How can we do the most good?
Most of us want to help to make a better world. We see suffering and injustice, and are moved to do something about this—to seek out a world where more people experience more of the joy of life and less of the pain. But working out the best way to do that is a difficult problem.
Which cause should you support if you really want to make a difference? What career choices will help you make a significant contribution? Which charities will use your donation effectively? If you don’t choose well, you risk wasting your time and money, or even making things worse. But if you choose wisely, you have a tremendous chance to improve the world.
Rather than just doing what intuitively feels right, we evaluate and act on the most promising causes, continuously adapting to new evidence.
Effective altruism is about considering all causes and actions, and then acting in the way that brings about the greatest positive impact. We place a strong emphasis on cause-neutrality, evaluating causes based solely on their effectiveness without prior attachment or biases towards a particular cause. This cause-neutral approach has led to the development of a framework that helps to figure out which problems should be prioritised and identify the best giving opportunities.
What we look for in a cause
A global community
Effective altruism is more than an idea, it’s also a community of people and organisations that have made helping others a core part of their lives, and use evidence and reasoning to work out how to do so as best as possible.
For a comprehensive list of introductory articles, videos and books on effective altruism, as well as in-depth reading on different approaches to how to do the most good, you can visit the EA resources page.
Another great way to find out more about these ideas is to attend a talk or meet-up organised by the local effective altruism group in your city. For a list of groups in Australia and New Zealand, visit our Get Involved page.
Guiding principles of Effective Altruism
Effective Altruism Australia endorses the Centre for Effective Altruism’s Guiding Principles. These principles set out the core values held by many people interested in the ideas of effective altruism, and they summarise the approach taken at Effective Altruism Australia.
Commitment to others
We take the well-being of others very seriously, and are willing to take significant personal action in order to benefit others. What this entails can vary from person to person, and it’s ultimately up to individuals to figure out what significant personal action looks like for them. In each case, however, the most essential commitment of effective altruism is to actively try to make the world a better place.
We strive to base our actions on the best available evidence and reasoning about how the world works. We recognise how difficult it is to know how to do the most good, and therefore try to avoid overconfidence, to seek out informed critiques of our own views, to be open to unusual ideas, and to take alternative points of view seriously.
We are a community united by our commitment to these principles, not to a specific cause. Our goal is to do as much good as we can, and we evaluate ways to do that without committing ourselves at the outset to any particular cause. We are open to focusing our efforts on any group of beneficiaries, and to using any reasonable methods to help them. If good arguments or evidence show that our current plans are not the best way of helping, we will change our beliefs and actions.
Because we believe that trust, cooperation, and accurate information are essential to doing good, we strive to be honest and trustworthy. More broadly, we strive to follow those rules of good conduct that allow communities (and the people within them) to thrive. We also value the reputation of effective altruism, and recognise that our actions reflect on it.
We affirm a commitment to building a friendly, open, and welcoming environment in which many different approaches can flourish, and in which a wide range of perspectives can be evaluated on their merits. In order to encourage cooperation and collaboration between people with widely varying circumstances and ways of thinking, we resolve to treat people of different worldviews, values, backgrounds, and identities kindly and respectfully.