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The Open Philanthropy Blog
March 30, 2018
There’s an adage about philanthropists: “when you become a philanthropist you never again eat a bad meal or tell a bad joke.”
Being a funder comes with unusual challenges to activities as simple as gathering feedback, exchanging ideas, and expressing opinions:
- It can be extremely difficult to get honest, critical feedback from potential grantees (who often fear that giving critical feedback could jeopardize their funding).
- Tentative or unconsidered program officer feedback can have more effect than intended in shaping potential grantee priorities, even if the program officer only meant to offer a consideration or idea.
- It is easy to “lead people on” and waste their time, even when we aren’t trying to do so. Expressing even casual interest in something can be interpreted by a prospective grantee as encouragement to put a great deal of planning and work into things they hope we’ll fund.
March 20, 2018
March 9, 2018
The Open Philanthropy Project’s mission is to give as effectively as we can and share our findings openly so that anyone can build on our work. When we first started making grants, we tended to assume that would mean conducting and publishing in-depth reviews of the performance of each grant. But as our first grants have wound down, we’ve spent more time evaluating and reflecting on the work we’ve done so far, and have developed a new framework to guide our approach to grant check-ins.Read More
February 14, 2018
We’ve recently posted a number of new openings to our jobs page, including:
- Generalist Research Analyst and Senior Research Analyst opportunities; we hope to hire several in 2018. We intend to invest heavily in training and mentoring these hires, in the hopes that over the long run they will have the potential to become core contributors to the organization. We recommend submitting applications for this role by May 6, 2018.
- Opportunities to specialize in a number of key analyses relevant to potential risks from advanced artificial intelligence: AI alignment research, AI timelines, and AI governance and strategy. Applicants who have extremely strong existing qualifications for these roles should apply directly for them; however we also see the Research Analyst role mentioned above as a potential route to roles like these.
- A number of other opportunities: Grants Associate, Operations Associate, and General Counsel.
History of Philanthropy Case Study: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and State EITC Programs
February 2, 2018
Suzanne Kahn, a consultant who has been working with us as part of our History of Philanthropy project, recently finished a case study on the role of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) in state-level Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) programs. This report is a follow-up to her earlier report on CBPP’s founding and early growth, and investigates CBPP’s claim that CBPP “created the concept of state EITCs and… developed state issue campaigns to secure their adoption. Before we started this work, no state had its own EITC; today, 26 do.”
The report finds that:Read More
January 26, 2018
Last year, we wrote:
A major goal of 2017 will be to reach and publish better-developed views on:
- Which worldviews we find most plausible: for example, how we allocate resources between giving that primarily focuses on present-day human welfare vs. present-day animal welfare vs. global catastrophic risks.
- How we allocate resources among worldviews.
- How we determine whether it’s better to make a given grant or save the money for a later date.
This post gives an update on this work.
The questions we’re tackling here are complex, and we are still far from having a fully developed framework.
However, we do have a tentative high-level approach to these questions, and some rough expectations about a few high-level conclusions (at least as far as the next few years are concerned). Hopefully, laying these out will clarify - among other things - (a) why we continue to work on multiple highly disparate causes; (b) ranges for what sort of budgets we expect in the next few years for each of the focus areas we currently work in; (c) how we decided how much to recommend that Good Ventures donate to GiveWell’s top charities for 2017.
In brief:Read More
January 18, 2018
Note: This post originally appeared in the monthly farm animal welfare newsletter written by Lewis Bollard, our program officer for farm animal welfare. Sign up here to receive an email each month with Lewis’ research and insights into a farm animal advocacy research topic. We decided to cross-post this one because we thought it was especially interesting and wanted to make people aware of Lewis’ newsletter, but note that the newsletter is not thoroughly vetted by other staff and does not necessarily represent consensus views of the Open Philanthropy Project as a whole.
When we think of farm animals, we likely don’t think of carp. But this family of freshwater fish — which includes the three most populous farmed fish species in the world: crucian carp, silver carp, and catla — is likely the most numerous farmed vertebrate animal in the world, with an estimated 25-95 billion farmed every year. (About 62 billion chickens are farmed every year, but each is farmed for just 5-8 weeks, whereas carp are farmed for 12-14 months, meaning far more carp are alive at any given time.)
Fish are the forgotten farm animal. Of the more than 100 undercover investigations that U.S. animal advocates have done to expose abuse of farm animals, just one focused on fish. For a long time scientists questioned if fish could feel pain, though our internal investigation suggests there’s about as much evidence for some fish being able to feel pain as there is for birds.Read More
History of Philanthropy Case Study: Clinton Health Access Initiative’s Role in Global Price Drops for Antiretroviral Drugs
January 10, 2018
A little over a year ago, the HistPhil blog put up a post by Tamara Mann Tweel about a now-published report we commissioned her to work on, regarding the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)’s role in global price drops for antiretroviral drugs (which can be crucial in treating HIV/AIDS).
The HistPhil post states:
Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) went down from 10,000 – $15,000 per person per year to $140 per person per year between 2000 and 2005. This price drop inspired governments and international bodies to purchase ARVs and administer therapy to millions of individuals stricken with HIV/AIDS.
While the Clinton Foundation often receives credit for the entirety of the ARV price drop, my report affirmed scholarship that claimed the price drop actually occurred in three stages. The first, from $15,000 per person per year to approximately $1000 per person per year in specific cases, can be attributed to activists persuading pharmaceutical companies to offer philanthropic prices to discreet pilot projects; the second price drop, from approximately $1000 per person per year to approximately $350 per person per year, can be attributed to the active creation of an international generic drug market; and the final drop, from $350 to $140, can be attributed to deliberate market interventions into the generic market by the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).
As discussed in the full report, this three-stage price drop corresponded to a massive increase in the purchases of antivirals (especially by governments and nonprofits); we haven’t specifically estimated the deaths averted by this development, but feel confident that it qualifies as the sort of hit we’re interested in.
We don’t feel fully confident that any particular funder or nonprofit was crucial to the price drop. The key things we learned from the report were that:Read More
December 21, 2017
Last year and the year before, we published a set of suggestions for individual donors looking for organizations to support. This year, we are repeating the practice and publishing updated suggestions from Open Philanthropy Project staff who chose to provide them.
The same caveats as in previous years apply:
- These are reasonably strong options in causes of interest, and shouldn’t be taken as outright recommendations (i.e., it isn’t necessarily the case that the person making the suggestion thinks they’re the best option available across all causes). Note that interested staff wrote separately about where they personally donated, in this post.
- In many cases, we find a funding gap we’d like to fill, and then we recommend filling the entire funding gap with a single grant. That doesn’t leave much scope for making a suggestion for individuals. The cases listed below, then, are the cases where, for one reason or another, we haven’t decided to recommend filling an organization’s full funding gap, and we believe it could make use of fairly arbitrary amounts of donations from individuals.
- Our explanations for why these are strong giving opportunities are very brief and informal, and we don’t expect individuals to be persuaded by them unless they put a lot of weight on the judgment of the person making the suggestion.
December 20, 2017
As part of getting started in science funding, we’ve explored several different methods of finding high-impact giving opportunities, including scanning published research, networking in fields of interest, and considering proposals sent to us by people we know. We recently announced four grants totalling $10.8 million that represent another approach: piggybacking on a government grant program designed to find transformative research.
The approach, in brief:
- The National Institutes of Health has a program specifically for higher-risk, high-impact research.
- The NIH has been able to fund only a small portion of proposals received through that program. Some projects considered worthy by peer review were ultimately rejected.
- The NIH sent out a notice on our behalf to all unfunded 2016 applicants, and more than half re-submitted their applications to us. We received 120 proposals in three weeks.
- We viewed this RFP as a way to both identify high-risk, high-reward projects and to test our hypothesis that high-risk, high-reward research is underfunded in general.