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The fungibility query: How does GiveWell’s funding have an effect on different funders?

How do GiveWell’s funding choices affect the actions of governments, funders, and different organizations? Answering this query is a vital a part of determining which world well being applications are most cost-effective and thus which we should always assist. We’ve already written about two key elements in our cost-effectiveness estimates: the fee per individual reached and the general burden of the issue. However these are solely a part of the equation.

We additionally contemplate what others are prone to do in response to our decisions. For instance, does our funding displace cash the native authorities had deliberate to allocate to this system? Or would our funding make different funders extra excited to hitch us in ensuring this system is carried out?

Marriage ceremony registries present a free analogy about how one individual’s determination would possibly affect one other’s: If great-aunt Sally already purchased the toaster on the record, you’re in all probability not going to purchase the fortunate couple one other one. The cash she spent on the toaster has displaced the funding you had deliberate to allocate to the toaster: that is what we name “fungibility.”

In distinction, if the spouses-to-be have signed up for flatware service for 12 and different company have bought solely 6 settings, you would possibly prioritize filling out the rest of the set, to make certain that the couple doesn’t run out of spoons at their upcoming dinner events. In that case, the company who bought the primary 6 settings are “crowding in” funding from you: that is what we name “leverage.”

Let’s take into consideration how this would possibly apply to well being applications. Suppose we’re contemplating a $10 million grant for a program to extend childhood vaccination in (fictional) Beleriand. GiveWell’s preliminary cost-effectiveness estimate confirmed that this system was nearly 20x as cost-effective as unconditional money transfers. (We use money transfers as a benchmark for evaluating completely different applications.) This estimate makes this system initially look like a very good candidate for funding, because it surpasses our present cost-effectiveness threshold of 10x.

However what if there was a risk that the federal government would have funded this system if GiveWell hadn’t? As a result of cash is fungible, our $10 million grant would displace funds that will have been allotted by the federal government, releasing up the federal government to spend its $10 million in another manner. The arrival of the funding has the sensible impact of permitting the federal government to spend the funds on a lower-priority (and lower-impact) program that it in any other case wouldn’t have had sufficient cash to pay for. The last word impact of GiveWell’s funding just isn’t the high-impact vaccine program, which might have occurred anyway, however the lower-impact various, which wouldn’t.

In fact, that’s not the one manner GiveWell’s grantmaking would possibly have an effect on others. Think about one other situation: there’s a program in (equally fictional) Adumar to deal with parasitic infections. Offering the remedy to all the nation’s younger youngsters would price $20 million. If GiveWell supplies a grant, we expect it’s possible that one of many main pharmaceutical corporations there would donate remedy value $3 million. The arrival of the funding has the sensible impact of inducing the corporate to contribute remedy, which it will not have completed if this system didn’t have implementation funding.

Right here’s an actual instance displaying how we calculate these results. Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) program is considered one of GiveWell’s high charities. By means of conversations with authorities officers, different funders, and consultants within the discipline, our researchers estimate that in Sokoto State, Nigeria there’s nearly no likelihood1Whereas we acknowledge that there’s some likelihood of the federal government stepping in to fund this system, we consider that likelihood is negligible. We use 0% in our mannequin for simplicity, as our bottom-line estimate just isn’t delicate to small adjustments on this parameter. that the home authorities would fund this system if we didn’t, however there’s a 20% likelihood that the International Fund or the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), the 2 largest world malaria funders, would fund it in our place. In distinction, in Togo, we expect there’s a 65% likelihood that considered one of these funders would step in. These chances, together with our estimate of the cost-effectiveness of different makes use of of presidency and International Fund/PMI funding,2We presently estimate that counterfactual authorities spending is about 5% as useful as seasonal malaria chemoprevention, and counterfactual International Fund funding is about 14% as useful. For extra details about our estimates, see this part of our report on SMC. have an effect on a program’s cost-effectiveness. The upper probability that one other funder would step in is one necessary motive that our total estimate of SMC’s cost-effectiveness is far decrease in Togo (round 11x money) than in Sokoto (round 30x money).


In fact, the chance that we’re displacing or encouraging different funding is just one of many elements we contemplate as we search for probably the most cost-effective world well being and poverty alleviation applications. Our researchers spend greater than 50,000 hours annually poring over proof and making judgment calls, with the purpose of directing funding the place it may do probably the most good.

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