The GiveWell Blog

Introducing our new Managing Director: Dr. Neil Buddy Shah

I’m very excited to announce that Dr. Neil Buddy Shah is joining GiveWell as Managing Director starting this summer.

We’re beyond thrilled that Buddy, a leader in the global health and development space, has chosen to be part of our team at this exciting time. We have significantly expanded our research focus over the past few years to identify high-impact giving opportunities beyond our current top charities list. In addition to working with me to set our strategy generally, a core component of Buddy’s work will be pushing our research and funding expansion forward by leading GiveWell’s efforts to learn from and contribute to the broader international development community.

He is exceptionally qualified to do so. Buddy has spent the last eight years as Founding Partner and CEO of IDinsight, a group GiveWell has worked closely with and supported through our Incubation Grants program. We’re confident that IDinsight will continue to do great work over the coming years.

Buddy is now heading the leadership transition process at IDinsight. He expects to join GiveWell around July. Welcome to the team!

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How GiveWell’s research is evolving

To date, most of GiveWell’s research capacity has focused on finding the most impactful programs among those whose results can be rigorously measured. This work has led us to recommend, and direct several hundred million dollars to, charities improving health, saving lives, and increasing income in low-income countries.

One of the most important reasons we have focused on programs where robust measurement is possible is because this approach largely does not rely on subject-matter expertise. When Holden and I started GiveWell, neither of us had any experience in philanthropy, so we looked for charities that we could evaluate through data and evidence that we could analyze, to make recommendations that we could fully explain. This led us to focus on organizations that had impacts that were relatively easy to measure.

The output of this process is reflected in our current top charities and the programs they run, which are analyzed in our intervention reports.

GiveWell has now been doing research to find the best giving opportunities in global health and development for 11 years, and we plan to increase the scope of giving opportunities we consider. We plan to expand our research team and scope in order to determine whether there are giving opportunities in global health and development that are more cost-effective than those we have identified to date.

We expect this expansion of our work to take us in a number of new directions, some of which we have begun to explore over the past few years. We have considered, in a few cases, the impact our top and standout charities have through providing technical assistance (for example, Deworm the World and Project Healthy Children), supported work to change government policies through our Incubation Grants program (for example, grants to the Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention and Innovation in Government Initiative), and begun to explore areas like tobacco policy and lead paint elimination.

Over the next several years, we plan to consider everything that we believe could be among the most cost-effective (broadly defined) giving opportunities in global health and development. This includes more comprehensively reviewing direct interventions in sectors where impacts are more difficult to measure, investigating opportunities to influence government policy, as well as other areas.

Making progress in areas where it is harder to determine causality will be challenging. In my opinion, we are excellent evaluators of empirical research, but we have yet to demonstrate the ability to make good judgments about giving opportunities when less empirical information is available. Our values, intellectual framework, culture, and the quality of our staff make me optimistic about our chances, but all of us at GiveWell recognize the difficulty of the project we are embarking on.

Our staff does not currently have the capacity or the capabilities to make enough progress in this direction, so we are planning to significantly increase the size of our staff. We have a research team of ten people, and we are planning to more than double in size over the next three years. We are planning to add some junior staff but are primarily aiming to hire people with relevant experience who can contribute as researchers and/or managers on our team.

GiveWell’s top charities list is not going to change dramatically in the near future, and it may always include the charities we recommend today. Our top charities achieve outstanding, cost-effective results, and we believe they are some of the best giving opportunities in global health and development. We expect to conclude that many of the opportunities we consider in areas that are new for us are less cost-effective than those we currently recommend, but we also think it is possible that we will identify some opportunities that are much more cost-effective. We believe it is worth a major effort to find out.

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Update on our work on outreach

GiveWell’s impact is a function of the quality of our research and the amount of money we direct to our recommended charities (our “money moved”). Historically, we’ve focused mostly on research because we felt that the quality of our recommendations was a greater constraint to our impact than our money moved.

This has changed. Outreach is now a major organizational priority. The goal of this work is to increase the amount of money we direct to our top-recommended charities.

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New Incentives update

We’re planning to release updated top-charity recommendations in mid-November, and one of the questions our staff has been debating recently is whether to recommend New Incentives as a top charity. We’ve decided that New Incentives doesn’t currently meet our criteria for a top charity because its program doesn’t have sufficient evidence supporting it. However, we…

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We’re hiring a Director of Operations

GiveWell’s Operations team is responsible for all finance, accounting, HR, legal and tech functions at GiveWell and the Open Philanthropy Project. We started to build this team over the past year, and we’re now looking for a proven leader to lead our current team and grow¬†it for the future. Additional¬†details about the role are in…

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