About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Catch up on the plenary sessions

Insights from the frontiers of collective intelligence

  • Kathy Peach, Head of CCID, Nesta
  • David Baltaxe, Chief Intelligence Officer, Unanimous AI
  • Yvonne McDermott-Rees, Professor of Law, Swansea University
  • Daisy Tam, Assistant Professor, Hong Kong Baptist University
  • Vito Trianni, Researcher, Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies of the Italian National Research Council (ISTC-CNR)

The people behind four of the Nesta funded collective intelligence experiments share their work to date, what they have learned about getting the design right, what new tools like machine learning enable them to do differently, and how their insights and methods can be applied more widely.

“We [at the Council] work as a convener, organiser, and almost an anchor of place.”

Georgia Gould, Camden Council

The city as collective intelligence - how do we design for crowd and institution collaboration?

  • Beth Noveck, Director of GovLab
  • Haris Biskos, Head of synAthina platform, City of Athens
  • Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council
  • Michael Donaldson, CTO and CIO, Barcelona City Council

Cities are facing a number of problems, such as lack of trust between governments and society, hate crime, corruption, or economic and social inequality. Beth Noveck, Haris Biskos, Georgia Gould, and Michael Donaldson discuss how they have managed to bridge those gaps between local authorities and civil society, bring communities together, and change people’s thinking about democracy by tapping into the knowledge of their citizens. They reveal the secrets to successful crowd and institution collaboration, and explain how involving citizens in different ways, adapting collective intelligence solutions to different problems and opening up dat has enabled them to successfully tackle some of the most urgent urban challenges.

Designing AI that extends human capabilities

  • Carly Kind, Director, Ada Lovelace Institute
  • Aleks Berditchevskaia, Senior Researcher, CCID, Nesta
  • Karina Vold Postdoctoral Research Associate, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge
  • Julien Cornebise, Honorary Associate Professor, University College London
  • Marco Marchesi, CTO, Happy Finish

Our panelists discuss some of the challenges and opportunities around combining AI and human intelligence, share concrete examples, and uncover nascent opportunities in that field. They explore questions like what AI that extends human capabilities beyond what is possible today looks like, what effective AI use in CI context means, and how AI is engineering us, while we are engineering AI. Drawing on their expertise as engineers, philosophers, researchers, and creatives, they talk about the need for the discourse to move away from tech-first, and how AI offers possibilities to not just improve efficiency, but also to discover new patterns and help people improve human understanding.

“AI is not a solution in itself. Many well-intended technology programmes were failures because they didn’t include human intelligence.”

Julien Cornebise, Honorary Associate Professor, UCL

The world is (still) a mess. Can collective intelligence sort it?

  • Gina Lucarelli, Team Leader, UN Development Programme Accelerator Lab Network
  • Maesy Angelina, Social Systems Lead, UN Pulse Lab Jakarta
  • Claudia Juech, CEO and President, Cloudera Foundation

Gina Lucarelli, Claudia Juech, and Maesy Angelina discuss the unforeseen consequences of innovation, the need to avoid relying on tech as a solution to everything, and the importance of open data to positively impact on the lives of millions of people. In addition, Maesy Angelina shares how exploring the potential and limitations of alternative datasets such as satellite imagery in combination with using social media and on-the-ground activities has improved people’s access to information about air quality in Jakarta.

“We need to avoid relying on tech to provide the solution. The thing that really makes it fly are the behaviours we exhibit when we collaborate.”

Gina Lucarelli, Team Leader, UN Development Programme Accelerator Lab Network

Missing data - can CI provide a fix?

  • Imran Khan, Head of Public Engagement, Wellcome Trust
  • Cath Sleeman, Head of Data Visualisation, Creative Economy & Data Analytics, Nesta
  • Rosana Ardila, Senior Open Innovation Manager, Mozilla
  • Federica Cocco, Statistics journalist, Financial Times
  • Jessica Sena, Software Engineer at Typeform (Growth team), Geochicas member

In this session, our panelists discuss data gaps, biased data, and the link between those issues and collective intelligence - how can collective intelligence approaches address these problems, and how do those gaps inform and influence collective intelligence? Rosana Ardila from Mozilla shares her experience with gaps in voice data for speech recognition, and Jessica Sena from Geochicas talks about how the lack of female contributors on OpenStreetMap has led to maps portraying a skewed picture of reality.

“The bias persists because it appears like the data are generated by the same people. We need to make an active effort and be proactive about the problem. The first step to being proactive is, however, to be aware of the existence of a problem.”

Federica Cocco, statistics journalist, Financial Times

Creative approaches to collective intelligence

Kadine James, Creative Tech Lead, Hobs3D

Usman Haque, Founding Partner, Umbrellium

Florian Ortkrass, Co-Founder and Co-Director, RANDOM INTERNATIONAL

In this final session, Kadine James, Usman Haque and Florian Ortkrass discuss the infrastructures of participation: How do we best design for participatory processes? The panelists also explore the predictability of human behaviour, our collective inability when it comes to addressing climate change, and why we feel that we have less and less impact, whereas the reality is actually the opposite.

“Our decision-making infrastructures are no longer fit for purpose. Democratic processes are largely decided by those who don’t vote.”

Usman Haque, Founding Partner, Umbrellium

Further information

What was the event?

This one-day conference offered researchers and practitioners the opportunity to come together to share knowledge, discuss cutting-edge research, establish partnerships, and work on a way forward for collective intelligence.

Despite the major technological advances, the billions of pounds invested in AI and all the hype around other disruptive technologies, we still only use a fraction of our collective intelligence when thinking about how to solve some of society’s biggest challenges.

Over the last year, Nesta’s Centre for Collective Intelligence Design have been exploring how to address such challenges through better design, asking how we can tap into the collective wisdom of a place, organisation or market and what new combinations of human and machine intelligence can help us do this at scale.

Who was this event for?

This event was for anyone interested in connecting with cutting-edge research and practice on collective intelligence design. We welcomed researchers interested in exploring how bringing together different disciplines can help us advance the field of collective intelligence design. For civil servants and other public sector policy leads as well as entrepreneurs and innovators in charities, the event was an opportunity to learn about new methods and tools for solving complex social issues. The event was also of interest to funders of social innovation interested in understanding how best to invest in and support the use of collective intelligence.

What was on offer?

The day was packed with practical sessions on how best to design for collective intelligence. We explored some of the big questions surrounding collective intelligence, such as how can AI enable collective intelligence? What is the role of crowds in addressing bias in data? And how can we design for collaboration between crowds and institutions?

We also heard from the people behind a range of Nesta-funded collective intelligence experiments. They shared early lessons from their work on applying new tools and methods such as machine learning to areas ranging from citizen science to monitoring human rights violations.

There were plenty of opportunities to get your hands dirty, whether it was through interactive theatre, by playing a visionary card game, or experimenting to see what slime mould can teach us about collective behaviour.


Confirmed Speakers:

  • Yvonne McDermott-Rees, Professor of Legal Studies, Swansea University
  • Vito Trianni, Researcher, Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (ISTC) of the Italian National Research Council (CNR)
  • Daisy Tam, Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities & Creative Writing, Hong Kong Baptist University
  • Beth Noveck, GovLab
  • Amalia Zepou, Athens vice mayor for civil society and innovation 2014-2019
  • Karina Vold, Postdoctoral researcher at Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence
  • Julien Cornebise, Director of Research AI for Good, Element AI
  • Gina Lucarelli, UNDP
  • Derval Usher, Head of UN Global Pulse Jakarta
  • Claudia Juech, CEO, Cloudera Foundation
  • Imran Khan, Head of Public Engagement, Wellcome Trust
  • Cath Sleeman, Head of Data Visualisation, Creative Economy & Data Analytics, Nesta
  • Rosana Ardila, Mozilla Common Voice project
  • Federica Cocco, Financial Times