You are here

Is it fair to say that most social programmes don’t work?

Individual projects mostly don’t work, but whole areas often do have a positive impact. If you pick an intervention at random, then on average your impact will be positive, because there’s a small but important chance of you picking one of the good ones.

In this controversial blog, Benjamin and Will, co-founders of 80,000 Hours, review what we do and don’t know, statistically, about the effectiveness of social programmes. Starting with David Anderson’s 2008 estimate that perhaps 75% or more of interventions evaluate had small, no or even negative effects, the authors look at the evidence from a wide range of analyses.

About the authors

Benjamin Todd is 80,000 Hours’ Executive Director and William MacAskill is its President, as well as Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University. 80,000 Hours provides career advice for talented young people who want to have a social impact.

How could this improve services for young people?

Being realistic about what being ‘evidence-based’ means and can help your intervention achieve will support better decision-making about resources, design and evaluation

Further reading

Evidence is confidence, by Tim Hobbs