Choosing where to donate is incredibly difficult. Luckily, the charity evaluator GiveWell spends thousands of hours on program research each year to help people find highly-impactful giving opportunities.
In this episode, Luke sits down with Neil Buddy Shah, GiveWell's managing director at the time of recording, for a deep dive into GiveWell's work. We cover GiveWell's origin, approaches, and focus areas, as well as Buddy's personal background and relationship to effective giving. We also discuss why funding gaps exist despite foreign aid, and the important role donors play in improving people's lives. Buddy responds to some common critiques of GiveWell's work, and clarifies some misconceptions about how the organisation operates.
Neil Buddy Shah is now the CEO of The Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).
Note: This interview was recorded in April 2022. GiveWell has since updated its cost-effectiveness bar to be higher than it was at the time of recording.
A shorter version of this interview is available on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/BC64OnNHH9A
👉To learn more about GiveWell, visit their website: www.givewell.org
00:00 - Introduction
02:12 - GiveWell's origin
02:57 - GiveWell's goals and research approaches
06:39 - How does GiveWell define and measure effectiveness?
09:52 - Can you talk more about how GiveWell calculates cost-effectiveness?
10:52 - How does GiveWell evaluate impact that is harder to measure?
14:50 - Transparency
15:15 - The importance of small donors
19:40 - Why does GiveWell roll over funds when highly-effective organisations still have funding gaps?
22:50 - Critic's question: does GiveWell only focus on "measurable" programs and ignore policy/advocacy initiatives?
26:06 - Can you talk more about the concept of fungibility?
29:30 - Critic's question: GiveWell primarily focuses on health-based approaches to poverty alleviation. What about economic approaches?
32:12 - Critic's question: Do GiveWell's recommendations take into account the needs and preferences of the communities they aim to serve?
36:08 - Does the continued existence of extremely cost-effective giving opportunities like the Against Malaria Foundation indicate a failure of the public sector?
39:17 - People's reactions to the cost to save a life (and other striking figures!)
43:12 - Why aren't GiveWell's recommended programs funded by government foreign aid organisations?
46:43 - GiveWell's role in grantmaking
50:22 - Clarifying additional common misconceptions about GiveWell
52:56 - Buddy's personal background and relationship to effective giving
56:30 - Buddy's ask for listeners
Production: Grace Adams
Video/audio editor: Marco Shimabukuro
Interviewer: Luke Freeman
Guest: Neil Buddy Shah
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