Fighting poverty through the power of AI

IPsoft Digital Workforce SummitModern Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems enable unprecedented capabilities such as the automation of cognitive tasks, the amplification of individuals to achieve more, and the engagement of millions of users at scale. The inherent business value of these features has led to great excitement and billions of dollars in AI investments within the enterprise space. But these technologies are also being tapped by non-profit organizations to address some of world’s most persistent and acute challenges.

Global Citizen is a non-profit group that seeks to end extreme poverty by 2030. No small undertaking, to be sure, but like any large-scale endeavor, they are tapping the power of innovative technologies to help them achieve their sizeable goals.

“We know there’s huge challenges. And we know there’s huge opportunity and progress. The UN has given us these fantastic 17 goals for sustainable development — a pathway to be able to do some amazing things the next 13 years, but right now what we see is citizens who say to us, ‘I’d love to do something, but I just don’t think it’ll make a difference,’” said Simon Moss, the co-founder of Global Citizen, during his DWS 2018 presentation on AI’s potential for global good. “So, what we want to ask at Global Citizen is a really simple question: How can AI help us cut through the opportunities that we know exist, and how can we make sure that people feel equipped to take action in their own lives?”

What we’re going to be using AI for, in partnership with the team at IPsoft, is to help people discover. Help them discover, if you will, what their personal journey is.

— Simon Moss, Co-Founder, Global Citizen

Global Citizen pursues change through a potent combination of social action and gamification. The organization rewards people with points each time they connect with friends, neighbors, and leaders about a particular cause — and it’s an approach that’s attracted billions of dollars in government commitments and impacted the lives of millions. “We mobilize young people around the world to take action on issues. We get them out on the streets. We get them door-knocking. We get them canvassing. We get them talking to people,” Moss explained. “The campaigns we’ve been involved in have helped shift presidents and prime ministers… We know that when we mobilize thousands of people, governments respond.”

The key for Global Citizen is connecting volunteers with the specific campaigns that will be most meaningful to them (women’s empowerment, the environment, water and sanitation, etc.). People want to help make the world a better place, but can easily feel overwhelmed because there are so many problems out there and they don’t know where to start.

The good news is that bringing order to complex systems is precisely the sort of problem that AI was built to address. “[Potential volunteers] feel about as lost as when you get off a plane and step into a new city,” said Moss. “For those of us who have traveled a lot for work, ten years ago [before technology came to help] you’d need to try and work out questions like ‘How do you even get a taxi?’ ‘What bars are good?’ ‘Is there somewhere you can take your family?’ These are questions that we’ve come up with great solutions to as a big, broad community: Yelp exists, smartphones, Google maps, Uber, Lyft. There are all these apps and tools right now that help you solve how to get around in a new city.”

And just as the Internet and mobile revolutions helped connect people with all sorts of useful information, AI can connect them with the issues that mean the most to them (even if they don’t yet realize what those issues are). This is where the inherent ability of digital colleagues such as Amelia to dynamically assist users in finding the information they seek and engage with users at scale can be particularly valuable. That’s why the organization partnered with IPsoft to develop AI interfaces to connect with volunteers around the world.

“What we’re going to be using AI for, in partnership with the team at IPsoft, is to help people discover. Help them discover, if you will, what their personal journey is,” Moss explained to the DWS audience. “So, instead of just taking a customer service approach to saying, ‘How can I help you fix the problem you’ve got today?’, how can we take an approach that says, ‘How can I help you discover something new and exciting that you’d love to do more on today? How can I help you find the thing that you’d like to take action on now? How can I help you find the right organization, the right issue, the right cause, and ultimately the right way for you to make a big difference in the world?’”

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