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The importance, tractability, neglectedness (ITN) framework is an informal framework for selecting focus areas that has been used by organizations in the effective atlruism community such as GiveWell and 80,000 Hours. The framework focuses on three aspects of potential focus areas:

  1. Importance: What is the scale of the problem in the area? If all problems in the area could be solved, how much better would the world be?
  2. Tractability: How solvable is the problem in this area?
  3. Neglectedness: How neglected is the area?

According to the framework, a focus area is more promising the more important, neglected, and tractable it is. Sometimes one focus area may score higher than another one on all three dimensions. In such cases, the framework implies that the first focus area is more promising. In other cases, however, each area may score higher than the other on at least one dimension. In such cases, the framework—unlike the quantitative ITN framework—cannot rank the areas.

The ITN framework is sometimes misapplied. Robert Wiblin has argued that the boundaries between the three questions are vague, leading to double counting (Wiblin, 2016). Michael Dickens, in turn, argues that the framework is imprecise, and is sometimes inappropriately used as a framework for selecting interventions, rather than as a framework for selecting focus areas (Dickens, 2016).

Further reading

Dickens, Michael. 2016. Evaluation frameworks, or when importance / neglectedness / tractability doesn’t apply.
A criticism of the ITN framework.

Wiblin, Robert. 2016. The important/neglected/tractable framework needs to be applied with care.
Note on the application of the framework.