Effective altruism (EA) is a set of principles meant to help people do as much good as they can with the time and resources they can spare. It also refers to a social movement built around those principles.
This page lays out some examples of the movement's impact, from large-scale philanthropic efforts to grassroots political organizing.
(To learn more about the basics, read our introduction.)
There are hundreds of ongoing projects in the community, so this page really is only a sample of what EA has achieved. If there's anything you think we should add, please let us know!
Last updated: January 7, 2021
Much of the community's work goes toward helping people who live in extreme poverty and lack access to basic healthcare.
The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative and Deworm the World Initiative invests in people's health and future well-being by treating preventable diseases that often get little attention. They have given out hundreds of millions of deworming treatments to fight intestinal parasites, which may help people earn higher incomes later in life. (Sources for SCI and DWI)
Sendwave, co-founded by a member of the EA community, allows people to transfer money to several African countries faster and more cheaply than other services. This is especially helpful for migrants sending money home to their families. The app has been used by more than 100,000 people in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.
The Effective Altruism Foundation's Zurich ballot initiative led the city's government to pledge an additional $5 million/year toward development aid for the foreseeable future
Michael Kremer, a founding member of the EA organization Giving What We Can, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for experimental work aimed at alleviating global poverty. He shared the prize with Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, whose Poverty Action Lab received a $1 million grant from Effective Altruism Funds in 2019.
Within the space of animal welfare, the community tends to focus on the welfare of farmed animals, which are far more numerous than animals harmed by humans in other ways. Some members also aim to reduce the suffering of wild animals (details below).
The Humane League and Mercy for Animals, alongside many other organizations, have orchestrated corporate campaigns and legal reforms to fight the use of battery cages. Because of this work, more than 100 million hens that would have been caged instead live cage-free. (This includes all cage-free reform work, of which a sizable fraction was funded by EA-aligned donors.)
The Good Food Institute works with scientists, entrepreneurs, and investors to develop and promote meat alternatives that don't require the suffering of farmed animals.
Organizations like Wild Animal Initiative and Animal Ethics are establishing a new research field around the welfare of wild animals, which often suffer terribly but receive little attention from mainstream animal charities.
The number of people alive today pales in comparison to the number who could exist in the future. It may therefore be extremely important to ensure that human civilization flourishes far into the future.
There are a number of ways that people in the EA community work toward a positive future for humanity. They work to better understand and prevent extinction risks — catastrophic events that have the potential to destroy all life on this planet — as well as existential risks, which wouldn't cause extinction but could dramatically and irreversibly curtail humanity's potential. Some instead focus on increasing the chance that the lives of our descendants are positive in other ways: for example, improving the ability of institutions to make good decisions.
Organizations like the Future of Humanity Institute and the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk work on research and policy related to some of the biggest threats facing humanity, from pandemics and climate change to nuclear war and superintelligent AI systems.
Some organizations in this space, like the Center for Human-Compatible AI and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, focus entirely on solving issues posed by advances in artificial intelligence. AI systems of the future could be very powerful and difficult to control --- a dangerous combination.
Sherlock Biosciences is developing a diagnostic platform that could reduce threats from viral pandemics. (They are a private company, but much of their capital comes from a grant made by Open Philanthropy, an EA-aligned grantmaker.)
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Future Generations has supported a bill that would oblige the UK government to design policies with the well-being of future generations in mind.
People have applied EA methodology to a wide range of other causes. As long as there are opportunities to do a lot of good for a relatively low investment, almost any problem might be a reasonable target for the community's efforts.
The Center for Election Science ran a ballot initiative which led a mid-sized American city to adopt a better voting system to reduce partisanship and help citizens express their preferences more clearly.
Charity Entrepreneurship runs an incubation program that helps founders create high-impact charities to address relatively neglected issues using evidence-based solutions.
GiveWell finds outstanding global development charities and publishes detailed analyses to help people decide where to give.
Animal Charity Evaluators conducts research to find the most effective strategies to help non-human animals, as well as the charities which are doing the best job of implementing those strategies.
The Happier Lives Institute conducts theoretical research on measures of subjective well-being, and applies this research to search for the best ways to increase global happiness.
The Global Priorities Institute at Oxford University promotes the ideas and principles of effective altruism within academia. Working alongside the Forethought Foundation, they have provided funding to support 32 promising graduate students who are contributing to global priorities research.
Note that some of the funding described here has gone toward the charities described above. This means that certain "impacts" on this page may appear twice — for example, grants from Open Philanthropy help to fund GiveDirectly's work. We discuss both the work and the funding to provide a more complete picture of the movement, but we caution you not to count the impact twice.
Good Ventures has committed more than $11 billion to effective giving --- with help from Open Philanthropy, which conducts research into outstanding giving opportunities and has made hundreds of millions of dollars in grants. (Source)
Giving What We Can has over 5,000 members who have pledged to give at least 10% of their lifetime income to effective charities. Collectively, they have donated over $200 million and pledged to give more than $2 billion.
EA Giving Tuesday has coordinated donors to direct more than $1 million from Facebook's annual Giving Tuesday match to highly effective charities.
Through Founders Pledge, startup founders pledge to donate at least 2% of their personal proceeds when they sell their businesses. Its 1200 members have donated more than $430 million.
Longview Philanthropy advises major donors who want to maximize the impact of their philanthropy.
Effective Altruism Funds allows anyone to donate to one of several philanthropic funds, each led by a team of subject-matter experts; this lets people increase the impact of their donations without having to conduct independent research. (This project is run by CEA, the same organization that published this page.)
Vox Media's Future Perfect vertical raises awareness about better ways to do good and shares EA research with a broad audience