Action Coalition on Civic Engagement in AI Design


Francesca Fanucci, Senior Legal Advisor, ECNL


ECNL initiated the Action Coalition on Civic Engagement in Artificial Intelligence (AI) Design as a community of actors that are passionate about amplifying civic voices in AI development and design, safeguarding human rights and freedoms and promoting rights-based AI that benefit individuals and communities. The Action Coalition is building upon the work of the ECNL-lead MozFest Work Group Harnessing the civic voice in AI impact assessment that aims to develop guidance for meaningful participation of external stakeholders, such as civil society organizations and affected communities, in Human Rights Impact Assessments (HRIA) of AI systems. These assessments should be a requirement for any AI system deployed in communities and are embedded in the Human Rights Due Diligence framework.

Our work to date has identified three recurring challenges which impede action:

  • The need to improve the outreach to and quality of stakeholder engagement in the context of human rights impact assessment related to the AI design, development and deployment, with emphasis on groups most at-risk from use of technology.
  • The lack of detailed understanding of the technologies among stakeholders, particularly about their design, functionality, capability, and limits. Requiring knowledge transfer and capacity building of diverse stakeholders who can offer insight about human rights realities for users and impacted groups around the world.
  • Inadequate the timing, quality and impact of stakeholder engagement to empower genuine collaborative problem solving resulting in practical results in more human-focused, sustainable, design and development.

This Action Coalition brings together actors who are concerned with or already work on civic engagement and see an opportunity and benefit of sharing existing actions, identify synergies and complementarity, and to align advocacy efforts. This will be achieved by:

i. Collectively identifying challenges, obstacles, and resources gaps for meaningful engagement

ii. Discussing pathways and potential solutions aimed at overcoming the identified obstacles and gaps

iii. Producing public outputs and a guidance framework on what it is to understand meaningful engagement between AI developers and stakeholders to the benefit of the larger ‘responsible AI’ community

This Action Coalition will coordinate its activities with and ensure broad civil society feedback into the Action Coalition on Responsible Technology.


During the 2022 year of action, the Action Coalition will conduct a series of activities that support the objective. Practical output of the activities includes developing a guidance framework for inclusion of public, especially civil society and impacted communities, in human rights impact assessment for AI, as a models for inclusive development of technology.

I. Action Workshops

Action Coalition will host thematic workshops related to the development of guidance framework and knowledge gaps identified, focusing on the lessons learned from the ongoing work and in coordination with other Action Coalitions as well as individual Action Coalition members. The workshops will bring together stakeholders with an interest in the theme in question.

II. Guidance Framework

Action Coalition will develop a draft guidance framework for inclusion of relevant stakeholders, namely, civil society and impacted communities, in human rights impact assessment for AI, as a models for inclusive development of technology. The draft guidance framework will be disseminated as a common starting point for further discussion and piloting. It will also feed into the work of other relevant Action Coalitions and may be presented to the Biden Democracy Summit, with support from the Danish MFA.

III. Piloting of Guidance Framework

Action Coalition will seek to pilot the draft Guidance Framework to develop a ‘good practice model for inclusive innovations’ thorough design and tested for use on selected AI products and processes for consultations. After testing, the guidance framework will be evaluated and further developed for practical use.

IV. Public report

At the end of the year of action, the Action Coalition will develop a brief public report summarizing the activities of the action coalition and its members.


The AC has: i) identified challenges, barriers, obstacles and gaps to meaningful engagement in a large input-sourcing exercise online and offline ii) designed a framework for meaningful engagement and started consultation process.

In 2022 the AC have hosted various thematic workshops and consultations incl. in London, June, online workshop in September and one on one consultation with selected experts and private sector reps (ongoing) as well as consultation on piloting the framework with the City of Amsterdam.

Next steps

  • Discussion of design and further consolidation of inputs from consultation.
  • Planning to launch and present Framework to wider audience.
  • Looking for piloting opportunities in both public and private sector


  • European Center For Not-For-Profit Law Stichting (ECNL)
  • Urvashi Aneja, Director, Digital Futures Lab
  • Hilary Sutcliffe, Director, SocietyInside
  • Mathew Mytka, Co-founder & Chief Vision Shaper, Tethix
  • European Disability Forum
  • Prof Alessandro Mantelero (Associate Professor of Private Law and Law & Technology at the Polytechnic University of Turin – EC Jean Monnet Chair in Mediterranean Digital Societies and Law