Malengo: Supporting students to pursue education internationally

GiveWell recently recommended a grant of up to $750,000 to Malengo, an educational migration program. Malengo supports students from low-income countries in moving to high-income countries for university. The goal is to enable them to earn a higher income over time, benefiting both the students and their families.
GiveWell is co-funding the grant with Open Philanthropy, which is contributing an equal amount, for a total of up to $1.5 million over three years. We expect the GiveWell portion of the grant to be funded in part by individual donors and in part by the All Grants Fund.
One of our Program Officers, Erin Crossett, recommended this grant based on the belief that it could be a highly cost-effective opportunity. As a small discretionary grant, it received less scrutiny than our standard grants.
This grant provides an interesting learning opportunity for us, and it may support Malengo through a particularly challenging financial period.
The rest of this post shares why we think Malengo’s program could be cost-effective, how filling this specific funding gap might enable Malengo’s program to become more financially sustainable, and what we hope to learn next. You can read more about the full rationale for this grant on our grant page.
A small discretionary grant
Our senior grantmakers can collectively recommend a total of up to $10 million in “small discretionary grants” each year (more details here). We believe that we can increase our expected impact by occasionally funding small, promising opportunities like this one without investing a lot of time in evaluating them.
We’re writing a post about this grant because we think it’s interesting and different from our usual recommendations. But almost by definition, it’s not representative of most of our grantmaking work. Most of our funding goes to programs we’ve researched more deeply in our key focus areas of malaria, vaccines, nutrition, and water quality. However, we’re always excited to look into new areas that could be promising, including programs like Malengo’s.
Malengo’s migration program: A promising way to increase incomes
The income someone can expect to earn varies widely based on where they live. Around the world, millions of people move from lower-wage to higher-wage areas, either within their home countries or outside them, in hopes of making a better living for themselves and their families.
Many students from lower-income countries would like to

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Going Beyond Innovating: Reimagining the Program Officer Role

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Why Neighbors Would Help: A Vignette Experiment on Reciprocity in Informal Helping

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Ahead of Print. Reciprocity in informal helping, or informal volunteering, is often seen as a way to ensure that people who are not altruistically motivated exchange help. Yet, it could be problematic for those who are unable to help, as they would be excluded from this exchange. We study to what extent people’s reciprocity expectations affect informal helping intentions and whether necessity of helping and perceived helpfulness (indirect reciprocity) compensate and moderate this relationship. Expectations are tested with a factorial survey conducted among the Longitudinal Internet studies for the Social Sciences panel (N vignettes = 3,299). Multilevel regression analyses show that people have stronger intentions to help those who are likely to reciprocate but that a strong need for help and having helped others in the past are more important reasons to help. Furthermore, the effect of likelihood of reciprocity on informal helping intentions is stronger for neighbors who never helped others. Policy implications of these results are discussed.

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Societal Roles of Nonprofit Organizations: Parsonian Echoes and Luhmannian Reframing of the Organization–Society Interface

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Ahead of Print. Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) have long been recognized as playing vital roles in society. Nevertheless, a coherent understanding of how these roles align with broader social theory, and how to conceptualize the interface between nonprofits and society is still lacking. In pursuit of a solid theoretical foundation, we conducted a systematic literature review encompassing 119 publications spanning from 1959 to 2021 that delve into the societal roles of NPOs. We reason that much of prior research has implicitly adhered to a functionalist perspective akin to that proposed by Talcott Parsons nearly seven decades ago. Our review identifies four overarching societal roles fulfilled by NPOs: service delivery, advocacy, integration, and the development of cultural patterns. Recognizing the limitations of Parsonian functionalism, we advocate for a shift toward a neo-functionalist, systems-theoretical framing to allow for an analysis of societal functions that is more sensitive to the heterogeneity and contradictions pervasive in contemporary society.

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The Abbott Approach: Innovating in the Program Officer Role

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Revisiting 7 Big Questions for Big Philanthropy: Will A Focus on Racial Equity Be Sustained?

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Baby Boomers and Their Voluntary Engagement: A Cohort Comparison Among the Middle-Aged and Older Population in Germany

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Ahead of Print. The aim of this study is to compare the levels of volunteering by German baby boomers, who are currently in their fifties and sixties, to cohorts born earlier. Using data from the German Aging Survey (DEAS), logistic and negative binomial regressions were employed to analyze the prevalence and time contributions that baby boomers invest in volunteering. The study indicates a higher prevalence of volunteering by baby boomers compared with earlier-born cohorts and suggests that the large size of this cohort will imply high levels of volunteering that could increase even further as the cohort approaches retirement. Moreover, our findings suggest stability in voluntary time contributions by baby boomers compared with earlier-born cohorts; this contrasts with the existing research showing decreased overall time contributions to volunteering. The study underscores the importance of considering cohort-specific differences in voluntary engagement behavior to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics of volunteering.

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March 2024 open thread

Our goal with hosting quarterly open threads is to give blog readers an opportunity to publicly raise comments or questions about GiveWell or related topics (in the comments section below). As always, you’re also welcome to email us at info@givewell.org or to request a call with GiveWell staff if you have feedback or questions you’d prefer to discuss privately. We’ll try to respond promptly to questions or comments.
You can view previous open threads here.
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Endowments are Great — But Sustainability and Autonomy are the Greater Good

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Fluid Forms of Organizing Volunteering: Producing Civic Action Through Organizational Maintenance

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Ahead of Print. This article explores the evolving nature of volunteering in fluid forms of organizing and their potential for civic action. While previous research suggests that highly individualized volunteering can undermine collectivity and disconnect tasks from change-oriented goals, thus diminishing its civic character, this study employs Lichterman and Eliasoph’s conceptual framework of civic action and Dewey’s concept of ends-in-view to demonstrate how civic action arises in fluid forms of organizing through the ongoing coordination of organizational maintenance. Drawing on an 18-month ethnographic study of female breakers aiming to improve women’s access to a male-dominated street dance scene, we find that fluid organizing produces a distinct form of volunteering that invigorates a collective and change-oriented endeavor. Our findings highlight the importance of understanding and investigating new contexts and forms of volunteering to shed new light on contemporary volunteerism, its multifaceted nature, and its potential to mobilize collective efforts for societal change.

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What we fund, #1: We fund many opportunities outside our top charities

This post is the fourth in a multi-part series, covering how GiveWell works and what we fund. We’ll add links to the later posts here as they’re published. Through these posts, we hope to give a better understanding of what our research looks like and how we make decisions.

How we work, #1: Cost-effectiveness is generally the most important factor in our recommendations
How we work, #2: We look at specific opportunities, not just general interventions
How we work, #3: Our analyses involve judgment calls

GiveWell aims to find and fund programs that have the greatest impact on global well-being. We’re open to funding whichever global health and development opportunities seem most cost-effective. So while our top charities list is still what we’re best known for, it’s only part of our impact; we also dedicate substantial funding and research effort to opportunities beyond top charities.
In 2022, 71% of the funds we directed supported our four current top charities, and 29% were directed to other programs.1This is based on the funding we directly recommended or granted to other organizations from February 1, 2022, to January 31, 2023, as well as funding that we believe was influenced primarily by our research and recommendations. jQuery(‘#footnote_plugin_tooltip_14734_1_1’).tooltip({ tip: ‘#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_14734_1_1’, tipClass: ‘footnote_tooltip’, effect: ‘fade’, predelay: 0, fadeInSpeed: 200, delay: 400, fadeOutSpeed: 200, position: ‘top right’, relative: true, offset: [10, 10], }); However, most of our research capacity goes toward programs other than our top charities. This is because (a) most programs we direct funding to aren’t top charities (we have four top charities but directed funding to about 40 other grantees in 2022),2See pages 15 and 16 of our 2022 metrics report.
jQuery(‘#footnote_plugin_tooltip_14734_1_2’).tooltip({ tip: ‘#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_14734_1_2’, tipClass: ‘footnote_tooltip’, effect: ‘fade’, predelay: 0, fadeInSpeed: 200, delay: 400, fadeOutSpeed: 200, position: ‘top right’, relative: true, offset: [10, 10], }); and (b) it requires more effort to investigate a program we know less deeply.
In this post we’ll share:

The overall scope of our grantmaking
Why we dedicate funding and research capacity to programs other than our top charities
The types of opportunities we support

You can support the full range of our grantmaking via the All Grants Fund.
The scope of our work
Our research is focused on global health and development programs. We believe this is an area in which donations can be especially cost-effective.
Much of our funding

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Revisiting Big Questions for Philanthropy, Part 1: Changes in Philanthropic Practice

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How Flexible Funding for Women’s Funds Can Shift the Paradigm

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