Delivered on Wednesdays, GivingForce Weekly brings together the most important stories of the week on the subject of CSR, Corporate Citizenship, and business as a force for good. Sign up here to stay connected.
What is it?
Corporate-charity partnerships have achieved great prominence across both private and non-profit sectors. Propelled by the promise that such an arrangement produces mutual beneficiaries; by equipping charities with much-needed resources and enhancing corporate reputations. However, the propensity for such an arrangement to yield desired results is conditional and therefore the procedure for establishing and maintaining a partnership is crucial to determining the likelihood of its success.
Artificial intelligence (AI) refers generally to the use of computer programmes to replicate human intelligence to complete an array of tasks. PCW’s 2016 ‘Sizing the Prize’ report identifies four broad categories of AI: Automated Intelligence, Assisted Intelligence, Augmented Intelligence and Autonomous Intelligence. These are used for task performance and decision-making processes.
Why Should You Care?
Consultancy groups and tech analysts emphasise the transformative implications of AI as a valuable asset for business operations, among which includes corporate-charity partnerships. However, sceptics of AI raise valid concerns. The divisive nature of this issue necessitates a concise overview of its costs and benefits to evaluate such claims and assess the overall impact of AI on corporate-charity partnerships.
Benefits of AI for Corporate-Charity Partnerships
Among the many benefits associated with AI, includes its capacity to enhance efficiency at a relatively low cost. AI provides the opportunity to perform mundane tasks such as those involving repetitive action. For many companies, AI promises optimal use of resources through a potentially fruitful ‘division of labour’ of organisational activity. By allocating mundane tasks to computer programmes; employees can focus on complex tasks for which human intelligence is required and cannot be substituted.
Charity partnerships often involve high value and multidimensional initiatives. For example, Allen & Overy’s 2014-2016 partnership with Amref Health Africa involved 27 projects in several jurisdictions. For such partnerships, data analysis using AI could be an effective tool to monitor performance on the ground and manage fundraising activities.
Additionally, supporters of AI argue that in cases where technological capabilities exceed that of humans, companies should assign tasks to computers rather than employees. For instance, AI is frequently proposed as a solution to ‘human bias’ that occurs when social prejudices, both conscious and unconscious held by employees carrying out tasks influence their decisions, this is particularly relevant for selection processes. Assessing a potential charity partner or fundraising opportunity on objective criteria rather than social perceptions allows firms to both widen the net and improve decision making.
Computer software company DOMO’s ‘Mr Roboto’ capabilities helps companies with business decisions by offering recommendations using predictive analytics and data algorithms. Improving accessibility to vast amounts of data equips companies with accurate forecasts and trends. Data-driven information is valuable when deciding on the most appropriate strategy to raise funds or resources for charity partnerships.
Integrated Business Models
The ‘AI revolution’ shows no signs of abating, rather it is experiencing a rapid rise fuelled by investment from corporations across both private and social sectors. For many firms, using AI to manage corporate-charity partnerships is logical because it would synchronise business operations.
The Drawbacks of Using AI for Corporate-Charity Partnerships
Nonetheless, optimism for AI is challenged by mounting criticism from sceptics who identify an exhaustive list of drawbacks, among which includes ethical concerns.
The Ethical Argument
The moral argument against the use of AI has existed since its inception. While increasing output at a reduced cost appeals to businesses, it threatens jobs if human capital is replaced with computers, arguably an intolerable cost imposed on society. For companies seeking to advance corporate-charity partnerships using AI, such considerations will certainly be of great importance; however negative externalities may be mitigated if the implementation of AI is guided by a thoughtful assessment of both private and social costs.
Human Bias in AI
Furthermore, the argument that AI can overcome human bias is subject to contention, as critics point out that not only does AI simply lack the capability to overcome human bias, it actually breeds such biases itself. Human bias in AI emerges because humans have created machine learning. Importantly, the implications for human bias are relevant for corporate-charity partnerships and companies should take into consideration that employees are an indispensable asset to the management of AI.
Assuming total responsibility to computer programmes is irresponsible, AI should be used to assist employees with large tasks and employees should regularly monitoring it, for example, data analysis or data mining should produce results for employees to assess information when making decisions.
Finally, there is a lot of ‘hype’ around AI, yet given its relative infancy, it is difficult to appraise it full with certainty. Moreover, it is important to note that while widespread enthusiasm for its potential is understandable, the recent ‘AI revolution’ is fueled by data availability, rather than advancements in the technological capability. As AI is an effective instrument for mundane tasks that rely on repetition and automation, data mining techniques can be leveraged to assist with the sourcing of charity partners or performance measurement.
However, to use AI effectively requires a realistic understanding of its capabilities, this means that for important decisions, such as the selection of charity partners or fundraising opportunity, AI should complete repetitive tasks to empower employees in carrying out the complex work.
To conclude, AI can add significant value to many businesses, however, machine learning is best placed for mundane tasks rather than skilled work for which human skills are necessary. AI is, therefore, most effective as a complementary tool deployed alongside employees rather than in place of them, particularly as charity partnerships rely on effective communications and shared ethical values, for which technology has yet to create a superior substitute.