Discussion: How Do You Know a Good Charity When You See It?

The World

Reporter Amy Costello is leading an online discussion about evaluating charities with Iqbal Dhaliwal (MIT's Poverty Action Lab), Dayna Brown (CDA Collaborative Learning Projects) and Holden Karnofsky (GiveWell).

When people find out that I reported from Africa for many years and am now producing a series called Tracking Charity, they frequently ask me this: "Which charities do you think are doing really good work on the ground overseas?"

Honestly, I have trouble answering.

Certainly, many charities are doing good work, but even after all my years covering conflict, food crises, HIV/AIDS, and refugees, I still find it difficult to define effective aid. How should one measure success? Should all charities keep overhead low, or can high expenses be justified if they allow a charity to hire the best people? Even if an aid program improves lives in the short term, might it create a culture of dependency in the long run?

Thursday, August 8, we're giving you the chance to discuss these and related questions with people who have devoted their careers to answering them. I'll be moderating the conversation and will be joined by:

Iqbal Dhaliwal, an economist who grew up in Delhi, is director of policy at MIT's Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. When people ask him where to donate money, he advises, "Don't just think process, but think of the final impact that you are interested in."

Dayna Brown is director of the Listening Program at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, a nonprofit in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is co-author of Time To Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid.

Holden Karnofsky is co-founder of GiveWell, a nonprofit that conducts cost-benefit analyses of charities "to help donors decide where to give." A graduate of Harvard University, he previously worked in the hedge fund industry.

Our discussion will take place in the section below where you can leave your questions and comments. You can follow the discussion as it evolves by subscribing to the comment thread by RSS.

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