Lacuna Fund: Our Voice on Data

Meridian facilitates and manages an innovative funder collaborative that puts the benefits of machine learning within reach of data scientists, researchers, and social entrepreneurs globally.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals—but in many cases, the data required to build AI applications that solve real-world problems don’t exist. Where data do exist, they are often outdated, missing key information, or are not representative of underserved populations, leading to biases and decreased accuracy.

To realize the transformative impact of AI, Meridian serves as the Secretariat and fiscal agent for Lacuna Fund. It’s the world’s first collaborative effort to provide resources to data scientists, researchers, and social entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income contexts globally to create new datasets or strengthen existing ones. We provide backbone support to the Fund, leveraging our strengths across facilitation, implementation, and philanthropic support services.

In this role, Meridian helps funders and thought leaders around the world reach agreement on the Fund’s guiding principles, process for grantmaking, and operations. Meridian also manages the request-for-proposals process and facilitates the selection of projects for funding, which is determined by panels of experts. Meridian also helps report on the impact of individual project teams working to create more equitable datasets. In the longer-term, we are working to realize a future Secretariat for Lacuna Fund in an institution in the Global South.

With Meridian’s capacity-building expertise, what began as an idea between a funder and the African AI community has grown into a catalytic, global initiative. As we engage technical experts, thought leaders, local beneficiaries, and end users around the world, we are building a broad collective of stakeholders committed to creating and mobilizing labeled datasets more equitably to solve urgent problems and harness machine learning’s full potential.