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There is potential for AI in the social sector

March 6, 2024

AI is a tool that increasingly more sectors are using to achieve their results efficiently. Although one might think of the tech, health or retail industries, among others, as the most likely ones to embrace this technology, a recent survey found that there is also interest in AI in the social and education fields.  

To understand their current and future use of AI, Stanford HAI teamed up with Project Evident to survey nonprofits and philanthropic organizations. The results were surprising: out of the 230 respondents, half already use AI tools in their work – mainly for operational processes such as finance, human resources and marketing –, with education nonprofits using AI significantly more than all other types of nonprofits; plus, 76% of respondents believe their organizations would benefit from increased AI usage, especially around mission-related work. 

The risks of using AI are still being checked and debated, and this comes as a roadblock for some organizations – for example, in this sector, organizations collect and deal with sensitive data, which must be safely handled without bias. Nonetheless, there is a strong desire among respondents to leverage AI for positive impact: while managing risks and costs, of course. 

How can these organizations successfully embrace AI, then? There are a few recommendations: 

  • On the philanthropic side, there should be greater investment in scalable resources, since nonprofits might not have the funds to hire contractors nor the technical expertise to create resources in-house. 
  • Collaboration between nonprofits, funders, and AI researchers must be fostered, so that AI tools are early on developed in ways that align to nonprofits’ goals. 
  • Nonprofits ought to be informed buyers of AI tools, working along other organizations that use them to understand how bias manifests and thus advocating with tech companies to address it in their products. 


Source: Stanford HAI