In Brief

  • Philanthropies often give away their money to projects without really knowing if they are successful.
  • Microloans, for instance, are not effective at increasing income on average for the poorest people on the planet.
  • Social scientists have begun to marshal the tools of big data to find out what works and what doesn’t. The goal is to turn philanthropy into a science, where money gets directed to programs for which there is strong evidence of their social effectiveness.

Read more at Scientific American