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Effective altruismHow can we do the most good in the world? This is the guiding question of a new philosophical and moral movement called “effective altruism” (EA). Effective altruism, a concept coined by philosopher Peter Singer, is an attempt to use common sense and research to determine how each person can maximize his or her positive impact.

What is Effective Altruism?

The basic idea is simple. There are many things a person can do to improve the world. An individual can donate to charities, volunteer or support positive government action. Effective altruists, however, believe that it is not just a matter of doing good wherever it is most convenient. Take charities, for example. Some causes achieve their goals more efficiently than others. Donating $10,000 to an emergency surgery fund might save one life. But, donating that same money to a group that, for instance, teaches impoverished children how to read, could have a vastly greater effect. One of the issues effective altruists care the most about is global poverty.

Global Poverty: A High-Priority Cause

Addressing poverty is one of the most cost-effective and reliable ways to reduce suffering. Unlike some other issues, global poverty is a problem with proven solutions. Over the past 40 years, extreme poverty rates have dropped from 42% to less than 10%. With such a successful track record, it is easy to imagine that future efforts to reduce poverty will continue to pay off.

Looking at the measures taken on the ground, it is not difficult to see how a little money can have a big impact in solving global poverty. Parasitic diseases, for instance, are a huge drain on wealth and stability in large parts of the developing world, but they can be cured with a pill that costs less than a dollar. Mosquito nets are just as affordable, with the ability to protect more than half a million potential malaria victims a year.

Prioritizing Maximum Impact

According to effective altruism, it is not enough to devote time or money to a cause that generally has a good track record. An individual must look at exactly where their money is going. Even poverty-reducing measures have significant differences in efficiency and results. For example, a recent study compared the cost-benefit ratios of sustainable livelihoods graduation programs, livelihood development programs and cash transfers. Although graduation programs tend to cost more, they have far greater long-term success in lifting people out of poverty.

People are becoming far more conscientious of the causes and charities to which they choose to devote their time and money. Effective altruism is emerging in this environment. GiveWell, an effective altruism organization, analyzes the progress reports of well-known charities and conducts independent investigations into their effectiveness.

GiveWell is not afraid of courting controversy either. GiveWell recommends that individuals stop giving to some of the most well-known poverty reduction charities. According to GiveWell, these organizations lack transparency, show unimpressive results or already have more funds than they can effectively use. In the spirit of effective altruism, GiveWell instead recommends a list of alternate organizations that can fulfill similar goals far more efficiently.

Considering Effective Altruism

Effective altruism, as well as philosophically-related organizations like GiveWell, are not without critics. Some, particularly those involved with more traditional models of charity and activism, argue that effective altruism puts too many limits on an individual’s ability to donate however they choose. But, such criticisms notwithstanding, effective altruism offers a fresh perspective on how to approach pressing issues like global poverty.

– Thomas Brodey
Photo: Wikimedia

Deworming PillsThis July, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) published data from a longitudinal research study that looked at how deworming Kenyan children affected their economic outcomes. Youths took deworming medication under professional supervision and were revisited 20 years later by researchers. Economists used these findings to estimate the impact of deworming pills. They find an enormous effect: taking deworming pills during childhood boosts household income by as much as 13% in adulthood.

NBER Research

Deworming has a positive effect on children’s education; reducing absenteeism and dropping out of school. However, this study finds that in addition to, and perhaps as a result of improved education, deworming increases the likelihood of working in nonagricultural jobs with higher incomes. If students are healthier from a younger age and succeed in school, they have a higher chance of bettering their futures. However, it must be noted that the study only found this future income boost applied to men, suggesting that although deworming medicine increases better education, it does not improve economic mobility for women. Further research is necessary to study this gender gap and its causes.

Further Research

The World Health Organization (WHO) and The World Bank have been funding the distribution of deworming pills in Africa for many years now. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are high infection rates of intestinal worms, especially among school-age children. Worms stunt children’s development and affect their ability to function. Deworming kids is inexpensive, and it results in healthier individuals and communities. Additionally, when previous generations are treated, the current generations are shown to reap the benefits. With deworming programs having such clear positive results, many organizations such as the WHO support and supply school-based deworming in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as other developing countries.

Deworming pills cost less than a dollar per child treated, so the return on deworming programs is enormous. For instance, the NBER study predicts a 37% return on deworming investments. However, these researchers acknowledge that there is a low chance this effect is statistically significant. In other words, they may have vastly overstated the effect of deworming pills on future outcomes.

Deworm the World

Hassenfeld is the co-founder of GiveWell, a nonprofit dedicated to finding and rating giving opportunities for donors. GiveWell backs an initiative called “Deworm the World,” which they consider a “priority program” because of how cheap deworming is and how beneficial the outcome may be. GiveWell also hires and trains monitors to attend schools, conduct training sessions, and implement distributions of deworming pills to students to ensure program efficiency.

Deworm the World spent $2.2 million more dollars in 2018 on deworming than in 2017. However, the company is continually seeking funding because they hope to expand its programs in Kenya, India, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Concluding Thoughts

This study suggests that deworming may strengthen entire communities over time, raising people out of poverty and improving their countries’ GDP. One study cannot completely explain the financial impact of deworming; however, it is clear that further research is needed and that children’s lives are being changed for the better. Previous research has shown that supporting healthcare systems and eradicating illnesses in developing countries leads to their growth and success. Similarly, deworming programs may play a big role in alleviating poverty in countries affected by intestinal worms.

– Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

Fight Against Extreme Poverty
Extreme poverty is a complex global issue and figuring out how to best alleviate it is a complicated challenge. The effective altruism movement aims to help solve this challenge by using data-driven evidence to find the best ways to fight against extreme poverty.

What is Effective Altruism?

Effective altruism involves using data and evidence to determine the best methods to help improve the world with its limited resources. For example, one important aspect of effective altruism is determining which issues experience neglect. These are issues that receive relatively little attention and funding in comparison with the value of solving or mitigating these issues. Effective altruism also promotes the use of data and transparency when looking at the success of charitable initiatives. With proper data, it is easier to determine if an initiative is helping improve lives, as well as how cost-effective it is.

Many frequently consider extreme poverty a neglected issue in effective altruism, because just small amounts of additional money and resources could substantially improve or even save a life if used effectively. William MacAskill, the author of “Doing Good Better,” estimates that it would cost just $3,400 to save the life of someone living in an impoverished country.

Many people want to help improve the world and have the ability to save a life, as McAskill explains, but the data involved in effective altruism and struggle to determine the best charitable initiatives overwhelms them. Some effective altruism organizations recognize this and conduct research for their donors to help them have the largest individual impact on those living in extreme poverty.

One for the World (OFTW)

Founded in 2014, One for the World (OFTW) is a relatively new organization that creates a portfolio of the most effective charitable initiatives fighting extreme poverty across the world. These are charities that provide enough data and are transparent enough to determine their efficacy and change as the data changes. These are frequently charities that help people meet basic health needs because they are low cost and high reward. According to OFTW, just $2.50 in the hands of the right charitable program can provide someone with an antimalarial bednet. Correspondingly, OFTW’s “Top Picks” are primarily charitable initiatives that focus on health, including vitamin A and antimalarial drug distribution to children, antimalarial bed net distribution and deworming. The remaining top pick is GiveDirectly, which provides one-time cash transfers directly to those living in poverty.

In addition to this unique portfolio of charities, OFTW also asks for donations in a fairly uncommon way. The organization focuses primarily on college campuses and encourages students to pledge 1% of their post-graduation income to these most effective charities. It is a great way to raise awareness among young people about effective altruism and the fight against extreme poverty, and college students in wealthy countries typically have a high future earning potential.

Kennan McClung, Director of Growth and Development at OFTW, explained to The Borgen Project that “[t]he OFTW pledge is important for college students to make because it is so simple, so easy and so effective. Without changing your lifestyle at all, you can markedly improve the lives of hundreds of people every year, saving multiple lives over the course of your career.” OFTW gives individuals the opportunity to have a large individual impact on the fight against extreme poverty.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the work that OFTW does is all the more important. McClung also touched on this, explaining that “[t]he looming economic recession is going to have disastrous effects in the developing world, with hundreds of millions of people expected to fall back into extreme poverty and years of progress expected to be erased. It’s more important than ever to not only support people living on so little but ensure that we are doing so in the most effective way possible.” It is also important to note that anyone, not just college students, can take the 1% pledge and start giving right away if in the position to do so.

McClung emphasizes that “OFTW members pursue a wide range of different careers, engage in other forms of philanthropy and volunteering, and have a diverse array of interests and values. That said, we are all united in the belief that we can live very reasonably on 99% of our incomes, and are committed to doing our part to make the world a better place — effectively.” Anyone can take the pledge and start improving lives today.

Givewell

Givewell, a partner of OFTW, is another research-driven organization to find the most effective charities working on a variety of causes, although particularly extreme poverty. It provides OFTW with a list of the most effective charities fighting global poverty. Individuals can also lookup various nonprofits on the website to see how effective they are according to Givewell’s measures.

Effective altruism uses data to determine which charitable initiatives are the most effective at combating neglected issues. Extreme poverty is among the most neglected, and therefore research to discover the best ways to fight it is extremely important. Giving to charities that provide data and have shown that their efforts are successful is ideal, but often it can be very time-consuming and overwhelming for an individual donor to complete alone. This is where charities like OFTW and Givewell step in, completing this important research and encouraging donors to give to the best charitable programs based on the available data. OFTW and Givewell have found that many of the best initiatives work to help provide for basic health needs, such as antimalarial bednet distribution and deworming.

Effective altruism can seem complicated and overwhelming at first, but it does not need to be. It simply aims to find the best ways to help improve lives using data. Fighting extreme poverty is a key issue in effective altruism because relatively small amounts of money can have a substantial impact if used effectively. Organizations like OFTW and Givewell do the heavy lifting for donors and determine which charitable initiatives are most cost-effective, could best use additional funds, are transparent and have a track record of success. This makes fighting extreme poverty in very effective ways possible for many people around the world.

– Kayleigh Crabb
Photo: Flickr

Effective Altruism 
From an idea and philosophy, Effective Altruism has evolved and transformed into a very broad and cohesive social movement over the years. Though heavily featured in the nonprofit sector, Effective Altruism focuses on scientific projects, policy-making and organizations with the ethos of finding effective ways to do ‘the most good’ and ‘do good better,’ both individually and collectively. Effective Altruism prioritizes a variety of different causes, impartiality and cost-effectiveness, along with assessing potential funding impacts and counterfactual reasoning.

Effective Altruism Singapore

The Borgen Project had an opportunity to get in touch with the Effective Altruism chapter in Singapore, an up and coming organization with a focus on ‘effective giving.’ As an organization, the chapter is able to sustain and appeal to people because of Singapore’s friendly and burgeoning nonprofit environment as well as its relatively wealthier population, and more stable incomes and economy.

With a heavy focus on research and careful analysis, the Effective Altruism Chapter in Singapore, in particular, is able to work on the best cases and understand specific communities in need. Like many of its companion chapters around the world, it also focuses on more neglected issues in global poverty reduction initiatives such as global health and development and factory-farmed animals as well as other problems and existential risks like natural disasters and climate change. Stunting, in particular, is a grave and predominant focus for Effective Altruism Singapore, with a heavy concentration on child and maternal health care malnutrition owing to the fact that nearly 25.8 percent of children in southeast Asia are stunted. Effective Altruism’s evidence-based research patterns and analysis shows that around 30 percent of children in communities across Indonesia and the Philippines experience adverse impacts of stunting.

The GiveWell Framework

Moreover, the chapter employs the more empirical and analytical GiveWell framework in its work to evaluate potentially high-impact giving opportunities in SouthEast Asia. GiveWell, one of the pioneering organizations behind the Effective Altruism movement, focuses on scouting reliable charities that can improve lives the most per dollar so that there is effective and impactful usage of philanthropic funds. The objective is chiefly to deduce how useful it is to give an amount equivalent to a dollar and evaluate how it could potentially impact a specific target community.

In accordance with Effective Altruism’s GiveWell framework, giving opportunities are largely dependent on an in-depth analysis involving thousands of hours of research which it then uses to find top-rated charities backed by evidence, thorough analysis and vetting to ensure transparency and accountability. GiveWell also tries to understand the root causes of issues such as stunting and malnutrition. Organizations such as the Malaria Foundation and Malaria Consortium remain some of GiveWell’s most important recommendations in the health care aspect of its many global poverty alleviation priorities.

The GiveWell Framework’s Role at Effective Altruism Singapore

Consequently, many of Effective Altruism Singapore’s pilot projects and initiatives employ the GiveWell framework as it is helpful while analyzing and understanding some of the high-impact giving opportunities in Southeast Asia, especially in key priority realms like the provision of WASH (Water, Hygiene and Sanitation) services as well as childhood malnutrition. In the year 2018, the chapter focused on looking for organizations and charities that delivered more evidence-based interventions that targeted preventable and cost-effective health issues and impacted some of the poorest populations and communities in Southeast Asia.

To conclude, the workings and functioning of Effective Altruism Singapore help paint a broad picture of the Effective Altruism philosophy and movement as a whole due to its rather abstract nature. It remains groundbreaking and innovative because it offers a more objective as well as a critical approach to addressing and combatting poverty in the long run especially because it aims to use more research and evidence focused methods.

As a whole, it remains an essential and significant reflection into the applications of the ideology and the potential impacts it can have on the way one perceives global poverty-related issues across various communities around the world.

– Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

how_to_get_into_philanthropy
As defined by Merriam-Webster, philanthropy is the giving of money and time to help improve the lives of others. Despite the straightforward definition, philanthropy can relate to a broad range of actions, which is why a question many of us ask is how does one get into philanthropy?

When exploring this question, ask yourself, “What causes do I care about most?” With numerous organizations supporting a variety of causes, it can be difficult to choose among hundreds of philanthropic organizations.

As a result, many donors are strategic in their giving, meaning that they ensure that their donations will yield the best results coinciding with their beliefs. To help realize what causes you care most about, rank organizations according to the categories that they address, such as people, places, issues or philosophies.

Sites like CharityNavigator.org and GiveWell.org are helpful when researching and ranking organizations. Don’t be shocked if your rankings change over time. Like everything else, this is a learning process, so allow yourself some time to learn the best ways to donate.

Although monetary donations keep organizations working toward their specific cause, giving time is just as important as giving money. Organizations are always looking for volunteers and even full-time employees dedicated to the organization’s cause. The most popular position people typically apply for in a philanthropic organization is that of program staff member, whose main responsibility is grant-making; but there are so many more positions available that applicants may typically overlook.

Employment opportunities typically available at a philanthropic organization include: member of the foundation board, senior management, finance, programs, communications, administration/human resources, donor relations, research and grants management. All of these positions play a major role in an organization’s daily operations and in the achievement of its core mission.

An increasing amount of volunteers are serving the world’s poor in both the U.S. and foreign countries. Although the common perception of volunteers is that they are merely young and inexperienced college students or graduates volunteering to simply pass the time, volunteers are just as important and influential as employees. With the timing of assignments ranging from weeks to months to even years, volunteering can directly correspond with one’s schedule.

Volunteering has become more than just an easy way to assist international development efforts or humanitarian relief work; anyone can learn new skills and share their knowledge with others. With various opportunities available across the world, finding a volunteer position that is related to your interests or expertise is easy, thanks to sites like Volunteermatch.org and Idealist.org.

Even though philanthropy is commonly associated with donations, it goes beyond donating money. While considering how to get into philanthropy, remember that every action helps, whether you contribute your finances, time, or even your gifts and talents.

– Meghan Orner

Sources: Merriam-Webster, Philanthropy New York, Devex, Bridgespan
Photo: MillanCPA

Top 10 Global Poverty Nonprofits
Let’s begin with the obvious, all of us at The Borgen Project… are big fans of The Borgen Project. Our bias aside, below is a list of 10 of the top global poverty nonprofits and their commendable work.

 

Top Global Poverty Nonprofits

 

1. The Borgen Project – The Borgen Project has taken the plight of the world’s poor to the political level. With access to most members of Congress and an advocacy network of volunteers in every state, The Borgen Project is considered one of the most politically influential organizations fighting for the world’s poor.

2. ONE Campaign – ONE Campaign uses grassroots and advocacy to raise awareness and money to help put a stop to global poverty. They mainly focus their attention on those living in impoverished conditions in Africa.

3. Global Giving – Global Giving is a charity fundraising web site that gives nonprofits from anywhere in the world a chance to raise the money that they need to improve their communities. Since 2002, the project has raised $114,889,647 from 392,257 donors and has supported 10,252 projects.

4. UNICEF – UNICEF is one of the largest nonprofit organizations and it is dedicated to helping children in need. UNICEF does so much for children around the globe, all while promoting education for girls and better health for pregnant women.

5. Partners in Health – Partners in Health is another nonprofit much like [email protected], which is geared towards providing a better quality of living and preventing disease. Partners in Health partners with doctors and health institutions across the globe to provide much needed relief for people who would otherwise be unable to afford health care.

6. GiveWell – GiveWell is a combination of several top rated charities all over the world. Most, if not all, of these charities provide relief for impoverished people in every nation.

7. CARE – CARE wants to cut poverty off at its roots. This nonprofit provide tools for people who are at a higher risk of falling into poverty and they help them to be successful and rise above the poverty within their nations.

8. Life in Abundance – Life in Abundance is a Christian-run organization that mobilizes churches and missionaries alike to provide relief for those who are suffering. This nonprofit wants to provide a healthier lifestyle to those who are living in poverty.

9. International Rescue Committee – The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives to prevent global poverty. The nonprofit was founded in 1933 due to a request from Albert Einstein himself. The IRC has since offered lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster.

10. [email protected] – [email protected], while not primarily putting an end to global poverty, is trying to eradicate one facet of it. [email protected] is a nonprofit that provides vaccinations for those less fortunate so they will not be plagued by preventable diseases.

 

 

Sources: About.com, CARE, GiveWell, Global Giving, International Rescue Committee, Life in Abundance, Partners in Health, Philanthropedia, The Borgen Project, UNICEF
Photo: The Guardian

give_well
The game of giving is changing. Charity funds and philanthropic organizations are no longer just donating money blindly, but rather are investigating the core causes of poverty and trying to support solutions that make the biggest social impact.

Charities are trying to donate money where it will do the most for the people receiving it rather than filtering it into numerous other accounts that trickle down to the beneficiaries in smaller and smaller amounts.

Foundations are looking beyond block grant funding and coming up with innovative specifications for how their money should be used to maximize its positive effect.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy issued a report stating that the fifty largest donators have given almost eight billion dollars in the past year towards global aid.

GiveWell is an organization that focuses entirely on analyzing data to determine just how useful giving is per dollar amount.

Who does the donation really help? Where does the money go? Who decides what to do with it? What are the tangible benefits of giving? Questions like this and the answers that accompany them are becoming a large part of the solution to global poverty.

Knowing who to give aid to, where the funding goes and how it actually makes a difference in the lives of the people receiving it gives charities and philanthropists a clear direction for their efforts.

GiveWell researches and evaluates different charitable foundations and shares their results with the public to help potential donators choose the best use of their giving power.

They provide links on their website to evidence that backs up their evaluations. Categories like distribution efficiency, funding, pros and cons, track record, and impact studies are all part of GiveWell’s investigations.

The financial situation in the past decade has generated a need to be as financially responsible as possible with funding, and governments in various nations have cut foreign aid spending.

Solving the problem of global poverty requires serious funding, especially when so much money is spent on other, less drastic goals. Creating mutually profitable businesses that cater to those struggling with lack of basic needs as well as giving money to communities that can use it to lift themselves out of financial devastation is key to saving the world’s poor.

Philanthropic practices and analytical giving techniques such as those provided at GiveWell can help make a huge difference in eradication of poverty in countries all over the world.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Givewell, The New Yorker, The Guardian
Photo: 

smart-giving-borgen-project_opt
Can someone really be wrong when he or she decides to give to charity? There is no concrete answer, but sometimes certain types of giving can do more overall good than others.

Eric Friedman, an actuary and philanthropist, argues that there is a right and wrong way to give, and many people are doing it wrong. Today’s generation of givers prefers to become more deeply involved in their philanthropy, for example, by mentoring young people, creating a foundation, or asking to learn exactly what good their money did when they donated to an organization. While this philanthropic trend is positive, Friedman claims that people still need to be smarter when it comes to giving by focusing on these three areas:

  1. Consider global problems and weigh them against your personal priorities. Maybe you feel drawn to give your income to a group that is close to your heart, such as your college or a sports team. First, though, consider how far your money will go with those organizations compared to how many homeless or hungry people you could help with that same money. It’s certainly not that personal causes don’t matter, but your donation may not make as much of an impact as it would for other global causes.
  2. Do some research to find out which charities have the most effective philanthropic programs. Friedman suggests using websites such as givewell.org and givewhatwecan.org, both of which help donors find the charities that give you the most bang for your buck, enabling you to help the most people possible.
  3. Investigate the organization to which you’re giving before donating. Only 35% of donors do any research about the charity to which they give their money, and just 9% do more than two hours of research about the organization. Donating money is an investment that people should not take lightly, and knowing exactly what the charity stands for and how they plan to solve problems is half the battle.

If Friedman is correct, this type of smart giving could make a much more significant impact when it comes to issues like global poverty and world hunger.

– Katie Brockman

Sources: TIME, Give Well, Giving What We Can
Photo: WPFD