I’ve been learning more about the Effective Altruism movement over the past couple of years, and many of their ideas have influenced my life. 80,000 Hours provides many resources on thinking about how to do the most good over the course of a career. One of the reasons I felt comfortable leaving international development for a while and working at a large domestic company as a web developer was that I thought my change in skills would allow me to produce more value over the course of my working life.
When it comes to charitable giving, I think there are few resources that come close to GiveWell. They extensively interview and evaluate charities in terms of how much impact they make for each marginal dollar they get, how they are run, etc. The impact of additional money donated to a charity is a much better metric to me than the percentage of their costs spent on overhead or fundraising.
GiveWell has criteria for their evaluations that I generally agree with. Their emphasis on reducing global poverty matters to me because it is typically the most cost-effective way to do the most good and because global poverty is much more severe than most poverty in rich countries. I’ve tried to keep that fact in mind to avoid prioritizing good causes that are geographically closer to me but less severe.
With these factors in mind and based on some of GiveWell’s recommendations, I’ve allocated most of my giving this winter to the following organizations.
Against Malaria Foundation
Malaria is one of the foremost causes of preventable deaths, especially among children. Preventing malaria deaths is relatively inexpensive when people have access to low-cost insecticide-treated bed nets.
Schistosomiasis Control Initiative
Good Food Initiative
I’m still struggling to clarify my position on animal welfare and my diet. Having a dog and appreciating her intelligence has made me much more cautious about the permissibility of eating meat and even skeptical that I should be consuming animal products at all (I’m not a vegan currently). I suspect that one of the best ways to reduce human consumption of animal products is through lab-based alternative products. The Good Food Institute is one of the primary organizations working to create such alternatives.
I think this future is closer than I had previously thought. I tried a couple of Beyond Burgers last week and was extremely impressed by the taste, texture, and aroma. I will be buying more.
If you want to learn more about Effective Altruism, browse the websites above, read Doing Good Better, or listen to William MacAskill’s interview with Sam Harris. If you’re interested particularly in giving to improve animal welfare, check out Animal Charity Evaluators. And if you enjoyed reading this post, you might enjoy this post on GiveWell’s blog in which GiveWell describe the causes they chose and their motivations.
Estimating how our actions and giving over the course of our lives (and future lifetimes) might have the biggest impact is obviously an inexact exercise, but I’m somewhat confident the above choices are better than ones I would have made without using Effective Altruism as a frame.