How we approach diversity, equity and inclusion 

In this blogpost we share how the Fund is approaching diversity, equity and inclusion, how it is reflected in our grantmaking practices and what goals we have set to grow in this area.

 

The European AI & Society Fund has a commitment to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).   The Fund works across diverse geographies and cultures. Structural oppression manifests differently in different contexts so we aim to be sensitive to these differences and not impose a single understanding or approach.  

We are committed to enabling a diverse ecosystem of civil society organisations  to shape policies around AI to make sure that in the future AI serves the needs of people and society. We recognise that the negative societal impacts of Artificial Intelligence are often experienced most acutely by people and communities that have been marginalised. We therefore have a particular commitment to making sure the voices of those communities are heard loud and clear.  

We are mindful that philanthropic funding can amplify existing power dynamics. While we may not fully overcome this, we strive to be flexible and open in our funding practices to mitigate it. Consulting and collaborating with our grantee partners, partner foundations and like-minded donor collaboratives helps us to achieve more in this ecosystem.  

 

How we arrived at this approach 

 

Our approach to diversity, equity and inclusion is founded on the European AI & Society Fund’s values and ways of working. 

 

We listen. We put our grantees in the driving seat and respect their needs and realities. We are aware of the power imbalance in the relationship between funders and grantees and try consciously to address this. We are open and transparent in our work.    

 

What this looks like in practice:

  • In our grantmaking practices, we put the needs of our grantee partners first.
  • We ask for grantees’ input into our grantmaking and capacity building activities and tailor them based on what they say. For example, we are offering a leadership learning programme based on a demand in our community.
  • We offer an additional Learning & Development grant for organisations to fulfil their individual objectives .
  • We invite feedback and act on what we hear.
  • We communicate about our processes and our work, and we work in the open .

We enable. We design our grantmaking and other support for our grantees to empower them to make the change they want to see.    

 

What this looks like in practice:  

  • We offer flexible funding for two years as well as smaller rapid response ecosystem grants .
  • We try to be as present as necessary, and as far as possible, not to intervene where it is not needed.
  • We are working towards reducing administrative burdens, and barriers to access funding. We put lightweight administrative practices in place, and help smaller organisations with their application .

We learn. We are a new organisation in an emerging field. We evaluate what has worked well and what hasn’t and share our findings. We welcome both support and challenge.     

 

What this looks like in practice:  

  • Our Monitoring & Evaluation framework has changed over time. We keep on doing things that work, and try to change the ones that don’t.
  • We share our learnings with the field: we have written about our last Open Call 2022 process and about our lessons learned through our funding calls .
  • We have changed the nature of our grants: from targeted core grants for advocacy-related activities to core grants  that provide more flexibility. 

We collaborate. We are a collective initiative and believe more can be achieved together – we work cooperatively with our funding partners and others in the field. We encourage our grantees to collaborate to achieve more than the sum of their parts. 

 

What this looks like in practice:   

  • We are hosted by the Network of European Foundations, alongside other donor collaboratives.
  • We have joined forces with our sister funds (EPIM and Civitates) to organise events and co-host public events with our funders, such as our RightsCon sessions.
  • We  facilitate coalition building amongst our grantee partners, share information across the field and highlight opportunities for engagement .

We uplift. We use the power of our position to challenge structural oppression, learn from and work collectively with others who do so and elevate the voices of those who have been marginalised.   

 

What this looks like in practice:   

  • We fund a diverse ecosystem of organisations including those that are dedicated to the interests of marginalised groups e.g.: sex workers, migrants, racialised communities, people  with disabilities.
  • We fund organisations that are led by women, non-binary people, people with disabilities and people of colour.
  • We participate in opportunities to learn such as Ariadne’s Racial Justice Network and the Decolonising Digital Rights initiative and the training provided by Le Next Level through the Network of European Foundations.
  • We ask our applicants about their approach to DEI to understand different approaches.
 
Our goals for diversity, equity and inclusion

Although we have only recently begun actively articulating our approach to DEI  we are not starting from scratch. Thanks to our host organisation, the Network of European Foundations, our team recently had the opportunity to participate in four days of DEI training alongside other donor collaboratives delivered by Le Next Level. This programme allowed us to deep dive into diversity, equity and inclusion by first individually and then collectively taking stock of our existing practices, and by articulating our DEI objectives.  

We have defined the following DEI goals: 

  • Moving from quantitative to qualitative practices in data collection methods for our evaluation mechanisms.
  • Streamlining DEI practices in our grant-making processes. By building on our existing practices, we will work towards making our grants easier to access, and making our processes more flexible and transparent.
  • Building more participatory processes: we have already tested parts of this process, namely by asking the community (through a survey) to shape the small ecosystem grants programme. We asked civil society organisatons what kind of grant and capacity building would be useful for them, to then design the programme based on their feedback.
  • Contracting external assessment of our DEI practices.

 

We recognise that practising DEI is an ongoing and dynamic process. We look forward to continuing to learn from others and share our own experiences and we welcome your feedback as we do.

   

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