What is effective altruism?

You do not have Javascript enabled. Some elements of this website may not work correctly.

Effective altruism is the project of using evidence and reason to figure out how to best contribute to helping others, and taking action on that basis.

In his 2019 paper[1], Will MacAskill unpacks this definition further:

Effective altruism is:
(i) the use of evidence and careful reasoning to work out how to maximize the good with a given unit of resources, tentatively understanding ‘the good’ in impartial welfarist terms, and
(ii) the use of the findings from (i) to try to improve the world.

The first part of the definition (i) refers to effective altruism as an intellectual project (or ‘research field’); and the second part (ii) refers to effective altruism as a practical project (or ‘social movement’).

The effective altruism community (the 'social movement') is a collection of people and organisations who use their resources (e.g. money, time, social capital) on the project of trying to effectively improve the world.

Giving What We Can is one of the organisations formed in the early effective altruism movement (read more about our history) and continues to remain very active within it.

Read An Introduction To Effective Altruism

Taking action

If you’re inspired by the ideas of effective altruism, there are many ways you can take action:


  1. William MacAskill, The Definition of Effective Altruism. In: Effective Altruism: Philosophical Issues. Edited by Hilary Greaves and Theron Pummer, Oxford University Press (2019). © Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198841364.003.0001 ↩︎