Philip Deng on Responsible AI and the Impact of “Sectorism”


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In our last episode of the year, Tim and Kerrin sat down with Philip Deng, the co-founder and CEO of Grantable, an AI grant writing assistant software solution. Philip has been in the nonprofit sector for over 15 years, starting abroad with programs in China and then back in the states, learning about the grant seeking and grant writing process. Over the years, he became proficient in creating grant proposals and helping others successfully applying for grants.

Grantable’s Unique Approach to leveraging AI

With the release of GPT-3 in 2020, Philip saw an opportunity to leverage AI to the grant writing process, and for the past few years, and his co-founder have found their success in AI with Grantable. According to Philip, Grantable can be summed up in 3 key elements:

“There's your content library, which all grant writers know about. It's wherever you keep all your content, your previous proposals, your boilerplate, all that language that you use. So we've taken that and we've amped it up with AI, so just hold that for a second. Smart content library. Then you've got your AI writing assistant, which I think everybody's seen Chat GPT, just spitting out all kinds of text. So we've brought GPT into the space as well, so it can write anything in any way that you want. And then there's the writing space, which I think people maybe have forgotten about if they get really into the Chat GPT land where all you're doing is you're interacting with a bot, but that isn't the ideal space to do document editing. It really is that word processor interface. So we have those three pieces we've brought together.”

The power of Grantable, as Philip puts it, is having this smart library at your fingertips. So the next grant you work on, you can be writing your proposal and when you come to a spot where you want AI assistance, you highlight it, and you can ask it to answer a question or revise something. It will then leverage your existing smart library to instantly generate that response or that output in your organization's voice using your facts, your figures. 

What’s important - and different - with Grantable is that the content being leveraged by AI is generated by your organization. Unlike AI generating responses from outside your four walls, the content is yours, which eliminates some of the ethical challenges AI poses in many circles of philanthropy.

As Tim and Kerrin continue with Phiip, the topic of voice and style is important when you are writing grants, and even more so when you are thinking about leveraging technology to help that voice come out.

“When organizations use Grantable, they're actually not training a model on its own. What they're doing is they're basically relying on GPT's ability to imitate or to amplify what you've already written or to mimic your style.”

One of the challenges with the writing process is that, in those first couple of proposals, there is a lot of thought and creativity that goes into the voice and style. However, over time and with repetition the creative process can get more tedious. Add on character counts and word limits and the nuances that come with grant applications, it can be more difficult. With Grantable’s smart library powered with AI, you can leverage the technology to pick the best stories, the best data and organize it to not only match your style and voice, but also fit within the parameters of often finicky applications.

Sectorism and Responsible AI

The conversation then moved on to the responsibility within AI, the next 5 to 10 years in how the data is managed, and a term that Philip has coined as “sectorism”. Philip uses the term in a recent article he published around the firing of Sam Altman at OpenAI, defined as the “dismissive and derogatory way the nonprofit sector is viewed by folks in the private sector, especially in elite circles.” The idea of OpenAI as a nonprofit organization was to avoid the typical failings of for-profit organizations - in a way leveraging technology to make money, regardless of the responsibility and ethical considerations. But in that attempt, firing and the re0-hiring Altman brought about a sense of sectorism, or the notion that nonprofits are not business savvy.

“And what I think the challenge for us now to figure out in this next probably 5 to 10 years is how do we better steer and harness and correct for the externalities of capitalism, of AI, of these forces in our economy. And that's what I see as responsible AI. That's where I'm coming to say, how do we actually take human decision-making and create structure around it, create legal structure, organizational structure, policy and norms? How do we put that around AI and so 
many other things so that we can steer it so that we can guide it and sometimes choose to say yes to some things and no to other things. And I don't think we have, we've not figured out the yes and no very well yet.”

Tim, Kerrin and Philip continued to drill down on the notion of responsible AI, the next 5-10 year outlook and how Grantable is taking its steps towards a responsible approach to AI. What was the outcome? You’ll have to listen above to find out.

Thank You For a Great Year!

For all our listeners and followers, we thank you for following us through season 3 of Untapped Philanthropy. We are thankful for the addition of Tim Sarrantonio to as co-host, and the tremendous (and often hilarious) conversations he and Kerrin have had with our guests and each other. 2024 is already shaping up to be a fantastic year of exciting and entertaining guests - you’ll just have to wait and see what we have planned. Have a happy holiday season and a fantastic new year!

Episodes of Untapped Philanthropy are released monthly and always shared on the Fluxx blog. We encourage you to subscribe to the Fluxx blog to stay up to date on new episode releases and follow us on social media for podcast excerpts and more!

For a comprehensive list of all Untapped Philanthropy episodes, visit the Fluxx blog, or your favorite podcast listening station, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. 

Download the transcript here.

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