The Civic AI Observatory begins six-month trial

The Civic AI Observatory has been launched to help civic organisations to plan and adapt to the evolving field of Generative AI.

The initiative has been set up by London-based organisations Nesta and Newspeak House to promote collaborative thinking about the potential civic applications of AI. 

The Observatory, which will run for a six-month pilot period, will focus on practical insights on AI for digital leads. This includes case studies of civic applications, examples of digital strategies and organisational policies, and the impact on the job market, as well as helping to develop communities of practice for specific domains.

The Observatory will host events tailored to diverse groups from civil society, from leaders to practitioners to funders and capability-builders. There will also be a newsletter and an online community. 

Rather than being just another AI initiative, the Observatory is intended to become a space where people can come together to learn about AI “calmly and safely,” writes James Plunkett, Chief Practices Officer at Nesta, in a blog post announcing its launch.

“So far, there hasn’t been much space for this. We’ve had a lively debate about how to regulate AI and about AI’s possible second order social effects — from job losses to cheating on exams. But when it comes to civic applications of this powerful technology, the debate seems to take place mostly within organisations as leaders and practitioners do their best to muddle through.”

Plunkett leads digital technology, data science, policy and external affairs at Citizens Advice. He was previously Director of Policy at think tank The Resolution Foundation, Policy Advisor at Downing Street and  Kennedy Scholar at Harvard University.

He will lead the running of the Observatory alongside Director Edward Saperia, who is Dean of Newspeak House. Saperia commented on the initiative:"It is critical that civil society organisations not only keep up with this swiftly changing field but do so in a way that reflects their values. There is immense potential to advance how data is used in public services or social movements and we’re excited to help organisations achieve that through the Civic AI Observatory.”

Newspeak House, The London College of Political Technologists, is an independent residential college that studies emerging communities of practice across civil society and the public sector in the UK.

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