EXPLORE IMPACTFUL CAUSE AREAS & ORGANIZATIONS
Cause areas are basically categories of big-scale problems that we can try to influence using resources. There are many cause areas, such as global poverty and health, climate change, etc, and various organizations working to contribute to them. Different efforts can affect the world in many different ways. This section is meant to help identify which cause area and or organization you would want to work within, by supplying tools for evaluating options.
If you've already thought deeply about the causes and organizations you're interested in, you can skip this part and proceed to defining your specific role or to evaluating opportunities.
Depending on your view of the world, you might be more interested in some cause areas over others. Your interests could be influenced by personal exposure to specific topics or by various emotional factors. Although these are valid considerations, it is crucial to be aware that these are also biases. When comparing different causes, we should try to take on a somewhat objective approach.
A useful way to choose the impact category for your volunteering efforts is to look at the problems the world is facing. For example, If you’re considering focusing on sparing CO2 emissions, you might want to understand the problem, its scale, and its urgency, and what the world is doing right now to address climate change.
A great framework to approach these questions is the importance, tractability, neglectedness (ITN) framework. For every cause area we will ask the following:
Importance: What is the scale of the problems in that field? If all the problems could be solved, how much better would the world be? How many lives does it affect, and to what extent?
Tractability: How solvable is the problem in this area? Will additional resources significantly help it?
Neglectedness: How neglected is the area? How many resources and how many people are already working on addressing the problem?
Give it a try
At this point, try to think of a few cause areas that you find important and interesting.
Really, stop reading for a moment, and try to think of a few problems that you find interesting, and that you might want to influence.
Document some of what you came up with in the first column of the table in the “Cause areas & organizations” tab. No need to worry about the other columns for now.
We will now present some promising cause areas that you might want to consider as well, which you can document in a similar manner, if you find them interesting.
PROMOSING CAUSE AREAS
In addition to the cause areas that you already know and are intuitively drawn to, here are some top impact areas to consider. Each field has many discussions and ideas, and you can feel free to keep researching them on your own - this is just a taste.
Keep in mind, some of these causes tend to require particular knowledge and expertise, so are potentially less suitable for volunteering. But as mentioned before, it’s always good to keep an open mind.
A cause seeking to promote positive outcomes for humanity in the long run. This may involve researching and promoting transformative technologies, advocating for rational decision-making, or working on projects related to global coordination and cooperation. Includes activities such as supporting think tanks or research organizations, contributing to policy discussions, or working on outreach and advocacy initiatives. You can read more here.
Poverty remains a significant challenge in many parts of the world, with millions lacking access to basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. Organizations focus on identifying and supporting effective poverty interventions, such as cash transfers, education, and healthcare programs, and volunteering can involve activities such as fundraising, advocating for. poverty reducing policy changes, or helping poverty-focused organizations. You can read more here.
Millions of people worldwide lack access to basic healthcare, resulting in preventable deaths and suffering. Volunteering with global health organizations involves a range of activities, from providing medical care in developing countries to researching and advocating for policy changes, helping to address some of the world's most pressing health challenges, such as infectious diseases, malnutrition, and lack of access to healthcare.
Many animals suffer in factory farms, laboratories, and other settings. Volunteering in animal welfare can involve activities such as supporting animal shelters, advocating for animal-friendly policies, or participating in direct action campaigns to raise awareness about animal cruelty. By volunteering in this field, one can help reduce animal suffering and promote more compassionate treatment of animals. You can read more here.
Climate change is one of the most significant environmental challenges humanity faces, potentially causing widespread disruption and harm. This includes initiatives in the fields of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and carbon pricing. Volunteering in this field can involve activities such as advocacy, supporting climate research, or helping environmental organizations. You can read more here.
Evaluate and find organizations
Evaluate the cause areas
By now, you should have a few cause areas in your table. If you want, you can take a few more minutes to think of other areas that are still not there, but you think you might want to influence.
Now, for each cause area you mapped, you should fill the ITN framework columns, using the guiding questions found in the table.
After that, you can use this to decide which areas you want to proceed with to “find organizations”. You may proceed with all of them, but notice, having fewer options enables you to spend more time on the prominent ones.
After mapping several cause areas, we’ll now focus on coming up with ideas for organizations or ways that allow you to contribute to them. Each option you come up with can be added to the 2nd column of the table in the “Cause areas & organizations” tab.
Once you have specific causes in mind, you can actively search for organizations that operate within them. You can also search for umbrella organizations which can lead to many others, including local ones or ones that operate in your area. In addition, your local Effective Altruism community may have already evaluated some local organizations and can recommend specific ones that are extremely effective. You can also find local EA communities here.
Not only charities
Don’t limit yourself to official charities, you might find impactful volunteering opportunities as part of:
Self-organized projects, social enterprises, communities, advocacy movements.
Academia - You can reach out to help or join research teams. The Effective Thesis website has more information about academic research that promotes solving the world’s most important problems.
Volunteering Remotely: some skills are applicable online. If this is the case, you can consider volunteering with organizations abroad. Volunteering remotely can open a wide range of impactful opportunities for you that don’t happen to be locally around you.
Transparency and decency of the organization: when you consider organizations, think whether it’s reliable and transparent about its operations. Many countries have standards for basic transparency qualifications. Transparency is correlated with proper management and is a necessary condition (but not sufficient) for an impactful organization.
Starting your own project
You can also start your own project. In that case, it's essential to research existing projects first, including both local and global initiatives. For global organizations, you could explore the possibility of starting a local chapter or volunteering remotely, as discussed earlier. Before starting your own project, it's highly valuable to investigate related projects and identify how your idea can contribute to the field and bring additional benefits compared to other initiatives.
Evaluate the organizations
If you haven’t already, in the table, try to fill the columns representing the ITN framework for each cause area and organization. If you already filled it per the cause areas, try to update each evaluation based on the specific organization.
At this point you should have a list of some organizations that you can see yourself involved with, in regards to cause areas you want to focus on.