Changes at AI4ALL: A Message from AI4ALL’s CEO Emily Reid
Earlier this month, we had to make the hardest change that we’ve ever had to make at AI4ALL. We conducted a Reduction in Force (RIF), laying off 7 of our full time staff, around 38%. These were our colleagues, our friends, people we had made impact with over the past 5 years. This RIF has resulted in significant changes to our staffing, as well as changes to our organizational structure and program offerings.
During the early stage of the pandemic, AI4ALL grew quickly despite a seemingly challenging economic climate. As we started to see massive, historic layoffs and tightening budgets impact our funders, our own outlook has been similarly impacted. I chose to reduce our risk and stay financially healthy by greatly reducing our budget. While this was painful, I felt it was in the best interest of the organization and our mission so that we can have maximum impact on diversifying AI through this economic downturn and beyond.
How the RIF will impact our work
We know that our mission and our work continues to be even more critical, especially as we see tech DEI teams being dismantled in this environment. We can’t sit by while diversity and ethics in tech are being put on the back burner by companies across the tech sector, losing substantial ground that has been gained through work by many over the last 10+ years. Our RIF was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but it was designed to allow us to sustain and regrow our organization through this challenging period.
By conducting this RIF, we aimed to create more focus on where we can have the most immediate impact: accelerating college students from historically excluded groups to attain internships and research opportunities in AI. This means that we are prioritizing our programming for college-age students, including our college-aged Changemakers and existing College Pathways programming, as well as new programming we expect to introduce in spring 2023. Over the coming weeks, we will be putting on hiatus our programming for high school students, including our beloved Summer Programs.
Our focus has always been on creating opportunities for our students to succeed in AI in the ways that are most meaningful and interesting to them as individuals, and now is no different. Though we are narrowing the eligible age range for our new program participants, we will continue to spark interest and increase persistence towards a career in AI for young people from historically excluded groups. Additionally, we will continue to support our existing Changemakers in AI community–regardless of their current age or educational stage–as they take steps towards a fulfilling and exciting AI career.
In an email on the day we conducted the RIF, I shared with impacted staff: “Your impact on our mission has been critical. You have affected young students’ lives for the better, and we would not be where we are today without your hard work. I am honored to work with and know each of you, and I believe in each of you as leaders. Everyone who comes to AI4ALL is driven to make the world a better place, to support students, to change systems, and to support the critical work of making AI for all.”
We thank you all for standing by our organization through this difficult period, and we hope you’ll follow along with us as we continue to change who can make an impact in AI.