The Open Philanthropy Blog

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’re starting a new initiative, GiveWell Labs, an arm of our research process that will be open to any giving opportunity, no matter what form and what sector.

This post lays out, very broadly, what qualities we are looking for in giving opportunities. Future posts will elaborate on each of these criteria, and we will also discuss how we think these criteria apply to specific areas of philanthropy. Readers will hopefully be left with a strong sense of our beliefs and biases and what we’re looking for.

The main things we’re looking for in a giving opportunity are:

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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’re starting a new initiative, GiveWell Labs, an arm of our research process that will be open to any giving opportunity, no matter what form and what sector.

One of the major challenges of this initiative (as mentioned in the previous post) will be remaining systematic and transparent despite the very broad mandate of GiveWell labs. It’s core to GiveWell that the thinking behind our recommendations

  • Comes from reasoning and principles that are applied consistently, not from whims.
  • Is transparent, i.e., interested people can read up on why we made the decisions we did and judge our thinking for themselves, with as little need as possible to have trust in us.

This post lays out our plan for accomplishing these.

Process

While we reserve the right to change plans mid-stream, our basic planned process is:

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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 previously announced GiveWell Labs, a new arm of our research process that will be open to any giving opportunity, no matter what form and what sector. Here I share a bit more of the thinking behind why we’re doing this.

What we’re trying to accomplish with this initiative

Our goals are twofold:

Find better giving opportunities. When we laid out our main goals for 2011, #1 was finding more great giving opportunities, and our possible strategies for doing so involved (a) broadening our scope (b) considering project-based funding. With GiveWell Labs, we are doing both simultaneously.

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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.

The research we’ve been doing for the last couple of years has been constrained in a couple of key ways:

  • We’ve pre-declared areas of focus (based on our guesses as to where the most promising charities would be found), and disqualified charities for recommendations on the basis of their being “out of scope” (though we’ve been gradually broadening our scope).
  • We’ve needed to decide which organizations to recommend without being able to say in advance how much money would go to them as a result. This has led to challenges with the question of “room for more funding.” We’ve had to find charities that could essentially use any amount of funding (large or small) productively, and this has drastically narrowed our options.

We’re now launching a new initiative within GiveWell that will not be subject to either of these constraints. We plan to invest about 25% of our research time in what we’re calling GiveWell Labs: an arm of our research process that will be open to any giving opportunity, no matter what form and what sector.

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