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Where we stand

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  • Holden Karnofsky
    This is the first post to the new GiveWell Mailing List. The only differences with the old one are that it is now public, and now housed at Yahoo! groups
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 17, 2008
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      This is the first post to the new GiveWell Mailing List.  The only differences with the old one are that it is now public, and now housed at Yahoo! groups instead of Google groups (Yahoo! offered superior privacy for list members, as far as I could tell).

      We laid out a preliminary list of priority interventions at http://blog.givewell.net/?p=282.  Since then we've been focusing on 
      (1) Identifying more priority interventions 
      (2) Identifying charities that work on these priority interventions.

      (1): the main progress has been through Simon's volunteer work, making our list of interventions and cost-effectiveness data more complete.  The updated list is at http://blog.givewell.net/?p=279.  I will send a separate email with my notes on this sheet and the additional interventions we now think are high-priority in terms of looking into.

      (2) has been difficult.  My original hope was that by examining the DCPP and WHO pages - and making phone calls - I would locate vehicles, of some sort, for donors to support proven interventions directly (a good example of such a vehicle is http://www.measlesinitiative.org/news.asp).  However, this hasn't transpired - all the organizations I've found are multipurpose organizations with no clear answer to questions like those posed at http://blog.givewell.net/?p=290.  I will send an example conversation in a separate email.  That leaves us with the challenge of finding the most promising such organizations to focus our evaluative efforts on.  We have a couple of ways to do this:
      1. We have a relatively complete list of US-registered international aid organizations, and we are currently setting up / formalizing a process for examining their websites and simply *listing all the activities they work on* (in consistent terms).  We hope that if we can formalize this process well enough, we will be able to complete it with the help of volunteers (and, if necessary, contractors), and at that point we'll be able to identify the charities whose full set of activities matches best with our list of the most promising interventions.  We call this the "by-charity" approach to finding charities: go through all charities, list what they do, and look for the ones that focus on priority interventions.
      2. We're also interested in trying to use the existing academic literature to find good charities.  The idea is to look at the literature being cited by DCP2 (and CC, etc.) as evidence that a given intervention works, and see if that literature mentions specific charities that worked on the evaluated programs.   Any such charities could be assumed to have some "track record" of carrying out the intervention in question successfully, and would be worth investigating further.  (For example, much of the academic literature on early childhood care mentions NFP, which is how we found that org earlier this year.)  
      We are also planning on calling some of the really huge charities (CARE, UNICEF, etc.) in the hopes of getting a better sense of how they work.  Our current picture, based largely on our experiences working with them last year, is that they have little top-level strategy/coordination and are instead best thought of as "coalitions" of different programs, and that individual programs may have their own strengths, weaknesses, and funding structures; so there may be some potential in trying to get directly in touch with people running programs that correspond to our priority interventions.
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