Artificial intelligence (AI) has reached an inflection point. By all accounts, it is poised to disrupt and transform nearly every industry. In our corner of the world, alliance partner SmartSimple recently announced SmartSimple Cloud +AI, which integrates AI services into the SmartSimple platform – and underscored that it is the most important product launch in their 20-year history.
As a disruptive technology, AI holds the promise of innovation, new sources of value, and improved business practices and standards. In conversations with funders, we’ve all been surmising about its potential to support more equitable granting practices, drive immense efficiencies, and create a world of new opportunities that have yet to be imagined.
We’ve been having some intriguing conversations with clients about potential use cases, and it is really exciting. We have also heard from clients who are contemplating AI for their organization and questioning where to start.
Our clients know that when they need technology innovation, there’s no better person to help them think through challenges or big ideas and come to the table with viable, real-world solutions that deliver impact than reSolved’s founder and chief technology officer, Malcolm Klotz. We had a quick chat with Malcolm about AI recently and wanted to share some excerpts.
Technology-wise, AI is all anyone can talk about these days. Have you experienced any other technology that has been this disruptive in your career?
The biggest one for me was Google. The advent of the search engine was incredibly disruptive. Before that, we had to read books. When I built my first system, I had to read a book to learn how. I couldn’t go to a website. I didn’t have anyone to ask. I learned from books. I used to travel on holiday with a huge stack of books and read them at the pool. Then all of the sudden Google came about. Not everyone jumped on the bandwagon at first. Some did, but for others there was the issue of trust – whether or not they believed that it worked. But now? You see how much search engines are ingrained in our lives. You have something to do? Ask Google. Nobody tells you to go read a book, they tell you to ‘go Google’ it.
I think AI is analogous to the search engine 2.0 – it’s going to be that kind of disruptor. ChatGPT gained one million users in five days! But it will be an adaptive process as well. I believe the biggest struggle we may face is people believing in it, trusting it. It’s a sea change, and that kind of change takes time. However, there are some great ways our clients can start now, and we’ll talk about that in a minute.
Everyone’s talking about how AI will change the entire grantmaking process. What’s your take?
There is so much potential with AI. But will it change everything, right now? I don’t think it will be that magic formula or cure-all for efficiency immediately. It’s going to take a little while to get there. First, we need to experiment. To see how it works, and build our knowledge, skills, and expertise. To talk to others who are experimenting, too. By doing so, organizations will begin to understand the best ways to use AI effectively. Change will happen; it’s just going to be incremental at first.
Everyone is talking about how funders can use AI. What is exciting to you? What have you been thinking about?
Creating a more interactive experience around data. AI allows you to take data that is already present inside of a platform like SmartSimple and push it through the engine to create a more interactive experience around that data. Funders can shift from having a grantseeker put data into their systems and just hit ‘submit’, to creating an actual interactive experience in which they get feedback to their questions, such as “am I doing the right thing?” or “is this what you expect?” This is revolutionary when you think about how much this can help grantseekers, from efficiency to equity.
Streamlining trust-based philanthropy. I believe that AI will make a big play in trust-based philanthropy. Consider this: Funders can establish rules for applications by defining the parameters to place them into red, green, or yellow areas – which is how the trust-based process is operating for many of our granting clients. The AI engine can then be leveraged to support an efficient process. Applications can be matched against these parameters by the AI engine, and it will report back as to whether the application meets the green, yellow, or red criteria. This can help funnel applications into the areas that need to be reviewed, might not need to be reviewed, etc., which can really streamline decision-making processes.
Simplifying research funding reviews. For research funders, the process of managing and matching reviewers to potential opportunities is a time-consuming and demanding undertaking. AI can be a game changer for research organizations in their efforts to create impartial review panels. AI could efficiently determine which reviewers are best to review opportunities. It could efficiently identify whether there is any research similar to the opportunity being proposed. Research organizations spend so much time trying to match on conflict of interest and publications. This could be a way to significantly streamline these efforts, which are some of the biggest challenges in the research funding process. And I’m just getting started here, there’s so much more in terms of the review process where I see that AI can really make a difference.
What’s your advice to organizations around AI? How would you recommend they think about it?
Think about (or tell us!) the questions that are still unanswered in your day to day. What are the gaps in knowledge? Because that is a where I recommend you start, by looking at how you can supplement your path. It’s a big leap to start changing your process right out of the gate. Think about AI as being additive to your current processes. You’ll start to build your knowledge and confidence in how it works. Then you can really start to leverage it!
And if you want to brainstorm a few ideas with us, we always love a good chat. Just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Malcolm Klotz is Founder and CTO at reSolved