Many bright young people are already capable of having an extraordinary impact on the world. And if you fail, starting now can allow you to learn a lot, meet world-class collaborators, and accelerate your career. We exist to help young people work out how they can chart a path to making their mark on the world, starting from today.
Imagine you earn the median US salary of ~$36,000 and donate 10% to an effective global health charity.
This would be a heroic feat. Yet, many people are in a position to achieve even more.
Teenagers of today will soon be making decisions that reverberate far into the future, especially with the emergence of transformative technologies like artificial intelligence and synthetic biology.
Take, for example, PlayPumps International (a real charity). They install water pumps on top of merry-go-rounds for kids to play on. The village gets a pump to provide clean water, and the kids get a new toy.
The problem is that PlayPumps cost four times as much as a standard hand pump, only have 20-30% the output, and kids didn't actually want to play on them.2
PlayPumps are far from an isolated failure; many well-intentioned programs just don’t work.3
In wealthier countries like the US and UK, governments often spend over $1 million to save a single life. This is a worthwhile endeavor.
However, in many poorer countries, the cost of saving a life is much lower. Some charities, such as the Against Malaria Foundation, can save a life for around $5,500 on average, 180 times less than the NHS.4
There may be problems that are more pressing again, such as preventing catastrophic pandemics, reducing risks from artificial intelligence, or promoting international peace.
However, what the world’s largest social problems are is a crucial, unsolved question. We aim to empower you to use the available evidence and reasoning to approach it.
Many want to create a meaningful change but it’s hard to know what problems and paths will be best for them.
Even if you find something that’s a good fit for you, it may not make as much of a difference as you intend, as with the PlayPumps example above and many other initiatives.
We use our experience to help you navigate the biggest challenges you’ll encounter in trying to change the world. We do that by connecting you with the knowledge, skills, funding, and opportunities to set you up to leave your most meaningful mark on the world.
1 Sources: St. Louis Federal Reserve, Real Median Personal Income in the United States; Giving What We Can, How rich am I?;
Forbes, Income Tax Calculator
2 Sources: Borland, Ralph (2011), Radical Plumbers and PlayPumps, PhD thesis, Trinity College, p. 171.
MacAskill, William (2015), Doing Good Better, p. 4.
3 Source: Todd, Benjamin (2017), 80,000 Hours, Is it fair to say that most social programmes don't work?
4 Source: GiveWell (2021), Why Is It So Expensive to Save Lives?
5 Image courtesy of What is effective altruism?, EffectiveAltruism.org
I've started 2 non-profits that raise millions of dollars per year, run operations at a 25-person startup, and advised hundreds of graduates from top universities on how to find a fulfilling, impactful career.
Before founding Non-trivial, I spent most of the last 5 years at 80,000 Hours, a non-profit that provides free online research and personalized career advice.
I spent 7 years preparing to be a doctor (4 in medical school) before I discovered some of the ideas on this website. I realized, far later than ideal, I could have a much more scalable impact outside of seeing patients. I created Non-trivial so you don't have to make the same mistakes I did.
Enormous thanks to the following current and former contractors:
We’re indebted to the countless people who have provided (critical) feedback and advice.
Effective altruism is a social movement and philosophy using evidence and reason to do the most good.
Many of the ideas on this website and in our fellowship about how to help the world originated in the effective altruism community.
Learning about effective altruism has substantially increased our impact, by providing us with important ideas, connections and funding. It might help you, too.
Learn more about effective altruism
We’re grateful for all the support we receive to enable Non-trivial to fulfill our mission of helping you help the world. Since our founding in 2022, we’ve received over $1 million in donations.
The largest funder of our current work is Open Philanthropy, a major US-based foundation. They support our work because they expect us to improve the world by helping you solve the world’s most pressing problems. Open Philanthropy’s main funders are Cari Tuna and Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook and Asana.
2022 Future Fund grant
In early 2022, Non-trivial received a $1 million grant from the Future Fund, which was primarily supported by FTX employees. In November 2022, FTX filed for bankruptcy. In light of this situation, Non-trivial ceased spending any Future Fund money until further notice.
Non-trivial is a project of the Effective Ventures group, the umbrella term for Effective Ventures Foundation (England and Wales registered charity number 1149828, registered company number 07962181, and also a Netherlands registered tax-deductible entity ANBI 825776867) and Effective Ventures Foundation USA, Inc. (a section 501(c)(3) public charity in the USA, EIN 47-1988398).