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How to use data and technology for social inclusion and empowerment

We live in an era of great complexity where rapidly developing technology and the challenges facing humanity go hand in hand. To respond effectively, we need to draw on our collective genius to unleash creative ideas from everyone and break down siloed approaches too often used in digital innovation today. This is how we drive positive change for people, communities, and the planet.

As Linda Hill, author of Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, says, everybody has a slice of genius, and the role of leaders is to learn how to empower everyone to use their talents and ideas for the greater good.

This blog outlines three actions that organizations can take to create a culture that fosters inclusion and fuels positive change for everyone.

1. Identify DEI challenges, increase transparency, and prioritize action

When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, enterprise leaders rely on data-driven insights to identify areas of improvement. Data and analytics provide transparency, allowing your organization to create measurable and sustainable business practices that, for example, unlock gender equity. There's no one-size-fits-all approach here. Data can help deliver a single source of truth that uncovers deficiencies and guides your next steps.

DEI prioritization begins at the top. Senior executives must foster an environment where employees see that diversity is more than a marketing tagline. For instance, being transparent about diversity statistics and pay gaps is a great start. Yet delving deeper by consistently encouraging individuals to share their lived experiences is even better. These discussions help create a climate where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings about their experiences in the organization. Data – in this case, narrative data – paints the picture, as people tell you the stories behind the numbers.

As you embed these practices into your culture and your organization better reflects the diversity of the communities you serve, the value you create from the products you make and the services you provide will increase.

2. Champion inclusive collaboration

Organizations and communities are full of intelligent, creative, passionate people who may hold the answers to some of the world's most complex issues – including meeting the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. So how can leaders tap into this broad pool of talent to power innovation for the planet and your organization?

Building an ecosystem that can surface talent for knowledge sharing at speed is key to supporting inclusive innovation, opportunity creation, and collaboration. For example, the annual UN Solutions Summit invites global tech innovators and entrepreneurs to share what they're already doing regionally to address its Sustainable Development Goals. This gathering creates a mutual sense of purpose. It connects people who are tackling similar challenges and brings together a broad range of colleagues who have valuable resources and coaching to share.

Business leaders can apply this approach at the organizational level to power sustainable business practices. For example, by encouraging participation and collaboration across functions and departments. Or by empowering those with ideas already in the works to accelerate their development. These actions remind everyone that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Upskilling is another way to use knowledge sharing to draw in more voices and perspectives. Genpact, for example, recently launched a companywide training program – DataBridge – to increase the data literacy of all employees. By using technology to democratize access to learning and building welcoming learning cohorts, you give all employees a fair shot at advancing their skills and careers so they can apply that knowledge to serve clients better.

When you build inclusive business practices, you deliberately create value for your organization, customers, and communities.

3. Build products and services for everyone by everyone

Enterprises increasingly depend on the power of data, analytics, and AI to inform critical decisions, such as prioritizing which patients get medical care in an emergency or determining eligibility for credit or employment. Rooting out the bias in the algorithms and datasets behind these decisions is paramount. One of the most notorious examples of this is the failure of facial recognition software to see darker skin, leading to the misidentification of innocent people and wrongful arrest or detention.

There are several ways for leaders to address built-in biases and eliminate harm to vulnerable communities. One is to proactively create diverse technology teams of people with different lived experiences, perspectives, and skill sets. They are more likely than a homogenous group to catch potential biases upfront. Another way is to establish governance and oversight structures such as ethics boards to follow best practices and prioritize mitigation strategies.

When purpose and technology align

Customers, employees, and investors increasingly expect organizations to focus on long-term value creation for all. So, let's harness our collective genius using data and digital technologies to solve humanity's most pressing challenges. Let's innovate and uplift our communities, leaving no one behind.

Further reading:

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Watch Megan share more insights at a recent event we hosted.

  • Megan Smith

    shift7 CEO, former US CTO and assistant to President Obama

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  • Amaresh tripathy

    Amaresh Tripathy

    Global Analytics Leader

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Published

12/08/2021