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Center for Global Development's success stories

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  • Holden Karnofsky
    I went through the 20 success stories from the Center for Global Development report. They are at
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 19, 2008
      I went through the 20 "success stories" from the Center for Global Development report.  

      I went through them very quickly (90min total) and noted a few things.  My summary lists the years (I stopped filling in this column after a few), country, organization/vehicle credited, primary activities, and results.  It's at   http://www.givewell.net/files/Analysis/success%20stories%20summary%20by%20holden.xls

      A few quick notes:
      • Every single one involved a well-defined problem and an extremely large-scale project with a single entity clearly in charge (usually the government).  This doesn't mean other sorts of initiatives can't work, though - I think it has more to do with the criteria by which the stories were chosen (large-scale, measurable impact - see http://www.cgdev.org/section/initiatives/_active/millionssaved/about/success/). So I'm hesitant to draw too much from this set of studies about "what the best programs are." That said ...
      • 13 of the 20 consisted entirely or mostly of vaccination, vitamin supplementation, vitamin fortification, surgery, mass drug administration, or vector control (i.e., killing parasites).  The first five of these are the "straightforward interventions" we listed at http://blog.givewell.net/?p=282 .
      • Others were DOTS (drug treatment for tuberculosis), ORS (nutrients for treating diarrhea), PROGRESA (cash payments to families to keep kids in school & bring them in for checkups & micronutrients), tobacco legislation, condom promotion for sex workers, female outreach workers going door-to-door (fertility reduction), and two more complex/multifaceted programs (fighting guinea worm infections in several countries and reducing maternal mortality in Sri Lanka).
      • 6 of the success stories happened across many (7+ countries); the rest took place in 1 or 2 specific countries.  I'm not sure whether the ones that focus on a particular country are stylized stories about global phenomena or discussing truly exceptional programs.  

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