When Effective Altruists motivate others to reflect on the effectiveness of their altruism, they often claim that because resources are limited prioritization is key. However, in this board meeting where Kellie was invited to inspire the board of a brave Dutch foundation with an introduction to Effective Giving principles she made a claim that may not be correct.
Kellie stated that there are insufficient resources to solve the world’s toughest problems. One board members passionately disagreed, arguing that, if spend more effectively, (mostly) multilateral resources would be able to tackle the world’s toughest problems.
As there are many problems for which we do not know whether there are effective solutions, nor are we aware of their costs (and indirect effects), both claims have no – and at this moment in time cannot be – empirically supported.
Kellie regrets making this claim because in her opinion it is very unproductive to get caught up in this ‘what if’ argument. Effective Giving is about reflecting on the sphere of influence that one’s own actions and resources have on tackling some of the world’s’ toughest problems. It could in some cases be part of this sphere of influence (hypothetically both for this board member and for Kellie) to focus on improving the effectiveness of the resources of non-philanthropic donors such as those from multilateral donors.
Conclusion: Kellie will refrain from making this claim, both because it lacks empirical support and because she learned that it did not seem very effective in motivating this philanthropists in reflecting on his/her actions. Moreover, the argument can also be interpreted as a suggestion to focus on the amount of resources out there that sit with multilateral donors. It is part of Effective Giving its theory of change that role modelling the Effective Giving approach – as Gates and Moskowitz are doing at the moment – is a more effective use of Kellie and Roberts’ time at the moment than directly lobbying to improve the effectiveness of multilateral donations. However, as every philanthropist working according to the Effective Giving principles – we will continue to reflect, act and evaluate.