The GiveWell Blog

How GiveWell and mainstream policymakers compare the “good” achieved by different programs

In a previous blog post, we described how we use cost-effectiveness analyses when deciding which charities to recommend to donors.

Today, we published a report that discusses how GiveWell and other actors, such as governments and global health organizations, approach one of the most subjective and uncertain inputs into cost-effectiveness analyses: how to morally value different good outcomes.

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Our process: Narrowing the field

One of the aspects of our research process that has generated some objections is our use of “heuristics,” i.e., shortcuts to winnow the field of recommended charities from 300+ to a manageable number for closer investigation. The heuristics we use are described here. A good statement of the objections comes this comment at Hatrack forums:…

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Can donors fund “sustainable” projects?

It’s one thing to pay for children’s immunizations. It would be quite another to pay for a project that increased immunization rates over the long term, without continued donor support (either thanks to improvement in private-sector or government operations). Aiming for the latter – or more broadly, aiming to use donations as “startup funds” for…

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The challenge of local ownership

One of the consistent refrains we’ve seen in aid literature is the importance of local participation/enthusiasm/ownership for aid projects. Many programs have been criticized for being too “top-down” (i.e., imposing outsiders’ designs on local communities), with the implication that more “bottom-up” programs (i.e., getting local people to participate in the design of execution of programs)…

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Qualitative evidence vs. stories

Our reviews have a tendency to discount stories of individuals, in favor of quantitative evidence about measurable outcomes. There is a reason for this, and it’s not that we only value quantitative evidence – it’s that (in our experience) qualitative evidence is almost never provided in a systematic and transparent way. If a charity selected…

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