Doing Good Better Book Summary - Doing Good Better Book explained in key points
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Doing Good Better summary

William MacAskill

A Radical New Way to Make a Difference

4.2 (189 ratings)
14 mins

Brief summary

Doing Good Better by William MacAskill shows how we can make a greater impact by using reason and evidence to guide our charitable giving and social activism. It provides a practical guide to maximizing our positive impact on the world.

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    Doing Good Better
    Summary of 7 key ideas

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    When giving to charity you should give where you expect your impact to be greatest.

    With so many ways to give to charity and so many problems that require attention, how do you decide where to give?

    The answer lies in plugging in this simple formula: How many people will benefit from your charitable donation, and by how much?

    No one has unlimited resources, and so if you donate to one person’s cause, someone else always loses out. Knowing this, you need to make a choice that maximizes your donation’s effect.

    It was this thinking that made Dr. James Orbinski’s time with the Red Cross during the Rwandan genocide manageable. Orbinski had too many patients to manage, and had to prioritize between them.

    So, he developed a system: he wrote the numbers “1,” “2” or “3” on his patients’ foreheads. “1” meant “treat immediately,” “2” meant “treat within 24 hours” and “3” meant “irretrievable.” Using this system, Orbinski was able to save more people by making the best use of his limited resources, even though it meant he had to leave some patients to die.

    Sometimes a charitable deed will be the best choice because it has a chance of making a huge impact, even if this chance is slim. To determine whether this is the right course of action, you need to first compare choices’ expected value.

    You calculate expected value by multiplying an outcome’s value by its probability. For example, if your donation has a 50 percent chance of saving 3,000 lives, its expected value is 1,500 lives saved.

    If the accident management planners at the Fukushima Power Plant had used the concept of expected value, they could have avoided the tragic disaster of 2011.

    The plant had a very low probability of a huge catastrophe – so low that the planners neglected the danger entirely. However, the expected damage was huge. In the aftermath of the 2011 accident, around 1,600 people died.

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    What is Doing Good Better about?

    Doing Good Better (2015) is a guide to making the largest positive impact possible through charitable donations. In examining many of the popular misconceptions about effective giving, this book gives you all the tools you need to truly make a difference.

    Doing Good Better Review

    Doing Good Better (2015) is a thought-provoking book that challenges the way we think about making a positive impact in the world. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With logical reasoning and data-driven analysis, it guides readers to maximize their efforts in doing good, empowering them to make a real and measurable difference.
    • By combining moral philosophy with practical examples, the book provides actionable strategies that individuals and organizations can apply to address pressing social and environmental problems.
    • Its refreshing perspective on effective altruism and philanthropy makes the book not only informative but also inspiring, showing us how we can have a greater impact through rational decision-making.

    Best quote from Doing Good Better

    When it comes to helping others, being unreflective often means being ineffective.

    —William MacAskill
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    Who should read Doing Good Better?

    • Charity donors who would like to know how to give more effectively
    • Potential donors confused about where to begin
    • Anyone trying to figure out the career path that will make the biggest difference

    About the Author

    William MacAskill is an associate professor in Philosophy at the University of Oxford as well as the co-founder of the charities Giving What We Can and 80,000. His organizations have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, on NPR, TED and numerous other media outlets.

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    Doing Good Better FAQs 

    What is the main message of Doing Good Better?

    Doing Good Better presents a systematic approach to maximizing our impact on the world.

    How long does it take to read Doing Good Better?

    The reading time for Doing Good Better varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Doing Good Better a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Doing Good Better is worth reading for its practical insights on effective altruism and making a positive difference.

    Who is the author of Doing Good Better?

    The author of Doing Good Better is William MacAskill.