There's been quite a bit of talk about AI taking charity sector jobs, but we don't think so. The same was said of the Internet, personal computers and Windows. There was huge change, but whilst some jobs were lost, many more simply changed (often for the better), and new jobs were created. AI is a huge opportunity for charities. We think generative AI will have a similar impact on charity sector jobs, but as technology is moving far faster, it'll happen a lot more quickly. We think there will be widespread adoption of AI within the charity sector by 2024.
Organisations - Culture & Leadership. Those charities with their heads up and monitoring the outside world and looking to the future, will be more likely to spot risks. Those that are also more willing and able to seize opportunities will succeed. Charities with their heads in the sand may end up as AI roadkill, or diminished. Same old, same old.
Organisations - Role and Size. I think the charities most risk will be those that cling to services and/or business models that people won't need any longer, or they can access for free or more effectively or more easily using AI. Maybe call centres, help lines and training. The risk may be greater for those that are larger and national, because they are less likely to have very niche or place based activities that are too difficult or small to make it worth building AI for. I've included a checklist of questions to ask yourself in the impact of AI on charities resource.
Charity Job Roles. The charity sector jobs most at risk are likely to be those involving data entry or repetitive pattern-based tasks, such as bookkeepers and database managers. However, whilst previous revolutions (robots in the '70s), primarily impacted blue collar roles, this time round it's much more the professional classes. For example, AI avatars will very soon be delivering one-to-one training, 24/7, in a very human way. The explosion in home working and online meetings during Covid gives us an indicator of what the impact of that might look like. But it also showed us that face-to-face human engagement is critical. It will bring major change, but not completely replace humans.
And, machines aren't very good at managing people, so management roles will still be key (source, Richard Watson, futurist-in-residence, University of Cambridge, Apr 23). In the private sector, content writing roles are going already, but some charities will be able to bring agency work back in-house and new related roles are already appearing, such as AI prompt writers.
And for young people fed up of being squeezed out by their 'lack of experience', there isn't any track record in being a prompt writer, because there was no such thing prior to Nov 22. Attitudes will no doubt persist, but maybe we'll see more promotion based on talent, not years, in future, with more young people in senior roles?
We think AI will result in more mundane work being taken away and charity staff having more time to concentrate on more interesting and valuable work. As long as we design charity sector jobs and work processes with human agency in mind - see below.
For example, our AI new bid writer can already create as many grant applications as anyone wants 24/7, and we'll continue to develop it and the GPT software will also continue to improve. However, we don't think it could ever have the depth of personal experience a good bid writer has.
It's mainly aimed at non-professionals, but it can also very quickly create drafts for professionals and we're also looking at how it might help fundraisers who work with multiple charities/charity teams. They could use the bid writer to obtain the information required and create an initial draft. It doesn't replace the fundraiser either talking to the charity/team to help them refine their thinking, or in the crafting a compelling bid, but it has the potential to lose a lot of the more mundane aspects of their role. That's what happened with PAs.
That's just the start. Induct already use AI in sourcing grants and we've now more or less worked out how to integrate the tech bunny with Funding Finder. If we can make it work and have the time to build it, anyone would be able to chat to it and it'd then go and find the right funders for them. And since the bunnies can be upgraded to work verbally and in multiple languages, they'd work for absolutely anyone.
We don’t think that AI will replace us but has huge potential to support people in achieving far more. That’s why we see it as a game changer for a resource starved charity sector that struggles to respond to the demand for its services.
There are already new jobs such as prompt writers and AI trainers. However, we think there are going to be lots of other new and very different charity sector jobs. We don't know what these will be, but here are some ideas.
If the above look 'sort of familiar', that's because they are. We see fundamental change, but not huge charity job losses. Done well, it's not a threat at all, but a huge opportunity. This article from Forbes is about a commercial tech company, but shows how organisations can use AI to repurpose, not eliminate jobs and, in doing so, scale services without needing more people. That offers us a very low cost way to increase our impact and tackle overwork.
Here are some ideas on how to exploit AI in the interest of your charity and its people.
Inevitably, it will be essential to support our people and provide them with skills development, to enable them to use AI to achieve even more of the fantastic work they do. Research by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that all workers will need skills that help them fulfil 3 criteria;
We think the biggest benefit of generative AI will be in driving our productivity by automating the mundane and augmenting us in our work in the future. For example, being an advisor that provides managers with data and insights to support them and as a creative partner suggesting new and interesting ideas we can develop.
Here are what we think the key skills in our AI near-future might look like: analytical, creative and innovative thinking, judgement, insight and moral reasoning. For management, with AI able to support us by accessing and analysing vast volumes of data for us, we think leaders are likely to focus much more on strategy, reasoning and judgement. Using AI to find opportunities and our human expertise to turn that into far greater charitable impact.
There are also some concerns that the drive to use AI to cut costs and increase profit creates a risk of removing human agency from work and, in doing so, creating feelings of powerlessness and anxiety. The very close control Amazon has over its workers has been suggested by some as an example of this.
Managing that risk would require regulation. However, ensuring staff are well motivated is critical to high performance in organisations, so I suggest that this should be taken into account when integrating AI services in work roles by everyone. The Institute for the Future of Work has created a Good Work Algorithmic Impact Assessment that may be of use in doing so, including 10 dimensions of 'good work'.
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