This is a Frequently Asked Questions section collecting questions and answers about the Generative AI Skills Challenge. It is updated on a regular basis, and we encourage you to refer back often. If you still have questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to suggest for inclusion in the next FAQ update. Thank you for your interest and participation!
Who is eligible to apply?
Eligible applicants include nonprofits, social enterprises, and academic/research institutions from across the globe.
Social enterprises are eligible to apply, provided they are located outside of Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cuba, Iran, Jordan, Russia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and Ukraine (Russian-occupied territories), and that their proposed project meets the foregoing requirements for charitability.
Does your organization have to be 501c3 certified?
No, you do not need to be a 501c3-certified organization. Entries are eligible if they:
1) have a charitable purpose, as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code of the United States of America, and
2) are not used for any political lobbying purposes.
More details are listed in the terms & conditions of the Challenge.
Why must the project have an exclusively charitable purpose?
data.org is a project of New Venture Fund, which is a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Funding from 501(c)(3) organizations must be used exclusively for charitable purposes. Additionally, in order for a project to be charitable under U.S. law, it must not result in financial gain to any individual or non-charitable entity that is more “incidental and tenuous” to the related social impact. You can read more about the second requirement here.
To meet the second requirement for charitability above, grant agreements between data.org and any Challenge Awardees that are not 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations may include stipulations relating to such intellectual property. The nature of any such stipulations will be flexible and will consider your project’s unique structure and goals.
Is it possible to take part in this challenge as an individual researcher/consultant?
No, all applicants must be an organization. Examples include a non-profit organization, a social enterprise, an academic, or a research institute. Applications from individuals will not be considered. See the terms & conditions of the Challenge for more details.
Can we apply as a US-registered non-profit but target communities in the global North more broadly?
Reviewers will be evaluating applications in terms of their feasibility and scale. So yes, your project can target communities on a larger scale/across the global North or even the globe, but your application will also be evaluated on the feasibility of your project proposal in a 7–8-month time period.
Can multilateral organizations (such as the United Nations) apply for this challenge?
Yes, United Nations organizations can apply for the Challenge as long as they meet our eligibility requirements, which include your proposal having a charitable purpose and ensuring you aren’t participating in any political lobbying.
It is possible for a recently created organization to apply for the grant?
Yes, as long as your organization meets our eligibility criteria, you may apply as a recently created organization.
If we are entirely AI-naive but see the great potential of AI in moving our impact forward, can we apply?
Yes, you can still apply. Please keep in mind two things: feasibility of the project and partnerships. Consider if the project is feasible with your current AI skillset. Additionally, you can bring in partners for support. If you are worried about your organization’s ability to implement AI-related skills training, you can bring on a partner to provide training support/expertise.
Are social enterprises providing training on own-design systems that leverage and incorporate AI features (rather than directly on AI language models themselves) also eligible to apply?
The short answer is yes.
While technical assistance is more likely for those who use Microsoft technologies, we also recognize that there are other systems out there not excluded from this challenge. Therefore, our judges will be focused on evaluating the potential outcome of the proposed project.
Can an organization that is currently sponsored by Microsoft Corp. Philanthropy, can apply for this Challenge?
Yes, organizations that meet our eligibility requirements and are currently sponsored by Microsoft can still apply.
Where would MENA (Middle East and North Africa) fall on the geographic region list?
Middle East = Asia Region
North Africa = Africa Region
Is Turkey considered to be in the European or Asian region?
Turkey is considered part of Europe for the purposes of this Challenge.
When is the cut-off date for applications?
Applicants can apply until Tuesday, August 15, 4:00 PM PT / 7:00 PM ET
What is the time range of these proposed projects?
The grant period will be 7-8 months. Awardees will be announced in November 2023, and projects will conclude by the end of June 2024.
The documentation says that awardees will be announced in November 2023 and projects must be ready to begin at that time. Will new discrete projects also need to start immediately? Does this mean there’s a preference for expanding upon existing programs?
We will be considering proposals that offer new, discrete projects as well as projects that are expanding upon existing programs. Therefore, this does not mean that your new, discrete project needs to be ready to go by November 2023—it just means that in your plan, you need to have a timeline for when planning and implementation will start.
Do you envision one year of delivery or is that down to the project? What are the evaluation commitments?
Please note that as part of your application, there is a question about what the project will look like after the grant period ends. If you are proposing a project that will go beyond June 2024, please provide that answer in the application. The actual grant will end in June 2024.
Target Audience Questions
When reading the Q&A there is an expected outcome of “training & empowering the social impact workforce.” Is the target audience of the Challenge workers in the NGO / social impact sectors? Or generally at-need workers in the local economy?
We are considering the target audience a little more broadly for at-need workers in the local economy. Your target audience does not need to be workers in the NGO sector, but should focus on impact. The audience could be people in your local community that would benefit from this training or it could be workers at your organization. Please clarify your target audience in your proposal.
Can the project target at-need youth (in training in vocational education) rather than workers?
At-need youth is an appropriate audience to target for this grant. High school, secondary school, and/or higher education are also appropriate audiences.
Is this Challenge focused on upskilling professionals/workers, rather than disadvantaged people?
This Challenge is focused on anyone who would benefit from this training. Your target audience doesn’t have to be career professionals.
Can we also target the public sector as part of the upskilling audience?
Yes, the public sector can be a target audience.
Who are the intended beneficiaries? Should it be front-line workers or can it be people involved in back-office functions?
It could be either or both! As long as the training is in AI or, more specifically, generative AI.
What level of localism do you expect?
What we are looking for is the ability to optimize, enhance, and scale based on your community knowledge and understanding of the constraints that may impede a successful, technical application. That is the context we are looking for in reference to localism in your proposal.
What do we mean when we say “fluent in generative AI?” Does our target audience need to be able to work with OpenAI APIs to build apps? Or could they simply be trained to use ChatGPT with good prompts?
Fluency in this case means that the target audience gains a level of proficiency in generative AI through the skills that they acquire in your training program. Both examples provided are eligible examples.
Project Proposal Questions
What types of proposals are a good fit for this Challenge?
The Challenge is looking for proposals for training and skilling individuals in artificial intelligence and specifically generative AI, so they develop a foundational level of knowledge and user-level proficiency in AI systems. Successful proposals will also apply a responsible approach to the use of AI and specifically large language models.
We will consider proposals for both discrete projects and projects that further existing programs. Discrete projects will need to be ready to launch in November 2023.
Is it possible to propose a project that takes place in multiple countries? (Same project activities happening in 2+ countries).
Yes, you can propose a project that takes place in multiple countries. Reviewers will be evaluating applications in terms of their feasibility and scale. So, your project can target communities on a larger scale/in multiple communities spanning the global North or even the globe; but we will evaluate the feasibility of your project proposal.
When completing your application, please choose the country/region where the highest number of workers you plan to train reside.
I’m having issues with Award Force. What do I do?
Award Force has a great support center. Check out its Ultimate Guide for Entrants to see if your question is answered there. You can also submit a form to their help team if the article does not address your question.
Can I edit my application after it is submitted?
Once an application is submitted, it is considered final. If you have a compelling reason for it to be re-opened, and it is still within the submission period, please contact us at email@example.com.
Can I submit multiple applications?
Organizations are limited to submitting one Entry to the Challenge. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Challenge may consider multiple Entries from large organizations such as universities. Any such Entries must be distinct, without overlap in the scope of the proposals or the project teams. If you are aware that two or more teams within your organization are submitting Entries to the Challenge, please notify us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and include an explanation as to how your team meets the foregoing requirement. Fiscal sponsors may submit more than one application but may only submit one application per fiscally sponsored project.
What kind of support can we expect from the Challenge organizers in preparing our application?
- Refer to the resource links in the submission area
- Attend FAQ sessions, or view this updated FAQ
- Ask questions for potential inclusion in the FAQs by contacting us at email@example.com
Is there preference/weighting given for organizations that intend to leverage Microsoft’s new AI training content as part of their proposal? Should that be a given as part of our proposals?
There will be no preference given to those who use Microsoft’s new AI training content that was recently launched on LinkedIn. Proposals that include creation of their own curriculum or content are welcome.
How central does skilling around using AI need to be in our application? If we are building an accessible AI tool that will have an onboarding to promote AI literacy before using the other functions of the tool, would that be enough or does the entire project need to focus on skilling?
Skilling is the focus of this Challenge. However, we are focused on impact and inclusivity. If people are acquiring a new skill in generative AI that will empower them to be included in the digital economy, then your proposal is eligible.
Does upskilling/reskilling pertain to learning the technical aspects of AI (designing apps, etc.) or the applications of it (prompting, connecting ai tools to produce an output, etc.)?
It can be either and both. If the outcome is talent development in which people are empowered to be a part of the digital economy, then your proposal is eligible.
Can I apply with a group of organizations?
Organizations may join together as a coalition to submit a single application subject to these Rules. However, Awards to coalitions must be distributed to a single legal entity that will have legal responsibility for executing the coalition’s proposal in accordance with the terms of their grant agreement.
If we were to partner with another company that is based in a different region, what region should we select in the application?
In your application, please select the country/region of the leading partner.
Is there a preference for projects involving in-person activities versus virtual activities? Also, is the proposal more like a training plan for certain use cases?
There is no preference for in-person versus virtual activities. Your proposal should outline the details of the project. So, who are you training? What are you training people in? What is the timeline and what are the evaluation metrics? Those are the types of questions we would like answered.
In our program proposal can we dream big as far as the tools we would need for our program to happen?
Absolutely. There are no limitations to the size of the project. It all comes back to feasibility and scalability, which all applicants should include in their proposals.
How much flexibility do participants have in choosing software when undertaking this work?
You may choose non-Microsoft software as part of your training methodology. An example would be choosing a non-Microsoft training software, but then making the training available on Microsoft’s nonprofit cloud. Note that all technical assistance will be provided using Microsoft technology.
Should the focus be on training in a tool that’s already available, or can the funds be used to develop a new tool?
The funds can be used to train people in a tool that already exists or you could develop a new tool. There’s no preference for either version. We just ask that you state which path you plan to take in your application.
In the form, there’s an allotted section for partners. Do the partners listed need to be partnerships that have already been formally approved? Or are prospective partners okay?
Please list partners that you’ve already talked to and have either a formal or informal understanding of shared responsibilities and individual obligations regarding the Challenge.
Do you support book projects or domain-level training frameworks for using generative AI in architecture, planning, and spatial design?
If it’s a book project, please explain why this book project fits into the criteria of the Challenge. You can review the project criteria under the Challenge rules.
In terms of supporting training in domain-level frameworks for using generative AI in architecture, planning, and spatial design, that is in scope. In your proposal, please remember to expand on the following:
- Are you already training individuals in architecture, planning, and spatial design?
- What do they need within this framework to become employable in architecture?? To become useful in planning scenarios or in special design?
- How are you upskilling them?
Do you welcome training and curriculum not in English? For example, in French or Spanish?
While applications must be submitted in English, training and curriculum can be developed and conducted in other languages.
Do we have to focus on large language models or can we focus on generative AI in general? Such as text to text, text to image, text to video, text to 3D etc.
The focus of this challenge is on generative AI in general—language models can be a part of the project, though, as a type of generative AI.
Is prompt engineering also part of the grant coverage?
Yes, prompt engineering is eligible under the requirements of this grant.
Can partners be individuals and/or organizations?
Partners can be individuals and/or organizations. Please keep in mind that grants are given to the organizations, though, and not the individual; so, an organization must be the one to submit the proposal.
If some skills from a current Generative AI project are transferable but the project that we apply with has a completely new dimension, use case, and scalability, are such projects also applicable?
Yes, these projects are absolutely applicable.
At times, marginalized groups and individuals have capacity, but they don’t have the infrastructure. Can the grant also include infrastructure building on top of the up-skilling intervention?
If you can demonstrate that building an infrastructure is instrumental to your training, and the output is in training, then it’s in scope; but keep in mind that it must happen within 7 to 8 months.
What will awardees receive?
Each awardee will receive up to $250,000 USD in funding, access to a cohort, Microsoft cloud computing resources, technical guidance from Microsoft AI experts, and data training.
How many awardees will be selected?
A total of 5 awardees will be selected, one from each of the following geographic regions:
- North America
- Latin America
Is technical assistance guaranteed for awardees?
Technical assistance is not guaranteed, but we will try our best to match awardees with the technical assistance available from Microsoft’s AI for Good Lab.
Can awards cover indirect costs? Are there any restrictions?
For maximum efficiency of limited resources and to serve as good stewards of charitable funds, it is New Venture Fund’s policy to fund indirect or direct overhead costs up to 15% of the approved grant amount. Any indirect costs greater than 15% must be approved on a case-by-case basis.
A budget template will be provided for all applicants that are selected for Phase 2 of the application and will offer further detail on what is considered to be a direct cost. At that stage, we recommend that applicants provide detail on indirect costs specifying what funding will be used for, though we cannot guarantee that indirect costs above 15% will be approved.
Is there any indication of a maximum budget allowed?
Awardees will receive up to $250,000 USD.
There is a mention in the materials that only certain items can be counted toward overhead vs. programmatic costs (in line with the 15% cap). Is it possible to share that detail at this stage so organizations can assess viability to align with the grant limitations?
data.org’s fiscal sponsor will be distributing the funds and managing overhead. Overhead costs can be up to 50% of the approved grant amount. So, if your application moves on to phase two, there will be more in-depth due diligence and a budget template where you can note whether or not you want to include overhead costs in your application.
Can the grant be used for sub-grantees as well? If we want to work with local organizations and domain experts, grassroots org, etc.
You can use part of the grant for sub-grantees, but please be aware that the timeline of the grant will be from November 2023 to June 2024.
Since this is about outcome, can the grant be used as scholarships?
Potentially. In your proposal, please include more details as to how the scholarship will be used. For example, we would not support a scholarship grant for someone to learn generative AI outside of your organization. That is not the focus of this Challenge.
Can the grant include some research on how to enable the use of generative AI to reach people of marginalized languages?
Yes, but the focus of this Challenge is skilling. The research should inform the training or skilling of people as the main outcome.
Can the grant be used as a stipend for participants in the training program?
Potentially. Please include more details about the use of stipends in your application. Remember that your application will be evaluated against the criteria outlined in the Challenge rules.
What project success indicators are required/expected? For example, are beneficiaries expected to obtain a badge or certification?
There are no outlined project success indicators that are required. There is also no expectation or requirement that there’s a specific badge or certification associated with the training you propose. If that is part of your training model, please include that in the application itself.
It’s noted that “…each awardee will receive up to $250,000 USD in funding.” Does this mean an awardee can receive less than the indicated $250,000 USD?
We encourage applicants to size their proposed project to the $250,000 USD funding amount. If your project is not going to cost that much, we’ll be able to see that in the budget template.
Will applicants be required to provide more information or a refined proposal in stage 2 of the application process?
For applicants who make it to the second stage of the application process, we will not ask for a refined proposal. At that point, we will conduct due diligence and request more information, e.g., more project detail, your board of directors, and a budget template. The due diligence process will also include a short interview.
Would Microsoft and data.org lead the cohort through training? Or do we need to plan our own training?
Organizations will need to plan and conduct the training they outlined in their proposal. Microsoft and data.org may provide additional data training, though, to support an organization’s needs; but it will not be the main focus of the training.
Can any of the funds be used for staffing to support to proposal idea?
Yes, you can use some of the funds to hire additional staff—but please keep in mind that the grant timeline is for 7 to 8 months.
Does data.org or Microsoft envision continuing to build upon the successes achieved by the selected projects after the project period is over?
Yes, we envision supporting those within the cohort with a variety of services that are in development.
Do you recommend any pre-qualification for the individuals who would take part in the training?
No, neither pre-work nor current qualifications are required for trainees.
Will Microsoft provide an API to incorporate AI into a platform capable of training beneficiaries?
No, Microsoft does not plan to make an API available. However, Microsoft already makes some of its APIs available, and applicants are strongly encouraged to leverage those in their solutions.