Exploring Impact: Introducing OFTW's 2016 Portfolio

Each year we conduct an extensive review of the performance of our existing partners, and search for new organizations to add to our portfolio. Over the past two months, we have reviewed the performance of our four existing partners, as well as 43 potential additions to our portfolio, which were nominated by OFTW members and current students at Penn, HBS and MIT. We continue to be impressed by the impact and transparency of our existing partners, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, Against Malaria Foundation, Evidence Action and Living Goods, all of which represent fantastic giving opportunities, and will remain in our portfolio for 2016. We are also excited to add Population Services International to our list of recommendations for the first time!

What are we looking for?

At One for the World we work hard to connect our members to the highest impact giving opportunities that we can find, and we review our portfolio of recommended partners in depth each year. We admit to being fairly picky, but think that is a good thing: we want to be absolutely confident that our members' donations are having an impact, and doing as much good for the world's poorest people as possible!

The process started back in December, with a review of our criteria that we use to select our portfolio. After feedback from Prof Corinne Low and Kyle Sherman of CHIP, we made some minor edits to our criteria from 2015, which were agreed by our advisory board. You can view our full criteria document here, but our main principles have remained very similar since we were founded in 2014: we recommend the most effective non-profit organizations that we can find, that prove their impact and have a clear need for additional funding.

Our 2016 team

This year, we received more than double the number of applications to be on the partner review and selection team relative to previous years, reflecting our growth at Penn, and our expansion to HBS and MIT. Our team consisted of 11 students with a variety of experiences and expertise, students studying for an MBA, Law degree, PhD, Medical degree and a BA. I was delighted with the team this year, and they produced high quality research throughout the process.

Our process

We started out with a long list of 43 potential additions to our portfolio, non-profit organizations that were nominated by OFTW members and students at Penn, HBS and MIT. The organizations on our long list work on a variety of interventions, including agriculture, economic empowerment, education, food fortification, maternal health, HIV, community health workers, mental health, climate change, sanitation, slavery and humanitarian/crisis response. We conducted a shallow review of each of these organizations, to find out how well they fit our criteria. In particular, we gave a qualitative assessment of each charity (what they do, their strengths, their weaknesses), and considered whether they focus on helping the world’s poorest people, are plausibly as effective as our existing recommendations, and whether there is good evidence of their impact. We selected the 13 most promising charities for a medium depth review.

The medium depth reviews dug deeper into the impact that these charities would produce with One for the World’s members’ donations. We looked at the evidence of impact for the ‘intervention’ carried out by an organization (e.g. free distribution of bed nets), and then considered how effectively the organization was executing that intervention. We also considered other elements of our criteria, such as whether the organization has a clear need for additional funding, and is committed to transparency and measuring impact. After noting any remaining uncertainties, we selected 7 charities for a deep review, based on how well they matched our criteria. The deep review sought to resolve these uncertainties, which meant having a dialogue with the charities under review in some cases. We also presented our research to Prof Corinne Low and Kyle Sherman, Social Impact Fellow at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, who gave us valuable feedback on our work.

Our 2016 portfolio

After the deep reviews, we decided to renew our recommendation of our existing portfolio, and to add Population Services International as a fifth charity. More details about each of our charities can be found in the links in the write up below, which give a detailed overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each chairty, with a high level overview available in these slides, which we used for an event on March 6th.

Against Malaria Foundation

We continue to be very impressed with Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), who distribute long lasting insecticide-treated bednets to reduce transmission of malaria, and are more confident in our recommendation of them than in previous years. The evidence that bednets reduce the incidence of malaria, and that this saves lives, remains strong. Our main concern in previous years has been their ability to agree large scale net distributions and to spend their funds, but this is no longer the case after a number of large distributions have been announced, with AMF having a clear need for additional funding.

Living Goods

Our confidence in Living Goods has also been strengthened through our review process this year. We took a detailed look at the results of their randomized trial (currently under peer review) which shows their program has reduced child mortality by 27%. The pace of expansion of their program and their market-driven approach continues to provide excellent impact for donor dollars.

Deworming and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

Much has been written about the effectiveness of deworming interventions in the last year, and so we took a detailed look at the new evidence available. First we analyzed the implications of a re-analysis of a famous Economics paper, Miguel and Kremer (2004), which has been influential in the increase in funding directed towards deworming programs. We also took a detailed look at the evidence for health improvements, educational impacts and long run income and employment benefits of deworming for deworming. We concluded that the case for deworming in areas with a high prevalence of Schistosomiasis remains strong, but that the case for deworming in areas with Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STHs) and no Schistosomiasis is significantly weaker, due to the less severe consequences of infection with these worms. We continue to recommend Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), who focus on Schistosomiasis endemic areas, and have a clear need for additional funding to maintain and expand their highly effective deworming programs.

Evidence Action

Evidence Action consists of three programs, Deworm the World Initiative (DtWI), Dispensers for Safe Water (DSW) and Evidence Action Beta (EAB). We considered the evidence for each one, as well as the general direction of the organization. We continue to be highly impressed by the ethos of Evidence Action, and think their values of scaling up what has been proven to work are very in line with our own. We were less confident of the impact of Deworm the World Initiative relative to SCI, as they have traditionally worked in areas with STHs rather than Schistosomiasis. However, they are planning to expand to countries in which Schistosomiasis is more prevalent, and have an excellent track record of executing their deworming programs cost-effectively and at large scale, and so we think their future impact is likely to be high. We have recommended Dispensers for Safe Water since we were founded in 2014, and continue to be impressed by their highly cost-effective model and ability to scale. In communications with Evidence Action, they indicated that the majority of additional funding they receive is likely to be used for DSW, as the price of carbon credits, which they have used to partially fund DSW, have fallen significantly. EAB is scaling up two projects in 2016, though both of these are fully funded by other donors.

Population Services International

The latest addition to our portfolio is Population Services International (PSI), and we are excited to recommend them for the first time this year! PSI takes a market-based approach to improving access to health products and services. It is a much larger charity than our other recommendations, and conduct a much greater number of interventions as a result. This makes it more difficult for us to assess the impact of additional donations, but when we looked further at the ~35 interventions they focus on, we found that the vast majority are highly cost effective and backed by significant evidence. We are very impressed by PSI’s commitment to transparency and measuring their impact.

Two charities that just missed out

We conducted deep reviews of two other excellent organizations that we felt didn’t quite meet our criteria as well as our recommended organizations.

Population Healthy Children (PHC) works with governments to initiate and maintain micronutrient fortification programs, a highly cost-effective intervention with strong evidence of impact. The main weakness of PHC was the lack of evidence that their work actually causes and/or significantly improves these food fortification programs - i.e. whether these programs would be just as good in their absence.

Muso trains community health workers in Mali, a model that is highly promising in terms of its impact on general and maternal health as well as child mortality. Their early results are impressive, and they are planning to conduct a randomized trial on their program as they expand. The evidence of their impact is not as strong as our final recommendations at present, however, and so this is a charity to keep an eye on in the future.

Thanks

Our team this year was truly excellent, and I’d like to thank each of the team members, who worked hard to make sure we have a portfolio of organizations that we can present to OFTW members with a great deal of confidence. In particular, thanks to:

Rose Yaguchi, WG 2017
Michael Goodwin, WG 2017
Matt McGuire, WG 2016
Shayna Fertig, Wharton/Engineering 2017
Andrew Hoekzema, Perelman School of Medicine, 2016
Reshma Patel, WG 2017
Julie Rosenfeld, WG 2017
Brenda Maldonado, WG 2017
Robert Thrasher, Penn Law/Wharton 2018
Drew Lawson, Penn Law/Wharton 2018

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