This week, Geoff Mulgan shared a new post on the Nesta blog reflecting on ways to improve the effectiveness of philanthropic funding through new technologies. The piece, "Philanthropy and Innovation," focuses in particular on open data and artificial intelligence as tools for the field. The post explores "how funders could use data; better sift and assess applications; reduce bureaucracy for applicants; strategically scan different fields; and tap into crowd knowledge."

One of the approaches Mulgan discusses involves the use of AI to create smarter processes for funding applications:

"AI could also help to overhaul the application process itself. Instead of written forms which tend to favour highly educated applicants, or a small industry of consultants, an alternative would be to use technology to increase accessibility by avoiding the usual written formats, for example through a structured interview process using speech to text, asking applicants to describe key aspects of their work.

Chatbots can be programmed to ask structured interview questions about proposed projects, for example covering team structure, budget management, marketing and impact. Chatbots could also improve the applicant experience by providing immediate feedback, and orchestrate communication during the application process - including the post-submission period - without running the risk of applicants and foundation staff communicating directly and tilting outcomes.

This would be worth doing as an experiment anyway, building on past experiments that used video rather than text for applications. These proved useful at overcoming the bias to those most fluent in prose and also gave a flavour of passion, enthusiasm and authenticity (though, of course, it would be vital to retain the human element of videos alongside machine learning)."

Read more here.