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Play 9: Communicate internally and externally

Organizations should clearly communicate the benefits and risks of their AI workplace technologies, the impact on people with disabilities and other protected classes, and the actions they have taken to leverage the benefits and mitigate those risks. Your communications strategy should include both internal and external outreach to stakeholders, including business partners, customers and clients, potential employees, current employees, media, and others.

The most important consideration in all your organization’s Equitable AI communications is authenticity. AI cannot move forward without a visible framework centered in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) considerations. Both inside and outside your organization, it is imperative that you describe efforts you are taking to consider equity in your AI implementations. Share information about how you are operationalizing responsible AI in the “Hub-and-spokes” of your organization. Collaborate in the ecosystem and participate in events where you can share your work and gain new perspectives.

power buttonTips to Get Started

  • Develop and maintain your communications plan. Leverage the stakeholder analysis you completed in Play 4 to create a communications plan for both your internal and external audiences. Be careful not to oversell what you are doing, given the evolving nature of Equitable AI practices. Instead, communicate your organization’s ongoing commitment, efforts to date, and planned directions. Be sure to include internal and external feedback loops to the Hub. It is particularly important you establish a formal process to involve responsible departments and senior leadership as necessary.
  • Highlight Be sure to indicate and acknowledge the different teams and departments collaborating across your organization in the ongoing implementation of your initiative. It’s essential to highlight collaborations with the DEIA team and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
  • Be authentic with diversity representation and understand etiquette. When communicating about social equity and diversity, authentic representation matters.  Consider involving your ERG and spotlighting the real stories of people with diverse lived experiences—including people with disabilities—who are advising, championing, or helping implement your Equitable AI initiative. When spotlighting people with disabilities, be mindful that that people with lived experiences should drive the language you use and actions you take. They may identify with, or feel empowered by, different language or actions.
  • Spur internal interest and engagement at all levels. Determine the communication channels that reach internal stakeholders. Your Hub should partner with teams that will play a role in your success, such as Employee Engagement, Training and Professional Development, DEIA, and Corporate Social Responsibility. Some potential internal communication activities include:
    • Hold organization-wide town halls featuring members of your senior leadership team to share your organization commitment to Equitable AI and efforts to address equity in your AI implementations.
    • Integrate messaging and activities into your DEIA and ERG programs to share existing or completed work and invite engagement in future efforts.
    • Highlight the success of participants in your Equitable AI Champions Program by sharing stories of employees who have progressed from being Implementers to Champions and Advisors.
  • Be intentional, productive, and meaningful in external communications. Determine different communication channels that will reach external stakeholders. Your Hub should partner with teams such as Marketing, Public Relations, and Corporate Social Responsibility. Potential external communication activities include:
    • Publish a microsite or blog on your website to express your commitment to Equitable AI describes your current and planned future efforts and how you’re working with diverse people to help you be successful.
    • Consider ways to leverage social media channels.
    • Seek out opportunities for senior leaders and Champions to conduct media interviews and publish articles in news outlets and blogs.
    • Host webinars to share how your organization is approaching Equitable AI.
    • Participate in workshops, research colloquia, and conferences to share your organization’s learnings and gain valuable perspectives on how others are tackling the challenges of Equitable AI.
  • Spend your time wisely. Focus on communication activities that yield the most benefit for the time you have available. For instance, if stakeholders don’t read your organization’s blog, you don’t have to spend time writing and publishing posts.
  • Ensure all communications are accessible. To reach the broadest audience possible, make sure your communications teams create accessible content. Accessible communications should occur in the context of your organization’s statement of support for accessibility. (Learn the basics of creating accessible content from PEAT).
  • Create two-way communication. Encourage two-way communication in internal and external communications. Your Equitable AI Hub should be prepared to serve as the coordinating organization with different departments responsible for different kinds of inquiries, questions, or feedback from internal and external communication.

spiining gearTips for Ongoing Operations

  • Build trust over time by explaining how your organization implemented AI technologies. Earn trust from users—including people with disabilities—by explaining the purpose and limitations for various stakeholders of the AI workplace technologies your organization implements. If you decide to pause or forego certain AI implementations that may conflict with principles of equity, be transparent about your concerns when communicating with partners. Other organizations may share the same concern, learn from you, or suggest alternate solutions. Building trust in AI from people with disabilities and other protected classes will require ongoing collaboration between employees, vendors, third party consultants, auditors, researchers, and advocacy groups to explore and question concerns related to the AI technology.
  • Contribute to the Equitable AI knowledge base. Leverage transparency frameworks and independent standards. Publish results from audits and communicate about how you use data. Share steps your organization has taken to make each implementation equitable, and describe the processes for monitoring and evaluating integrity, while being realistic about the limitations of your implementation.

pathGuiding Questions

  1. Are there any previous high-visibility, high-risk communications efforts your organization can use as a model as it develops communications for its Equitable AI initiative?
  2. How has your organization communicated internally for other cross-functional IT topics like accessibility, data privacy, or security?
  3. Does your organization have an inclusive design or accessibility team and/or ERGs that can help you get your messages right and ensure you reach your stakeholders?
  4. What internal channels promoting employee diversity, equity, and inclusion can you align to and leverage?
  5. What are your organization’s preferred external communication channels?
  6. Does your organization communicate their corporate social responsibility efforts? If so, how can you align your efforts to this work?
  7. What are the external feedback mechanisms used when implementing AI technologies?
  8. Are there ways the public can play a role in your initiative?

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Resources

  1. MJ DePalma, Authenticity is the new cool: Nothing about us, without us, Microsoft Advertising Blog, 2020.
  2. U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Disability Employment Policy, Effective Interaction: Communicating With and About People with Disabilities in the Workplace.
  3. Lainey Feingold, Collection of Accessibility Culture Statements.
  4. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Aiming for truth, fairness, and equity in your company’s use of AI, 2021.
Continue to Play 10: Measure results and monitor progress