The Introduction to Effective Altruism reading from Tuesday went into detail about the three criteria for effective action: great in scale (effects as many people as possible), highly neglected (few other people are working to address the problem), and highly solvable (additional resources will do a great deal to address it). The main way to contribute in effective action is through the process of donations. Donations allow organizations and NGOs to fund their projects that solve the problems that fit these three criteria. According to the Future Perfect article by Dylan Matthews, donating is the most effective form of action by supporting the people and sources with high-impact projects. Effective action is very much focused on the big picture and similarly, effective altruism works out how to help others as much as possible. However, despite the highlights of effective altruism and action, there are still parts of it that are not the most optimal.
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Lessons to Takeaway
College students are often attracted to the idea of being activists and fighting for the issues that we are passionate about. However, as the idea of effective altruism points out, hands on and grassroot level action is not always the most effective or efficient way of solving the world’s problems. It’s important to evaluate our own actions and try to determine whether they are actually making the biggest positive impact that they can be. The phrase “throwing money at a problem” is often construed in a negative sense. It is important to acknowledge the interconnectedness of charitable giving and engagement. Communication across interest groups needs to be made in order to ensure proper and effective use of the money. In saying this, effective altruism suggests that donating money to a cause is still an effective way to help.
Positions on Effective Altruism and Environmental Engagement
During an in-class discussion on Thursday, February 20th, 2020, effective altruism was discussed from three different points of view:
- Effectiveness is the most important thing to consider when choosing action
- “Effective altruism” neglects all sorts of considerations in how we act
- Engagement is the most effective form of action we need in these times
The first position argues that smaller action, such as donating a pair of shoes to a child in need, is not as effective as action taken on a larger scale, such as donating money. A defense for this argument would be that donated money is something that can be used universally. People in need can invest that money in what they feel is most needed, therefore making a bigger impact overall. The second position argues that the points mentioned in the first position are invalid because people may choose to invest the money in something that is less beneficial. It stresses that many ideas surrounding these types of actions can be neglected and underestimated with Effective Altruism. The third position takes both of these positions into consideration and forms a proposal in which conversations identify the most effective action, making it the most valuable approach out of the three. This position recognizes that what may seem effective to one party, may not be effective to another, and these differences must be discussed to create a long-lasting impact. Engagement can be viewed as a step towards true effective action, making it a key component. Without engagement, moral imperialism can come into play, and not have the best overall results.
Our Partnership with Green Empowerment
As a medium sized NGO, Green Empowerment is mainly funded through the accumulation and disbursement of donations. The organization therefore uses effective action in order to fund their projects and program implementations in other countries. Donors are able to receive tax deductibles and incentives through their contributions and altruism. However, a key part in this process is the organizations use of engagement. Volunteers are key players in not only amplifying their impact locally and globally through the projects at hand, but also spreading word and organizing events in order to raise more money. Green Empowerment, like effective altruism, strives to make the biggest impact it can, in this case raising money for projects and implementing volunteers in effective ways such as fundraising. The organization does not state this type of dependence on monetary mechanisms explicitly through their website, however it is evident that in order to work towards the UN SDG goals, donations are crucial. Partnering with them may not require us to prioritize their usage of engagement. If community outreach in Portland helps to make money and educate the public, that is where we may be able to learn and work with the organization.