Halstead comments on Triple counting impact in EA - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Halstead 11 June 2018 07:33:36PM *  0 points [-]

In case B, it looks to me like the donor should give to TLYCS, in certain conditions, in others not.

(a) Suppose: Because you gave to TLYCS, GiveWell does the research at a cost of $6, fundraising from an otherwise ineffective donor, and getting $10 to GW charities. In this case, your $6 has raised $10 for effective charities minus the $6 from an otherwise ineffective donor (~0 value). So, I don't think causing GW to fundraise further would be bad in this case. Coordinating with GW to just get them to fundraise for donations to their effective charities is even better in this case, but donating to TLYCS is better than doing nothing.

(b) Suppose: Same as before, except GW fundraises from an effective donor who would otherwise have given the $6 to GW charities. In this case, giving to TLYCS is worse than doing nothing because you have spent $6 getting $10 to GW charities, minus what the effective donor would have given to had you not acted (-$6 to GW charities), so you've spent $6 getting $4 to effective charities. Doing nothing would be better, as then $6 goes to effective charities.

This shows that the counterfactual impact of funged/leveraged donations needs to be considered carefully. GiveWell is starting to do this - e.g. if govt money is leveraged or funged they try to estimate the cost-effectiveness of govt money. Outside that, this is probably something EA donors should take more account of.

Another case that should be considered is causing irrational prioritisation with a given amount of funds. Imagine case (a) above except that instead of fundraising, GiveWell moves money from another research project with a counterfactual value of $9 to GW charities because they have not considering these coordination effects (they reason that $10>$9). In that case, you're spending $6 to get $10 to GW charities minus the $9 that would have gone to GW charities.

Regarding C, this seems right. It would be a mistake for the EA funds to add up its impact as the sum of the impact of each of the individual grants it has made.