Introduction

This post is part of a series on common myths and misconceptions about charity. Taking time to learn the facts will help prevent the spread of misinformation and inspire more people to use their resources effectively to improve the world.

Do effective altruists only value short-term, measurable outcomes?

People in the effective altruism movement often support organisations doing direct work with easily measurable outcomes. After all, effective altruists try to make evidence-based decisions whenever possible, and it's difficult to find evidence supporting interventions with very indirect, long-term, and/or abstract consequences. This has led to the misconception that people in the effective altruism movement only care about short-term, measurable change. In fact, many effective altruists care about outcomes that are harder to measure and are supportive of working towards systemic change.

myth graphic measurability

Critics of effective altruism have pointed out that effective altruists are particularly susceptible to a bias towards measurable outcomes. Because effective altruists rely on evidence to figure out how to best help others, they are often drawn towards interventions that produce a quantifiable or measurable impact.

However, while it may be easiest to study and promote measurable change, effective altruists value other kinds of change as well. On the 80,000 Hours blog, Rob Wiblin argues that effective altruists love systemic change.

Organisations within the effective altruism movement work across a range of cause areas and rely on a wide variety of evidence — both quantitative and qualitative — to make inferences about the potential impact of interventions. There are many highly effective charities working towards systemic change. For instance:

This post is part of an update of our "Myths About Charity" page. Multiple authors contributed.