Evidence based work in the non-profit sector: the perspective of effective altruism.

One of the first questions anyone involved in the charity/NGO sector asks themselves is, what cause do I want to pursue? For some, the answer to this question is clear. They may have already started their own organisation or become involved with an existing institution which is working in a particular cause area because they are driven to pursue a certain cause. Others may just want to do good in the world, but be unsure where or how they can do this best.

It is worthwhile for everyone to ask themselves about the cause they wish to pursue, and to interrogate this question in detail. There are many, many worthwhile causes to pursue, from concrete public health challenges such as fighting malaria to more abstract goals such as tackling loneliness worldwide. However, there are reasons, besides personal feelings, that you may wish to choose one over another. Some require particular human resources but not others, and so you will have the most impact if you go into an area where your skillset is most useful. If you are a doctor, for example, you may have more impact working in an area related to public health in developing world. In other cause areas, on the other hand, monetary resources may be more needed than human ones, and simply donating a portion of your salary may be the best way to make an impact. This has been the case, for example, in fighting malaria, where relatively modest investments simply buying malaria nets have saved countless lives.

When you are thinking about these questions it is worth taking a look at the Effective Altruism movement. This is a global community composed on people who care about doing the most good possible in the world, and takes an evidence-based approach to the charity and non-profit sector. The community has treated the question of what cause you should focus on in incredible detail, and you are unlikely to come across a better resource with which to answer this question.

Baithak isn’t an “EA blog” – there are enough of those out there – but the Effective Altruism movement is one of the best places to start if you want to work out what cause areas are particularly worth focusing on, and how to orientate your big-picture vision on the charity and non-profit space. The Effective Altruist motto of “doing good better” is one we can all get behind, and their analytic approach can really help you to maximise the impact of your efforts to make the world a better place.


How to learn more about Effective altruism:

Peter Singer’s TED Talk on Effective Altruism

Online review of William MacAskill’s ‘Doing Good Better’

Introduction to Effective Altruism