We need to provide nonprofit organizations with the right skills, tools, funds, and a try-and-fail-friendly environment to help them thrive in the AI era. This was the main message conveyed during a “Power of AI” panel discussion organized as part of the Forging the Future of Business with AI conference held at MIT on April 18th, 2024. 


The “Power of AI” panelists from left to right: Jacek Siadkowski (Tech To The Rescue)Alexander Díaz (Google.org), Marnie Webb (TechSoup), Amy Guterman (Salesforce), Maggie Carter (AWS), Jackie Ugokwe (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 

Key takeaways from the Forging The Future of Business with AI conference at MIT

It goes without saying that AI—or generative AI, to be more specific—is a major technological revolution of our times, significantly impacting nearly every industry. While businesses have widely adopted gen AI solutions for over a year now, nonprofits and changemakers—traditionally underfunded and tech-illiterate—continue to lag behind. Increasing the provision of proper support (systemic, financial, educational, and organizational) was the main goal of the panel discussion, as well as inspiring the audience with the potential impact of working with and for not-for-profits and shedding light on the intersection of AI and social impact. 


Empowering changemakers with AI – a shared responsibility

“When applied thoughtfully, AI can be a force multiplier,” stated Alex Diaz, Head of AI for Social Impact at Google.org. Alex highlighted that empowering nonprofits with AI allows them to focus more on impactful actions.

According to Maggie Carter, Director of Social Impact at AWS, “AI is the most transformative technology of our generation.” She emphasized that one of AWS’ social impact priorities is funding solution development to help advance efforts that address health inequity. One of the many startups supported by AWS is Hurone AI, which addresses health inequalities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their Bedrock-based solution connects cancer patients with oncologists to obtain accurate support in a timely manner. “It’s really powerful to see how AI has really transformed that experience for cancer patients,” she added.

Amy Guterman, Senior Director of Innovation, Philanthropy at Salesforce, briefly explained what her team looks at when analyzing nonprofits to support. “We’re looking at the combination of AI, data, CRM, and how a nonprofit can connect with the constituencies they serve through leveraging technology to achieve one of these two things: augmenting their own human capacity or building efficiency.” According to Amy Guterman, one of the areas where AI can make the biggest difference is in education. AWS collaborates with multiple educational organizations, one of them being the Teacher Development Trust, which employs a chat-based AI solution to develop modules that enhance classroom management for teachers.

Another area where AI can drive the most impact is agriculture. Jackie Ugokwe, Senior Community Manager at the Gates Foundation, shared her favorite story of a nonprofit using AI for early detection of crop disease. “It supports farmers in rural areas where approximately 50% of the cash comes from crops. Being able to utilize AI allows them to predict plant diseases and save their livelihoods,” which is why this is one of the main areas that the Ford Foundation is focusing on.

Marnie Webb, Chief Community Impact Officer at TechSoup, approached the problem from a slightly different perspective. Marnie underlined the ability to use AI to identify specific communities that aren’t thriving as others might be. “AI allows us to identify and target resources at micro-local levels, or spot indicators of systemic inequities. We can go in and change the systemic part. The ability of AI to pick that out of enormous data sets offers a lot of opportunities to individual organizations, but also to those working in the space who have the resources to bring down such barriers.”

Alex Diaz pointed out the need to be careful not to become AI solutionists. “One of the first questions we ask is what problem are you trying to solve, and then we decide what kind of solutions—technological or not—should be employed.” According to Google.org data, four out of five nonprofits find the potential of AI exciting, but over half of them claim not to have the time, awareness, tooling, or funding to really make progress against that. “That’s a call to all of us to meet these organizations where they are and provide the necessary training, resources, awareness, and availability of these tools. There’s a huge effort that we need to make to ensure that we’re lifting the tide for all boats. That’s going to need all of us,” he emphasized.

As a CEO & Co-founder of Tech To The Rescue, I have been in direct contact with hundreds of nonprofits that proactively request tech support over the last few years, and this year, I see the whole sector turning towards AI as the real game-changer.  The impact sector cannot be left behind. But also, I believe it’s worth taking a realistic and impact-based approach when it comes to the types of organizations we prioritize in the AI adoption curve.


Here is what I said during the panel: “In my experience, there are at least four types of organizations: innovators—who already employ AI and are at the frontier of innovation; nonprofit scale-ups—already established with some level of operations but may still lack some resources; established local organizations that could potentially use off-the-shelf solutions; and local organizations who probably don’t even need AI to do well at their level.” Do you want to continue the conversation on this? Find me on LinkedIn, let’s talk! 

Announcing the AI for Changemakers Accelerator Program

To close the AI access gap for the organizations that need and can make use of AI having in mind productivity and efficiency goals, but also respecting and applying responsible AI standards, we at  Tech To The Rescue, in collaboration with AWS and Google.org, have just launched the AI for Changemakers Accelerator Program.

The 3-year program is designed to build an environment for social impact organizations to learn AI and implement their first AI-driven solutions, and was announced by Jacek Siadkowski, CEO & Co-founder of Tech To The Rescue, at the opening of the “Power of AI” panel. Learn more about the Program here.

Visit the AI for Changemakers website here.


AI for Changemakers - join us

Notes: This panel discussion was part of the Forging the Future of Business with AI conference held on April 18th, 2024 at MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA. The event was organized by MIT, Imagination in Action, and Forbes. 

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