How CE Selects Cause Areas
Updated: Dec 9, 2021
It's highly valuable for an organization to clearly and transparently specify its cause area preferences, and although Charity Entrepreneurship has written considerably about our process of intervention selection, we have not done so for our cause area selection process. CE is a unique organization in that it benefits quite significantly from rotating through cause areas over time. The number of talented founders and promising new charity ideas in any given cause area is limited. So, focusing on multiple cause areas over the years has allowed significantly more charities to be founded than if we had worked on a single area consistently. Still, even when taking into consideration the fact that rotating cause areas is worth doing and thus CE does not need to pick a singular one, the question of how these decisions are made and what factors play into them remains. Here are a few of the considerations we make when picking a new cause area: EA ethics: Our cause selection principles are value-wise very in line with the EA movement, using consequentialist, ethical frameworks. In which areas can most lives be saved or improved? Our first two cause areas (global health and farmed animal welfare) were those that the EA movement thinks are highly promising - and, after all, a huge % of our staff team comes from said movement. Empirical data: We tend to weigh empirical evidence highly, higher even than most in the EA movement. In general, scientific evidence, quick feedback loops, and high levels of skepticism are all important epistemic considerations that we examine closely for every cause we look at. Cause X: We think there are many possible impactful cause areas that have not yet been discovered by us or the EA movement, but could be similarly promising from plausible ethical and epistemic perspectives. We followed the growth of mental health and environmentalism as EA cause areas and independently researched them before incubating related charities. We also worked in family planning and policy, areas that have not been investigated deeply by EA but our team thought had promise. We aim for every idea that we recommend to be in the range of top ideas from our most classical areas (global health and animals). Meaning, if we researched a cause area and could not find ideas on par with our top ideas in other areas, we would not recommend any. That being said, we think comparing top ideas between causes is tricky and can often come down to calls that reasonable experts would disagree on. In such cases, we try to make the judgment calls clear and leave them up to the founders.