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Illustrated portraits of Joey Savoie and Karolina Sarek Lauren Tamaki for Vox

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Joey Savoie and Karolina Sarek want to help you make the world a better place

It can be hard to start a nonprofit. Savoie and Sarek are trying to make it easier.

Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

Joey Savoie and Karolina Sarek are in the business of raising people’s aspirations. They take idealistic people (many young, but some older as well) who want to change the world for the better, help them identify especially cost-effective strategies for doing so that current charities are not pursuing, and team them up with each other to make those charities a reality.

Their group, Charity Entrepreneurship, came out of personal experience. Before the group started, the two worked at a group called Charity Science Health, which ran a program sending text reminders to families in India for childhood vaccinations. The results were strikingly effective: The nonprofit evaluator GiveWell found that while not quite as high-impact as its best programs, the text program was seven times more cost-effective than just handing out cash, which is a very high bar that few charities exceed.

What wound up mattering more than the group they did start, though, were the ones they didn’t start. “We had four other ideas that were also very promising,” Savoie explained on a podcast. “We couldn’t run any of these — we were already at 150 percent capacity starting a charity ourselves.” So they sent these ideas around to friends in the effective altruism community, and got an incredible amount of interest, with a caveat: “All of them wanted help; none of them was able to pick up the ball and run it the whole way.”

Savoie and Sarek pivoted to providing that kind of help, and Charity Entrepreneurship was born, centered on an intensive two-month incubation program where founders get in-person training in London, ideas for high-impact charities to start, and up to $200,000 in seed funding to get going. The writer Rutger Bregman has likened it to “Hogwarts for do-gooders.”

The group is only five years old but already has some illustrious graduates. Take the Lead Exposure Elimination Project (LEEP), founded in 2020 through Charity Entrepreneurship by Lucia Coulter and Jack Rafferty, which has already made progress against lead paint in Malawi, Liberia, and Pakistan. Or take Family Empowerment Media, founded as part of the 2021 cohort by Anna Christina Thorsheim and Kenneth Scheffler, which makes and airs radio aids in Nigeria spreading awareness of contraceptives to reduce maternal death due to unwanted pregnancy. More interested in animal welfare work? See the Fish Welfare Initiative, a 2019 Charity Entrepreneurship project from founders Haven King-Nobles and Thomas Billington, which has so far successfully pushed 79 fish farms to adopt better welfare policies.

Highly effective charities are rare, and Charity Entrepreneurship was founded based on the idea that they’re rare for an easily surmountable reason: that a relatively small push can enable people who’ve never started a charity before to start one and to succeed. It’s a daring premise — but it seems to be working.

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