I’ve been teaching ethics courses at The Ohio State University for years, walking students through controversial issues like abortion, the death penalty, and drug legalization. However, extreme poverty has become a very difficult topic for me to present as a truly complex moral problem. Isn’t it just obvious that people shouldn’t be dying because they can’t get access to inexpensive life-saving medications? Isn’t it also obvious that if we can prevent those deaths by making small sacrifices and donating to charities that do effective, life-saving work on the ground, we should probably do that? What really is complex is moving from mere concern into informed action.
A lot of people are doing great work to address poverty. There is an astounding amount of data available from sources like the United Nations and the World Bank. And detailed research is being done by organizations such as GiveWell and Poverty Action Lab to identify effective projects that create long-term, sustainable impact. But very little of this information is presented in a way that is easy to understand. Even when it is, simple opportunities for action are rarely given alongside the data. And although most aid organizations have some kind of a web presence, their sites are often poorly designed and their donation processes tend to be long and tedious.
All of this amounts to a real problem for poverty alleviation. Because of websites like Amazon and iTunes, we now expect to find anything we want in a streamlined web environment. If we are going to mobilize this generation of donors to invest in the eradication of extreme poverty, we need to make finding and funding effective charities equally intuitive and compelling.
We've designed Maximin.org from the ground up to create a positive user experience: helping donors understand the nature and causes of poverty, and then connecting them with the organizations doing the most good for the least well off.
To recommend the best projects, we work closely with experts—academics and leaders of key aid organizations—who understand the distinctive shape that poverty takes in different places. These experts will provide content for our country profiles and play an important role in the ranking system we use to evaluate projects. We also use the resources provided by organizations like GiveWell and Poverty Action Lab to supplement our own research and vetting processes.
In a nutshell, the Maximin Project is an attempt to revolutionize the world of charitable giving by collapsing the distance between education and action. We are creating an interactive user experience in which people can visualize global poverty and connect with effective projects. Simply put, we are trying to make it easy for people to do the most good for the least well off, to maximize the minimum.
If you'd like to be a part of what we're doing, please check out our campaign on Indiegogo.
This project is part of GOOD's Saturday series Push for Good—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.