Researcher @ Effective Ventures
2260 karmaJoined Working (0-5 years)Agassiz, Cambridge, MA, USA



Kaleem Ahmid. Entrepreneur in Residence at EV.

Previously a Community Builder at Northeastern and in Boston. Previously a Visiting Scholar at JHU Center for Health Security. EAGxBoston 2022 and EAGxNYC 2023 organiser.


Things people have said to me about EA


Topic contributions

Hi SShaikh, thanks for following the stuff I've written about this, and thanks for the comment. Some of what I want to explain will be contained in a long/formal report I'm writing on this topic. however, a couple of points in response: 

That said, I don't think that plugging Zakat into an EA framework is possible. I haven't seen any serious Muslim scholar support using Zakat funds to avoid global catastrophic risks or future pandemics.

  1. I think you're mistaken in thinking that because zakat and longtermist projects aren't compatible (which I think is true), that zakat isn't compatible with EA. I think there is ample support for the possibility of zakat being used for global health interventions, which is historically and presently something EAs spend a lot of time working on. For me, "zakat being compatible with EA" means "its possible to increase the impact of zakat and allocate it in the most cost-effective way" and I think this has to  be possible given the state of inefficiency in the way zakat is collected and distributed.

But I'm unsure how your group would conduct this work more effectively than popular charities like Islamic Relief or Helping Hand

2. I'd be pretty surprised if Islamic Relief or Helping Hand are most cost effective than GiveDirectly. So perhaps the least impactful marginal improvement in zakat allocation would be getting people to shift from Islamic Relief or Helping Hands to GiveDirectly, provided GD establishes a zakat-compliant program like they've done in the past. Hopefully it will also be possible to get people to shift to zakat-compliant effective charities (e.g. hopefully something like Spiro or New Incentives) where they'd be increasing the counterfactual impact of each dollar by an order of magnitude. So even if only a fraction of current donors to IR or HH end up making this change, the EV difference between the two situations would still make it worth it to try and convince the small number of donors open to changing. 

I have two alternative recommendations for your proposed group (and for any Muslim in EA): 

  1. Invite Muslims to EA: We can advise Muslims to donate to EA charities for the same reason that others do: to do the most good. It won't count towards their obligatory Zakat, but it will count as voluntary Sadaqah. We ought to convince Muslims that giving 2.5% annually is a very low baseline and we should do more! 

3.1  I think this is a good suggestion, but it's not an alternative suggestion. We can try to grow the Muslim EA community (as Muslims for EA, Muslim Network for Positive Impact, and Muslim Impact Lab have been trying to do), at the same time as encouraging Muslims to maximise the impact of their sadaqah through regular effective giving orgs like GWWC or Afterfund, AND build infrastructure to meet the unique demands of zakat. 

Lobby Muslim charities to be better: You say there's no accountability / transparency demonstrated by the most popular Zakat-collection and distribution groups. Perhaps your group can write on what specific action / information is missing, why this is a problem worth addressing, and how these charities can do so. 

3.2. Again, this is something I'd want to do as part of this project. It's not clear yet whether or not the best path to impact would be to first e.g. a) get existing effective orgs to become zakat-compliant, b) get already-zakat-compliant orgs to become more cost effective, c) create a zakat-complaint org which collects donations and distributes them to cost effective orgs, d) create an org which only convinces and promotes effective zakat and then directs people to those orgs without collecting zakat ourselves. 

lol I am one of the people who (maybe narrowly?) missed out on the incubation program. Yeah I have emailed them about hopefully people connected with any promising collaborators.

Thanks for the encouragement and the ideas :)

I haven't done any enough research to know how much this would affect the estimates but I do want to point out that zakat is calculated on wealth, and wealth is not the same thing as GDP (maybe you're already aware of this and think that GDP is a good enough proxy to estimate wealth).


An interesting idea (no evidence that it would work) - just putting it here for preservation more than anything else:

Insects are haraam to eat. This is obviously good news in that it means at least 20% of the global population is unlikely to contribute to the demand for insects as food. However it doesn't automatically rule-out that muslims will contribute to the demand for insects through the consumption of farmed-animals who we might use insects to feed - e.g. Chickens and Fish.

It might be worth finding out if muslims would care if their chicken or fish was unnecessarily fead exclusively haraam food instead of plant-based feed. My experience as a muslim makes me feel like a lot of people would much rather prefer the animals they consume to not be fead on things which they themselves wouldn't consider halaal.

We should hire leaders based on how well suited they are to running the organization in question


I'd argue that an important part of running a new philanthropic organisation is stakeholder engagement and relationship management, and this was not a good example of fostering a good relationship with someone who is highly influential and a likely source of valuable connections with respect to FF's goals. 

I think I agree with the general point you’re making, but I specifically I disagree that the longtermist project is incompatible with good PR, and that it doesn’t appeal to common moral intuition (eg people do care about climate change, nuclear war, rogue AI, deadly pandemics).

EA (via discussion of SBF and FTX) was briefly discussed on the The Rest is Politics Podcast today (the 3rd of April) and .... I'm really irritated by what was said. This is one of the largest politics podcasts in the world at the moment, and has a seriously influential listener-base.

Rory Stewart said that after 15min someone at FTXFF cut his call with Rory short because that person wanted to go have lunch. The person reportedly also said "I don't care about poverty".

Rory Stewart (the ex-President of GiveDirectly, and ex-MP) now seems to think that we are weird futurists who care more about "asteroids and killer robots" than we care about the 700M people currently in poverty.

Great work, whoever that FTX person was...

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