ToniA comments on ACE's Response to John Halstead - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: ToniA 10 September 2018 03:18:23PM 0 points [-]

Hi Adom,

Thanks for your post, and no worries about asking questions we’ve answered elsewhere; we have a lot of research on our website, so we don’t expect anyone to know about all of it!

When I said that we consider each criterion to be an indication of a charity's marginal cost-effectiveness “independently” of the charity's average cost-effectiveness, I meant that—regardless of whether the charity has a high average cost-effectiveness or not—we still consider our six other criteria to be indications of marginal cost-effectiveness. There’s no one or two (or three, or four…) criteria that we think are perfect indications of marginal cost-effectiveness, though we think that all seven of them together are a very good indication. We discuss this a bit in our page on cost-effectiveness estimates, here: https://animalcharityevaluators.org/research/methodology/our-use-of-cost-effectiveness-estimates/

I won’t write more about this right now because we actually have a forthcoming blog post about how we weigh our criteria against each other to make our recommendation decisions. It’s being edited now and then we’ll likely seek external feedback before publishing, so I’d expect it in a month or so.

“It seems to me that a compellingly positive CEE, primary evidence or no, is nonetheless a necessary component in the belief that an organization will improve welfare, particularly if one has a pessimistic prior.”

We think it’s totally possible to make well-reasoned, evidence-based decisions about how to help animals, even in the absence of quantitative CEEs. After all, we don’t even publish quantitative CEEs for some charities that we review (especially if they are working towards long-term or difficult-to-measure outcomes). Take The Good Food Institute, for example. They are one of our Top Charities, but we have not published a quantitative CEE for them. It would be very difficult for us to quantitatively estimate the good they have done so far, since they are working to change the food system in a way that could take years or even decades. Still, we think they have excellent leadership, strong strategy, a healthy culture, we think their programs are likely to have a high long-term impact, and so on. We explain why in their review, and we think we’ve provided a compelling case for donating to them based on their marginal cost-effectiveness.

Regarding your question about “material explicating and justifying [ACE’s] understanding of this systemic/hard-to-quantify value,” we explain some of our thinking about long-term outcomes on the page about our cost-effectiveness estimates, linked above. If you’re asking for explanations of our assessment of the long-term value of particular charities or interventions, that would be in each charity review (mostly discussed in the “high-impact” section with the theories of change) and in our specific intervention reports. For instance, our protest report discusses the importance of movement building.

Hope that helps to answer some of your questions, and watch our blog for the post on our weighing of each criterion!

Best, Toni