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Evaluating Suitability of Artificial Intelligence for Nonprofits

The purpose of the AI Suitability Framework is to equip those in the nonprofit sector interested in exploring AI and incorporate it into their work with accessible, relevant questions to ask at each stage.

April 2, 2020

By Leila Toplic, Lead for Emerging Technologies (NetHope) and Steve Hellen, ICT4D Director (CRS)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of those technologies that can have a transformative impact on our ability to solve some of the toughest global challenges, like the refugee crisis, poverty, infectious disease outbreaks (COVID-19*). As the tech world moves quickly to deploy all available resources and tools, such as AI, we in the nonprofit sector have a responsibility to the people and communities we support to bring the best solutions to bear in a meaningful, responsible, and sustainable way.

How do we prepare nonprofits and communities to use AI to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges in an ethical and sustainable way?

Many nonprofit organizations struggle to navigate the rapidly changing technology landscape; they are not sure where or how to get started with something like AI or how it may apply to their programs and organizations. There is a real need to make AI/Machine Learning (ML) accessible to nonprofits; not only to help them learn about the use cases and benefits/risks, but also how to evaluate whether AI is a good fit for their needs and how to get started. We need both resources and expertise in addition to reusable processes and frameworks to evaluate suitability of AI for social impact applications, design solutions in an ethical and responsible way, and scale and sustain beyond pilots.  

This is why NetHope—a consortium of 57 global NGOs, working closely with 60+ partners and supporters—is working to equip nonprofits with AI/ML skills and connect them to resources they need to create solutions for international development, humanitarian, and conservation challenges.

Today, after a year of development and testing with the nonprofit sector and technology partners, NetHope is releasing the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Suitability Toolkit for Nonprofits for immediate use and further feedback.

The goal of the AI Suitability Toolkit for Nonprofits is to increase NGOs’ internal expertise and capacity to evaluate, develop, procure, and use emerging technologies in their work so they can make informed decisions, do their work better, anticipate issues that might arise from AI, and ensure that people in need are aware of the technologies that affect them and their communities.

The toolkit includes AI Workshop for Nonprofits materials and the AI Suitability Framework.

AI Workshop for Nonprofits is designed to:

  • Deliver a clear, actionable overview of key AI/ML concepts and capabilities.
  • Help nonprofits understand the key benefits of and challenges with AI/ML through an overview of use cases and practical examples.
  • Provide nonprofits with a reusable framework for evaluating AI/ML for their work and the opportunity to use it in a collaborative exercise.

The purpose of the AI Suitability Framework is to equip those in the nonprofit sector interested in exploring AI and incorporate it into their work with accessible, relevant questions to ask at each stage.

The Framework draws on insights from past and current implementations of AI in the social impact sector as well as engagement with technology experts and researchers. It has been informed by a diverse set of stakeholders including NetHope NGO members, UN agencies, technology providers, donors, and researchers. The Framework was tested and used in numerous workshops (e.g. 2019 ICT4D Conference, 2019 AI for Good Global Summit, 2019 NetHope Global Summit) and refined based on those experiences.

We’re grateful to USAID for a close collaboration on all aspects of this toolkit.

We invite you to use it, share it, and give us your feedback.

*NetHope's AI Working Group is putting together a repository of AI / ML solutions and resources for COVID-19 response for global NGOs and we invite all of our partners and supporters to contribute.



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