1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based tools will gain steam and confuse teams, prompting a critical decision for funders and social purpose organizations: are you in or are you out?
What it means for you: AI-based technologies are becoming integral to every role — from research to assessing applications and fundraising to writing. The AI trend will see plenty of action in 2024. AI tools are growing fast, offering a plethora of options for chatbots, virtual notetakers, image generators, video generators, copywriting, and a whole lot more. Those mocking the power of AI tools such as ChatGPT, Midjourney, Writerbuddy or NovelAI are quickly becoming the minority. Social purpose teams already use AI tools to augment and enhance their work—from communications to writing grant applications. Having said that, while the pace of AI breakthroughs has been fast (there are currently more than 3,000 AI tools on the market), the potential negative externalities are concerning for many—and rightly so. According to Axios, four out of five workers say their employers lack AI guidelines. There are pressing questions such as: What information can I input into an AI tool? Where does the data go? Can I input sensitive information? How do AI tools learn? What is sensitive information? There is much to sort out, as it is a fast-emerging industry. Canada’s much-anticipated regulation, the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act, is not due until 2025. But here’s the thing: The social purpose world can help shape it. Think about where the internet was in the early ‘90s, where smartphones were in the early aughts, and how much of the social purpose world was involved in shaping or harnessing it. Now think about what could’ve been possible or what could’ve been mitigated had there been more intentional organizing and action in the early days of either. Digital adoption isn’t just about using today’s technologies but experimenting with emerging technologies such as AI tools. Plenty of AI use cases are building up with exciting opportunities for non-profits, charities, impact ventures, and funders to get involved. AI is one area to focus on employee upskilling for 2024.
2. The crisis in Gaza will push Canada’s local and international charities and funders for a renewed civil society conversation on neutrality.
What it means for you: Global crises can sometimes be a mobilizing force that pushes civil society organizations to ask foundational questions. Israel’s siege of Gaza illustrated just how emotionally and politically charged this crisis is. Reactions, opinions, and responses were varied, tense, deeply personal, and polarized across the social purpose world — including several funders, intermediaries and charities choosing to be silent. While the sector holds up principles such as neutrality and non-partisanship as paramount, the street demonstrations and online reactions highlighted just how much backlash, tension, pushing back or remaining silent and neutral can get you. In 2024, this will spark a new push to rethink how crises are funded, and leaders who work domestically and internationally will build on their observations and experiences from 2023 to enable conversations on elephant-in-the-room topics such as double-standards in reporting, pressure from wealthy donors, and the meaning of silence. Could this be the start of a monumental shift in challenging neutrality?
3. Scenario planning will reluctantly begin as the social purpose world starts to prepare for a Trump-Poilievre duo in the near future.
What it means for you: There are more nationwide elections in the same year than ever in human history. Closer to home, there is a high likelihood of Pierre Poilievre becoming prime minister and Donald Trump becoming U.S. president shortly. You can bet that these results will, again, affect the social purpose world. Trump is tracking well ahead of Biden, according to ActiVote. With a possible Trump re-election in November, you can expect the rise of far-right movements on home soil—LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, immigration, and hate crimes to be affected, not to mention issues caused by economic isolationism. In Canada, the conservatives are comfortably in majority territory, according to Nanos Research. If Poilievre wins, what could happen to gender-based analysis for public policy? What about the carbon tax? The social finance fund? What about Canada’s aid and global development agenda? There’s a lot at stake. Although it’s easier just to be angry for four or eight years, social purpose organizations and leaders must listen to those they don’t share the same values with and ready themselves for a Trump-Poilievre scenario.
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