The GiveWell Blog

Escaping the bubble

This blog has become part of a blogging “community.” We read each other, we refer to each other, we comment on each others’ posts, and we probably think of each other as the “other charity bloggers.” I’m talking mostly about:

I think all of the blogs above are intelligent, sometimes entertaining, and generally worth reading for a charity nerd such as myself. I like having people to respond to and people responding to me; being part of this community is been a reliable way to get dialogue, as well as pick up readers. That’s cool. But I have two major problems with this set of people.

1. It’s just too small, and I think the people are too similar to each other. That’s been driven home to me by Sean’s recent interview with William Schambra. Read it, if someone holds a gun to your head and forces you to. In brief, the participants are acting like the fact that this guy affiliates with “conservatives” rather than “liberals” means that this affiliation is the only thing worth discussing about or around him, that every word he says must be nothing more than snake oil designed to protect conservative interests. They’ve used their stereotypes to come up with ludicrous, implausible interpretations of his motives, rather than challenging what he says to get at whatever biases he does have. There’s no recognition that conservatives sometimes think about things other than cutting taxes and oppressing minorities (and that some conservatives support neither of these things). To me, that’s a sign of insulation from other points of view.

(Can you tell I’m annoyed? Guys, if you’re reading this, I’ll get over it. Here’s an e-hug: (). But I do think you’re insulated.)

2. More importantly, none of these blogs ever talk about how to help people, which is an odd quality for a group of “philanthropy blogs.” My original vision for this blog was as a place to discuss tutoring vs. charter schools, bednets vs. water pipes. It hasn’t happened so far, mostly because we had to halt our research on these issues in order to focus on the business side of The Clear Fund. It still may not happen for a little while, because I’m just starting to learn about these issues myself, and at this point anything I wrote about them would largely be in a vacuum. But as we shift our focus to research, I expect this to change.

So, I don’t want to ditch the friends I have, but I want some new ones too. I do read a ton of other blogs, but the only ones I know of that discuss how to help people are Beyond Philanthropy and the blog (which is showing early signs of flakiness). Any suggestions?


  • Nonprofiteer on July 18, 2007 at 11:48 am said:

    I don’t discuss how to help people because my nonprofit clients know a lot more about that than I do. Instead, I discuss how to help those nonprofits operate with maximum efficiency, civility and good sense.

  • Holden on July 18, 2007 at 11:50 am said:

    I understand that. I like your blog. I just think it would be best for both of us if I read other blogs.

  • Gillian on July 19, 2007 at 11:45 pm said:

    Hi Holden,

    I read some of the blogs you list, but I read lots of others too. One of the key topics that I have been following and learning about is related to the question that interests you – what kind of aid makes a difference? or makes the most difference?

    Sometimes this is framed in the aid vs trade debate. I’m discovering that aid needs to address systemic issues as well as individual situations. And good aid is about capacity building.

    My blog explores these wider issues while supporting one of the best individual development projects in Africa – the School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania. Gemma Sisia, the school founder, has just been honoured with an Order of Australia medal.

    The latest post on my blog reports that Switzerland has removed tariffs and quotas on goods from Tanzania. FANTASTIC! But more than that, the Swiss Govt is also funding two supporting programs – one will help train farmers so they are better able to produce goods that meet European quality standards; and the other will build capacity in the Tanzanian govt dept that is responsible for certifying the quality of food exports. This is aid that will help overcome both the visible (tariffs and quotas) and invisible (quality standards) barriers to accessing lucrative markets.

    So, yes, I think you’ll enjoy browsing through some other blogs. You could add mine to your list!

  • Holden on July 20, 2007 at 10:25 am said:

    I will. Do you have any other suggestions?

  • Gillian on July 20, 2007 at 4:07 pm said:

    Well, because my focus is ‘education in Tanzania’, and ‘aid to Africa’ and I’m fairly new to this, I follow things like

    * Tanzania news aggregators
    * IRIN for Tanzania –
    * World Bank –
    * African Agriculture news aggregator —

    and others…

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