2022 was a big year for Open Philanthropy:
- We recommended over $650 million in grants — more, by far, than in any other year of our history. [More]
- We hired our first program officers for three new focus areas in our Global Health and Wellbeing portfolio. [More]
- Within our Longtermism portfolio, we significantly expanded our grantmaking and used a series of open calls to identify hundreds of promising grants to individuals and small projects. [More]
- We ran the Regranting Challenge, a novel experiment which allocated $150 million to outstanding programs at other grantmaking organizations. [More]
- We nearly doubled the size of our team. [More]
This post compares our progress with the goals we set forth a year ago, and lays out our plans for the coming year, including:
- A significant update on how we handle allocating our grantmaking across causes. [More]
- A potential leadership transition. [More]
- Continued growth in grantmaking and staff. [More]
Last year, we wrote:
We aim to roughly double the amount [of funding] we recommend [in 2022] relative to , and triple it by 2025.
In 2022, we recommended over $650 million in grants (up from roughly $400 million in 2021).
We changed our plans midway through the year, due to a stock market declineThis just reflects a decline in the market; our main donors are still planning to give away virtually all of their wealth within their lifetimes. that reduced our available assets and led us to adjust the cost-effectiveness bar we use for our spending on global health and wellbeing. When we wrote last year’s post, we had tentatively planned to allocate $500 million to GiveWell’s recommended charities; the actual allocation wound up being $350 million (up from $300 million in 2021).
Currently, we expect to recommend over $700 million in grants in 2023, and no longer have a definite grantmaking goal for 2024 and 2025.
Highlights from this year’s grantmaking
This section outlines some of the major grants we made across our program areas.
In grants to charities recommended by GiveWell:
- $10.4 million to the Clinton Health Access Initiative to support their Incubator program, which looks for cost-effective and scalable health interventions.
- $13.7 million to New Incentives for conditional cash transfers to boost vaccination rates in Nigeria.
- $4.4 million to Evidence Action to support their in-line chlorination program in Malawi.
- We also made a $48.8 million grant to the same program with funds from our 2021 allocation.
- Many other grants we haven’t listed here (see our full list of GiveWell-recommended grants).
In potential risks from advanced AI:
- Redwood Research to support their research on aligning AI systems.
- Center for a New American Security to support their work on AI policy and governance.
- A number of projects related to understanding and aligning deep learning systems.
In biosecurity and pandemic preparedness:
- Columbia University to support research on far-UVC light to reduce airborne disease transmission.
- Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense to support work on biodefense policy in the US.
- The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security to support their degree program for students pursuing careers in biosecurity.
In effective altruism community growth (with a focus on longtermism):
- 80,000 Hours (marketing and general support) for its work to help people have more impact with their careers.
- Support for the translation of effective altruism-related content into non-English languages.
- Bluedot Impact to run courses related to several of our priority cause areas.
- Asterisk to publish a quarterly journal focused on topics related to effective altruism, among others.
- A program open to applications from grantees of the FTX Future Fund who were affected by the collapse of FTX in November 2022.
In effective altruism community growth (with a focus on global health and wellbeing):
- Effektiv Spenden to support their work raising funds for highly effective charities from German speakers, and Ayuda Efectiva for similar work with Spanish speakers.
- One for the World to support their outreach, focused on university campuses, aimed at encouraging people to pledge a fraction of their income to highly effective charities.
In farm animal welfare:
- Mercy for Animals to support corporate campaigns for broiler chicken welfare and cage-free reforms.
- Sinergia to support corporate campaigns for farm animal welfare in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
- Eurogroup for Animals for their work on farm animal welfare in Europe.
- The Accountability Board for investor advocacy campaigns aimed at speeding up the implementation of corporate farm animal welfare pledges.
In scientific research:
- University of Georgia and Yale University for a collaboration on malaria vaccine research.
- Translational Health Science and Technology Institute for their work on henipavirus antivirals.
- University of California, Berkeley to continue our support for Dr. Irina Conboy’s research on the mechanisms of aging.
- University of Connecticut Health Center and Flanders Institute to support their collaboration with the University of Washington (which received a grant in 2021) on a vaccine against syphilis.
- Our scientific research team also joined with teams from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Novo Nordisk Foundation to launch Pandemic Antiviral Discovery, which is an initiative aimed at catalyzing the discovery and early development of antiviral medicines to prepare for future pandemics.
In global aid policy:
- One major line of grantmaking was aid policy and advocacy in Japan and Korea. This includes grants to youth advocacy incubator PoliPoli, and to Malaria No More to expand their “malaria diplomacy” work in Japan and Korea.
- A second major line of grantmaking was support for USAID’s Chief Economist’s office, including to the Center for Global Development and International Rescue Committee to place staff in that office.
In South Asian air quality:
- A collaboration between several institutions to support their work building a new tool to model air pollution in India.
- GDi Partners to support their work on air quality governance among regional governments in India.
New focus areas
Last year, we wrote:
We also announced plans to launch another new focus area: supporting the effective altruism community with a focus on global health and wellbeing. We are still in the process of hiring a program officer to lead this area.
This year, our global health and wellbeing cause prioritization team aims to launch three more new focus areas where we can find scalable opportunities above our bar, and to continue laying the groundwork for more growth in future years.
Since then, we hired a program officer, James Snowden, to lead our new focus area of EA Community Growth with a focus on global health and wellbeing. James has already recommended several grants.
We’ve also hired grantmakers in two additional areas (compared to our expectation of three):
- Research Fellow Matt Clancy is leading research and grantmaking on Science and Innovation Policy to safely accelerate scientific progress and innovation.
- Two new program officers — Katharine Collins and Ray Kennedy — are working on another new program, Global Health Research and Development (GHR&D).
- This program serves to expand on the work of our Scientific Research team by recruiting staff with more specialized experience to focus on diseases that disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
- Historically, some of the science team’s giving has been focused on these diseases — for example, work on malaria and syphilis – while the rest has been focused on other areas of science that appear neglected or potentially transformative, but don’t have the same LMIC focus — for example, aging.
- The new GHR&D team will work closely with our existing Scientific Research team and make grants to support scientific research, the development of new products, and efforts to make products more affordable and accessible.
Grantmaking through open calls
Last year, we wrote:
This year, we created a number of new programs to openly solicit funding requests from individuals, groups, and organizations. This represents a different approach from the proactive searching and networking we use to find most of our grants, and we are excited by the potential for these programs to unearth strong opportunities we wouldn’t have found otherwise.
The largest such program is our Regranting Challenge, which will allocate $150 million in funding to the grantmaking budgets for one to five outstanding programs at other foundations. That program is closed to new submissions, but we’ve listed many programs that are open to submissions on our “How to Apply for Funding” page.
Since then, we’ve chosen the awardees for our Regranting Challenge. We consider the Challenge a success — we allocated all funds to programs we estimate will meet or exceed our global health and wellbeing cost-effectiveness bar, and we received a larger, stronger, and broader set of applications than we expected.
We’ve also continued issuing open calls for applications or proposals for funding on the longtermist side. These calls led to funding for scholarship support, for recipients of our University Organizer Fellowship, for alignment projects working with deep learning systems, for the development of university courses related to Open Philanthropy’s grantmaking, and for translation projects related to effective altruism (this list is not exhaustive).
Several of our open calls are still in progress; you can view them on our “How to Apply for Funding” page.
Research and cause prioritization
Last year, we ran our Cause Exploration Prizes, and awarded prizes to more than 150 applicants who wrote on topics relevant to cause prioritization at Open Philanthropy.
Our Global Health and Wellbeing team also continued its work on cause prioritization research to identify highly impactful causes within the Global Health and Wellbeing portfolio. We published several examples of this work:
- Lauren Gilbert’s shallow cause investigations on telecommunications in LMICs and civil conflict reduction.
- Helen Kissel’s shallow cause investigation on tobacco control.
- Tom Davidson’s research on social returns to productivity growth.
We’ve published many other pieces this year about our research and grantmaking, including work published by Open Philanthropy staff on the Effective Altruism Forum and elsewhere:
- David Roodman on returns to education in Indonesia.
- Tom Davidson on modeling AI takeoff speeds using a compute-centric framework.
- James Snowden on the spillover effects of mental healthcare.
- Lauren Gilbert on electricity shortages in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Javier Prieto on assessing Open Phil’s internal forecasting.
Open Philanthropy staff also produced many other public pieces of work this year:
- Ajeya Cotra was named a member of the Future Perfect 50, spoke to the New York Times about AI progress in August and December, and appeared on the Clearer Thinking Podcast. She also co-founded a new blog, Planned Obsolescence.
- Lewis Bollard appeared on the Neoliberal Podcast.
- Matt Clancy appeared on Narratives and several other podcasts.
- Holden Karnofsky appeared on several podcasts: Lunar Society, Wild, and The Gray Area.
- Holden, Matt, and Joe Carlsmith continued to publish content on their blogs. Luca Righetti continued to co-host the Hear This Idea podcast.
Last year, we wrote:
As we scale up our grantmaking, we’ll need to grow our staff to match. Accordingly, we plan to hire more than 30 people this year, and over 100 people in the next four years.
This represents massive growth compared to past years, which is an exciting opportunity and an immense challenge.
Since this update, we’ve hired 38 more staff members! We won’t list them all here, but you can see them on our team page.
Plans for 2023
This section outlines some of what Open Philanthropy is working on in 2023. This is far from a complete list — expect more updates on our blog throughout the year!
Revisiting funding allocation between portfolios
This year, Open Philanthropy is revisiting the way we allocate funding between our longtermist and global health and wellbeing (GHW) portfolios.
Historically, our longtermist spending was limited mostly by the size and number of opportunities for productive grantmaking.Through 2022, roughly 70% of our total funding went toward areas in our GHW portfolio, and 30% went toward areas in our longtermist portfolio. Over the past few years, our longtermist grantmaking areas have matured to the point that we believe they can productively absorb more spending than before (which prompted growth in our longtermist spending in 2022). At the same time, our available assets lost almost half their value over the course of 2022, which makes tradeoffs much more direct. In the fall of 2022, we decided we should revisit the important question of how best to allocate resources across our portfolios.
Over the course of this year, we aim to revisit our historical allocation across worldviews and decide whether and how to change it going forward. We expect to end 2023 with an updated “house view” on how best to allocate assets across worldviews in the near term, as well as a plan for how we should review and update that allocation over time.
My Co-CEO Holden Karnofsky started a leave of absence from Open Philanthropy on March 8 to explore working directly on AI safety. He is initially working on possible safety standards that could help prevent dangerous AI systems from being deployed.
We’ve been preparing for this transition for quite some time. From Holden’s announcement:
Alexander, Cari, Dustin and I have been actively discussing the path to Open Philanthropy running without me since 2018. Our mid-2021 promotion of Alexander to co-CEO was a major step in this direction (putting him in charge of more than half of the organization’s employees and giving), and this is another step, which we’ve been discussing and preparing for for over a year.
Holden plans to be on leave for at least three months, and he may transition to working on AI safety full-time after that, in which case he may leave OP to start or join another organization. While he is on leave, I am serving as the sole CEO of Open Philanthropy.
Open Philanthropy is still growing; we expect to hire more than 20 additional staff over the next year. If you want to join our team, check out the open positions on our careers page. (At the time of publishing, we’re looking for an In-House Counsel, a People Operations Assistant, and a Research Analyst and an Operations Associate for our biosecurity team). If you don’t see something you want to apply for, you can fill out our General Application, and we’ll reach out if we post a position we think might be a good fit.
Finally, we’re always looking for referrals. If you refer someone and we hire them, we’ll pay you $5,000.
|↑1||This just reflects a decline in the market; our main donors are still planning to give away virtually all of their wealth within their lifetimes.|
|↑2||Through 2022, roughly 70% of our total funding went toward areas in our GHW portfolio, and 30% went toward areas in our longtermist portfolio.|