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Successful interventions

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  • Holden Karnofsky
    I ve created a new wikipage devoted to listing what we see as interventions that have some track record of success. Right now it s just a skeleton.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 21, 2009
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      I've created a new wikipage devoted to listing what we see as interventions that have some track record of success.  Right now it's just a skeleton.  http://www.givewell.net/wiki/index.php?title=Successful_interventions

      A micro success is a well-documented, fairly rigorously established instance where the intervention changed lives.  The randomized controlled trials performed by http://www.povertyactionlab.com/ are this sort of evidence.  (For example, children were randomly selected for deworming; those that were selected had higher school attendance.)  Many medical interventions also have strong "micro" track records, and we are currently compiling information on these track records (this work is being done mostly by part-time workers).

      A macro success is a less rigorously established, but larger-scale and more impressive, success, like those discussed in the Center for Global Development's "success stories" (see my notes at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/givewell/message/25).  For example, a major immunization program coincided with a large drop in mortality from the disease being immunized against (most extreme case: smallpox eradication).

      There is a large amount of micro evidence on health interventions, so much that we are currently focusing our part-time employees on gathering and summarizing it.  From our initial scan of both micro and macro evidence, we've prioritized the interventions currently listed at http://www.givewell.net/research-agenda .

      We've done much less with economic-empowerment interventions, and that's my current focus.  I've gotten a basic sense of the most commonly cited "macro" success story, the Green Revolution (discussed in the previous email).  Now I'm looking for interventions that have "micro" support.  I believe they are much rarer than in health, and that I'll be able to identify most of them through two research institutions devoted to this sort of evidence (see http://blog.givewell.net/?p=219) as well as a couple of literature reviews (see http://givewell.net/node/278#Question9Whataretheinterventionsthataresupportedbyrigorousevidence).

      Once I've gone through these, I'm going to do a little more work on the remaining major gaps in my understanding of general aid Q's (harms of aid; allocation of funding) and then focus on getting in touch with people.  To reiterate, the goal of my current work is to read the basic/classic/low-hanging-fruit literature, putting us in position to ask more informed, specific, targeted questions of people who know more.
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