The GiveWell Blog

GiveWell’s Research Council

As GiveWell grows and matures as an organization, we’re excited to continue learning from others in our field. We believe that actively seeking feedback on our work enables us to do more good. In May 2023, we launched a Research Council, a small group of experts we can consult on research questions and grant investigations.

We aimed to create a Council whose collective experience includes:

  • Deep familiarity with specific areas GiveWell researches
  • Substantial time working and/or living in the geographic areas where we fund work (low- and middle-income countries, primarily in Africa and South Asia)
  • Conducting research, especially randomized controlled trials (RCTs), on global health and development programs
  • Taking effective programs from pilot to scale
  • Working in partnership with major funding institutions and with country governments, especially the governments of countries where we support programs

So far, we’ve held three meetings with this full group to share further details of our research process and how we set our cost-effectiveness threshold. During these meetings, Council members provided helpful feedback about ways we might improve our research.

Additionally, we’ve asked Council members for their recommendations for how to approach tricky questions in our grant investigations and on bigger-picture considerations we might be missing. For example, we spoke with Council members about whether an organization’s request for additional funding seemed reasonable, about vaccination rates, and about ways to improve how we work with organizations and governments. We’ve also asked Council members for referrals to other experts on specific topics of interest.

This Council is a new initiative for getting external feedback. For this first iteration, we’ve invited people who are familiar with GiveWell’s work, all of whom have some current or previous affiliation with organizations to which GiveWell has recommended funding. We wanted to start with a small group of advisors we already knew in some capacity; depending on how this initiative goes, we might expand in the future to include a wider set of experts. We’ll also continue to seek input on our research from external advisors and experts beyond this Council.

While seeking external feedback is an important part of our process, all GiveWell funding and organizational decisions are made solely at our discretion and may not reflect the views of external contributors, and vice-versa.

Currently, our Research Council includes six members, listed below and on this page.

  • Amrita Ahuja is Vice President of the Douglas B. Marshall, Jr. Family Foundation, a funder of international education and research, and is also a senior adviser to CRI Foundation, which funds health programs in Africa and research in development economics. She leads CRI’s collaboration with USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures, which is supported by Open Philanthropy. She is a co-founder and current board member of Evidence Action; prior to this, she led the scale-up of Dispensers for Safe Water and chaired the board of Deworm the World. She also sits on the boards of several organizations, including Maisha Meds, Precision Development, and the Center for Global Development.
  • Rachel Glennerster is an associate professor of economics in the Division of Social Science at the University of Chicago. She was recently appointed as the President of the Center for Global Development. She was formerly chief economist at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and executive director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), and she helped establish Deworm the World. She has extensive experience conducting RCTs and is currently leading an RCT on mobile conditional cash transfers for immunizations that GiveWell funded through the University of Chicago’s Market Shaping Accelerator.
  • James Habyarimana is the Distinguished Professor of Public Policy at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. His research is focused on identifying low-cost strategies to address barriers to better health and education outcomes in Africa. His ongoing projects include research evaluating innovative community-level anti-poverty programs and at-scale school and teacher effectiveness programs in East Africa. He is a board member of Global Innovation Fund and Vice Board Chair of Building Tomorrow. He is a BREAD fellow and is affiliated with J-PAL. He was a founding co-director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Innovation, Development and Evaluation (gui2de), and is a non-resident fellow at the Center for Global Development.
  • Lalit Kumar is the co-CEO of Spark Microgrants, an organization that works with communities to design and implement community improvement projects aimed at material improvements for communities, leading to better outcomes on citizen-government collaboration. He was previously the Africa managing director at the Global Innovation Fund and Africa director at Evidence Action. He has extensive experience working in partnership with governments and development organizations to design and implement large-scale programs.
  • Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak is the Jerome Kasoff ’54 Professor of Management and Economics at Yale University, with concurrent appointments in the School of Management and the Department of Economics. Mobarak is the founder and faculty director of the Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale (Y-RISE), which GiveWell has supported. He conducts field experiments exploring ways to induce people in low- and middle-income countries to adopt technologies or behaviors that are likely to be welfare-improving, and he examines the complexities of scaling up development interventions that are proven effective in such trials.
  • James Tibenderana is Chief Executive of Malaria Consortium and previously oversaw Malaria Consortium’s technical work. He trained as a medical doctor and is a malaria and public health expert with over 20 years of experience in the fields of epidemiology, infectious and tropical diseases, and health system strengthening. He is a fellow of the Uganda National Academy of Sciences, a member of a Uganda National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group sub-committee on malaria vaccines, an honorary associate professor in the Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and a trustee board member of YouBelong.

We are very grateful that our Research Council members have chosen to provide regular input on our work, and we look forward to continued collaboration.

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