Harnessing AI and Automation for Social Impact

Join us in the 2nd post of our Tech for Good Series as we dive into the transformative potential of AI and automation for positive social impact in startups and nonprofits.

Welcome to the second installment of my ‘Tech for Good’ series. Today, we’ll explore the transformative potential of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and automation. Furthermore, we’ll look at two remarkable orgs – Teach For America, a nonprofit organization, and Blue River Technology, an innovative tech startup. In general, both leverage these technologies to effect positive social change.

Bonsai Tech builds AI and Automation solutions.
GIF via bonsai.tech on GIPHY

Overall, I aim to use these examples to help you brainstorm ideas and identify starting points for using these technologies in projects. As mentioned last week in post 1, I’ll focus on examples related to nonprofits and tech startups (it’s what I do). This will help us keep things at a smaller scale and better understand how these technologies can benefit society.

First Things First


To use tech for good, we must start by envisioning new ways to address societal challenges. We can do this by determining our options based on (readily) available free tools. Alternatively, you may already have a specific technology in mind but need some ideas on how to solve a problem. In either case, the key is to start somewhere and build upon that. As you gain clarity on the issue you want to solve, your path forward becomes more accessible to plan.

AI and Automation

I chose Automation and AI because they each have their own set of tools, and they’re commonplace in the digital business world. In addition, they differ from one another but can also be used in conjunction in some pretty creative ways.

Below, I’ll break each example into its own “industry perspective” based on how the org could possibly use AI and Automation to harness social impact based on what they already do. Then, in the following section, we’ll take it a step further and list some readily available technologies that could apply to each scenario. Furthermore, I have not contacted either org to confirm they use these tools as displayed in the examples below or in context otherwise. The suggestions are based on knowledge gathered from other projects I’ve worked on.

Now, let’s get to it!

Nonprofit Perspective

Example 1: Teach For America (TFA)

Teach For America uses AI and Automation
GIF via Teach for America on GIPHY

Teach For America is a nonprofit leadership development organization that finds, develops, and supports equity-oriented leaders to transform education and expand opportunities. Although AI and automation are not the organization’s focus, it is testing AI-enabled tools to improve the classroom experience and other aspects of education. Ultimately, this makes a positive social impact by improving educational outcomes for students in need.

Tech Startup Perspective

Example 2: Blue River Technology (A John Deere Company)

Blue River Technology, now part of John Deere, has developed AI-powered precision agriculture solutions that utilize computer vision and machine learning to identify individual plants in crop fields. These solutions reduce chemical usage, save resources, and increase crop yields by targeting the application of herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides. This promotes sustainability, reduces the environmental impact of farming, and enhances crop production efficiency, contributing to global food security.

Readily available tools to help with AI and Automation


Here’s how some of them could be applied to Teach For America (TFA) and Blue River Technology. Please note that I only use these tools as examples based on the given context and neither suggest nor endorse them.

Potential Technologies in a Teach For America (TFA) Scenario:

  1. Google Cloud AutoML: TFA could use this tool to automate the initial screening of teaching candidates. By analyzing resumes and matching qualifications to their needs, they could identify potential candidates more efficiently.
  2. Microsoft Azure Machine Learning: Azure Machine Learning could help similar organizations develop predictive models to identify candidates more likely to excel in underserved communities, thus streamlining the recruitment process.
  3. OpenAI’s GPT-3: GPT-3 could automate parts of the communication process with potential candidates, answering common questions and providing information about the organization.
  4. Chatfuel: Similar orgs could integrate chatbots on their website or social media platforms to engage with potential candidates and guide them through the application process.

Potential Technology Usage in a Blue River Technology Scenario:

  1. Amazon Rekognition: Companies like Blue River could leverage this tool for image recognition to enhance their computer vision capabilities. For example, it could help identify plants more accurately in crop fields.
  2. TensorFlow: TensorFlow’s machine learning capabilities could be used to improve the accuracy of the AI models used by Blue River in crop analysis.
  3. Hootsuite: Hootsuite assists many startups and nonprofits in managing their social media presence and automating posts.
  4. Zapier: Zapier could help automate data transfer from AI systems to other platforms, enabling seamless decision-making and actions based on AI insights.

Of course, while some of these tools could be applied in each example, they might not be the most appropriate depending on various scenarios. Overall, they demonstrate AI and automation’s potential to help different areas within nonprofit and startup digital operations and help boost social impact.

Solving Problems with AI and Automation

How do these AI and Automation scenarios resonate with you?

Next, consider the above examples. How do they relate to your current endeavors? How might you be able to use AI and Automation in other ways? Then, imagine what innovative pathways could harness similar technologies to further your mission and create solutions beyond your current scope. Pssst: Your creativity and vision may also be key to more effective change management.

Still unsure? Click each link below to see how both companies have changed lives with AI and Automation.

The Takeaway: AI and Automation Are Only The Beginning

Discovering the potential of AI and automation is just the beginning of your journey toward meaningful change. The right technology for your specific mission may involve something other than AI or automation, and that’s perfectly okay. Overall, the key is to make informed decisions that align with your goals.

As you navigate this series, remember that you don’t have to follow a specific order. Moreover, you can choose the topics that resonate with your mission. No matter what you’re trying to do, your creativity and vision can help you have a more significant positive impact. Lastly, please share your thoughts, experiences, and questions in the comments – we’re all here to help you make a difference.

Next Up: Part 3 – Digital Collaboration and Remote Work: Changing the Face of Nonprofits and Startups

P.S. Future posts in this series will be published on Wednesdays at 8:30 A.M. EST. As they go live, the topics below will become direct links (including the one above).

Also, this series doesn’t need to be read in order. For those who prefer that, below is the previous post:

Some reports on this site were excerpted from publicly available information (research firms, third parties, public health organizations, etc.). This website and blog are for informational purposes only. Reports, reviews, and experiences on this website are opinions expressed by the author and do not purport the opinions or views of others. Any tools or technology mentioned are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement or affiliation. Please use your discretion and consider factors like compatibility, security, and functionality before adopting any tool or technology. Lastly, this post/page does not establish a Jarred Andrews-client relationship. For additional info, please refer to my disclaimer. Please review the copyright, privacy policy, and terms pages for information on how to properly download, share, or copy content from my site. If you cannot find what you need, please reach out.

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