The GiveWell Blog

Open Philanthropy Project (formerly GiveWell Labs)

GiveWell and Good Ventures have launched a new website for the Open Philanthropy Project. This is the new name and brand for the project formerly known as GiveWell Labs.

The mission of the Open Philanthropy Project is to learn how to give as effectively as we can and share our findings openly so that anyone can build on them. The word “open” refers both to being (a) open to many possibilities (considering many possible focus areas, and trying to select the ones that will lead to as much good accomplished as possible) and (b) open about our work (emphasizing transparency and information sharing).

We have launched a new brand to replace the “GiveWell Labs” brand, because:

  • GiveWell and Good Ventures work as partners on the Open Philanthropy Project, and we wanted a name that would not be exclusively associated with one organization or the other.
  • We feel it is important to start separating the GiveWell brand from the Open Philanthropy Project brand, since the latter is evolving into something extremely different from GiveWell’s work identifying evidence-backed charities serving the global poor. A separate brand is a step in the direction of possibly conducting the two projects under separate organizations, though we aren’t yet doing that (more on this topic at our overview of plans for 2014 published earlier this year).

For now, the Open Philanthropy Project website provides only a basic overview, and links to GiveWell and Good Ventures for more information in many cases. We will continue posting updates on the Open Philanthropy Project to GiveWell’s blog, Twitter and Facebook; the Open Philanthropy Project’s Twitter and Facebook feeds will simply mirror those updates. The Open Philanthropy Project is currently only a brand (name, logo, website) rather than an organization, and it continues to be the case that the staff members who work on the Open Philanthropy Project are formally affiliated with either GiveWell or Good Ventures.

We plan to edit much of the content on our website to reflect this update, though we will not necessarily remove all previous references to GiveWell Labs.


  • Taymon A. Beal on August 20, 2014 at 5:47 pm said:

    I’m curious: What are your thoughts on what the branding relationship is, or ought to be, between GiveWell and the Open Philanthropy Project?

    It seems as though there’s a bit of a tradeoff to be made. On the one hand, you wouldn’t want to give the misleading impression that the Open Philanthropy Project’s recommendations necessarily fulfill the same standards as GiveWell’s top charities (that is, high probability of being the best bet for the global poor in the short term). On the other hand, GiveWell’s analysis of philanthropic issues is among the most trusted in the EA community, not just because of those standards, but more broadly because of your approach to learning things and your high levels of transparency. It would be good for the Open Philanthropy Project to continue to benefit from GiveWell’s reputation in this respect.

  • David Moss on August 24, 2014 at 3:46 am said:

    Really enthusiastic about the potential of OPP.

    I did have some concerns about one thing on the current website though. Why do you include the sentence
    “We believe economic development and technological innovation have greatly increased human well-being. We’re optimistic that this trend will continue, and we hope to play a part in accelerating it.”
    so prominently in the front page statement of your values and understanding of “global humanitarianism.”

    Why write in a commitment to certain substantive and controversial empirical views about economic development, human progress, the general effects of technology, its future trends and so on, at the outset of the movement? It also seems there will be substantial symbolic (outreach-related) harms too e.g. a not insignificant number of people who would be sympathetic to OPP will be put off by a pre-commitment to optimistically hoping technological and economic will continue and that we can accelerate it. For example, there are reasonable debates about eco-economic decoupling (see Tim Jackson, Herman Daly) which call into question whether we want to accelerate economic development.

    Anyway, the general project seems great. It just seems like the section on values and humanitarianism would be even better without expressing a commitment to humanitarianism via hopefully accelerating economic and technological development.

  • Holden on August 27, 2014 at 8:03 pm said:

    Taymon, good question. Ideally, I would like people to know about the overlap in people between the two projects – specifically, that the people behind the Open Philanthropy Project are capable of GiveWell-style analysis. At the same time, I also want people to know that we don’t necessarily always choose to do this sort of analysis.

    Put another way, I don’t think people should assume that Open Philanthropy Project positions are supported in the same way as GiveWell positions; but they should know that when they’re not, it’s because staff made a deliberate decision not to aim for this sort of support. I think different people will come to different conclusions with this information – some people will put significant trust in Open Philanthropy Project positions, while others may trust GiveWell far more. And I think the practice of using separate brands for the two projects, while making the organizational and personnel connections clear, is likely to accomplish roughly this goal.

  • Holden on August 28, 2014 at 10:51 am said:

    David, thanks for the feedback.

    I believe that our views about economic and technological development are quite important, in a far-reaching and fundamental way, to what we’re prioritizing and why. I think people should know this; funders who find such a view unacceptable probably should be at least a bit put off, and people who find it debatable should know that we have a position on it. That said, our view on the matter isn’t set in stone, and we would revise the page if we changed the view (even to something closer to agnosticism).

  • David Moss on August 29, 2014 at 4:30 am said:

    Thanks for the reply Holden.

    Do you think that it would be good, then, to talk about the reasons for these commitments? It seems odd to engage in really deep, detailed considerations of particular causes and projects, but not about large assumptions implicitly guiding those sub-evaluations. I realise that at a certain point the ability to justify your values and basic assumptions just reaches bedrock, but it seems like this question about economic growth and development is largely tractable and empirical.

  • I think your move to rebrand OPP was good. Anything with political advocacy may need its own box.

    David Moss, I wonder why you think people favoring such views are a significant constituency now.

  • Holden on August 30, 2014 at 10:31 pm said:

    David, we wrote about the reasons for our view here.

    It would be possible to do a great deal more work re-examining this view, but I think the amount of work necessary to bring about a realistic chance of substantially modifying it would be enormous. We’ve made the judgment that making such investigation a priority would not be the right way to allocate our time.

    We do continue to have discussions about this topic and review relevant evidence, an in informal, open-ended way (often on personal time). If we became aware of an agenda that we thought could yield important actionable insights with a reasonable amount of work, we would likely go ahead with it.

  • Colin Rust on October 4, 2014 at 9:47 am said:

    I like the new name. And I think the clearer separation from GiveWell classic is a good idea. I hope OPP serves as a beacon for the philanthropic community in promoting transparency.

Comments are closed.