Artificial Intelligence is going to have a profound impact on civil society, for better or worse. It will offer the opportunity to deliver social and environmental good in new and more effective ways whilst at the same time disrupting the wider operating environment for CSOs in terms of legislation, regulation and their interactions with organisations in other sectors.

Perhaps most importantly: civil society will have to play a key role in highlighting and attempting to address some of the potential negative consequences of AI. 
With that in mind, we make the following high-level recommendations:


Civil society must be involved in the debate over AI

Policymakers must ensure that CSOs have a seat at the table when issues of AI ethics and development are being discussed, as they can play a vital role in forecasting, mitigating and preventing the negative consequences of AI.


The involvement of CSOs must be meaningful

Government and the tech industry should recognise that engaging civil society is crucial to ensure that the voices of the people and communities that will be most affected by the development of AI are heard. Hence CSOs must be valued for the perspective they bring.


CSOs may need additional support to play their role

CSOs may need additional support in order to get to grips with the issues and bring their insight to the debate. Funders and infrastructure bodies within civil society have an important role to play here. Government and the tech industry must also realise that they have a role to play in supporting CSOs so that they can engage.


Civil society impact should be part of any strategy for AI

Any new economic or industrial strategy produced by government should include some assessment of the impact on civil society (both positive and negative), and the steps required to maximise the positive impact whilst minimising the negative.

If you have any thoughts or feedback on this discussion paper, or would like more information, please contact the author.

Rhodri Davies
Head of Policy, Charities Aid Foundation
June 2018

Download the paper .pdf

Rhodri Davies

Rhodri Davies

Head of Policy

Rhodri leads Giving Thought, our in-house think tank focusing on current and future issues affecting philanthropy and civil society. Rhodri has spent nearly a decade specialising in public policy around philanthropy and the work of charities, and has researched, written and presented on a wide range of topics. He has a first-class degree in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.   Read more about Rhodri



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