This article was published by The Future Society in Policy Research, The AI Initiative on May 26, 2022

TFS refocuses vision, mission, and operational model for deeper impact

Main insight

The Future Society convened in Lisbon, Portugal to mark the conclusion of an in-depth “strategic refocus” to determine what the organization will focus on for the next 3 years.

Policy ResearchThe AI Initiative
May 26, 2022
4 min read

In April 2022, TFS convened in Lisbon, Portugal for a week-long curated retreat to mark the conclusion of an in-depth strategic focus and planning exercise. The goal of this exercise, on which the team has been working over the past year, has been to better understand our impact in AI governance, identify opportunities and gaps in our field, and ultimately determine what TFS will focus on for the next 3 years.

When TFS launched 7 years ago, the field of AI governance was only beginning to take form, and our work focused on building awareness of AI impact and shaping the frameworks and institutions that now define this domain. The field itself has grown tremendously—in both size and prominence—and is now faced with new challenges and opportunities.

We thus reached a time to zero in on the intersection of what the field requires in the coming years and what a small, independent, and innovative civil society organization like TFS can deliver.

Kicking off our “strategic refocus”

With pro bono support from the Stanford Graduate School of Business Alumni Consulting Team, we held an in-depth review of our activities, operational model, and strategic positioning. We also gathered internal and external stakeholder feedback and evaluated the extent to which our work thus far has aligned with our capabilities, economics, and desired impact. This exercise yielded a number of helpful insights, including what sets TFS apart: our independent roots, nimble scale, deep AI governance subject-matter expertise, and a unique project management culture based on inclusion and collective intelligence.

Most importantly, this exercise surfaced the emerging gap and urgent need to now operationalize AI governance, developing cohesive solutions that enable policies to be implemented and principles to become practice.

Towards this end, TFS will leverage its track record in convening diverse regulators, developers, and deployers of AI systems and co-develop governance solutions to shared institutional barriers (see diagram below). The team will start by prototyping a three-pronged process, including: i) strategic foresight and impact planning exercises to define programs that help operationalize AI governance;  ii) design of sustainable and cohesive solutions by conducting applied research and collective intelligence exercises; and iii) building coalitions and advocacy campaigns to deploy these solutions and programs.

In doing so, we will scale The Athens Roundtable on AI and the Rule of Law (“The Roundtable”), our flagship annual event, to bootstrap our collective intelligence and coalition-building efforts.

A sample of our OKRs

To help us in this transition phase and maximize our alignment with the intended impact, we have deployed an “objectives and key results” (OKR) framework; a few highlights can be found below.

Between now and Dec. 2022, we intend to achieve the following:

  • Prototype our “define-design-deploy” method and process, by which we design programs targeted toward systematically-identified challenges in AI Governance
  • Produce a successful 4th edition of The Athens Roundtable in December (aiming for over 2000 participants), scaling it as a Track II diplomatic forum, and integrating programs designed via the method described above
  • Refine our partnership model, which is key to our impact
  • Increase the size of our full-time staff by 50% to ensure we have the capacity to deliver on our mission
  • Add at least 2 members to our Board of Directors to strengthen our governance and oversight function
  • Establish a new Board of Advisors with at least 10 tech and industry leaders to better factor into our work the dynamics of the “AI economy” of the future
  • Build a diversified pipeline of unrestricted funding to support our mission, with USD $2M in sight for 2023

In 2023-2024, based on what we learn in 2022, we plan to:

  • Make adjustments, as needed, to our “define-design-deploy” method and process
  • Deploy our partnership model with upstream research actors and downstream implementation actors
  • Build and deploy an impact assessment framework to monitor the impact of our programs
  • Double our base of unrestricted funding, aspiring to reach USD $4M
  • Grow our full-time team to 15 by the end of 2024
  • Grow our Board of Advisors to 20 tech and industry leaders to better factor into our work the dynamics of the “AI economy” of the future

We look forward to unrolling our new strategy over the coming months and years, starting with sharing a more detailed articulation of our vision and mission in our annual report next month. Stay tuned.