We have just concluded our annual review and selection process and are excited to announce our Top Picks for 2017! The charities in our Top Picks portfolio this year are: Against Malaria Foundation, Living Goods, Population Services International, GiveDirectly and Possible. Our wider portfolio of 18 charities selected by our partners, The Life You Can Save, remains the same. This is the first year that GiveDirectly and Possible are in our Top Picks, and we are excited to recommend them to our members. This blog post will give an overview of this year's selection process, and each of the charities in our Top Picks portfolio.
Note: we are in the process of updating the Charities section of our website and giving platform to reflect our Top Picks portfolio for 2017.
This was the first year that we implemented our new and improved partner selection process, which leverages the expertise of The Life You Can Save through our new partnership. In short, our new process now has two stages:
- The Life You Can Save’s “Panel of Experts” selects our full portfolio, by focusing on evidence, efficiency, and execution of charities working to assist people living in extreme poverty.
- OFTW's partner selection team, made up of members and students at our chapter schools, picks a subset of these organizations to be part of our Top Picks portfolio. We select Top Picks using five criteria: direct impact, simplicity of programs, track record, cultural fit, existing recommendations. We also have a preference for a diverse portfolio, both in terms of programs carried out by our partners and geographic areas where they work.
We wrote about this new process and our selection criteria for Top Picks in detail in a blog post in February. In this post, we focus on the selection of our Top Picks for 2017. Applications to join our selection team opened in mid-February, our team was finalized in late February, and then we worked throughout March to review and select the charities for our Top Picks portfolio.
Our 2017 team
Our selection team this year had nine members: five MBA students from Wharton, two JD-MBA students at Penn Law and Wharton, one partner of an MBA student, and one Penn undergraduate. As in previous years, the team was led by Rossa O'Keeffe-O'Donovan, a PhD candidate in Economics at Penn with significant experience of impact evaluation research.
As OFTW expands, we are keen for our charity selection team to include members from our newer chapters, such as Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, MIT Sloane and Columbia. Unfortunately we did not receive applications from these newer chapters this year, and so our selection process was mostly made up of students from schools at Penn. We hope to gain more participation in this process from newer chapters as they grow in future years.
Our 2017 Top Picks portfolio
GiveDirectly provides one-time unconditional cash transfers to some of the poorest families in Kenya and Uganda, using cell phone technology. We are adding GiveDirectly to our Top Picks portfolio, and think they score excellently on our criteria. Their program is very simple and has a clear direct impact on the people receiving the transfers. 91% of money donated to GiveDirectly goes directly to beneficiaries, allowing them to invest in housing, education and small businesses. Although it is a fairly young organization (founded in 2008), it has a fantastic track record, and has been recommended by GiveWell every year since 2012. A recent randomized controlled trial of GiveDirectly's program estimates that a $1000 transfer results in $270 increase in earnings, $430 increase in assets and $330 increase in nutrition expenditure on average. In 2017, GiveDirectly is launching a trial of basic income in Kenya. GiveDirectly's outstanding transparency and commitment to rigorously testing its programs to maximize its impact makes it an excellent cultural fit for One for the World. We have had a number of our members express an interest in giving to GiveDirectly in the last two years, and are excited to add it to our Top Picks portfolio in 2017.
Possible provides free and cost-effective health care services to Nepal’s rural poor in partnership with the government. Possible has pioneered an approach it calls 'durable health care', which brings together the best of private, public, and philanthropic models. Possible builds and maintains a 'hub and spoke' model within the government’s infrastructure. A hospital acts as the hub, with clinics and community health workers as the spokes, expanding its reach into some of the poorest and most isolated communities in Nepal where it has a very clear direct impact. Possible has a very strong focus on providing cost effective care, operating at an average cost of only $36 per patient. Possible has excellent transparency and a clear focus on impact, producing quarterly and annual impact reports, making them a great cultural fit for OFTW.
We have been following Possible closely for a number of years, and came very close to recommending them as a Top Pick in 2014 and 2015. We are particularly excited about two developments since we last reviewed them in detail. First, they have expanded to a second district, Dolakha, which was one of the worst hit districts in the earthquakes in Nepal in 2015. Second, Possible underwent an 'Impact Audit' by Dean Karlan's new organization, ImpactMatters, which found very strong evidence that they achieve great impact at low cost. Possible has a very strong track record, and we think it is a fantastic giving opportunity for our members.
Against Malaria Foundation
Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) distributes long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent the spread of malaria. We have recommended AMF every year since we were founded, and are delighted for it to remain one of our Top Picks for 2017. AMF has an excellent track record and clear direct impact: there is an abundance of evidence, including from randomized controlled trials, that bed nets prevent malaria infections and reduce child mortality, and AMF has been recommended by GiveWell in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Its program is incredibly simple: 100% of donations go towards paying for the purchase, distribution and monitoring of nets. Each net costs only $2.50, with an estimated total cost of $4.85 including all distribution and monitoring costs, and protects two people for 3-4 years on average. AMF is an excellent cultural fit, due to its outstanding transparency and commitment to measuring its impact. They have grown significantly in recent years, and we are delighted for them to continue as a OFTW Top Pick in 2017.
Living Goods trains and employs local people, the majority of whom are women, to sell goods and life-saving medical supplies at competitive prices. Living Goods has been in our Top Picks since 2015, and we think it continues to score excellently on our criteria. An independently run randomized control trial of Living Goods' model, showed that it decreases under-5 mortality by 27%, and infant (under-1) mortality by 33%, demonstrating that Living Goods has a clear direct impact and excellent track record. Living Goods' model, which uses health entrepreneurs with a profit motive, has allowed it to expand rapidly, and makes it a great cultural fit for OFTW. Living Goods continues to be listed as a 'Standout Organization' by GiveWell, and remains a OFTW Top Pick for 2017.
Population Services International
Population Services International (PSI) makes it easy for people in the developing world to lead healthier lives and plan the families they desire by marketing affordable products and services. Its three main focus areas are family planning, HIV/AIDS and malaria, though they also provide goods and services to combat gender-based violence, improve maternal health and increase access to clean water and sanitation. PSI is dedicated to measuring and quantifying its impact, and has an excellent track record. It takes a market-based approach to improving access to health products and services, making it an excellent cultural fit for OFTW. We recommended PSI for the first time in 2016, and did a thorough analysis of the ~35 goods and services it most commonly provides: we found that the vast majority were highly cost effective and had significant evidence of impact. PSI scores highly on our criteria and we continue to recommend them as a Top Pick.
Three charities that just missed out on the Top Picks portfolio
Schistosomiasis Control Initiative
Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) carries out school-based mass deworming programs in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In the last two years there has been a large public debate contesting the evidence in favor of such deworming programs. We surveyed this evidence in depth last year, and 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. However, given the contested evidence, and that highly qualified people still disagree about the effectiveness of deworming, this year we felt that SCI scores lower on our new criteria than other charities in our Top Picks portfolio. SCI was a OFTW Top Pick in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and we continue to think that donations to SCI may have a very large impact, because of the low cost and the potentially large benefits of deworming treatments. We will monitor SCI's progress and the ongoing debate about the effectiveness of deworming, and will consider it for our Top Picks portfolio again in 2018. SCI remains a part of our wider portfolio, and our members can still choose to donate to SCI through our platform.
Evidence Action consists of three programs: Deworm the World Initiative (DtWI), Dispensers for Safe Water (DSW) and Evidence Action Beta (EAB). DtWI partners with countries in developing countries to deliver deworming programs similar to those carried out by SCI. DSW provides safe drinking water to rural communities in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda, by installing and servicing chlorine dispensers at water taps and pumps. EAB scales up interventions that have strong evidence of effectiveness in pilot studies.
Evidence Action has been a Top Pick in 2014 (DSW only), 2015 and 2016, but this year we have more uncertainty regarding how well it meets our criteria. As discussed above, the evidence for deworming programs is contested, and so we think DtWI scores less highly than our other Top Picks. We continue to think that DSW is an excellent and highly cost effective program to provide clean water to ~5m people, but its expansion stalled in 2016, in part because of a decrease in the carbon price, which funds part of the program. Our understanding is that EAB will focus on testing and scaling up No Lean Season in 2017. While No Lean Season looks very promising, and GiveWell is considering it as a potential top charity in 2017, it has very little track record. We do not have a good understanding of how Evidence Action would spend additional donations, in part because they appointed a new CEO in February 2017, and so we are unsure of their strategic direction. We remain huge fans of Evidence Action, and their focus on testing and scaling up interventions with strong evidence of impact makes them a great cultural fit. Although we think that our Top Picks score more highly on our criteria than Evidence Action at this time, we will be closely monitoring them in future years, and will consider them for our Top Picks portfolio again in 2018. Evidence Action remains a part of our wider portfolio, and our members can still choose to donate to it through our platform.
Fistula Foundation provides corrective surgeries for women who develop obstetric fistulas, a hole between the vagina and rectum that develops during childbirth. These surgeries have a large positive impact on the women who receive them, and are relatively cheap to provide: Fistula Foundation estimate that they cost $586 on average. We think that this is a very important, and neglected cause, that would resonate strongly with our members. Although the program is relatively simple, we do not have as good an understanding of Fistula Foundation's track record and evidence of effectiveness as the charities in our Top Picks portfolio. However, we think that Fistula Foundation represents an outstanding giving opportunity, particularly for members who are interested in supporting maternal health. Fistula Foundation remains part of our wider portfolio, and members can give to it through our platform.
Our 2017 partner selection team carried out excellent research and analysis, and selected a great list of charities for our Top Picks portfolio. I'd like to thank each of the members for their hard work over the last month or so:
Manuel Ureno, WG 2017
Manglam Tewari, WG 2018
Vinayak Uppal, WG 2018
Jessica Blum, WG 2018
Aditi Muhnot, WG 2018
Kevin Monogue, Wharton 2019
James Wieler, Penn Law and Wharton 2019
Alex Daniels, Penn Law and Wharton 2019
If you have any questions about our 2017 portfolios, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.