Welcome to the European AI & Society Fund
We are changing our name: from now on, we are the European AI & Society Fund.
We launched in 2020 as the European AI Fund with a mission to shape the future direction of Artificial Intelligence. The needs of people and society were at the heart of that mission from the start, but it wasn’t always visible to everyone outside. With our new identity, we hope that will now be clearer.
We want AI to be developed, deployed and regulated in ways that promote fair, inclusive and sustainable democracies. For that to happen, we need civil society organisations that can speak up for the needs of people and society – and we need to make sure their voices are heard loud and clear. Too often AI is shaped by the interests of governments and the tech industry without adequate concern for the individuals and communities it affects. This can lead to technologies that entrench inequality, exacerbate social injustice and undermine people’s rights.
That’s why the European AI & Society Fund empowers a diverse ecosystem of civil society organisations to shape policies around AI in the public interest and galvanises the philanthropic sector to sustain this vital work.
Over the past three years we have supported almost 40 organisations from around Europe. Some of our grantees have previous experience working on AI, digital rights and technology. Others represent particular communities or fight different kinds of social injustice and want to address how AI is affecting their work. We think the combination of these different kinds of expertise is essential to make sure civil society can advocate effectively on behalf of the diverse interests of the public. Our grantees have already had tangible impact, making calls for new EU legislation to prohibit mass facial recognition and predictive policing technologies mainstream and bringing the perspectives of marginalised communities such as sex workers and migrants into the debate.
In the next three years we want to build on this foundation to grow and strengthen the civil society ecosystem. Our last Open Call received 143 proposals but we could only fund 14 of them: there’s a huge unmet need. In 2023 we will open up a programme of smaller grants to enable more organisations to start working in the field and join our network. And in 2024 we plan a further Open Call around policy and advocacy. But we know money alone is not enough. Organisations need access to knowledge, networks and infrastructure so that they can work collaboratively to be greater than the sum of their parts. We’ll also be increasing our practical support that addresses these needs.
Since being set up in 2020, 13 funding partners have joined the European AI & Society Fund and contributed almost €5.5 million to support our work. Over the next three years we want to welcome new partners who will not only increase the amount of funds we can offer but who can help shape our work and champion our mission in the wider philanthropic sector. Sustaining the civil society ecosystem will require a diverse funding landscape that can invest for the long term. We will share our expertise with other foundations to help them to build AI and society into their own strategies and increase the range of funding opportunities available.
The European AI & Society Fund occupies a unique position in the landscape. Our networks cut across civil society, philanthropy and policy and span the whole of Europe. In the coming years we want to make ourselves as useful as possible to all the communities we work with: communicating our insights and expertise and developing and sharing best practice in how we do our work. Central to this will be examining how structural oppression manifests in our work and exploring openly how we address it. As we do this, we benefit from the partnership of our colleagues at NEF and the wisdom of all those who offer us both their criticism and their praise.
In our first three years we have seen the civil society ecosystem start to take shape and have a real impact on the debates about the future direction of Artificial Intelligence. While we celebrate our successes, we know there is more to do. Technological innovation moves fast and AI is already changing people’s lives and our society as a whole. As we embark on our new chapter, as the European AI & Society Fund, we are strengthened by the many allies who share our mission and are joining our community. Together we are building momentum towards a world where AI serves the needs of people and society, respects human rights and promotes fair, inclusive and sustainable democracies.