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Mission

AImpower.org research and co-create empowering technologies  for and with marginalized communities  to dismantle barriers, create benefits, and seek social justice.

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Principles

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Community oriented, not technology oriented

We believe research and development of technology should center the experiences and needs of marginalized communities, and should be driven by the goals of the communities, not the advancement of technology itself or the interests of the technology developers.

Build for empowerment, not engagement

We believe in the power and capacities of the communities we serve, and consider technology a means for self-efficacy. We will conduct extensive research to understand the community’s intrinsic goals and subjective experiences with technologies, beyond what is typically observed and measured by product developers. We will not optimize for time spent or user growth with the technologies we co-develop with the community, but design for long-term economic, emotional and social outcomes for the communities we work with.

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Inclusion by design, not after-thought

We believe that technology should be designed and optimized for marginalized and intersectional groups from Day One, with members from these groups actively involved in the conceptualization and prototype testing of the technology rather than as a secondary or optional user group.

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Proactive & pragmatic, not complicit

We operate based on the best interest of the community we serve, and will not submit to external pressure when it disaligns with our principles and mission. We will frequently and proactively evaluate the ethics of our research methods and outcomes throughout our project cycle, keeping an eye on potential conflict of interests with the community. For example, when collecting data about the community, we will explore creative and effective methods for data collection while prioritizing the community’s full agency and control of the data.

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Open and transparent

We will publish all the research and open source our technical work to make them as open and accessible as possible. We will not let monetary costs stop marginalized communities from participating and taking advantage of our work.

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Emphasize intersectionality

No community is a monolith. We acknowledge the structural hierarchy within marginalized communities and are committed to prioritize the needs of those on the margin of the margins. We will emphasize intersectionality in all aspects of our work, through methods such as: dedicated efforts to recruit and engage with intersectional groups within the partnering community; proactive partnerships with experts and organizations studying and addressing multiply marginalizations within marginalized communities; overweighing the inputs from people with intersectional identities when co-creating and evaluating solutions to challenges faced by the community.

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Kind and respectful

We treat our team members and partners kindly and respectfully. We embrace authenticity and vulnerability. We prioritize the well-being of our staff and people we work with. We respect each other’s boundaries, values, and priorities.

Working Model

The majority of our work will be structured as different projects. Inspired by Afsaneh Rigot‘s Design From the Margins approach, each of our projects centers on one marginalized group, and spans over at least two years to give us the time and space needed to meaningfully engage with a community and stakeholders in the problem space. Recognizing the heterogeneity within every marginalized community, we will emphasize and highlight intersectionality when working with a community, and prioritize the involvement and needs of those on the margin of the margins.

Understand problem
Co-design solutions
Scale solutions
Sustain progress

1.

Understand the problem

We start each project with community and technology research to understand the problem space, community needs, and opportunities for technologies.

What we do during this phase:

  • Qualitative and quantitative research with community members to identify problem areas where the community is underserved, impacted, suppressed by technologies.
  • Conduct ethnographic research to understand the community’s goals and needs in identified problem areas.
  • Review and evaluate existing knowledge, resources, partnerships, infrastructure, and potential impact for identified problem areas.
  • Investigate key technologies involved in the problem areas to outline their limitations and opportunities.

Examples of expected outcomes:

  • A strong partnership and respectful relationship with the community we work with;
  • Informed decision on a problem space to further investigate with the community, with clear rationals and justifications.
  • New data/insights about the community and their experiences with technological and/or other systematic suppressions.
  • An overview of the technical barriers and opportunities relevant to the community’s goals, needs, and challenges in the problem space.
  • An overview of the socio structural barriers and constraints impacting the community’s goals, needs, and challenges in the problem space.
  • Publications of all research methodology, findings, and data per participants’ consents.

2.

Co-design solutions

We collaborate with community members to co-design technical or non-technical solution(s) that dismantle barriers and level the playing field.

What we do during this phase:

  • Conduct and facilitate participatory design workshops to scope out potential solution(s) with the community.
  • Mentor and support community members to experiment with different technologies and explore the design space.
  • Partner with community members to co-develop low/medium fidelity prototype solutions.
  • Evaluate and iterate the solution prototypes with community members and stakeholders.

Examples of expected outcomes:

  • A high-fidelity technical prototype that: counters existing technological harms and inconveniences experienced by the community; brings tangible benefits to the community; creates the sense of empowerment to the community.
  • An advocacy agenda that challenges and addresses issues in current technological marginalizations experienced by the community.
  • A framework that guides the design and development of relevant technologies to become inclusive by design.
  • Published documentations of the co-design process, outcomes, and learnings.
  • Publication of the technical details and community evaluation results for prototypes developed in this phase.

3.

Scale solutions

We refine, promote, and productionize community-proposed solutions to scale the impact. For non-technical solution(s), we will support and represent the community in its advocacy for these solutions and relevant structural changes to existing social systems. For technical solution(s), we will co-develop the zero-to-one product(s) with the community and push for their adoptions in a wider socio-technical context.

What we do during this phase:

  • Participate and lead public campaign for community proposed solutions.
  • Serve as expert witness for government initiatives and policy changes.
  • Serve as technical consultants/advisors for community-led advocacy and activist movements.
  • Develop and release robust technical products in partnership with community members.

Examples of expected outcomes:

  • Redesign of existing technical systems.
  • One of more technical products adopted by the community and the general public.
  • New technical standards and requirements for commercial products within the problem space.
  • New legislation and/or regulations for technologies within the problem space.
  • Public awareness of issues with existing systems.

4.

Sustain progress

We will sustain the progress by establishing a structure to maintain or transfer the technical solutions we have built and establish new legal/technical standards for future technologies in the problem space. As we grow as an organization, we expect to learn more about this phase and and will always be open to adopt new ideas and practices along the way.

What we do during this phase:

  • Explore and identify a sustainable model to fund long-term technical and non-technical work in partnership with the community and stakeholders.
  • Build a maintenance structure for technical work, including but not limited to: open-sourcing all technical work; licensing technology to commercial products; mentoring and coaching community members as technical contributors and maintainers.
  • Advocate for structural and institutional protections of existing progress, e.g. pass of new legal requirements, adoption of new technical standards.
  • Mentor and grow technical talent and leadership within the community.

Examples of expected outcomes:

  • Establish technical/industry standards.
  • Establish new legal frameworks and government regulations.
  • Build a cross-sector coalition to continue working on the problem space.
  • Obtain sustainable income for the technical products we released.
  • Strong technical talents within the community to drive the maintenance and further development of technical products.

Scope of Work

Research

We study and uncover structural barriers and systematic challenges for a marginalized community in different technical or non-technical contexts.

We also research and evaluate existing technological experiences, especially ML/AI-powered technologies, for biases and gaps for a marginalized user group, as well as the impact of such biases and gaps online and offline.

Build

We redesign and rebuild existing technologies to make them more inclusive and enjoyable for different groups of marginalized users.

We also do-design and develop new technologies centered on the needs and empowerment of structurally marginalized communities.

Advise

We advise and support marginalized communities to collectively resist technological suppression and extend agency of their technological experiences.

We reserve time and resources to serve other governmental and community organizations as expert witness, technical consultant, and technical mentors.

Interested to learn more about us?

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About Us

We are AImpower, a US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit committed to center the marginalized and oppressed in technology investigation and development.

Contact

contact@aimpower.org