The grants of up to £30,000 will fund investigations of what is known as ‘collective intelligence’ - the combination of human and machine knowledge to solve challenges including during Covid-19 pandemic throwing modelling and citizen science. This round of grants will fund projects ranging from making collective decision-making more inclusive to tackling online harassment and making sustainable behaviour changes to mitigate air pollution.

One of the projects from Samurai Labs, will look at whether people can work together with AI to reduce levels of harassment on the online forum Reddit.

In another, Umbrellium, a tech company dedicated to improving urban life will work with Tower Hamlets Council in London and Loop Labs to see if citizen science and tech can help people make sustainable reductions in air pollution.

Researchers at the University of Bristol will test whether a swarm of robots interacting with humans can help people to reach informed consensus. This will generate useful insights for the design of new decision-making tools.

Grantees are using collective intelligence in a range of fields, including humanitarian response. Drones for Humanity (Kenya Flying Labs) and Kenya Red Cross who will combine local knowledge with AI to try to reduce cholera outbreak, and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap and Red Cross Netherlands who will use AI-generated map features to support people in mapping unmapped parts of Africa.

Five of the 15 funded experiments focus on health-related challenges and are funded by Wellcome Trust. They will be looking into issues such as overcoming barriers to patient-led research, improving the accuracy of medical diagnosis, and exploring peer learning and positive deviance in managing diseases.

This is the second round of collective intelligence grants funded by Nesta, Cloudera Foundation, Omidyar Network, and Wellcome Trust. In the first round, researchers at AI Lab at Vrije Universiteit Brussel explored whether artificial agents can be useful in making decisions in collective risk situations, like the current pandemic. Their insights are particularly interesting with regard to people’s trust in machines. Also in the first round FanSHEN, a theatre company, worked with young people to test whether immersive digital storytelling can improve people’s perspective taking skills and therefore collective decision-making.

The projects will receive up to £30,000 each to run experiments over the coming year and Nesta hopes that they reveal the breadth of potential uses for collective intelligence approaches.

Kathy Peach, Head of Nesta’s Centre of Collective Intelligence Design, said:

“People and machines bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table. We need to harness these complementary strengths to make the combination of artificial intelligence and human collective intelligence a powerful combination for solving problems.”

“Our partnership with Wellcome Trust, Cloudera Foundation, and Omidyar Network enables us to help grow the emerging field of collective intelligence design further. Our collaboration with such amazing funders is a powerful sign of growing interest in this field, but the funds directed to collective intelligence initiatives still remain small compared to what is dedicated to the field of artificial intelligence.

“As the experiments funded by these grants show, collective intelligence has huge potential for societal benefits and we hope that this will encourage more people to test this approach and more funders to direct their resources to collective intelligence.”

Claudia Juech, CEO of Cloudera Foundation said:

“We at the Cloudera Foundation think of artificial intelligence as a tool that augments, not replaces, our human capacity to make informed choices. We are excited to partner with Nesta, Wellcome and Omidyar to support these 15 bold collective intelligence experiments.”

“We believe the results will show that collective intelligence can make a difference. If communities are actively involved in the gathering and use of their data, we not only begin to close the gaps in existing data collections that often underrepresent low-income or marginalized populations, but also we can then leverage collective intelligence to make real sense of the insights.”

Haidee Bell, Strategic Design & Innovation Lead at Wellcome said:

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Nesta and other leading funders in this field to see the potential of the intersection of data from different sources. We’ve been curious to understand how collective intelligence might empower people to be part of health and research in different ways and are excited by the very real potential to create change in the health of populations through this work.”

Eshanthi Ranasinghe, Head of Exploration & Future Sensing at Omidyar Network said:

"We are excited to join Nesta, Cloudera Foundation, and Wellcome Trust in congratulating this new set of collective intelligence grantees. They are pushing our understanding of how powerful forms of technology can be combined with human input to create outcomes that people and communities trust. We’ve seen both tremendous good and tremendous harm come from technological advancements, but through partnership like this, we believe that good tech will win out."


Nesta press office - Will Hoyles [email protected] 07812 362714

More information about the projects and links to spokespeople are available on request.

More information about Nesta’s Centre for Collective Intelligence Design is available at

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. We've spent over 20 years working out the best ways to make change happen through research and experimenting, and we've applied that to our work in innovation policy, health, education, government innovation and the creative economy and arts.

Nesta is based in the UK and supported by a financial endowment. We work with partners around the globe to bring bold ideas to life to change the world for good.

Full list of grantees

  • Reducing cyber bullying and harassment on the internet is an important part of building the web we want. As part of this effort, we will support Samurai Labs to explore how an AI cyber violence detection system and groups of people can work together to reduce the level of online harassment on social media site Reddit.
  • Tackling our complex problems requires new, creative and effective solutions. Online innovation platform Neu, with City, University of London will test whether a ‘serendipity-inducing’ recommendation algorithm, which increases the randomness of results in online search, can help teams of innovators to come up with more creative solutions to plastic waste and ageing societies.
  • Improving diagnosis of health conditions is critical to identifying the right treatment for patients. ISTC-CNR, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the HumanDX Project will try to improve the accuracy of collective medical diagnosis by doctors on the HumanDX platform, using an AI tool called a knowledge graph.
  • Humanitarian OpenStreetMap and The Red Cross Netherlands will explore the application of machine learning for detecting buildings and roads from satellite imagery in relatively unmapped regions in Africa and Asia. They will then test the extent to which this increases the speed and quality of community mapping initiatives - which is vital to enabling effective humanitarian response efforts.
  • Spotlab will test whether it can build accurate AI models for the diagnosis of neglected tropical diseases such as Leishmania. It will do this by training AI models on digitised images of blood samples classified by crowds playing online games. It will then compare these with AI models trained on images classified by health professionals.
  • Bristol University will test whether a swarm of 100 small robots interacting with people in a crowd can facilitate new social interactions and opinion sharing that can help groups to reach a consensus.
  • The Centre for Cognition, Computation, and Modelling at Birkbeck University of London, will create an algorithm that manipulates the composition of groups online to maintain high opinion diversity within each group. The experiment will explore whether this algorithmically moderated social network will produce more accurate collective decisions than other groups by reducing the likelihood of groupthink.
  • RadicalxChange Foundation and Oxfam Kenya will test quadratic voting (QV), a novel method for making collective decisions. The experiment will test whether QV can outperform traditional voting mechanisms in drawing out women’s priorities in a participatory budgeting exercise in Kenya.
  • IEIIT-CNR, Ryerson University and Queens University will test whether positive deviance (people in a community who have uncommon but successful behaviours or strategies) and data-driven segmentation of patients for peer learning groups can help patients with poor diabetes control learn from those ‘like them’ who are successfully managing their disease.
  • Tackling emerging and environmental challenges will require people to cooperate in using resources (such as food or oil) responsibly, and to coordinate in sharing information. Nottingham University Business School, RMIT University and University of Tasmania will run an experiment that tests how different levels of social connectivity within and between overlapping social groups on an online platform can improve coordination in response to collective crises.
  • Umbrellium, Loop Labs & Tower Hamlets Council will work with local communities in the borough to generate geo-located sensor data and subjective ‘sense data’ of air quality. The experiment will test the impact of collective data generation, as well as the sharing and coordinating personal actions on sustaining behaviour change to reduce air pollution.
  • Drones for Humanity (Kenya Flying Labs) & Kenya Red Cross will run an experiment to test whether a public health surveillance system combining predictive analytics, crowdsourced local knowledge, and aerial imagery can help reduce cholera outbreaks in peri-urban settings in Kenya.
  • Clinical trials can be slow and expensive, and they may not address the real-life needs of patients managing complex conditions. Just One Giant Lab and Open Humans Foundation aim to make it easier for patients to do research together on the questions that matter most to them. They will develop and test a platform that enables patients to find others in their community with the skills and interests to work together on shared research ideas - exploring, analysing and donating their data to answer important questions.
  • Farmers without access to the internet or mobile phone coverage often don't have access to local weather information which limits their ability to adapt to extreme weather events or natural disasters. Swisscontact, the Banco de Desarrollo Productivo and the Latin American Centre for Rural Development will work with farmers in rural Bolivia to crowdsource weather data using low cost sensors. The experiment will test whether this locally crowdsourced weather information will enable farmers to better prepare for freezing temperatures, reducing crop loss.
  • Dovetail Labs will involve the public in a citizen science project to explore the contested social science behind AI-based emotion recognition systems. These systems use algorithms to detect emotions like anger or happiness from facial images, and their use is controversial. It will also measure the impact of the project on public understanding of biases in the data sets that the tech systems are built on.