The world can be a lot better than it currently is, with a lot less suffering and a lot more happiness for everyone. We can all help shape that world, but in order to do so we need to use our resources strategically, and use evidence and reason to inform our giving. We need both our hearts and our heads, because doing good is not easy. This portfolio tries to identify the best donation opportunities that, on a global scale, work to prevent suffering and to provide long-term happiness.
In my giving and recommendations I combine the principles of effective altruism with my vision of a happier world. That means asking: is this truly, given all the information I have, the most effective way these resources could be applied to increase well-being? Seriously considering this question is essential, as charities may differ in cost-effectiveness by up to a hundredfold or more. Choosing the right cause and organisation can hence be as important as giving a hundred times more.
For my portfolio of recommendations I balance long-term high-risk high-gain opportunities with shorter-term highly evidenced ‘sure bets’. I also balance opportunities that directly address a problem with those that indirectly contribute towards solving it, for instance by causing more resources to be directed in the right direction. These strategic, indirect approaches often provide a ‘multiplier effect’: any amount of money invested in them can cause a multiple of the amount to be spent on directly solving a problem.
The organisations in this portfolio work on some of the world’s most pressing though often neglected problems related to global well-being; have all shown to be highly effective at what they do; and base their decisions on where they can have the most impact. I expect any giving directed towards them to make a disproportionately large contribution to a better, happier world.
The values that drive my giving are: preventing suffering and increasing well-being; relying on evidence and reason; maximizing impact
About the curator
I work at Founders Pledge, an organisation whose members have collectively pledged more than $510 million dollars to charity. As a researcher, I try to identify the best donation opportunities in a variety of cause areas, and use this knowledge to help our members have the largest possible impact with their giving.
Before working at Founders Pledge I founded the Dutch nonprofit Effective Altruism Netherlands, which tries to build a community of people in the Netherlands that use their resources (both time and money) to maximally contribute to a better world.
I have a BSc in Liberal Arts and Sciences (with a major in mathematics and quantum physics) from University College Utrecht, Utrecht University, and an MSc in Operations Research and Management Science (a combination of mathematics, economics and econometrics) from Tilburg University.
Opportunities in this portfolio
Americans for Oxford Inc (AFO)
Future of Humanity Institute
The Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) at the University of Oxford does research to contribute to a long and flourishing future for humanity. It works on some of the questions that might be most relevant to it. FHI arguably is and has been the world’s most influential organisation in field of ‘existential risk reduction’: combating the largest risks facing humanity as a whole. The reasoning to work on this is easy but compelling: even if we cure all disease and establish world peace, that doesn’t mean much anymore if humanity goes extinct. Many of the most important ideas in this field have originated at FHI, and it has had a significant part in the growing global attention for it. FHI focuses on problems such as nuclear war, pandemics and the risks associated with highly capable artificial intelligence, and has made measurable progress, both in developing strategies to deal with them and in raising attention for these at the policy level. Given what’s at stake here, FHI may already have made an incredible impact, and is likely to continue doing so. I recommend FHI as a unique opportunity to contribute to a positive long-term future for humanity as a whole.
Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA)
80,000 Hours provides well-researched, tailored advice for a high-impact career, and is the perfect example of an organisation that has a ‘multiplier effect’: any money donated to them can result in a many more dollars and, in this case, hours spent on solving important problems. They are one of the few nonprofits that have gone through Y Combinator, widely seen as the world’s best startup accelerator (AirBnB, Reddit and Dropbox are examples of its graduates). They have proven to be highly transparent and efficient; they set clear targets and consistently measure, report, and improve upon their impact; and they do not only share their successes but also their mistakes, so that others can learn from them. This organisation takes their impact extremely seriously. Over the past five years, their work has lead to more than 3000 recorded significant career plan changes, people now working (more effectively) on some of the world’s most important problems. And all of this has been accomplished by a team of less than 10 FTE. I highly recommend 80,000 Hours as maybe not the most intuitive and direct, but likely one of the most cost-effective ways to contribute to global well-being.
SM general operating
StrongMinds implements a scalable and likely very cost-effective intervention to tackle depression among women in Africa. They provide community-based interpersonal group therapy, and train previous participants to start their own groups after completing the programme. There is fairly strong evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of StrongMinds’s intervention. Our research at Founders Pledge suggests they could avert a Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) for as little as every $150 - $500 donated. Here a DALY refers to the equivalent of the loss of a year of fully healthy life, which includes both loss of actual time lived and loss in quality of life. As a comparison, the British National Health Service (NHS) would still consider it cost-effective to avert a DALY for as much as 50 - 100 times this estimated cost. Moreover, this health effect estimate doesn’t include any of the wider benefits that might come from treating depression, such as economic effects. Lastly, there are good reasons to believe the DALY metric underestimates the true burden of mental health issues like depression, as it is largely based on judgements of people that haven’t experienced depression themselves. This means StrongMinds’ impact might be even larger than the figure provided. StrongMinds has so far mainly implemented its intervention in Uganda, but aims to expand to other African countries with the ambition to treat 2 million women with depression by 2025. It could productively use millions of extra funds to make this scale-up possible.
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