipani produced a 3-fold increase among participating farmers' annual incomes, measured from a $150 baseline during the first three years of iterative testing. With such newfound income, the majority of these early participants quickly acquired new assets. However, many of these early farmers failed to build on their economic gains because they considered these short-term gains as a windfall that they must take advantage of within the expected short time span of a typical development project that they are used to unlike Vipani." (emphasis ours) Vipani, "How We Impact."