Finding Giving Opportunities in Malaria Control and Elimination

Throughout the post, “we” refers to GiveWell and Good Ventures, who work as partners on the Open Philanthropy Project, previously known as GiveWell Labs.

As part of our work on GiveWell Labs, we retained Dr. Steven Phillips as a consultant to source giving opportunities in malaria control/elimination.

This post lays out:

About Dr. Phillips: Dr. Phillips serves or has served on the Boards and Advisory bodies of the following organizations: Malaria No More, Net Impact, the World Economic Forum’s Global Health Advisory Board, advisor to the United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria, the Harvard School of Public Health’s Leadership Council and the advisory panels of Medicines for Malaria Ventures, the UCSF Global Health Group, Episcopal Relief and Development’s “NetsforLife” Initiative, the World Bank Malaria Booster Program, the Strategic Advisory Group of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, the World Health Organization Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) Strategic Alliances Advisory Group. He was also a Private Sector Advisory Board representative to the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, and a private sector representative on the board of Roll Back Malaria.

The project

Before he began this project, Dr. Phillips categorized giving opportunities in malaria as (a) research and development of new drugs, vaccines and technologies, (b) program delivery or operations research, and (c) advocacy to increase awareness of and funding directed to malaria. We agreed with Dr. Phillips to focus his work on (b), program delivery and operations research.

Dr. Phillips communicated with many prominent organizations (e.g., President’s Malaria InitiativeCenter for Disease ControlPopulation Services InternationalMalaria no More among others) that focus on malaria asking for giving opportunities. We agreed with Dr. Phillips that Good Ventures would consider providing funding to the opportunities, depending on their fit with our broader priorities in GiveWell Labs.

Why we worked on this

We decided to undertake this project because:

We felt that we learned important things on both of the above points (more below).

Ultimately, we decided not to move forward with funding the opportunities Dr. Phillips identified. This is not a function of the quality of the ideas Dr. Phillips received, but is due the fact that we’re not yet at a point where we are prepared to commit significant funding and staff time to malaria (more in our recent review and plan for GiveWell Labs). We plan to revisit these proposals if and when we choose to commit more thoroughly to this area.

What we learned

Dr. Phillips advised us not to ask participating organizations to publish the full details of the ideas they proposed; instead, we summarize the key things we learned below.

We also continued to experience the challenge of working in a field (philanthropy) where limited information is publicly available. Ideally, we’d like to have 20+ proposals for each cause we’d consider committing to (as we now do for malaria delivery and operational research) and use those proposals as a major input into the causes we would ultimately choose. Unfortunately, this data set does not exist and we don’t believe it’s feasible to create it.

It seems to us that organizations are happy to engage with a funder when funding is reasonably likely to result (as it was in the case of this project) but would be less likely to do so as the odds of receiving funding fell. Were we to try to solicit proposals across the spectrum of foreign aid, that would likely require many projects of the type Dr. Phillips conducted, and we don’t believe organizations would be willing to participate in our process given the low probability that they would receive funding.

Proposal summaries

We are not publishing the full details of each proposal we received. Instead, we post brief summaries of each proposal, without the name of the organization that proposed it, and our categorization of the project.

We include proposals only from those organizations who have agreed to participate and have kept other proposals confidential.

We categorize each project as:

Proposal topics: