[Call for funding] Strengthening civil society to influence the public and policy discourse on AI in Europe

This call aims to strengthen, support and build the ability of civil society organisations in Europe to effectively shape and influence public and policy debates in Europe around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automated Decision Making (ADM).

We welcome applications from two kinds of organisations: those that have previously worked on AI/ADM and want to build their capacity in advocacy and policy; and organisations whose work is affected by AI/ADM and who want to build capacity in this domain.


Over the next five years the European Commission has ambitions to forge a plan for Europe’s digital transformation, including AI. But without a strong civil society taking part in the debate, Europe—and the world—risk missing opportunities to better society and instead, might choose a path paved with societal harm. This fund aims to strengthen civil society’s capacity to contribute to these tech policy discussions.

The conditions created by Covid-19 have made this need for civil society to shape the debate more urgent and challenging at the same time. We recognise that civil society organizations in Europe continue to operate under exceptionally challenging and unpredictable conditions. A small number of dominant tech companies, on the other hand, are poised to emerge stronger than ever before, while many new technologies have been deployed in a state of emergency, without sufficiently addressing the underlying ethical questions and human rights challenges.

This fund aims to strengthen civil society’s ability to take on this crucial role: to be a more visible and more effective voice in public and policy debates about the role, form and shape that Europe’s digital transformation should take. Our goal is to bring in new actors to the debate, especially those that are working on issues affected by AI/ADM and who want to build their capacity in this domain.

Funding goals

With this first open call for funding, we specifically aim to:

  • Enable civil society organisations with AI expertise to start building up strategic capacity in advocacy and policy to shape Europe’s Digital Future in the mid- and long-term.
  • Help more civil society organisations build expertise on AI issues, particularly those who already have strong advocacy and policy capacity and whose work is affected or transformed by the deployment of AI/ADM.
  • Ensure that civil society partners are more and better connected to learn from each other.

Application process

This Request for Proposals will make use of a phased application process. In this first round of the call we invite applicants to apply by filling out a short questionnaire. We will then contact all applicants that have been invited to prepare a full application.


22 September 2020 – Call for funding opens
1 November 2020 – Call for funding closes
1 December 2020 – Invitation to submit detailed proposal opens
January 2021 – Deadline to submit detailed proposal
February 2021 – Fund announces first round of grantees for open funding + workshop with grantees

Who can apply for funding?

The European AI fund accepts applications from civil society organisations registered in the EU, EEA, the UK, and Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.

We welcome applications from two kinds of organisations:

  • Those that have previously worked on AI/ADM and want to build their capacity in advocacy and policy.
  • Organisations who already have strong track record in policy and advocacy, whose work is affected by AI/ADM, and who want to build capacity in this domain. Some examples for organisations that would fall under this definition include, but are by no means limited to:
    • Organisations that focus on worker’s rights and want to build their capacity to respond to new challenges raised by the gig economy.
    • Health and patient rights organisations who want to build their capacity to join conversations about AI in healthcare.
    • Organisations that represent marginalised communities or specialise on anti-discrimination and want to build their expertise in algorithmic forms of discrimination and exclusion.

We are looking for work that recognises the socio-technical nature of AI/ADM systems.

What is the size/duration of the grants?

Grant amounts may vary depending on the size and scope of the plans proposed as well as the applicant organisation’s annual budget. To maximise the number of recipients, we aim to issue grants ranging from 20,000€ to 150,000€.

Our total funding budget for this open call is up to 1,000,000 €.

Grants will be awarded for the duration of up to eighteen months.