Perspectives on change

Dan Sutch
CAST Writers
Published in
4 min readMay 30, 2024

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We’ve held thousands of conversations with charities, trusts and foundations, digital agencies and community groups discussing the opportunities and challenges of Generative AI (GenAI). One thing we’ve learnt is that the scale and speed of the changes means there are thousands more conversations to have (and much more action too). The reason is that there are many discussions, debates (and again, action!) to be had at multiple levels, because of the scale of the implications of GenAI.

We created the ‘AI Egg’, or ‘AI Oval’ — both of which are not sufficient names — to provide a visual image that demonstrate the different perspectives, or discussion contexts, for GenAI.

Diagram of four oval shapes of incrementally larger sizes nested within each other

Efficiencies within existing workflows

There are many conversations about how we might be able to use GenAI to be more efficient within our existing workflows. That might be completing a report, research, comms piece or funding application with the help of GenAI in a way that speeds up the task. Within CAST we’ve set ourselves the ambition of finding 20% in terms of efficiencies across areas of our work — so we can spend more time with our friends, family and communities.

New processes and ways of working

There’s another set of explorations and conversations about using GenAI to create new ways of working. If we don’t need to spend so much time on grant application writing, could we spend more time building relationships with partners who can support our work? If documenting meetings can save hours of time — can we focus more on learning together and discussion?

Changes to mission

There’s also a set of conversations about how GenAI can potentially change our missions. For those supporting young people to be work and world ready — does GenAI change the definition of that? Does it mean we need to create new programmes that support young people to be comfortable working alongside machines? Does it mean we need to support them to develop new skills? Does the ‘unlimited interns’ of GenAI mean we need to reconsider routes into employment?

Context change

There’s another set of conversations and explorations about how GenAI changes the socio-techno economic context in which we operate. Compounding bias; huge implications for work and workforce; shifting power and wealth to an even smaller number of people (Rachel Coldicutt’s brilliant rallying call “Let’s make AI work for 8 billion people, not 8 billionaires”).

The reason for setting out these different perspectives on AI is that they’re all vital. Charities have a role to play in each of them — yet it’s difficult to be excited or make progress focussed on being more efficient if others in the room want to talk about their important concerns about ethics. It’s hard to focus on new ways of achieving your charitable mission if someone is more focussed on day to day efficiencies. All of these are important — some actionable under our own control, others will take collective action to address. We try to be clear which of these perspectives we’re focussed on in conversations — without devaluing the importance of the others. They all need to be addressed with a louder, more vocal civil society across all of them.

Metaphors

Utterly inspired by Maggie Appleton’s amazing visual metaphor (and big hat-tip to John Dunford for sharing) we’re exploring other metaphors to help orient the conversations we’re having. They’ve got to be better than talking about an oval or an egg. But if we are to see civil society influencing this ‘once per decade’ disruption — we need to engage with each of these perspectives — in conversation and action.

We’re really keen to keep these conversations going, and to ensure individual actions build towards collective progress. If you’ve a response to these perspectives, actions within them — or even any idea for useful metaphors to support shared progress — we’d be delighted to hear from you hello@wearecast.org.uk

We’ve put together a living library of AI resources that we hope will support you as you explore the challenges and opportunities associated with AI. Please take a look — and do let us know if there is anything you need particular support with.

AI transparency image, showing the author used AI to correct his article (spell check and grammar check)

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