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Opportunity: combine tech and community knowledge into a tool for good

Andrew Barrie

Open invite: Join Community Lab to convert social capital into societal tech assets. Help shape community-centred AI solutions together. Get involved today!

Opportunity: combine tech and community knowledge into a tool for good

The footprint of AI is growing rapidly. It’s been labelled revolutionary by some and shallow hype by others. Whatever your perception, one thing is clear, its benefits are being monopolised by those with financial capital. Leaving an already disconnected and disadvantaged social sector behind. But what if we deployed a different kind of capital?

Over the pandemic charities, social enterprises and community groups showed beyond doubt to be both essential and resilient. Though with 5,500 UK charity closures in 2023, and 80% of charities bringing in under £100k pa, accounting for 4% of sector income, it’s clear that financial capital is neither our secret weapon, nor something we have very much of to invest. Instead our foundation is Social Capital, but even that has been pushed to its limits by the social, political, and economic crises which seem to be never ending.

With 400,000 charity staff and trustees and many 100,000’s more volunteering in Scotland alone it’s clear there’s no shortage of effort being exerted to support communities. However, rather than being able to build on the progress, learning, and networks developed across these countless projects, funding demands and inconsistent support have funnelled insightful, impactful, and inspiring organisations into competing over shrinking resources instead of collaborating to secure sustained change.

As a result, our support landscape is cluttered, siloed, and nearly impossible to navigate, especially for disadvantaged or under-resourced individuals, organisations, and communities. Community Lab was formed in recognition of these frustrations, zooming out enough to see thousands of activists innovating and fighting against the same issues but in isolation from each other instead of connecting and enacting lasting systemic change. So we decided to do something about it using the tech that will otherwise pass us by.

Where we see the potential of AI in this issue is using the latest language model(LM) tech we could collate, vet, curate all the information we know to be valuable to ourselves, our networks, and our beneficiaries, then train an AI unit on how to aggregate and navigate it. In a way that’s in line with our values and needs.

Now, we’ve built a test case of this called AskAngus and were very excited about the results, and we could go away and keep improving it, but we’d just be building something we thought would be useful, with information we think is relevant. Instead we’re inviting you to join us in a decentralised, co-design project that will allow us all to explore, what is valuable data and knowledge? How can we collect that in a responsible and open way? How do we ensure everyone can feed into it? How do we ensure that its answers are helpful? How do we ensure that it’s aligned to our broader shard values on privacy, the environment, and safeguarding? How do we put communities at the centre of this tech?

Think you’ve got something to say on any of these questions? Then I’m inviting you to fill out this form and sign up for one of our scheduled discovery calls. Like I said, this is a decentralised, community co-design project so come with your ideas and invite those you know who need to be part of building tools for a more connected and supported society. This is as much a community project as it is a tech one so please don’t be put off if you feel you’re only coming from one side of that. For this to be impactful, accessible we need diverse thinkers

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