The GiveWell Blog

Making our work more readable

Perhaps you noticed that our most recent blog post included a bit of whimsy and even a joke footnote. Our blog is changing slightly, and you can expect more of that!

When GiveWell first started blogging, the blog was a place to share broad thoughts on philanthropy and generate conversation. While we’re not planning to revert to the tone of our early blog posts (which we consider a mistake), we are trying to publish more on our blog and to make what we publish more readable. Our blog posts will be as accurate as ever, but we’re hoping that a more conversational tone will be easier to engage with.

This blog refresh stems from an organization-wide emphasis on legibility. This focus is related to our deeply held value of transparency. For people outside of GiveWell to truly evaluate the conclusions that drive our recommendations, our work needs to be not only public but also understandable.

In GiveWell’s dictionary:

  • Transparency [ tran·spah·ruhn·see ]: literally making information available
  • Legibility [ leh·juh·bi·luh·tee ]: making a decision easy to understand and agree or disagree with

Making our work more legible takes many forms. For example, alongside our main cost-effectiveness models, we now also publish shorter versions that are easier to digest (and can be used to identify key factors in our estimates).

If you’d like to see the difference for yourself, compare the full version, the simplified version, and the summary version of our cost-effectiveness analysis for a 2023 grant to Malaria Consortium.

We’ve also made grant pages (like this one, on identifying and treating a congenital condition called clubfoot) easier to follow by including a more extensive summary that lays out the case for the grant, provides a summary of our cost-effectiveness analysis, and identifies our key reservations. We think our previous grant pages (like this one, on malnutrition treatment) were generally less readable, and that key information that informed our reasoning was harder to find.

One of the ways we plan to maintain strong legibility is through the work of our newly established “cross-cutting” research subteam. An explicit goal of their work is making our research more accurate, transparent, and legible. For example, they’ve led efforts on “red-teaming,” an exercise in which GiveWell researchers not otherwise involved in a particular grant or program investigation search for possible mistakes and oversights that could impact our recommendations. We’re also devoting more time to answering important questions relevant to research decision-making, such as how we should weight the benefits of different outcomes as we prioritize between grants.

We think our blog could be a useful tool for improving the accessibility of our work, and we hope that our work itself will improve as a result. Our efforts will benefit from engagement from our readers, so here’s a plug for your participation: If you haven’t adjusted your communications settings from GiveWell in a while, you can sign up for periodic emails (including notifications of new blog posts) here.1We will never sell your email or share it without permission, nor will we sign you up for emails you didn’t ask for! If you have a comment or question, drop us an email at Share thought-provoking blog posts with your group chat. Schedule a call with one of our philanthropy advisors to talk about your own giving. And if you find something we’ve published inaccessible, please let us know!


1 We will never sell your email or share it without permission, nor will we sign you up for emails you didn’t ask for!


  • What is necessary for legibility can depend on what your audience is — for example, being legible to experts in the field is a different task from being legible to “casual” donors who don’t have specific expertise, and perhaps also being legible to skim-readers or people who can only glance at your work is different from being legible to highly-engaged readers, whether expert or casual.
    Do you have a particular audience that you are most focused on with regards to legibility?

    • Chandler Brotak on May 22, 2024 at 4:59 pm said:

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for your question! You’re right that legibility is subjective. With the blog specifically, we want to share more intriguing and easy to read updates on our work, without sacrificing our accuracy or values. We think this approach will appeal to a wide audience, and for those who like to dive deeper into our work, we will continue to publish grant pages and research updates that provide in-depth explanations of our approach and reasoning.

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