Marie-Stella-Maris first to participate in “Effective Altruism” workshop

How can we, as a small group of people, create the biggest impact? With this question at the core of our mission, we feel inspired by the philanthropic and social movement of Effective Altruism. The idea behind Effective Altruism is to identify and invest in ‘the most effective’ interventions in order to do as much good as possible. In hopes of inspiring our donors and partners to use this idea to consider the impact of interventions, Max Foundation created a workshop format. On a Wednesday afternoon in May, 16 staff members of Marie-Stella-Maris were ready to participate in this workshop at the creative space of Sir Albert in Amsterdam, under the expert guidance of Max Foundation’s Kaat Burbidge (head of fundraising) and Femke Markus (former chairman of the board).

Suppose: you want to fight blindness and have € 35.000 to invest. You can use this money to train a guide dog for Anna who will be completely blind at the age of five. This dog can help her live a happier live. Alternatively, the funds can be used to pay for an eye operation for Dume, Elewa, and another 4,213 African children who are – or will be – blind in the near future. If we follow the philosophy of Effective Altruism, one would always follow the second option because it is more cost effective. Effective Altruism helps us to combine both the heart and the head: the heart motivates us to be empathic and altruistic toward others, while the head can make sure that what we do is effective and well-directed.

Max Foundation feels inspired by this philosophy. “We have always worked with our heart and our head”, says Kaat Burbidge. “While founders Joke and Steven Le Poole had an emotional reason – the death of their 8 months year old son – for wanting to save children’s lives, they have always made conscious and rational choices in order to save as many lives as possible. An example? At the beginning of Max Foundation, Steven and Joke had the choice to invest in technical equipment for hospitals to help medical practitioners cure ill children. However, Joke and Steven found out that most children who die before the age of 5 never even reach a hospital. Therefore, they reckoned that it would be much more effective to prevent children from becoming ill in the first place by providing them with safe drinking water.”

In order to inspire our donors and partners and make them aware of the impact of interventions in terms of effectiveness, Max Foundation recently created a workshop format. “During the workshop participants learn more about Effective Altruism, how it works in practice and how Max Foundation used this philosophy to make the investment choices that got us where we are today,” says Femke Markus. She stresses that the workshop is not meant to dictate how other organizations must work: “We just want to illustrate that this is how we have organized our interventions and make others aware about their investment choices in terms of effectiveness.”

Awareness-raising was exactly what motivated Josha Jansen – responsible for the Foundation of Marie-Stella-Maris (Dutch seller of water & care products and supporter of several Max Foundation projects) – to invite Max Foundation to host the workshop. “In general, most colleagues at Marie-Stella-Maris are just busy doing their job every day without realizing that their work contributes to safe water in other parts of the world” says Josha. “The workshop was a moment for all of us to give that fact a moment’s thought.” At the same time the workshop helped Josha make her colleagues aware that doing good is about more than just getting the money there. However, Josha stresses that the most effective investment strategy for Marie-Stella-Maris Foundation does not always mean the most cost-effective. “We also want to reach remote communities where the need for safe water is highest even though reaching these communities are not always the most cost-effective interventions,” she says. Josha concludes, “I would definitely recommend the workshop to other donors since it is an inspiring tool to rethink your investments!”

Interested to participate or invite?
If you would like to receive more information about participating or inviting your network, please contact Kaat Burbidge-van Velde: kaat@maxfoundation.nl or 06-40123913

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