Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 29 July 2016 10:05:12PM 1 point [-]

Thanks Julia, this is an awesome resource! I'm really grateful for these kinds of super specific suggestions.

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 25 July 2016 12:00:41PM 2 points [-]

Useful to know what the plan is for the GWWC Trust, if GWWC are not producing their own recommendations? Will any money going into the trust just be donated to GiveWell's top charities whatever they may be, and will it be donated evenly to those charities or donated following GiveWells current advice about proportions? Thanks

Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 26 July 2016 06:01:09PM 2 points [-]

Hey Sam, For people who choose to let us decide where the money goes, the next payout (Oct) will be the same as before (1/4 each to SCI, AMF, DWI, PHC), and the one after that (Jan) will be to on the allocation GW recommends in its Dec update. I expect we will continue allowing donations to the charities the Trust has given to in the past (eg PHC, IPA), but that the default charities suggested for donations will be the ones GW lists as top charities.

Comment author: richardcanal 25 April 2016 01:17:13AM -1 points [-]

Hi Jonathan, I agree that if you're goal is to "do the most good" that majority of EAs (myself included) believe that reducing extreme poverty is the most tractable/efficient way to do that at the current moment.

I think the main issue is that when people are learning about EA, if they find major discrepancies between GWWC currently stated mission (helping reduce poverty) and some materials like the blog post above (mission being do most good) it becomes difficult to figure out what's going on.

One recommendation I have is that if a major rebranding effort is happening within GWWC, an email out to Pledge members/chapter leads etc., and blog post on GWWC's blog and updating the various mission statements would be a good start. I was extremely surprised reading the post, when I follow many effective altruism forums/websites/materials and have never once seen GWWC even hinting at being cause neutral with the exception of the Pledge.

I find a good analogy for this situation is climate scientists, they are "cause neutral" when it comes to global warming, it just happens that all the science/facts point towards global warming being a real man made thing that should be addressed.

I'm very happy for the new direction, with GWWC being primarily focused on making the world a better place via donations to effective charities.


Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 27 April 2016 03:51:51PM 1 point [-]

Hi Richard, Thanks for your comments. Sorry to have been unclear - there isn't a major rebranding planned. The changed vision should be thought of more as clarifying what lies at the heart of gwwc and what makes it unique. In large part, the reason for doing it is to further focus the team, rather than to change anything for others. It doesn't mean that we plan to move away from working most on extreme poverty (for the reasons outlined in my more recent blog post). Ending extreme poverty is still a major focus for us (as it is for many EAs), but we wanted a vision that articulated why we work on that, and encapsulated the other things we care about. I am planning to write a blog post about our vision on the GWWC blog in May, I'm glad that seems like a helpful thing to do. Michelle

Comment author: davidc 25 April 2016 11:45:33AM 0 points [-]

Yep, we're just using different definitions. I find your definition a bit confusing, but I admit that it seems fairly common in EA.

For what it's worth, I think some of the confusion might be caused by my definition creeping into your writing sometimes. For example, in your next post (

"Given that Giving What We Can is cause neutral, why do we recommend exclusively poverty eradication charities, and focus on our website and materials on poverty? There are three main reasons ..."

If we're really using your definition, then that's a pretty silly question. It's like saying "If David is really cause neutral, then why is he focused on animals?" or "If Jeff is cause neutral, why does he donate to AMF?" Using your definition, there's (as we've both pointed out) absolutely no tension between focusing on a cause and being cause neutral.

Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 25 April 2016 12:49:48PM 1 point [-]

I think even if there's no tension, there could still be an open question about how you think your actions generate value. For example, cause-neutral-Jeff could be donating to AMF because he thinks it's the charity with the highest expected value per $, or because he's risk averse and thinks it's the best if you're going for a trade off between expected value and low variance in value per $, or because he wants to encourage other charities to be as transparent and impact focused as AMF. So although it's not surprising that cause-neutral-Jeff focuses his donations on just one charity, and that it's AMF, it's still interesting to hear the answer to 'why does he donate to AMF?'.

But I agree, it's difficult not to slide between definitions on a concept like cause neutrality, and I'm sorry I'm not as clear as I'd like to be.

Comment author: richardcanal 24 April 2016 06:16:58AM *  0 points [-]

Hi Michelle,

This is so hard to comprehend why this post was made, when it is in strict disagreement with the history/current mission statement for GivingWhatWeCan. Here are are the best descriptions about GivingWhatWeCan's mission that I could find.

"What do you do, and hope to achieve? Our goal is to play our part in eliminating poverty in the developing world."

"OUR HISTORY Giving What We Can is the brainchild of Toby Ord, a philosopher at Balliol College, Oxford. Inspired by the ideas of ethicists Peter Singer and Thomas Pogge, Toby decided in 2009 to commit a large proportion of his income to charities that effectively alleviate poverty in the developing world."

I started a GivingWhatWeCan chapter in my home town and have been very active in the community reading books/blogs/courses/ etc. and it's still incredibly difficult to figure out the various organisations and what their stated goals are and how they differ. A recent problem I've encountered is why are there GivingWhatWeCan chapters and LEAN/Local EA chapters. Our current group is called GivingWhatWeCan, but our website is

This makes things extremely difficult for new members who are learning about the movement to navigate the EA landscape, and when the communications coming directly from the organisation are conflicting with it's stated mission, it becomes even more difficult to piece everything together. Perhaps this is a start of a rebranding effort that I wasn't aware of.

Looking forward to hearing back from you, appreciate all the good work the organisation does!


Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 24 April 2016 09:39:27PM *  1 point [-]

Hi Richard, I'm sorry it's rather confusing at the moment, and thank you so much for all the work you do with the GWWC/EA Calgary chapter. I'm hoping my more recent post on the Forum might help bring some clarity. I think part of the reason it's particularly confusing at the moment is that our website has been undergoing some changes, so the page with our mission/vision/values is currently not up. We've also, as Jon mentioned, been clarifying what GWWC is fundamentally about, including whether we are necessarily an organisation which focuses primarily on poverty or only contingently so (it's the latter).

These are our vision/mission/values:

Our Vision

A world in which giving 10% of our income to the most effective organisations is the norm

Our Mission

Inspire donations to the world’s most effective charities

Our Values

We are a welcoming community, sharing our passion and energy to improve the lives of others.

We care. We have a deep commitment to helping others, and We are dedicated to helping other members of our community give more and give better.

We take action based on evidence. We apply rigorous academic processes to develop trustworthy research to guide our actions. We are open-minded towards new approaches to altruism that may show greater effectiveness. We are honest when it comes to what we don't know or mistakes we have made.

We are optimistic. We are ambitious in terms of the change we believe we can create. We apply energy and enthusiasm to support and build our community.

All the best, Michelle


Why Poverty?

This is the second in a series of posts. The first was: Giving What We Can is Cause Neutral . Given that Giving What We Can is cause neutral, why do we recommend exclusively poverty eradication charities, and focus on our website and materials on poverty? There are three main... Read More
Comment author: davidc 23 April 2016 01:06:46AM *  2 points [-]

Hi Michelle--

I'm a bit confused. If cause-neutrality is "choos[ing] who to help by how much they can help", then there are many individuals and organizations who seem to fit that definition who I wouldn't ordinarily think of as cause-neutral. For example, many are focused exclusively on global health; many others are focused on animals; etc. Many of those with a cause-exclusive focus chose their focus using "how much they can help" as the criterion. Many of these came to different conclusions from others (either due to different values, differences in how they evaluated the evidence, etc.), which isn't surprising.

I'm hesitant to try to define EA, but really your condition seems more appropriate to being part of a definition of EA than cause-neutrality.

If we accept your definition, then it seems like you could say "GWWC is cause-neutral, and also GWWC is exclusively focused on promoting global health and has no interest in any other EA causes." (I don't mean that's what you did say or will say - it's just something consistent with GWWC being cause-neutral in this sense.)


Hmm, I've heard from a good friend that your definition is the one they're familiar with in EA, and that they see no tension between being cause-neutral and entirely focused (at the moment) on one cause.

Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 24 April 2016 07:42:43PM 0 points [-]

Hi David, It doesn’t seem problematic to me to say that a person or individual could be cause-neutral but currently focused on just one area. If that weren’t the case, the only people who would count as cause neutral would be those working on / donating to cause prioritisation itself. That seems like a less useful concept to me than the one I tried to carve out (though equally plausible as a way of understanding ‘cause neutral’). One way to frame my understanding of cause neutrality is that what matters is not whether a person/organisation is currently focused on one area, but if they’d be willing to switch to focusing on a different area if they became persuaded it would be more effective to do so. There’s also the difference between an individual and an organisation being cause neutral. It’s very plausible that a cause neutral individual could work for an organisation that isn’t cause neutral. It even seems plausible that an organisation might be not cause neutral, while being staffed entirely by people who are cause neutral. That would be true, on my understanding, if it were the case that those individuals would be willing to pivot away from working on that cause if it turned out not to be the best, but wouldn’t do so by pivoting the organisation (rather by closing it down, or finding others to staff it). On this understanding, Giving What We Can is both run by individuals who are cause neutral, and (separately) is cause neutral as an organisation.

Comment author: ClaireZabel 22 April 2016 06:25:46PM 1 point [-]

Thanks for the writeup, Michelle. I thought it was a really clear introduction to the topic.

However, it makes me curious about why GWWC's materials are so focused on global poverty, given the organization's explicit cause neutrality. I can think about some possible reasons for it but don't have a strong intuition about which is driving your thinking.

Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 22 April 2016 11:51:15PM 2 points [-]

Thanks Claire, I'm really glad it was helpful. That's what the follow up posts will be about! I have a tendency to splurge onto a page, and was advised to cut the piece into several posts - hence not having answered that yet.


Giving What We Can is Cause Neutral

Giving What We Can materials (including our website and presentations) typically talk about global poverty, even though as an organisation we are fundamentally cause neutral. Our recommended charities work in global health, while we have cause reports and ‘in-area’ recommendations for charities in poverty broadly construed (including, for example, climate... Read More
Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 06 April 2016 08:50:21AM 2 points [-]

But I promise I am generally a nice guy.

I'm very happy to vouch for this ;-)

Thanks Paul, nice idea. Look forward to reading what people come up with!

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