This spring, ACE will make its first round of recommendations under our new name. While we believe that our current recommended organizations are far more effective than the vast majority of organizations working on behalf of animals, we’re looking forward to using systematic research to investigate the fine differences between these groups and many others that share their focus on protecting farmed animals. Additionally, the previous recommended organizations were chosen over a year ago, so the time is right for an update based on new evidence.
Our process for this round of recommendations has begun with developing explicit criteria to use in evaluating organizations. Volunteer Peter Hurford led the work on this project through many drafts, with help from ACE staff. Peter brought us experience he’d accumulated last summer preparing impact reviews for Giving What We Can. We’re very pleased with what has resulted: a multi-faceted list that will allow us to independently evaluate many aspects of an organization’s performance, then integrate those evaluations to understand its overall effectiveness. Our evaluations will combine explicit cost-effectiveness estimates with detailed questions in other areas that will keep our focus on the big picture, rather than on single pieces of data that could be misleading. We believe the combination will make for a strong evaluation process, with results that can be understood and critiqued by our followers, allowing us to further improve our recommendations for December this year and in following years.
A top criterion for recommendation is room for more funding. While we may recommend that animal advocates volunteer with organizations which do not have apparent ability to use additional funds, it would be irresponsible to suggest donating to such groups.
Because our ultimate goal is to recommend organizations that can do the most cost-effective work with additional resources, extra care and detail have been put into the cost-effectiveness criterion. Volunteer Jason Kirschner made significant contributions in this area, and the result is a strong framework for us to use with the data we gather in our investigations. This framework is presented with several worked examples where parameters are represented symbolically, as well as with general explanation of the principles used.
Other criteria address the organization’s track record, their approach to self-evaluation, and their organizational stability, among other factors. While these areas do not lend themselves as well to completely objective evaluation as the more numbers-driven areas above, they can provide key insights into an organization’s ability to learn and grow. Furthermore, because of the high uncertainty involved in most cost-effectiveness estimates, they will provide needed corroborative evidence that helps us identify which programs are most likely to be running at high efficiency.
Please comment here to tell us what characteristics and questions you think will be especially helpful in identifying effective organizations, or if there’s anything you think we’ve left out. This is just the first step in what we hope will be a long and productive discussion.