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Making our work more readable

1 day 6 hours ago

Perhaps you noticed that our most recent blog post included a bit of whimsy and even a joke footnote. Our blog is changing slightly, and you can expect more of that!

When GiveWell first started blogging, the blog was a place to share broad thoughts on philanthropy and generate conversation. While we’re not planning to revert to the tone of our early blog posts (which we consider a mistake), we are trying to publish more on our blog and to make what we publish more readable. Our blog posts will be as accurate as ever, but we’re hoping that a more conversational tone will be easier to engage with.

This blog refresh stems from an organization-wide emphasis on legibility. This focus is related to our deeply held value of transparency. For people outside of GiveWell to truly evaluate the conclusions that drive our recommendations, our work needs to be not only public but also understandable.

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Maggie Lloydhauser

Consider the eggplant

1 week 1 day ago

Norman Borlaug, the “father of the green revolution,” transformed agriculture (and won a Nobel Peace Prize) for developing new wheat varietals that resisted diseases and greatly increased yields.

You might well wonder: if it’s possible for wheat, is it possible for other crops? Consider the eggplant: a popular purple fruit/vegetable that can be made into everything from hongshao qiezi to baba ghanoush. It’s beloved by many people worldwide, and also by a cute but destructive moth larva.

The “eggplant fruit and shoot borer,” as the name suggests, bores into the shoots and fruit of eggplants, damaging the crops. A new varietal, Bt eggplants, was developed by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco), and later supported by partnerships with USAID, Cornell University, and local partners. This varietal is genetically modified to create proteins which are toxic to these little menaces, but safe for humans and the environment.

So: could encouraging the adoption of Bt eggplants create a purple revolution that meets GiveWell’s bar for outstanding programs?

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Chandler Brotak

A major initiative to scale up water chlorination in India

2 weeks 4 days ago

We recommended a $38.8 million grant to Evidence Action to support the Indian government in providing clean water by setting up in-line chlorination in two states, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

This isn't a grant designed to directly deliver a service or commodity; instead, Evidence Action will use the funding to work in close partnership with state and local governments, providing technical assistance to support the delivery of the program. Providing all rural households with access to clean, piped water is a major priority for the Indian government. In-line chlorination, which uses a device to automatically disinfect water by adding chlorine as the water passes through a pipe, is a way to make drinking water safe.

We believe this grant may not only increase access to chlorinated water in the states it directly supports, but also inspire other states to adopt similar practices. A core part of the program's theory of change is that governments in locations outside the grant area may take up a program they might not otherwise adopt. This is the first very large grant we've made where that's been an important consideration. We think the upside is unusually high—if successful, this grant could eventually lead to tens or even hundreds of millions of additional people receiving safe water—but it's also riskier than most of our grants, as there are a number of ways the program could fail to have the desired impact. Our hope is that this grant will reduce mortality and improve health at a very large scale.

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Isabel Arjmand

April 2024 updates

2 weeks 4 days ago

Every month we send an email newsletter to our supporters sharing recent updates from our work. We publish selected portions of the newsletter on our blog to make this news more accessible to people who visit our website. For key updates from the latest installment, please see below!

If you’d like to receive the complete newsletter in your inbox each month, you can subscribe here.

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Chandler Brotak

Malengo: Supporting students to pursue education internationally

1 month ago

GiveWell recently recommended a grant of up to $750,000 to Malengo, an educational migration program. Malengo supports students from low-income countries in moving to high-income countries for university. The goal is to enable them to earn a higher income over time, benefiting both the students and their families.

This post shares why we think Malengo's program could be cost-effective, how filling this specific funding gap might enable Malengo's program to become more financially sustainable, and what we hope to learn next.

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Isabel Arjmand

March 2024 open thread

1 month 2 weeks ago

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at info@givewell.org or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.

You can view previous open threads here.

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Jeremy Rehwaldt

March 2024 updates

1 month 2 weeks ago

Every month we send an email newsletter to our supporters sharing recent updates from our work. We publish selected portions of the newsletter on our blog to make this news more accessible to people who visit our website. For key updates from the latest installment, please see below!

If you’d like to receive the complete newsletter in your inbox each month, you can subscribe here.

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The post March 2024 updates appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Chandler Brotak

What we fund, #1: We fund many opportunities outside our top charities

1 month 4 weeks ago

GiveWell aims to find and fund programs that have the greatest impact on global well-being. We're open to funding whichever global health and development opportunities seem most cost-effective. So while our top charities list is still what we're best known for, it's only part of our impact; we also dedicate substantial funding and research effort to opportunities beyond top charities.

In 2022, 71% of the funds we directed supported our four current top charities, and 29% were directed to other programs. However, most of our research capacity goes toward programs other than our top charities. This is because (a) most programs we direct funding to aren't top charities (we have four top charities but directed funding to about 40 other grantees in 2022), and (b) it requires more effort to investigate a program we know less deeply.

In this post we’ll share:

  • The overall scope of our grantmaking
  • Why we dedicate funding and research capacity to programs other than our top charities
  • The types of opportunities we support

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The post What we fund, #1: We fund many opportunities outside our top charities appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Isabel Arjmand

GiveWell from A to Z

4 months 3 weeks ago

To celebrate the end of 2023, we're highlighting a few key things to know about GiveWell—from A to Z. These aren't necessarily the 26 most important parts of our work (e.g., we could include only "transparency" or "top charities" for T) but they do fit the alphabet, and we've linked to other pages where you can learn more.

All Grants Fund. Our recommendation for donors who have a high level of trust in GiveWell and are open to programs that might be riskier than our top charities.

Bar. We set a cost-effectiveness bar, or threshold, such that we expect to be able to fully fund all the opportunities above that level of cost-effectiveness. This bar isn't a hard limit; we consider qualitative factors in our recommendations, as discussed here. This post also discusses our bar in more detail.

Cost-effectiveness. The core question we try to answer in our research is: How much good can you do by giving money to a certain program? This blog post describes how we approach cost-effectiveness estimates and use them in our work.

Donors. Unlike a foundation, we don't hold an endowment. Our impact comes from donors choosing to use our recommendations.

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The post GiveWell from A to Z appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Isabel Arjmand

GiveWell’s 2022 metrics report

4 months 3 weeks ago

In 2022, the most recent year for which data is available and analyzed, GiveWell raised the largest amount of money in our history, over $600 million. We thank our donors for continuing to trust us to find and recommend highly cost-effective giving opportunities. The following table summarizes our funds raised and our funds directed to programs in metrics year 2021 and 2022.

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The post GiveWell’s 2022 metrics report appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Isabel Arjmand

December 2023 open thread

5 months 1 week ago

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at info@givewell.org or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.

You can view previous open threads here.

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Jeremy Rehwaldt

How we work, #3: Our analyses involve judgment calls

5 months 1 week ago

This post is the third in a multi-part series, covering how GiveWell works and what we fund. Through these posts, we hope to give a better understanding of our research and decision-making.

Our goal is to recommend funding to the programs we believe have the greatest impact per dollar donated. There's no simple algorithm for this question. Answering it necessarily involves making judgment calls. Our first post in this series discussed the importance of cost-effectiveness analyses and the many factors we consider; in this post, we'll share:

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The post How we work, #3: Our analyses involve judgment calls appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Isabel Arjmand

GiveWell’s 2023 recommendations to donors

5 months 3 weeks ago

We're excited about the impact donors can have by supporting our All Grants Fund and our Top Charities Fund. For donors who want to support the programs we're most confident in, we recommend the Top Charities Fund, which is allocated among our four top charities. For donors with a higher degree of trust in GiveWell and willingness to take on more risk, our top recommendation is the All Grants Fund, which goes to a wider range of opportunities and may have higher impact per dollar. Read more about the options for giving below. We estimate that donations to the programs we recommend can save a life for roughly $5,000 on average, or have similarly strong impact by increasing incomes or preventing suffering.

Why your support matters

We expect to find more outstanding giving opportunities than we can fully fund unless our community of supporters substantially increases its giving. Figures like $5,000 per life saved are rough estimates; while we spend thousands of hours on our cost-effectiveness analyses, they're still inherently uncertain. But the bottom line is that we think donors have the opportunity to do a huge amount of good by supporting the programs we recommend.

For a concrete sense of what a donation can do, let's focus briefly on seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), which involves distributing preventive medication to young children.

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The post GiveWell’s 2023 recommendations to donors appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Isabel Arjmand

November 2023 updates

6 months ago

Every month we send an email newsletter to our supporters sharing recent updates from our work. We’ve decided to start publishing selected portions of the newsletter on our blog to make this news more accessible to people who might visit our website. For key updates from the latest installment, please see below!

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The post November 2023 updates appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Jeremy Rehwaldt

How we work, #2: We look at specific opportunities, not just general interventions

6 months 1 week ago

This post is the second in a multi-part series, covering how GiveWell works and what we fund. The first post, on cost-effectiveness, is here. Through these posts, we hope to give a better understanding of our research and decision-making.

Looking forward, not just backward

When we consider recommending funding, we don't just want to know whether a program has generally been cost-effective in the past—we want to know how additional funding would be used.

People sometimes think of GiveWell as recommending entire programs or organizations. This was more accurate in GiveWell's early days, but now we tend to narrow in on specific opportunities. Rather than asking whether it is cost-effective to deliver long-lasting insecticide-treated nets in general, we ask more specific questions, such as whether it is cost-effective to fund net distributions in 2023 in the Nigerian states of Benue, Plateau, and Zamfara, given the local burden of malaria and the costs of delivering nets in those states.

Geographic factors affecting cost-effectiveness

The same program can vary widely in cost-effectiveness across locations. The burden of a disease in a particular place is often a key factor in determining overall cost-effectiveness. All else equal, it's much more impactful to deliver vitamin A supplements in areas with high rates of vitamin A deficiency than in areas where almost everyone consumes sufficient vitamin A as part of their diet. Similarly, one of our top charities, New Incentives, has chosen to operate in northern Nigeria largely because relatively low baseline vaccination rates mean its work is especially impactful there.

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Isabel Arjmand

How we work, #1: Cost-effectiveness is generally the most important factor in our recommendations

6 months 3 weeks ago

This post is the first in a multi-part series, covering how GiveWell works and what we fund. We'll add links to the later posts here as they're published. Through these posts, we hope to give a better understanding of our research and decision-making.

Why cost-effectiveness matters

The core question we try to answer in our research is: How much good can you do by giving money to a certain program?

Consider how much good your donation could do if you give to a program that costs $50,000 to save a life versus one that costs $5,000 to save a life (which is roughly what we estimate for our top charities). Giving to the latter would have 10 times more impact. While in an ideal world both programs would receive funding, we focus on identifying the most cost-effective programs so that the limited amount of funding available can make the greatest difference.

The basics

We've written in detail here about our approach to cost-effectiveness analysis and its limitations. Our bottom-line estimates are always uncertain, and we don't expect them to be literally true. At the same time, they help us compare programs to each other so that we can direct funding where we believe it will have the greatest impact.

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The post How we work, #1: Cost-effectiveness is generally the most important factor in our recommendations appeared first on The GiveWell Blog.

Isabel Arjmand
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