Why Furniture Bank Has a Responsible AI Manifesto

Furniture Bank iPad

A commitment to ethical innovation

At Furniture Bank, our mission is to break the cycle of furniture poverty in Canada by providing essential furniture and household goods to individuals and families emerging from the crisis. As we work to empower and uplift vulnerable communities, we recognize the transformative potential of technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), in advancing our mission.

However, with the adoption of AI comes great responsibility. We understand that AI can be a double-edged sword, capable of both positive impact and potential unintended consequences. As an organization that values dignity, respect, and ethical conduct, we have developed a responsible AI manifesto to guide our use of AI technologies.

Why a Responsible AI Manifesto?

Furniture Bank’s commitment to ethical AI is rooted in our desire to leverage technology in a manner that aligns with our values and enhances the lives of those we serve. Our AI guidelines serve as a moral compass, ensuring that our use of AI is transparent, human-centered, and accountable.

  1. Avoiding “poverty porn”: We are committed to raising awareness about furniture poverty without exploiting or objectifying vulnerable individuals. By combining the power of first-hand stories with AI-generated images, we can ethically visualize the harsh realities of furniture poverty while avoiding harm and maintaining the dignity of our clients.
  2. Empowering creativity: We believe in the power of human creativity, knowledge, and emotion. AI technologies serve as assistive tools that augment our capabilities, allowing us to communicate more effectively and create positive change.
  3. Transparency and accountability: We recognize the importance of transparency in data collection and AI usage. We are accountable for all decisions and actions, even when assisted by AI, and we prioritize human knowledge and experience in decision-making.
  4. Privacy and security: We are dedicated to personalization without invasion of privacy. We prioritize adherence to data privacy laws and mitigating privacy risks while holding true to our charity’s values, particularly when legal precedent lags behind AI innovation.
  5. Partnerships and collaboration: We believe in partnering with organizations and individuals who share our values and principles. We are committed to sharing our AI research, knowledge, and experiences to advance the nonprofit sector and society.

Furniture Bank's Responsible AI Manifesto

As an organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of furniture poverty in Canada, Furniture Bank is committed to the responsible and ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Our AI manifesto outlines the principles that guide our use of AI:

  1. A human-centered approach: We prioritize a human-centered approach to AI that empowers Furniture Bank team members. AI technologies will assist, not replace, human creativity and decision-making.
  2. Accountability: Staff remain accountable for all decisions and actions, even when assisted by AI. We ensure that humans remain at the centre of all AI applications.
  3. Ethical visualization: We commit to using AI-generated images to ethically visualize the realities of furniture poverty without exploiting or objectifying vulnerable individuals.
  4. Transparency: We value transparency in data collection and AI usage to maintain the trust of our audiences and stakeholders.
  5. Privacy: We strictly adhere to data privacy laws and strive to mitigate privacy risks, ensuring personalization without invasion of privacy.
  6. Collaboration: We are open to partnerships with organizations and individuals that align with our principles, and we aim to share our experiences, research, and knowledge about AI.
  7. Limitations and risks: We are aware of the limitations and risks of AI, and we incorporate this understanding into our decision-making process.
  8. Upskilling and reskilling: We believe in the importance of upskilling and reskilling professionals, using AI to build more fulfilling careers and lives. We are committed to fostering personal and professional growth through training and education.
  9. Intelligent automation: We believe in the potential of AI to provide intelligent automation without dehumanization. We seek to leverage AI technologies to enhance our services and create profound benefits for humanity and society.
  10. Innovation and impact: We welcome AI innovation to further our mission of alleviating furniture poverty. We use AI to create positive social impact, improve our programs, and support vulnerable communities.
  11. Environmental sustainability: We value environmental sustainability and seek to use AI to promote sustainable practices, such as  repairing and salvaging furniture, reducing waste, and contributing to a circular economy with a social heart.
  12. Financial sustainability: We believe digital tools can help charities save costs and/or improve efficiency equivalent to an expense. We aim to utilize AI to present opportunities to enhance staff efficacy in their respective roles by making them more effective and impactful.

Our Responsible AI Manifesto reflects our dedication to ethical conduct, social responsibility, and positive impact. As we continue to explore and adopt AI technologies, we remain steadfast in our commitment to our mission, our values, and the communities we serve. We shall ensure that our AI governance and ethics framework, defined by fairness, accountability, transparency, privacy, and non-discrimination, is adhered to in all our AI initiatives.

Furniture Bank's AI Usage Policy:

  1. We remain committed to a human-centered approach to storytelling, creativity, and decision-making, with AI serving as an assistive tool rather than a replacement.
  2. We may use AI-generated images to ethically visualize the realities of furniture poverty while preserving the dignity of our clients.
  3. We do not use AI-generated text to replace human-written stories or narratives about our mission and impact.
  4. We may experiment with using AI to suggest headlines or captions for our social media posts and campaigns.
  5. We may explore the use of AI to generate ideas for fundraising campaigns, community initiatives, and outreach efforts.
  6. We may utilize AI as a research or analytical tool to assess our impact, optimize our programs, and identify areas for improvement.
  7. We do not use AI-generated video content to depict the experiences of our clients.
  8. We specifically do not use AI-generated images as a substitute for authentic photographs of our programs, clients, or team members.
  9. We and/or the artists we collaborate with may use AI tools to inspire creative ideas for our campaigns, promotional materials, and visual storytelling.
  10. We prioritize transparency and accountability in our use of AI technologies and ensure that our audiences and stakeholders are informed about our AI practices.

Note: The above AI usage policy is tailored to Furniture Bank’s context and mission. It reflects the organization’s commitment to ethical AI practices and its focus on human dignity, transparency, and positive impact.

Why Furniture Bank is Publishing a AI Content Manifesto Now

Technology, akin to a two-sided coin, can be employed for both beneficial and detrimental purposes. To ensure that we harness its might for the greater good, we need a comprehensive roadmap—a set of guiding principles.

Furniture Bank is dedicated to improving the lives of those who lack essential furniture. We repurpose unwanted furniture and give it to those who need it the most. But our vision extends beyond just furniture; we aim to bring about positive change in the world, a goal where AI plays a critical role.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), similar to an advanced computer, can achieve incredible things. It can assist us in crafting narratives, generating ideas, and creating imagery. However, like any potent tool, AI must be used judiciously and wisely.

Our Pledge

Given the need for responsible AI usage, Furniture Bank is unveiling an updated AI Content Manifesto. This manifesto acts as our guiding principles when utilizing AI, reinforcing our commitment to always prioritize people. AI will aid us, but never supersede us.

Our 2022 campaign, “The Picture isn’t Real, the Reality is” is a tangible demonstration of our AI Manifesto in action. By using AI-generated images, we’ve successfully conveyed the harsh reality of furniture poverty without infringing upon the dignity of our clients. This campaign is a testament to our belief that technology, when used ethically, can be a powerful agent for positive change.

The Timing

You might ask, “Why now?” The answer is simple: AI is rapidly transforming our world. As its adoption increases, we want to ensure we’re prepared. We aim to use AI for the greater good, not merely for the sake of using it.

Moreover, we aim to be a beacon for other Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs), irrespective of their geographical location. We believe that if all SPOs adopt a responsible AI Content Manifesto, our collective impact could be monumental.

In absence of any Canadian-specific standards, Furniture Bank has referred to pioneering work from leaders in other countries to assemble this AI Manifesto. Organizations such as the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University1, ISACA3, and the CSIS AI Council4, Fundraising.AI among others, have produced remarkable frameworks and principles addressing the impact, governance, ethics, and accountability of AI-based systems. These resources have informed our AI Manifesto, ensuring that it is based on globally recognized and respected standards. As new guidelines and better practices are found we will revisit and fine tune this manifesto to work in the best interests of Furniture Bank and the community it supports. 

Join Us on This Exciting Journey?

So, what’s your take? Would you like to be part of this exhilarating journey? We firmly believe that by employing AI judiciously, we can illuminate a path towards a brighter future for all.

Let’s collaborate to ensure that our powerful tool—AI—is wielded for the common good. Let’s pledge to uphold honesty, fairness, and compassion. And let’s show the world the incredible feats we can achieve when we synergize our hearts, minds, and technology.

Remember, while the picture may not be real, the reality is. And with your assistance, we can make that reality a bit brighter, one piece of furniture at a time.


Where you can learn more about AI policies: 

  1. https://www.charityexcellence.co.uk/Home/BlogDetail?Link=AI_Ethics_Governance_Framework
  2. https://migarage.digicatapult.org.uk/ethics/ethics-framework/
  3. https://www.blog.google/technology/ai/ai-principles/
  4. https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/key-dp-themes/guidance-on-ai
  5.  https://data.org/resources/ai-suitability-framework-for-nonprofits/
  6. https://fundraising.ai/framework/
Did you enjoy this article?
Recent Posts

On February 28th, Imagine Canada hosted an enlightening webinar aimed at unraveling the complexities of social finance. This exclusive session for members beckoned a closer look at how social finance can be leveraged to amplify...

As the Executive Director of Furniture Bank, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of a simple yet profound act—giving furniture to those in need. And this act is not just about furniture, it’s about offering...

Related Posts

Sunset, Vancouver, BC HomeStart Foundation is a non-profit Christian humanitarian organization helping people re-establish a home. Working in partnership with over 70 member agencies, we give donated home furnishings to people in need....

Big thank you to IKEA Canada! Just before closing their Etobicoke store, we worked together to bring 21 customer returned mattresses to Furniture Bank for immediate reuse. These mattresses went to families so children do not...

3255 Edgemont Boulevard, North Vancouver, BC V7R 2P1 We’re providing furniture and household items to people on the North Shore transitioning from homelessness to independent living....
137, 7007 54th St SE (Bay 26), Calgary, AB T2C 3C2 Women in Need Society (WINS) is an award winning not-for-profit organization and Calgary based shopping alternative investing in the social wellbeing of community....
Division No. 1, Subd. D, NL Home Again Furniture Bank is a nonprofit organization that provides gently-used furniture and household items to individuals and families in need. We work through a referral system of local agencies...
606 Selkirk Ave, Winnipeg, MB R2W 2N1 Oyate Tipi is a non-profit organization located in Winnipeg which accepts donations of gently used household goods and furniture. All items are then distributed to women and children who...
340 Legget Drive Door #53, Kanata, ON K2K 1Y6 Matthew House Ottawa is a faith-based, volunteer-driven, charitable organization that helps Ottawa’s marginalized population to establish connected, safe, healthy, and dignified homes within our community....
25 Connell Ct, Etobicoke, ON M8Z 1E7 Canada's largest operating Furniture Bank. Established in 1998, Furniture Bank is a Toronto based charity and social enterprise that transfers gently used furniture and household goods donated by individuals...

The Star cover stories from former Furniture Bank clients. Read the article below or access The Star’s original post by clicking this link. Furniture Bank makes houses into homes for families in need By TAMAR...

Furniture Bank began in 1998 with the belief that a sense of pride, comfort, and security – in short, a sense of home – are critical ingredients for people to transition out of lives of...

In this guest blog post, Karen Saunders (on the left), RBC Employee and longstanding corporate volunteer, reflects on how volunteer days at Furniture Bank has brought her colleagues closer together, gave her life perspective and...

Sister Anne Schenck would be the first to admit that there was no firm business plan when she first introduced Furniture Bank to Torontonians new and old back in 1996. Inspired by her past experiences...

So what exactly happens to your old sofa after you donate it to Furniture Bank? Let’s just say it goes on the most action packed 48 hour ride of its life. In this post, we’ve...

On February 28th, Imagine Canada hosted an enlightening webinar aimed at unraveling the complexities of social finance. This exclusive session for members beckoned a closer look at how social finance can be leveraged to amplify...

As the Executive Director of Furniture Bank, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of a simple yet profound act—giving furniture to those in need. And this act is not just about furniture, it’s about offering...

In a world that is often marked by fast-paced business environments and bottom-line priorities, it is refreshing to see companies prioritize corporate social responsibility. IKEA Canada is once again taking the lead in giving back...