The Open Philanthropy Blog

At Open Philanthropy, we aim to give as effectively as we can. To find the best opportunities, we’ve looked at many different causes, some of which have become our current focus areas.

Even after a decade of research, we think there are many excellent grantmaking ideas we haven’t yet uncovered. So we’ve launched the Cause Exploration Prizes around a set of questions that will help us explore new areas.

We’re most interested in responses to our open prompt: “What new cause area should Open Philanthropy consider funding?”

We also have prompts in the following areas:

We’re looking for responses of up to 5,000 words that clearly convey your findings. It’s fine to use bullet points and informal language. For more detail, see our guidance for authors. To submit, go to this page.

We hope that the Prizes help us to:

  • Identify new cause areas and funding strategies.
  • Develop our thinking on how best to measure impact.
  • Find people who might be a good fit to work with us in the future.

You can read more about the Cause Exploration Prizes on our dedicated website. You’ll also be able to read all of the submissions on the Effective Altruism Forum later this summer – stay tuned!

Prizes, rules, and deadlines

All work must be submitted by 11:00 pm PDT on August 4, 2022.

You are almost certainly eligible! We think these questions can be approached from many directions, and you don’t need to be an expert or have a PhD to apply.

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Open Philanthropy is seeking proposals from those interested in contributing to a research project informing and estimating biosecurity-relevant numbers and ‘base rates’. We welcome proposals from both research organizations and individuals (at any career stage, including undergraduate and postgraduate students). The work can be structured via contract or grant.

The application deadline is June 5th.

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This post compares our progress with the goals we set forth a year ago, and lays out our plans for the coming year.

In brief:

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We are searching for a program officer to help us launch a new grantmaking program. The program would support projects and organizations in the effective altruism community (EA) with a focus on improving global health and wellbeing (GHW).

Background

We have an existing program in effective altruism community growth. Like our new program, the existing program is focused on community building — increasing the number of people working to do as much good as possible with their time and resources, and helping them to work more effectively. However, the existing program evaluates grants through the lens of longtermism, focusing on projects that aim to raise the chance of a very long-lasting and positive future (including by reducing risks from existential catastrophes).

By contrast, the new program will focus on projects related to areas in our GHW portfolio, which is focused on improving health and wellbeing for humans and animals around the world. This portfolio currently includes our work on global health and development, farm animal welfare, global aid advocacy, South Asian air quality, and scientific research; our cause prioritization team is also actively working to identify additional cause areas.

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Open Philanthropy is running a $150 million Regranting Challenge, aiming to add funding to the grantmaking budgets of one to five outstanding programs at other foundations. We believe there are some excellent individual programs and whole foundations out there and we want to experiment with giving them more money to allocate rather than trying to copy their approaches.

We are looking to support high-impact programs that improve human health, facilitate economic development, and/or address climate change. By default, we will roughly aim to double a selected program’s annual grantmaking budget for three years, subject to the overall size of the Regranting Challenge and allocating funding as effectively as we can across one to five total recipients.

To learn more about the Regranting Challenge, or to apply for funding, go here.

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Last year, I wrote that Open Philanthropy was expanding and we were recruiting to help us direct philanthropic funding in new causes:

We’re hiring two new Program Officers, in South Asian air quality and global aid advocacy. Each of these Program Officers will identify specific grants and grantees that we believe can beat our 1,000x social return on investment bar. We expect these positions to be filled by grantmakers who combine deep expertise in their area, strategic vision, and a quantitative mindset. We’re looking for people who already know many potential grantee organizations and can make reasoned and balanced arguments about why their approach is likely to clear our high bar for giving. We think finding the right grantmaker is a key ingredient to our potential impact in these causes, so we may not end up going into them if we can’t find the right people.

Today, I’m excited to announce two new hires who we believe combine these qualities, and that we will be launching South Asian Air Quality and Global Aid Advocacy as our first two new causes in more than five years when these new hires join Open Philanthropy early this year.

South Asian Air Quality

Our new South Asian Air Quality program will be led by Santosh Harish. Santosh was until recently a Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, where he was a leading voice on the governance of air quality. He previously worked at the India Center of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC-India). Before that, he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow with Evidence for Policy Design India and J-PAL South Asia and received a B. Tech from IIT Madras and a PhD in Engineering & Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon.


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As we wrote last week, we’re substantially growing our overall giving in Global Health and Wellbeing, with the bar in that broad portfolio continuing to be set by the cost-effective, evidence-backed charities recommended by GiveWell. (As most of our readers know, Open Philanthropy started off as a project of GiveWell.)

Today we are excited to announce our largest-to-date support for GiveWell’s recommendations: $300 million for 2021, up from $100 million last year, with tentative plans1 to donate an additional $500 million per year in 2022 and 2023.

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In 2019, we wrote a blog post about how we think about the “bar” for our giving and how we compare different kinds of interventions to each other using back-of-the-envelope calculations, all within the realm of what we now call Global Health and Wellbeing (GHW). This post updates that one and:

  • Explains how we previously compared health and income gains in comparable units. In short, we use a logarithmic model of the utility of income, so a 1% change in income is worth the same to everyone, and a dollar of income is worth 100x more to someone who has 100x less. We measure philanthropic impact in units of the welfare gained by giving a dollar to someone with an annual income of $50,000, which was roughly US GDP per capita when we adopted this framework. Under the logarithmic model, this means we value increasing 100 people’s income by 1% (i.e. a total of 1 natural log unit increase in income) at $50,000. We have previously also valued averting a disability-adjusted life year (DALY; roughly, a year of healthy life lost) at $50,000, so we valued increasing income by one natural-log unit as equal to averting 1 DALY. This would imply that a charity that could avert a DALY for $50 would have a “1,000x” return because the benefits would be $50,000 relative to the costs of $50. (More)
  • Reviews our previous “bar” for what level of cost-effectiveness a grant needed to hit to be worth making. Overall, having a single “bar” across multiple very different programs and outcome measures is an attractive feature because equalizing marginal returns across different programs is a requirement for optimizing the overall allocation of resources
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Today, we’re making three announcements:

  1. After hundreds of grants totaling more than $130 million over six years, one of our first programs – criminal justice reform (CJR) – is becoming an independent organization.
  2. The team that had been leading our CJR program, Chloe Cockburn and Jesse Rothman, is transitioning to Just Impact, which describes itself as “a criminal justice reform advisory group and fund that is focused on building the power and influence of highly strategic, directly-impacted leaders and their allies to create transformative change from the ground up”.
  3. We are helping to launch Just Impact with approximately $50 million in seed funding spread over 3.5 years.
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Open Philanthropy is expanding and we are recruiting a number of talented new hires to help us direct philanthropic funding in new-to-OP causes and to join the team that identifies new areas for grantmaking. Our Global Health and Wellbeing team – which works to improve life through causes like global development, scientific research, and farm animal welfare – is ramping up its grantmaking. The GHW team directed more than $200M in grants in 2020 and we expect that number to rise substantially in the years to come.

We’re looking for two types of roles to help us direct billions of dollars of new giving over the coming years. First, we’re looking for experts who will lead Open Philanthropy’s giving in new cause areas we’ve identified as potential focus areas. We’re hiring two new Program Officers, in South Asian air quality and global aid advocacy. Each of these Program Officers will identify specific grants and grantees that we believe can beat our 1,000x social return on investment bar.1 We expect these positions to be filled by grantmakers who combine deep expertise in their area, strategic vision, and a quantitative mindset. We’re looking for people who already know many potential grantee organizations and can make reasoned and balanced arguments about why their approach is likely to clear our high bar for giving. We think finding the right grantmaker is a key ingredient to our potential impact in these causes, so we may not end up going into them if we can’t find the right people.

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