Monday 5 May 2014

GiveWell Update on DMI

In February, I wrote an Effectiveness Case Study on Development Media International (DMI), the charity that changed my mind about the effectiveness of mass media interventions. Although I began writing this blog with the belief that the mass media could potentially rival all other charitable interventions in effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, my hope had been evaporating the more I researched the issue. When I discovered DMI and other organizations like it, it renewed my belief that the mass media could do tremendous good when in the hands of people that know what they're doing. Since then, after researching entertainment-education and other explicitly altruistic forms of media, I am even more confident of this.

The other day, after reviewing midline reports on the ongoing randomized controlled trial in the Burkina Faso, GiveWell updated its views on DMI:
"If the results - and DMI's cost-effectiveness calculations - held up, DMI could become a GiveWell top charity with substantially better estimated "cost per (equivalent) life saved" than our current top charities." 
Based on my own research, GiveWell's tentative guess about DMI is right. Their programs are extremely cheap, highly scalable, and a little bit effective. The questions surround the difficulty of proving the relationship between the media and the behaviour change. That sort of causation is notoriously difficult to discern with the level of rigour that GiveWell usually looks for. I think there's strong evidence that media content has small and quantifiable effects, however.

It's good to see that GiveWell is about to go more in-depth into this issue, as they can get quantitative in a way that I can't. I expect to see DMI as their #1 charity by the end of the year.

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