I spent time at a fascinating conference in Silicon Valley, which came complete with roughly the level of inchoate enthusiasm about things like blockchain technology that you might expect.
I was pleasantly surprised, however, at how little talk there was about the importance of setting audacious goals like curing all disease, or about the way that philanthropy is uniquely well placed to head off disastrous low-probability events like meteor strikes or deadly self-aware artificial intelligences. And there wasn’t even a peep about contributing further to the Stanford endowment.
Impact Philanthropy is a complex topic, and others found these selections from the Impact Giving archive from Giving Compass to be good resources.
Instead, there was a lot of talk about invisible causes and effects. For instance: the world is a much, much better place today than it has been at any point in human history, and yet the number of people who believe that fact is distressingly tiny.
So what’s the best way to direct philanthropic capital to alleviate important and urgent problems? Again, there’s a visibility problem. High-visibility problems – a hurricane, an earthquake, a war – are something people viscerally react to, and want to do something about. And as nonprofit organizations through the decades will tell you, pictures of ill or dying children are undeniably effective in persuading people to act, in a way that statistical facts are not.
Read the full article by Felix Salmon about philanthropic capital from Cause & Effect
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