We believe it’s important for philanthropists to make deliberate, long-term commitments to causes (more). A “cause” is the field around a particular problem or opportunity — such as reforming the criminal justice system, preventing pandemics, or reducing the burden of Alzheimer’s disease — in which it’s necessary to develop expertise and networks to make good giving decisions. We refer to the causes we’re prioritizing most highly as focus areas. We’ve cast a wide net for potential focus areas, incorporating information on the history of philanthropy as well as what today’s foundations focus on. We’ve sought focus areas that are strong on some combination of the following criteria:

  • Importance: How many individuals does this issue affect, and how deeply?
  • Neglectedness: All else equal, we prefer causes that receive less attention from other actors, particularly other major philanthropists.
  • Tractability: We look for clear ways in which a funder could contribute to progress.

So far, we’ve concentrated on selecting focus areas in four broad categories: U.S. policy, global catastrophic risks, scientific research, and global health & development. There’s a strong conceptual case that philanthropy could go particularly far in each of these categories, and they include most of the causes we’ve found compelling. Read more about our process here.

U.S. Policy

Philanthropy can have an especially big impact by helping to improve policy.

Many compelling causes, such as Criminal Justice Reform and Immigration Policy, revolve around opportunities to improve government policy. Better policy could reduce both global and U.S. poverty, increase innovation, accelerate economic growth, and more. Our policy-oriented work focuses on the U.S. currently, for practical reasons.

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Global Catastrophic Risks

Risks that could threaten humanity’s long-term future deserve special attention.

We believe that ongoing economic, social and technological progress will likely lead to an extraordinarily bright future. At the same time, as the world becomes more interconnected, the magnitude and implications of the worst-case scenarios may be rising. Governments and corporations aren’t necessarily incentivized to focus on preparing for potentially globally disruptive events, so we’re seeking opportunities to help civilization become more robust.

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Scientific Research

Scientific research can lead to breakthroughs that transform the world. Philanthropy can support science that governments and corporations won’t.

Possible approaches include supporting Breakthrough Fundamental Science, funding work on neglected diseases and conditions, and/or working to improve science policy and infrastructure. We are currently focused on building our capacity for this work by hiring scientific advisors.

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We have not yet identified focus areas for this category.

Global Health & Development

We believe that every life has equal value, and that philanthropic dollars can go particularly far by helping those who are living in poverty by global standards.

Currently, the best giving opportunities we’ve found in this category are GiveWell’s top charities. (Read more about the Open Philanthropy Project’s relationship to GiveWell here). In the future, we hope to consider causes in global health & development that do not fit within GiveWell’s framework.

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We have not yet identified focus areas for this category.