On January 10, the media platform CORRECTIV published a report on a secret far-right meeting in Germany in November 2023. The report could mark a turning point. Since then, more than 2 million people have taken part in demonstrations against the extreme right and in defense of our democracy, making them some of the largest demonstrations in Germany in recent decades.
At Effektiv Spenden, we have long considered the defense and promotion of democracy to be an important cause area. And it has also received some (limited) attention in other parts of the EA community - see related materials e.g., from 80,000 hours (related topics here and here), Rethink Priorities; Founders Pledge; Open Philanthropy; EIP (via its focus on institutional decision-making); and forum posts here and here. However, a systematic mapping and - more importantly - evaluation of interventions is currently lacking, making it difficult to develop recommendations for effective giving. With the generous support of some of our donors, we have therefore helped to launch a new charity evaluator, Power for Democracies, to fill this gap.
To respond to the current surge of interest and momentum among both the general public in Germany and our donors, we feel a responsibility to share our initial findings - with all their limitations - in order to guide donors interested in supporting promising interventions that can make a difference in the short term in the specific German context. Therefore, we have launched a new fund called "Defending Democracy" on effektiv-spenden.org.
Despite the speculative nature of our recommendations and fund allocations, we believe we can:
- Guide donors who are already committed to supporting this cause area to achieve significantly greater impact.
- Encourage those (potential) donors who are interested in the cause area but have been reluctant to give due to the apparent lack of research and evidence-based recommendations.
- Use the current momentum to introduce more donors to the concept of effective giving, and thereby create more effective giving overall.
However, we also see potential downside risks that could reduce our overall impact:
- A dilution of the concept of effective giving overall by introducing a new cause area that is less well researched and currently more speculative. Low risk: While our understanding of the comparative impact of individual interventions is still limited, the literature is fairly clear on the critical importance of well-functioning democracies for maximizing key societal outcomes such as health and development, peace and security, scientific progress, or economic development. In addition, we launched the new fund as a "beta" version to help our donors understand the increased uncertainty.
- A shift in donations from better-researched cause areas and interventions to our more speculative Democracy Fund. Medium risk: We expect the “beta” label to mitigate this risk as well. In addition, we explicitly communicate to our existing donors (e.g. through our newsletter) that we recommend the new fund only for additional donations and discourage the reallocation of existing or planned commitments.
Overall, we expect the benefits of the new fund to outweigh the potential risks. However, we will closely monitor if/how our new offering may divert funds from other cause areas and will continually reevaluate the need to make potential adjustments. (Including closing the fund if necessary).
If you have any questions or comments about the new fund, please feel free to contact us directly at email@example.com. Similarly, if you are interested in exploring major giving to strengthen democracy internationally (and particularly in the U.S.), please also reach out to discuss if/how we might be able to assist you.