top of page

Acerca de

Week 2: Differences in Impact

Around 700 million people still live in poverty, mostly in low-income countries. Efforts to help them - by policy reform, cash transfers, or provision of health services - can be incredibly effective.


Alongside investigating this issue, we also discuss how much more effective some interventions are than others, and we introduce a simple tool for estimating important figures.


Key concepts from this session include:

  • Differences in impact: It appears that some of our options to help do many times more good than others. People generally don’t appreciate this, and so miss out on significant opportunities to help.

  • Fermi estimates: When you’re trying to make a decision, it can be useful to make a rough calculation for which option is best. Even if there’s a lot of uncertainty, this can give you a rough answer, and can tell you which things are most important to estimate next.

Required Materials

Differences in impact:

Fermi estimation:

Background data on global health and poverty:

“Classic” EA strategies for addressing global poverty:


Some newer EA strategies for improving the wellbeing of humans living in poverty:

Exercise (40 mins.)

Part A (20 mins.)

In this exercise, we’ll imagine that you’re planning to donate to a charity to improve global health, and explore how much you could do with that donation.

GiveWell is an effective altruism-inspired organization which attempts to identify outstanding donation opportunities in global health and development. Using their reports on their top charities and your earlier estimate of your future income, try and work out what you could achieve if you donated 10% of your lifetime income to one of these charities. 

If you’re short on time, here’s a cheat sheet with information about three top GiveWell charities. If you’d like to explore further, check out GiveWell’s cost effectiveness models.

Complete this exercise for three GiveWell charities.

Part B (10 mins.)

In the last section, you ended up with a few different options. Now imagine you were given $1,000 to donate to only one of these charities. 


There's a difficult judgment to be made now: since you have to pick, which charity would you donate to to do the most good? 

Optional (10 mins.)

What are other decisions in your life that you might consider generating quantitative estimates and comparing outcomes for?

More to explore

GiveWell and Open Philanthropy

GiveWell and Open Philanthropy are sister organizations in the effective altruism community. Both seek to identify outstanding giving opportunities, but they use different criteria and processes. 


GiveWell has an emphasis on evidence-backed organizations within the global health and wellbeing space, while Open Philanthropy also supports high-risk, high-reward work, as well as work that could take a long time to pay off, in a variety of cause areas. We think this illustrates interesting methodological differences between attempts to answer the question “How can we do the most good?”.

Cost-effectiveness methodology:​

​Mental health rather than physical health?

​Other newer strategies for improving human wellbeing:


Effective aid:

​Criticisms of the use of cost-effectiveness estimates:

bottom of page