The GiveWell Blog

September 2017 open thread

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 our June 2017 open thread here.

Comments

  • In light of the abundance of national disasters recently, I (and I can’t help but think many others) wonder which organizations out there supporting these relief efforts could and would use our money most effectively. I know this isn’t really where you focus because dollar for dollar money spent on global health in extremely poor countries does much more “good”, but it would be nice if there was some guidance for us “effective altruism” followers as to how best to help hurricane, fire, etc. victims that are practically our neighbors.

  • Catherine (GiveWell) on September 12, 2017 at 2:08 pm said:

    Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for your question. We recognize that there’s a lot of demand for guidance on where to give in the aftermath of a disaster; we wish we could be a more helpful resource, but unfortunately, we can’t generate high-quality recommendations for each disaster.

  • Vipul Naik on September 12, 2017 at 4:37 pm said:

    I’m following up GiveWell’s 2016 money moved metrics :). The last update appears to be at https://www.facebook.com/groups/GiveWellCommunity/permalink/462949240726562/?comment_id=467285776959575 which does not specify a target publication date and the update before that appears to be at http://blog.givewell.org/2017/03/21/march-2017-open-thread/#comment-943448 specifies a publication target of summer (which should be over by now).

  • Just curious – given the debate around how much an under-5 life matters (staff inputs for “value of an under-5 life” range from 0 to 50 DALYs on the latest version of the GiveWell CEA), why is it used as the unit of comparison on the “Results” tab?

  • **minor edit: actually staff inputs range from 0.14 to 50 DALYs. I didn’t realize the sheet was rounding.

  • Catherine (GiveWell) on September 13, 2017 at 5:58 pm said:

    Hi Vipul,

    Thanks for following up; my apologies that we have not yet published the report. We plan to take steps to significantly speed up the timeline by which metrics information is released next year.

    This year, we will publish a report by October 1 at the latest, although we may not have as much information ready to publish at that time as we have in previous metrics reports. We do expect to have the most important bottom-line figures on money moved for publication then (i.e., our total money moved, the money moved to each charity, the amounts donated by donors giving different amounts, and updated web traffic statistics).

    If we publish a shorter report by October 1st, we’ll still publish a complete report at a later date.

  • Chris (GiveWell) on September 13, 2017 at 9:02 pm said:

    Hi Milan,

    We’ve had some discussion about which metrics would be best to emphasize in the Results tab of our CEA. I don’t believe there’s a single easy-to-interpret metric that’s clearly better than all the other options. We’ve retained the “cost per under-5 life saved equivalent” metric since we’ve used it historically. Admittedly, this metric can be hard to interpret since individuals included in the CEA have a range of different views about the value of preventing deaths of children under 5.

    If you prefer another metric, you can select other metrics in an editable copy of our CEA. To do this, click the arrow symbol on the right of cells containing the text “Cost per outcome as good as: averting the death of an individual under 5 — AMF,” to open a drop-down menu. On this menu, you will find other metrics like “Cost per outcome as good as: averting the death of an individual 5 or older — AMF” and “Cost per outcome as good as: short-term health benefits from one year of deworming.”

    Some additional context on how this part of our CEA has changed:

    We no longer make explicit use of the DALY framework in our CEA. Our use of the DALY framework in our CEA was becoming increasingly unconventional prior to this change. For example, at the end of 2016 many individuals included in our CEA attributed less than 10 averted DALYs to preventing the death of a child under 5 years old. Under the conventional DALY framework, a far greater number of DALYs averted should be attributed to averting an infant’s death.

    In 2017, we moved away from explicitly using DALYs in our CEA. Now individuals using our CEA can assign different subjective values to each of the outcomes accounted for in our CEA. There’s no objective meaning to these values. What matters for the bottom line results in the CEA is how the values assigned to each outcome compare relative to one another. With this new structure, an individual can still elect to use the DALY framework by assigning a DALY weight to each outcome on the Personal values tab. While some individuals included in our published CEA take this approach, not everyone does. As an example of an alternative approach, one could choose to define a value of 1 unit as representing “doing something as good as doubling a poor individual’s consumption for one year.” That definition could then be used as an anchor for assigning values to other outcomes considered in the CEA.

    We felt that using the DALY framework in an unconventional way could lead to confusion, while strictly adhering to the conventional version of the framework would prevent some individuals from adequately accounting for their views within our CEA. For example, the standard DALY framework–using age-weights and discounting conventionally–cannot reflect some individuals’ view that it would be far better to avert the death of a young adult than the death of a newborn infant. The flexibility of our new framework allows for accommodating views that don’t align with the conventional DALY framework.

  • How does GiveWell determine the size of the incubation grants it makes? Do charities submit grant proposals for specific amounts? (Apologies if I missed this explanation elsewhere on the site!)

  • Catherine (GiveWell) on September 15, 2017 at 12:30 pm said:

    Hi Jeremy,

    We determine the size of the Incubation Grant in consultation with the charity. We ask the charity to submit a budget proposal and provide information about what could be achieved with different levels of funding (for example, scale-up of a program to a particular size). Then, we make a judgment call based on our assessment of the evidence base for the program and the charity’s track record about what kind of information we’d need to see in order to move the charity forward in consideration as a potential future top charity, and make a grant recommendation of that amount.

  • Timo Carlier on September 16, 2017 at 3:31 am said:

    Giving from Europe
    AMF seems to be pro-actively trying to gain tax-deductible status for European countries. As can be seen on their feed, Ireland and Denmark have both granted AMF tax-deductible status this year, and I know they have applied for the same in Belgium too.

    As a general comment, I would love to see some articles on donating to GiveWell’s Top Charities as a European. It is a complex process; for example TGE, or Transnational Giving Europe, liaises for some charities but not all, and they take 5% off each donation. Tax rebates can be significant in European countries, but despite discussions with my local EA group, I am still not 100% clear how it all works.

    The Netherlands has an online calculator, where you enter your Bruto year salary and how much you wish to give; it then spits the amount you get back, and tells you how much more you could give, should you wish to give as much as possible, after tax rebates.

  • Mohammad on September 19, 2017 at 7:46 am said:

    Hi GiveWell team,
    Thanks for taking questions.
    I like following GiveWell’s suggestions about donating to the Against Malaria Foundation, and encourage my friends/ families to do the same. However I have always had a couple of niggling doubts about it.

    Specifically, I know that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation & Good Ventures do a lot of work in the malaria area, and they have a lot of money. So how come money is still being sought for this issue? Is it that these groups are lacking money? Is it that they have some wisdom in not spending their money all at once? Is it that the Gates Foundation specifically are more interested in long term things (like malaria eradication, vaccines, genetically modified mosquitoes etc) and if so is GiveWell’s recommendation of AMF too short-term focused?

    Ultimately, should GiveWell’s community of donor’s be mimicking the Gates Foundations and/ or Good Ventures behaviours?

    Apologies if my questions are naive. I’m having a lot of trouble finding information about this.

  • Isabel (GiveWell) on September 21, 2017 at 4:59 pm said:

    Hi Timo,
    Thank you for the suggestion! We’ll keep in mind the idea of writing more about European donation logistics in the future. In case it’s helpful, we’ve published some information on tax-deductibility here: http://www.givewell.org/how-we-work/research-faq#ArethetopcharitiestaxdeductiblewhereIlive and you can also reach out to donations@givewell.org with specific questions.

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