Do f*ing better— 6 steps on how to make a large impact on the world

The de facto book for effective altruism, reviewed with my reflections with Vula.

13 min readAug 6


Preface: I am CTO of Vula — the digital fundraising assistant for African startups and SMEs. It is not a philanthropic venture. It is a VC backed start-up targeted at the fastest growing and most complex business environment.
That is why this book caught my eye. How can we “Do Good Better?”.


  • Emotive things rarely make a difference, effective altruism is a way to be more quantitative about the difference made.
  • How to measure difference / impact (QALYs)
  • A case for why aid and charity are very impactful, but most impact happens by the top 20% performing charities.
  • So what can we do? Work on impactful causes and/or make a large salary and donate a high percentage. So we should be a Doctor? Macaskill says probably not.
  • Macaskill’s method to assess your options.
  • The surprising case for sweatshops, avoiding fair trade, eating beef and leaving lights on
PlayPump — kids spin the roundabout and it pumps water up to the tank — saving effort.

The play pump

Access to water, access to a childhood playground, and monetised by advertising on the billboard! In. one. solution.

“Incredible…” said many funders.

“Awful” said many of the villagers.

It was less efficient than other pumps, often broke and advertisers didn’t advertise to the poor, and often made mothers use the toy which was more effort than a normal pump.

But PlayPump continued to grow — because it hit our emotions; pictures of smiling children playing!

Playing on emotions can ignore the data and hence truth.

Emotive solutions *trump* effective solutions.