Transparency is the extent to which outsiders can obtain information about the activities of government or private entities.
Some organizations in the effective altruism community have a strong commitment to transparency. GiveWell publishes full details of their charity evaluation process, makes available records of all board meetings, and shares information about their operations (GiveWell 2021). GiveWell has also pioneered the practice of publishing a “mistakes” page, which other organizations and individuals—such as the Centre for Effective Altruism and Scott Alexander–have since adopted (Centre for Effective Altruism 2021; Alexander 2021).
Open Philanthropy has argued that GiveWell’s commitment to transparency makes sense given that it exists primarily to make donation recommendations to the public: these recommendations are credible in part because the process that produced them is open to public examination. According to Open Philanthropy, other forms and degrees of transparency may be more appropriate to organizations which do not share GiveWell’s mission, especially given the costs and risks of increased transparency. For this reason, Open Philanthropy does not place high priority in explaining their individual grantmaking decisions to the public, and instead prioritizes the sharing of information about their general thinking processes and philosophy (Karnofsky 2016) and the communication of this information in ways that make it easier for the recipient to determine what updates to make in response to it (Muehlhauser 2017).
Alexander, Scott (2021) Mistakes, Astral Codex Ten, April 25.
Centre for Effective Altruism (2021) Our mistakes, Centre for Effective Altruism, May.
GiveWell (2021) Our approach to transparency, GiveWell, April.
Karnofsky, Holden (2014) Challenges of transparency, Open Philanthropy, September 11.
Karnofsky, Holden (2016) Update on how we’re thinking about openness and information sharing, Open Philanthropy, September.
Muehlhauser, Luke (2017) Reasoning transparency, Open Philanthropy, December.