May 2012

GiveWell Labs Update and Priority Causes

Note: The Open Philanthropy Project was formerly known as GiveWell Labs. Before the launch of the Open Philanthropy Project Blog, this post appeared on the GiveWell Blog. Uses of “we” and “our” in the below post may refer to the Open Philanthropy Project or to GiveWell as an organization. Additional comments may be available at the original post.

Over the past few months, the main focus of GiveWell Labs has been strategic cause selection. Before diving into a particular cause, we want to make sure we’ve done a reasonable amount of work looking at all our options and picking our causes strategically.

What Large-Scale Philanthropy Focuses On Today

Note: The Open Philanthropy Project was formerly known as GiveWell Labs. Before the launch of the Open Philanthropy Project Blog, this post appeared on the GiveWell Blog. Uses of “we” and “our” in the below post may refer to the Open Philanthropy Project or to GiveWell as an organization. Additional comments may be available at the original post.

We think there are two key questions for someone trying to do strategic cause selection: (1) What is the history of philanthropy - what’s worked and what hasn’t? (2) What is the current state of philanthropy - what are philanthropists focused on and what might they be overlooking?

Strategic Cause Selection

Note: The Open Philanthropy Project was formerly known as GiveWell Labs. Before the launch of the Open Philanthropy Project Blog, this post appeared on the GiveWell Blog. Uses of “we” and “our” in the below post may refer to the Open Philanthropy Project or to GiveWell as an organization. Additional comments may be available at the original post.

Our picture of how most major foundations work is as follows: