Exploring Cause Prioritization in the Journal of Economic Perspectives

Emily Oehlsen, our Managing Director for Global Health and Wellbeing (GHW), recently published a paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives that explains Open Philanthropy’s approach to cause prioritization within our GHW portfolio.

Here’s the abstract:

Many foundations decide how much and where to give based on their founders’ personal precommitments to specific issues, geographies, and/or institutions. If a grantmaking organization instead wanted to select problems based on a general measure of impact per dollar spent, how should it approach this goal? What tools could it use to identify promising cause areas (climate change, education, or health, for example) or to compare grants that achieve different results? This paper focuses on an approach followed by the grantmaking organization Open Philanthropy for its “Global Health and Wellbeing” portfolio, with an emphasis on two key frameworks: equalizing marginal philanthropic returns, as well as importance, neglectedness, and tractability. It describes measurement and comparability under the first framework, and then applies the second framework to the example of reducing exposure to lead. It concludes by considering critiques and areas for improvement.

And here’s the full paper. (Copyright American Economic Association; reproduced with permission. Original link here.)