Wrapping up my role at the European AI Fund

At the end of the March, I officially wrapped up my stint as interim Director of the European AI Fund. (Here’s my blog post announcing the new role back in December.)

For these last few months my job was to keep things running smoothly at this (relatively young) philanthropic initiative after its excellent inaugural director Frederike Kaltheuner took on a new professional opportunity and while the search for a permanent replacement was ongoing. Now that this role is filled with the brilliant and highly experienced Catherine Miller, it was time for me to step back out.

So this role was always planned as a 3-4 month gig, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out.

In this short time, together with the ever-attentive program manager Alexandra Toth, I got to manage a round of grant extensions and to update internal governance structures. We published an annual report, sent out a few newsletters, had lots of collaboration calls with partners old and new, and cultivated stakeholder relations. To top things off, I got to shepherd a new round of incoming funding, which was a nice touch.

I learned a lot — about AI, about grantmaking, about the environment that grantees and funders in this space operate. I’ve been in this field for some time, but from that particular vantage point I still got to learn a lot more.

Also, I got to meet (or re-meet) a whole bunch of folks with amazing expertise and experience, working on important challenges. There’s nothing I enjoy more professionally speaking than meeting good people working on important things.

I’m happy that I got to contribute a few things that my mandate allowed me to do that might have been harder for the person before or after me. Among other things, that meant having a bunch of feedback conversations with grantees to filter some of their experiences back to the org. It also meant updating the governance framework to incorporate a lot of learnings from the inaugural year of operations.

After the wrap-up a member of the steering committee shared this feedback with me:

“This has literally been the smoothest transition of this nature I’ve ever experienced. Amazing work.”

Hearing this, as you can imagine, made my day.

I’m grateful to the European AI Fund and its host organization NEF, to former director Frederike Kaltheuner who kindly got me involved and Catherine Miller who takes over as the new permanent director, to program manager Alexandra Toth, and to the whole steering committee, who were incredibly gracious with their time and advice. Last but not least, I’m grateful to all the grantees for being patient with me during the double hand-over and generous with their knowledge at every step. Taken together, this was an all-around pleasant and exciting experience.

As for the European AI Fund, I’ll be following its development closely and be cheering from the sidelines as I believe it has a tremendously important role to play in supporting civil society at the intersection of AI, society and policy.

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