Athenaeum Pitch Event: The Impact of $25

Interested in public health? Want to help out a charity cause simply by showing up? This Friday, November 21st, you’ll have the chance to make a difference. From 3:00 to 4:30pm, as part of the Athenaeum’s “Current Series,” students from Professor Andrew Schroeder’s Philosophy 171 class on Health, Measurement and Justice will be presenting pitches that advocate for three different critical health causes in Africa. Students will utilize outcomes, impact metrics and cost-effectiveness as the framework to persuade audience members to vote for their cause. Attendees will each be given a $25 voucher, provided personally by Professor Schroeder, to vote for one of the three charities. Featured organizations include: Project Healthy Children, which advances micronutrient supplementation strategies; The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, a group that focuses on deworming, and Evidence Action, which seeks to purify water through chlorination.

When asked what prompted him to hold the event, Professor Schroeder cited his involvement with organizations that utilize “effective altruism,” a philosophical and social movement that focuses on finding the most cost effective ways to achieve the greatest impact, as the inspiration for the event. Through this interest, he found that “world health literature often shows that really well-run charities can differ in impact by factors of more than a thousand - this means that a dollar given to one well-run charity can do more than a thousand times as much good as another dollar given to another well-run charity.”

These findings show that impact does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with the amount donated to a given cause. Professor Schroeder echoed this sentiment, noting, “many times when we think about giving money to a charity or doing charitable acts, we think about it in terms of how much we’re giving up rather than the impact of our money.”

He adds that, “charity isn’t about how much is being given away, it’s about helping people so it seems more sensible to focus on how much good you’re doing not how much you’re sacrificing.”

In applying this information to his class, Schroeder thought that it would be “very beneficial for students to do an exercise like this and to personally figure out how much more effective some interventions are than others.” The students presenting will be drawing on these ideas, using metrics and ethics of health organizations to try and prove why their respective organizations are the most effective.

Although this is the first time that the event will be featured at the Athenaeum, Schroeder had students complete the same project two years ago when he first taught the class, although he had students present in front of his family and friends. He called the previous outcome “quite successful,” and has great expectations for today's event.

Tess Hubbeling '15 is one of the students speaking on Friday. She hopes that audience members will come away with “a sense of the magnitude of the problems we will discuss, and an appropriate sense of awe and worry about the issues.”

She adds that, “all of the problems that we'll discuss in the presentation are faced by billions of people, but we are sheltered from them and thus it is easy to be unaware of their severity,” and hopes that, “people come away understanding how much they can do with just $25. That's an amount that any one of us regularly spends on concert tickets or a new shirt or what have you, and even that small amount can make a huge difference when employed in the right places.”

So, whether you are interested in public health or not, stop by the Athenaeum Friday afternoon to help support three critical health causes, listen to engaging and impacting presentations, and to enjoy tea and refreshments. As mentioned above, every audience member will be given a voucher. All you have to do to make an impact is show up. See the Facebook event here.