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AI for Social Impact: 3 Key Takeaways for NGOs Adopting AI

AI for Social Impact: 3 Key Takeaways for NGOs Adopting AI

Published 04-04-24

Submitted by Lenovo

For many NGOs around the world, the future of artificial intelligence (AI) could seem both promising and uncertain. Will AI widen the digital divide or lead to more social inclusion? Can AI help NGOs increase their social impact or does it require too many resources?

With these questions in mind, Lenovo Foundation hosted the AI for Social Impact webinar on February 8, 2024, the first in a series of webinars that will explore how non-profits can adopt emerging technology to increase their impact. The session provided a keynote on the basics of AI from Scott Tease, Lenovo Vice President of Infrastructure Solutions Group, High Performance Computing and Artificial Intelligence. Scott’s keynote session was followed by a panel of Lenovo’s charitable partners from around the world: Sajit Joseph, Chief Innovation Officer of the American Red Cross; Janine Teo, CEO of Solve Education! Foundation; and Jacek Siadkowski, Co-founder and Managing Director of Tech to the Rescue. Moderated by Charlotte West, Executive Director of Global External Communications and Lenovo Foundation Board Director, the NGO experts discussed how they are working to integrate AI into their organizations at various paces and scales.

Here are the three key takeaways for NGOs interested in adopting more AI capabilities in their operations:

1. AI can be applied to a wide range of non-profit causes and solutions.

The applicability of AI in the non-profit sector is expansive and can be leveraged for diverse causes. For example, Sajit Joseph shared how AI has been applied to American Red Cross’s blood services function in the United States to not only optimize the end-to-end supply chain but also improve the donor experience. In another application, the team at Tech To the Rescue continuously reviews impactful ideas for applying AI solutions to social problems. “We are working with Thailand Clean Air Network to focus on air quality improvement,” Siadkowski shared. “Many people don’t understand the problem (of air quality) …so we’re building a tool to help the organization explain the potential impact of air quality solutions for the local community.”

2. Benefits of AI can be realized without a huge investment.

Implementing or integrating AI doesn’t necessarily have to be demanding or consume a significant amount of resources. At Solve Education! Foundation, Janine Teo was able to experiment and implement solutions herself without additional expertise by strategically designing pilot phases for solutions before scaling them. The American Red Cross was also able to implement sophisticated solutions with just one data scientist. In a particularly compelling offering for non-profits, Tech To the Rescue presented a solution that aligns with financial constraints, utilizing the skills of software engineers who volunteer their expertise pro bono.

3. NGOs beginning to use AI should stay focused and specific in early applications of AI.

AI can lead to unforeseen outcomes from users. By staying focused on specific solutions, NGO leaders can focus on managing the incredible scaling, participation and engagement that AI enables. Janine Teo shared Solve Education’s journey of moving to AI chatbots to enable education. Students accelerated their adoption when interactions were personal and authentic, and engaged more readily with AI chatbots when they were given human names. The personalization alone took a chatroom from 20 students to 1,000 students overnight. “I am so excited about the personalized elements that socialize AI,” Teo shared. “It is motivating people to come back again and again, which is so important in communities where students have so much on their shoulders.”

As we explore the potential of what AI can unlock when it comes to addressing societal challenges, it’s clear that the road ahead involves not just technology but a thoughtful consideration of its social and resource implications. The future of AI in social impact is a collective endeavor, and as we move forward, dialogue and collaboration will play a crucial role in shaping the path ahead.

NGOs, charities and social impact organizations are invited to share their thoughts on AI in the AI for Social Impact Survey. Those who complete the form will be invited to any future resource webinars hosted by Lenovo Foundation.

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Lenovo is a US$62 billion revenue global technology powerhouse, ranked #217 in the Fortune Global 500, employing 77,000 people around the world, and serving millions of customers every day in 180 markets. Focused on a bold vision to deliver Smarter Technology for All, Lenovo has built on its success as the world’s largest PC company by further expanding into growth areas that fuel the advancement of ‘New IT’ technologies (client, edge, cloud, network, and intelligence) including server, storage, mobile, software, solutions, and services. This transformation together with Lenovo’s world-changing innovation is building a more inclusive, trustworthy, and smarter future for everyone, everywhere. Lenovo is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange under Lenovo Group Limited (HKSE: 992)(ADR: LNVGY). To find out more visit, and read about the latest news via our StoryHub.

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