Trying to change the world, for and against

Trying to change the world, for and against


  • It could be the most meaningful thing in your life
  • You learn a lot from trying to do cool things
Toby Ord and Giving What We Can

In 2009, when Toby Ord, an academic at Oxford University, was making less than £30k a year, he declared that he would donate 1,000,000 pounds over the course of his life to effective charities which aimed to alleviate global poverty and improve global health.

When he announced this, he got a lot of attention from the media. Mostly sceptical.

But for the past decade, Ord has been sticking it to ‘em by staying on track (he had given £126,128 as of 2020, plus £150,000 from the royalties of his book The Precipice to groups working on behalf of the long-term future of humanity).

He decided to do this because relatively small amounts of money for people in the west can go a surprisingly long way in developing countries.

A group that he set up called Giving What We Can has published a calculator which shows just how massive global income inequality is.

Medicines for preventable diseases, and the amount of money required to double a family’s annual income in the developing world can be purchased with relatively small donations from people in the west.

This gives us a massive potential to save and improve lives, and perhaps a responsibility as well.

Few people are going to want to give as much as Ord, but many more could live happier lives if they took the Giving What We Can pledge, an agreement to donate 10% of your life’s income to effective charities. This way, you know that no matter what you do, you’ll have left the world far better off than when you found it.


  • You might not find something that’s a good personal fit.
  • You might not care

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