Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 09 February 2017 04:15:39AM 10 points [-]

Awesome!

Is there a difference between donating to the Global Health and Development fund and donating to GiveWell top charities (as Elie has done with his personal donation for each of the last four years)?

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Where I gave and why in 2016

People seem to find donation decision write-ups interesting, so here's mine! Cross-posted from my blog . I’ve decided where (and how much) to donate for 2016! The punchline: I’m donating $20,000 to a donor-advised fund run by Nick Beckstead, $5,000 to GiveWell for discretionary re-granting, and $1,000 to GiveDirectly. Here’s... Read More
Comment author: Jeff_Kaufman 21 December 2016 06:19:20PM *  2 points [-]

Just saw that the transaction costs for m-pesa are quite high - the company makes ~20% profit

The transaction costs listed on the wikipedia page you cite aren't trivial, but would average well less than 20% unless most transactions are (a) very small and (b) to unregistered users. I'm missing something.

EDIT: could it just be that their profit is 20% of expenses, as opposed to 20% of the money that flows through the M-Pesa network?

maybe using crypocurrency

That article doesn't really show that cryptocurrency helps here. Mostly they're unhappy with transaction fees on international remittances, but you can have low transaction fees just by automating interactions with the money transfer organization, without going to cryptocurrency. And with cryptocurrency generally you pay someone a fee to get your money into the cryptocurrency and then your recipient pays someone else a fee to get it into their local currency.

Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 05 January 2017 09:34:51PM 2 points [-]

I think their profit is 20% of their revenue (for a money transfer company, revenue is the total fees brought in, not total money paid into the network).

Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 04 January 2017 06:13:00PM 1 point [-]

I spent about two hours looking at this in further depth and made an initial stab at modeling out the impact. I estimate an effectiveness of $200/hr (95% interval: $50/hr to $511/hr), not taking into account the value of donating the salary earned from working at Wave.

Some places where I notice we disagree or I am confused:

1.) I disagree with you here (footnote 1) that there is a 50% chance of failure (or success). I think the chance of failure could be significantly higher. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-Pesa: M-Pesa expanded to Kenya (>10M subscribers), Tanzania (5M), South Africa (100K in a year, 1M in five years), India (???), Mozambique (???), and Lesotho (???).

Also, a 2016 Vodaphone press-release suggested M-Pesa seems to have 25M customers worldwide after 10 years of effort.

Based on this, I model that a Kenya-level success (>10M subscribers) thus looks like it would have a less than 1/10 chance and a South Africa-level success (1-10M subscribers) looks like it would have a ~3/10 chance. However, I think this success figure could be lower due to diminishing marginal returns since M-Pesa has already plucked low hanging fruit. It's possible better technology could increase this chance. I'd have to know more specifically about what problems M-Pesa runs into and how these are addressed.

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2.) I think your estimate that getting M-Pesa a year earlier is only 66x worse than getting a $288 transfer from GiveDirectly is an overestimate because I expect future roll-outs will take place in countries with higher base consumption. However, as you point out, that estimate is also already an underestimate due to misunderstanding the study. I don't know how to correct for this either way, so I used the 66x number literally in my calculation.

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3.) I disagree with you here (footnote 1a) that marginal ETG donations are at GiveDirectly levels of cost-effectiveness. I expect them to continue at AMF levels (or greater) for at least a few more years, for reasons OpenPhil mentioned and Carl mentioned. I did an AMF-adjustment in my model for this reason.

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4.) I really don't know how many staff years it would take to either complete a roll-out or know that it's not going to happen and this is an important part of the model. I currently guess 5-10 full-time staff for 2-5 years, or 10-50 total staff years. This does not count field agents or other hired locals. I couldn't find any information on M-Pesa's total staff count anywhere. I note that Wave has at least 44 staff (from counting faces on the about page), but I don't know if they're all full-time or all focused on expanding cash transfers.

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5.) I'm confused about why GiveDirectly is stated to be 5x more cost-effective than AMF when from GiveWell's cost-effectiveness estimate, GiveDirectly has a median of $7702 per life saved, ranging from $2200 to $16000, excluding outliers. AMF has a median of $3282 per life saved, ranging from $2200 to $4800, excluding outliers. Together, this implies a comparison centered around 2.35x but ranging from 1x to 3.3x. Maybe I misread the sheet -- I haven't invested that much time in making sure I fully understand it yet.

Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 05 January 2017 09:33:11PM 1 point [-]

Re 1, it's worth noting that M-Pesa was administered by very different teams in different countries. In Kenya it was allowed to operate mostly as a startup with limited oversight from Safaricom (or anyone else), whereas in other countries (to varying degrees) the people running M-Pesa were constrained by stricter management from the telecom's country head. This means that there are obvious ways in which M-Pesa was executed less well in other countries. For instance, Wave integrates with M-Pesa in both Kenya and Tanzania, and despite running on exactly the same technology, the Tanzanian system's uptime is substantially worse. Similarly, the quality of their agents and their customer support staff in Tanzania is noticeably lower.

Since Wave isn't hamstrung by oversight from a stodgy and risk-averse telecom, I think you should give less weight to examples from countries other than Kenya as a base rate.

Comment author: Denkenberger 15 November 2016 02:09:28AM 3 points [-]

When this has been discussed before (e.g. here), an important paper was cited that showed that people respond even more strongly to challenge grants (people giving money unconditionally) than matching grants. This avoids the ethical difficulty.

Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 16 November 2016 04:42:17AM 6 points [-]

The difference between matching and challenge grants was not statistically significant, actually. More generally, that study's evidence is suggestive at best; it was underpowered (couldn't have distinguished a 30% increase in donations from noise) and didn't correct for multiple (12 in the field, 10 in the lab) hypothesis tests. They also mis-described what a p-value means, which doesn't directly invalidate their results but makes me pretty generally worried.

Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 08 October 2016 07:14:15PM *  2 points [-]

Sorry, I'm seeing this late, but this is an area I have some experience in, so I'll ask anyway:

Tee believes that THINK content was written more for people who already know EA.

This was definitely not my impression. For instance, the THINK's Resources page includes, as their first workshop, an "introduction to effective altruism," plus other standard intro-to-EA exercises like "guess which charity is actually effective" and intro-level modules about a number of favorite EA causes.

Has Tee spoken to anyone at THINK about why it went dormant to confirm this impression? Or about any of the other numerous failed student-outreach initiatives?

Additionally, THINK was launched at a time when the EA community was smaller. Now that the EA community has dramatically increased in size, it may be easier to attain critical mass.

Why does the size of the EA community matter if SHIC is not associating themselves with the EA community at all?


As someone who ran a student group that was at one point nominally a THINK group: I suspect the real reason THINK failed was that they didn't actually do very much. I think I met up with a THINK representative once or twice and tried one of their modules once, but other than that, they were completely non-proactive. Maybe they helped other groups more, but if not, the default state of college students is to flake out on everything, and it seemed like THINK was not doing much to avoid having their group leaders fall into that failure mode.

Of course, that's just the proximate cause of failure; there were probably deeper underlying reasons. For instance, maybe THINK stopped being proactive because they got discouraged by how little initiative most of their group leaders took. And maybe the group leaders didn't take much initiative because THINK's resources were too focused on more speculative arguments and cause areas (e.g., their sequence of workshops goes right from "charity assessment" to "intelligence amplification").


To get more speculative, my guess is that the core problem of student group outreach is finding motivated group leaders and keeping them motivated, and I haven't noticed any of the student-group-outreach efforts doing particularly well at this. There's some base rate of highly motivated student group leaders popping up basically by reading things on the Internet and deciding to run a student group, and I haven't yet noticed any focused outreach effort improving on that base rate very much. Although of course I might be missing some.

Comment author: William_MacAskill 25 July 2016 05:35:52PM 4 points [-]

Thanks!

Fundraising: The current plans it that CEA will fundraise for all projects (with me as lead on that). We'll update all donors every two weeks with info across all CEA projects (most individual projects already do this to their own donors), and have an annual review.

Earmarking: Fungibility has been a headache since forever; and in the past 'restricting' to a particular project, even though we were very careful with the budget lines, wouldn't completely avoid fungibility concerns, because other donors are responsive to RFMF and would then become a little less likely to donate to a project that's received more money.

The idea that's currently in my head, but not (yet) a policy, is that we to a first approximation only accept unrestricted donations, but that every donor is asked to 'vote' by telling us how, ideally, they would want their donation to be used. This 'vote' isn't binding on CEA, but gives us useful information about what smart people with money on the line think CEA should be doing more of. I take the views of our donors very seriously - they tend to be the external people who are most highly engaged with CEA's work - and so it wouldn't at all just be for show. I'd welcome ideas about other ways of doing donations.

And to be clear, previously restricted money to a CEA project will still be used in the manner it was restricted for, under the new CEA structure, unless the donor tells us that they're happy to lift the restriction.

Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 29 July 2016 04:45:50AM 1 point [-]

Awesome--please put me on the list when those updates start happening :)

The idea that's currently in my head, but not (yet) a policy, is that we to a first approximation only accept unrestricted donations, but that every donor is asked to 'vote' by telling us how, ideally, they would want their donation to be used.

I really like this idea. Hopefully donors are happy with it (I know I personally would be).

Comment author: cdc482 23 July 2016 03:12:15PM 3 points [-]

The December and January donation idea is a great solution. Also, touche'. This wouldn't apply to people itemizing due to other deductions like a mortgage.

Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 24 July 2016 05:25:48PM 2 points [-]

Also, three of the largest EA states (CA, NY and MA) have high enough state taxes that it becomes worth itemizing around $100k of income for that alone.

Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 24 July 2016 05:18:43PM 10 points [-]

Awesome! Really great to see the move towards consolidating the many overlapping projects, something that's made me skeptical of a number of them in the past. (Also excited that you'll be more directly involved!) This makes me a lot more excited about CEA.

How will fundraising work under the new structure?

  • Will different projects still fundraise on their own or will CEA fundraise for all projects?
  • Do you expect most donors will earmark their funds for one project or another, or will you try to raise most funding unrestricted?
  • How do you plan to communicate with funders (or other people interest in following CEA's progress) about the status of various projects?
Comment author: Ben_Kuhn 28 June 2016 02:05:58AM 4 points [-]

Amazing writeup! What an awesome amount of detail. Wish I could have been there. Thanks so much for the hard work you all put in!

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