One of our key reasons for founding 80,000 Hours was the “multiplier argument”:
When we graduated, we had two options: (i) pursue whichever career paths we thought were highest impact or (ii) do research to find even better career paths and spread that research to enable hundreds of people to take those paths instead of us, having hundreds of times as much impact. Given our progress at that point, it seemed like the second option was possible, and therefore higher-impact.
So, three years later, how is it turning out?
Normally, we evaluate our impact by looking at “significant plan changes”. So far, we’ve tracked 174 of them (as we’ll explain in an upcoming evaluation). That makes over 300,000 hours of work reallocated, which compares favourably to about 30,000 hours spent running 80,000 Hours.
A different approach to estimating our impact is to look at how many new organisations have been founded because of us. If it’s more than one, that also suggests our impact is greater than our costs.
In fact, there have now been five effective altruist non-profits with paid-staff founded in part due to us. There have also been three voluntary non-profits and two for-profit startups founded. In each case, there’s a good chance the organisation wouldn’t have existed without 80,000 Hours. We’ve listed these organisations and how we’ve helped them here.
So is our impact greater than our costs? It’s hard to measure the value of the organisations compared to our costs. A very rough approximation would be to compare their budgets with ours. The five non-profits with staff have spent over £350,000 to date, and plan to spend about £500,000 over the next year. This suggests they have greater scale than 80,000 Hours – we’ve only spent £264,000 in total as of the end of December 2014.
Of course, some of the organisations would have existed anyway, so we’d also need to take account of this chance. Nevertheless, it certainly seems possible that the founding of these organisations justifies our costs to date. And that largely ignores the impact of the other 90% of significant plan changers who haven’t founded an organisation.