Using the Whole Whale - A Nonprofit Podcast

Roe v. Wade, NGO Bill & Google Inclusivity Tool (news)

May 3, 2022

NonprofitNewsfeed.com 

Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows

Federal “Nonprofit Sector Strength And Partnership Act” Draws Praise & Critique

As reported by GlobeNewswire/Independent Sector, bipartisan federal legislation has been introduced to “increase collaboration between federal officials and nonprofits to better serve the sector and communities year-round, especially during emergencies.” The bill aims to, among other objectives, establish a White House Office on Nonprofit Sector Partnership, a Advisory Board on the Nonprofit Sector, and Interagency Council on Nonprofit Sector Partnership with the idea of increasing collaboration between the government and the charitable sector. While many nonprofit proponents of the bill support the government’s desire to create a better relationship with a sector that is so integral to our society, some criticize the bill as government overreach that threatens nonprofits’ autonomy.

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Google Pauses Rollout of AI Inclusivity Tool, Whole Whale Responds

In April of 2022, Google quietly rolled out a very interesting feature called ‘Assistive Writer’ which automatically identifies noninclusive language like a spell checker. The tool, powered by a language processing AI, flags gendered language as well as other words like ‘landlord’ and suggests that they may be noninclusive. However, as reported by the Washington Times and others, Google has paused the feature. Whole Whale, the creators of this newsletter, have built a similar tool but instead of using AI, it is human-focused, with a carefully vetted library of terms as well as explanations for why a particular word or term may be uninclusive. Additionally, the tool is opt-in, meaning that users must actively use the tool before inclusivity suggestions are offered. 

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Summary

 

 

 

Rough Transcript

 

[00:00:00] As we've gone and nonprofit newsfeed, we're talking about the nonprofit sector, strengthened partnership, acts a little bit about the Google inclusivity tool and this wasn't in the newsletter, but sadly, the news coming out of the Supreme court regarding Roe V. Wade, Nick, how's it

[00:00:18] going? It's going good, George.

[00:00:20] A lot is happening. And I think at the time. We'd be remiss if we didn't start with the breaking news that last night Politico obtained and reported out that they had received a draft copy of the Supreme court case in which it appears that the justices are poised, at least in this draft to overturn Roe V.

[00:00:45] Wade, which means that federal protections for abortion would no longer. Be in effect. As we go to air, as we record this, this is still a draft. The Supreme court has confirmed that this draft is in fact authentic, but also says that it is not finalized. But I think the take here at the top of the story is that abortion and access to abortion will be one of, if not the most salient.

[00:01:17] Public policy, social policy conversation for this year, this represents a sad and quite frankly, in the wrong way, historic moment in history where one of the most important Supreme court cases is poised to be overturned by a conservative majority on the Supreme court. There are a lot of advocacy organizations and nonprofits that operate in this space that are, are going to be upended.

[00:01:47] And there's a lot of unknowns right now, but George, what are you thinking? How did you read this story?

[00:01:53] You made this point before we actually press the record button that somebody risked quite a lot to leak this information. It's not something that tends to come, but to share this type of pre-judgment.

[00:02:05] You know, says a lot about how divided this is internally at a national level. I'm, I'm pretty surprised to see the level of politicization, but also not from a Supreme court that is obviously of a political ideology and you can look no further than a pew research study. Just, you know, last year, mid, last year, showing that roughly 60% of us adults say abortion should be legal.

[00:02:30] In all our most cases, 39% saying it should be illegal. So pretty aggressive on that, but even more so when you look at the hardest and gap on this, getting back to my previous point, that Democrats roughly 80% are in support while Republicans, 35%. So, you know, it's, it's even more pronounced when you look at a political ideology divide and that's.

[00:02:54] You know, it's unfortunate on a macro level. Yes. It's going to come down to a state-by-state battle, which by the way, it has already been going on. This has already occurred with the attacks on planned parenthood, on the doctors in many ways on all levels. So it will continue to be a state-by-state fight.

[00:03:15] And I believe anytime that pendulum swings aggressively in, in one direction, there is an inevitable. Swing back in the other direction. And I think this is going to coming back to the fact that, you know, 59, 60% of Americans support something that now the Supreme court does not, there could be a real political tax to be paid come election cycle that could help Democrats and push it back in and remind the folks voting what's what's at stake and what can be taken away.

[00:03:50] Absolutely. I think that's a great point as we speak, there are protests that are being organized around the country. It can galvanize supporters. And the other way, I think something else that I think about with regards to this is that, like you mentioned, we're now going to a state by. Basis in terms of rights and access and the people who are falling through the cracks who are most affected by this are people who can't afford to travel to other states for the services they might need.

[00:04:22] That disproportionately fall on. Vulnerable Americans, particularly in the lower socioeconomic brackets. So something else we'll, we'll keep an eye on and we'll have more thorough thoughts on next week and how it affects the nonprofit sector and the advocacy and non-profit organizations that all operate in that space.

[00:04:43] But with that, I can take us into the first story that we were supposed to talk about today. And that is going back to the federal government the white house or Congress, I should say, as reported by globe Newswire and independent sector. Congress has introduced bipartisan, federal legislation that.

[00:05:05] Is designed to increase collaboration between federal officials and nonprofits to better serve the sector and communities your round, especially during emergencies, the bill will create a bunch of. Different boards and committees that are designed to essentially increase collaboration between the federal government and not profit communities.

[00:05:28] So among other objectives, there's going to be a white house office on nonprofit sector partnership, an advisory board on the nonprofit sector and inter-agency council on the nonprofit sector partnership, and a lot of other ideas. A lot of different agencies. Components of our government are, are going to be brought in.

[00:05:50] And I think increase conversations in the government about how nonprofits are serving our communities. And there, this bill is getting a lot of support. 500 organizations signed on. To letters advocating as proponents of this bill to increase collaboration with the government some on the right, in particular criticized the bill as government government overreach, that threatened non-profit autonomy.

[00:06:19] But George, the TLDR here, the too long didn't read is that the federal government wants to increase cooperation with nonprofits. What's our take on this.

[00:06:29] It's a great bill. It's I'm pretty sure it's going to be an executive order from the. and also, you know, hats off to the independent sector that really kind of spearheaded this and push this forward. It's it's a small in terms of numbers invested 50 million is the number I saw on the last version of the bill that I read.

[00:06:49] What I'm excited about, actually. Well, won't come as a surprise to you or anyone who's listened to me for, I don't know, more than a couple episodes is the data. They are really doubling down on opening up data with regard to. And the financial impacts that the sector is having, which is awesome because it's going to separate and show the value that, you know, the, a sector that drives sort of trillions in, in value.

[00:07:15] Also tons of labor, roughly about 10% of our labor force involved in the nonprofit sector and probably growing as you look at different types of automation. That data will be then able to be used hopefully to justify further investment in a sector that disproportionately employees and serves the broader goals of our communities.

[00:07:39] Absolutely. We love that data. We're excited to see how this plays out and we'll definitely keep an eye on this one. And when you think about it, nonprofits serve. Such a vital role and fill so many gaps in terms of public services to communities that and all sorts of ways. So I think that this increased collaboration could only hopefully increase the efficiency, transparency, and our understanding of how that works.

[00:08:09] Our next story is about Google. And the story goes that in April of 2022, which is last year, Google quietly rolled out a very interesting new feature called assistive writer, which was in essence. A AI guided tool to flag non-inclusive language, akin to a spellchecker. The tool is powered by language processing.

[00:08:37] And it flag gendered language as well as other words like landlord. And other terms that appeared non-inclusive the people who had access to this or saw the rollout. Quite significant pushback, it would seem and we at George, I don't want to steal your thunder cause this is something you've been working and thinking about a long time, but we a whole whale have been working on a similar product, but we think that there were some major flaws with how Google approached it.

[00:09:09] That we've. Been thinking about, so, so what are your thoughts on this?

[00:09:14] I was joking on LinkedIn about how Google stole our stole our product, which is both terrifying and flattering at the same time. Their rollout definitely sparked large concern because essentially they paired it in terms of the functionality as though it were a grammar check or a spell check that speak to a universally accepted.

[00:09:39] Type of correction that should be done to work being done. So they surprise users with this selective mind you, not everybody assisted writing piece that just started calling them out. I'm using those words intentionally calling them out for language that they might want to revise or check. It is so fundamentally different than saying you spelled this wrong.

[00:10:02] There is a dictionary. There's a right way to do this, as opposed to saying, Hey, you use this word, maybe it's right, maybe it's wrong. Cause you talked about a policemen, which you know, is a gender version of a police person, right. That may have been used correctly, but you're calling them out in this non opt in sort of way the, you know, the way we saw it is that there's an inevitability to.

[00:10:27] The need for in large part, especially social impact organizations are people that care about how their words affect others. There is an important need for, for people to understand how large, the lexicon of words that fall into the categories of. You know, a microaggression, misappropriation and others that they just need to be updated, frankly.

[00:10:53] Because it, it, others people, however, the way that happens has to be done carefully and in art really, really intense research around. These words, we have found that there is a lot of conversation and a lot of context that needs to be done. I knew I could go on about this for, for quite some time, but the, the quick version is that Google realized the issues here.

[00:11:16] And actually some non-profits came out against this saying like this. This is a little big brother. And it's it's a policing of language in a way that is uncomfortable. And, you know while I agree with that, I also think that there is a future where organizations need to double check their work and how the words that are being used effect and continue the, the types of social.

[00:11:41] Issues that they're actually working to solve. So there's a certain inevitability to this, but there's a right and wrong way about going about it. And I think you have to be very careful. Terms and language into a binary spellcheck. This is right, and this is wrong until the conversation we're still having.

[00:11:56] And the truth is it's not ready for a binary database and pushed out this way. And you, you run dangerously close to an a third author therapy say the word for me, Nick authoritarians, to.

[00:12:12] No the word again. I say, oh man, we're tongue twisted today. I just got a cup of coffee after this. I better get that out.

[00:12:21] But just to the final point on the diatribe there, but the narrative ends up being, I am also concerned. Speaking of somebody who created a tool of anybody that would say we're going to find, replace, penalize, and call out again, that word, call out anybody who uses. This is a conversation and we built a tool intent for conversation.

[00:12:44] The problem is when it's weaponized, the problem is when it others. And the problem is when it isn't inclusive, ironically, inclusive of the people that need to be having a conversation and using a new type of language, but forcing is a bad idea.

[00:13:02] Yeah, George, I agree with you. Nudging is important, but you have to understand that a tool like this done the wrong way could nudge people in the wrong direction. And I take your point there. All right. Shall we go into the summary? Our first story from the Burj is that Brooklyn public library is offering free digital library cards to young adults in the United States.

[00:13:29] So this is a library in Brooklyn. And they are giving essentially access for young adults in the U S to books that are increasingly being banned across classrooms. This is a hot and controversial and Let's leave it at that controversial topic across board meetings and PTA meetings and in schools in general, across the country right now about books that kids can and cannot read.

[00:13:59] But it seems that you have a library here that is stepping up to fill the void, particularly for egregious examples of books. Essentially censored by certain states from appearing in classrooms. And I think this conver this is a, a complicated conversation. We're not going to have that full conversation in the next two minutes, but it's interesting to see a library stepping up here to give access to books.

[00:14:23] But these stories together on purpose, because what I was just saying about how there's a danger to authoritarian, like how smoothly I said that authoritarian approach is absolute approach is call out and banning banning of work. That are on a new list. Sometimes politically driven with a narrative is bad.

[00:14:44] And you see this on both extremes. When I guile the knob extremely to the left. You'd have folks that might use inclusive language as a weapon for calling people out othering and demonizing. And when I dial that knob all the way to the right and I end up there, you end up with groups that are banning children's books, banning books about LGBTQ communities, banning books.

[00:15:14] Anti-racist baby and narratives that it's not the people. It's the policies. I know the book, I read it us honestly like every other week by requests from my two year old son who happens to like it quite a bit. When you end up dialing two extremes, you end up with banning. So just be careful. Anytime you find yourself lining up to ban something, to create a list of grievances against people to.

[00:15:41] Enacted later, very careful because it means you've ended up dialing too far left and too far. Right. I love this story from the Brooklyn public library, a library of my, my library, growing up, actually offering this and the power. The libraries always offered, which is access free access. To information contained in books and they're doing it pretty sure it's through the lips in network, but it's all online.

[00:16:09] So it's not like they're mailing books. There is an amazing online network that you can now get access to it. So. I had soft Bravo. This is the role libraries play have always played. And you really see the Brooklyn public library stepping up. And I hope others is as well. Well, we'll do this, but ironically, all you need is one, one gate to open to the, the good old internet to offer access.

[00:16:32] So Bravo, Bravo.

[00:16:33] Absolutely libraries or that, that treasure, that we kind of value and take for granted. And it's only a moments like this that we realize how kind of radical that idea is. There's a central place in our communities where we all share the same knowledge and books and stories. And it's kind of cool. I feel like libraries are the best of us.

[00:16:57] So I agree with you that. Our next story comes from pew research center. And it's telling us that nonprofit news outlets are plumbing, playing a growing role in state house coverage. That is the coverage of state legislatures across the United States. The quote from here is that the number of nonprofit news reporters who cover state capitals has nearly quadruple.

[00:17:23] Since 2014 and these journalists now account for 20% of the nation's total state house press Corps from 6%, eight years ago and represent the second largest contingent of state house reporters. I think this is awesome. This is nonprofit journalism, a in a trend we've been following on this podcast, stepping into.

[00:17:44] To fill a void and local reporting and journalism that's increasingly important and increasingly disappearing. So great to see.

[00:17:53] Yep. The same mold grows in the dark is certainly in play here. And the more people watching the more free press that is supported and funded by nonprofits are able to be a part of.

[00:18:07] What goes on in these state houses, because there's a lot of important decisions and policies being put through and, and having that attention paid is incredibly important. And frankly, as we just mentioned, with the issues of abortion, moving to states, I believe we're going to see the importance and role of these nonprofit backed reporters only increasing in the months, years to come.

[00:18:32] Absolutely. States are where policy is being made right now, quite frankly, with a stall Congress. So increasingly important. Our next article is not so much an article, but something that we highlight every year, we are in fact work for a marketing agency and we have to report on the MNR benchmarks report of 2022.

[00:18:55] MNR is Also a social impact digital agency, but every year they compile a report that they conduct on the state of nonprofit marketing and communications across America. It's a long report. It usually comes with aggressive branding and themes that make it fun and digestible. George, anything that stood out to you from this year's report?

[00:19:21] I, you know, just, just note it's, it's based on a small sample size of under a thousand organizations. And so, you know, whenever you're looking at those numbers, keep that in mind. I always am looking at sort of like where the cost per vigil lead is kind of hovering out, which I find interesting. You know, the currently they'd say a cost per lead is at $3 31.

[00:19:41] And so it just, you know, it's helpful to just get, as I say, a benchmark, what, what are some others pain? What is a good target? Maybe that's a good target, but obviously dive into data and also, you know, always acknowledged that that sample size. It's not all non-profits because remember, you know, 90% of nonprofits operate with under a million dollars.

[00:20:00] So if this were the nonprofit industry, we'd be dealing with very different numbers, so small, large segment, and have a, have a fun look at.

[00:20:07] Absolutely. All right. Our next story is that after eight years, Wikipedia is going to stop accepting Bitcoin and Ethereum to nations. This comes from decrypt. So it, pedia is operated by the Wikimedia foundation, which is in fact a nonprofit. And they've announced that because of a really small volume of donations coming through crypto, that they are pausing that option for.

[00:20:38] How'd you throw those in George?

[00:20:39] I, the article made me sad. The announcement made me sad. You know, it seems like there was perhaps a vocal minority in here that was. Trying to make this move under the auspices of the environmental impact, which just goes to show that there's a, you know, a bit of education maybe necessary in terms of banning all cryptocurrency versus certain proof of work versus proof of stake.

[00:21:04] Just a fancy way of saying you can't bundle them all together. There's also a sad irony. That Wikipedia and organization that originally frankly, democratized and gave access to creating the Internet's dictionary when against experts. But the trend did something incredibly innovative at the time.

[00:21:27] That was a bit of a risk and maybe even was inefficient. I'll argue, let's just say in the beginning, the idea that you have tons of computers editing, re-editing deleted. Editing re-editing and deleting again and again, and a bit of waste, a bit of inefficiency to what it was ultimately going to become.

[00:21:47] And it had to go through that now is faced with a very similar new technology, which may be slightly inefficient. At first. Remember, computers used to take up the size of a room, but they got more efficient over time to walk that back on the adoption of accepting crypto, which again, Even if you are consider the fact that they said that they don't hold any of it.

[00:22:08] So what they are doing is technically removing liquidity from the actual coins that they are getting donated to them. So, you know, I think it's interesting to see what happens and is important to note for any nonprofit, with a large audience that may not be fully educated and may just view this as a.

[00:22:30] Moment in time binary situation, but the the walking back is a it's. It's frustrating to me on the, for those reasons.

[00:22:37] Yeah. George, I hear you there. Thanks for taking us through your thoughts on that.

[00:22:42] All right. How about a feel-good story?

[00:22:45] Yeah, what do we have on the photos?

[00:22:47] All right, George, this feel good story is from me. We actually didn't include one in.

[00:22:53] Screw it up again. I didn't put it in there. Yeah. Okay. You have a good

[00:22:57] one. Let's see. But I have a good one. The New York Philharmonic, which is a 5 0 1 C3 tax exempt non-profit has announced their 20, 20 to 2023 season as well as their 2022.

[00:23:12] Outdoor free summer concert season. The Philharmonic does this big concert tour every year where they play it all the major parks in New York city, central park prospect park. We play in the Bronx as well, and this concert will be conducted by John Ben . Thank you. Or region or something like that.

[00:23:34] And but if you're going to be featuring a divorce shock and some some other. Classics for classical music aficionados out there. And I am super excited because it's just amazing to see that some of the premier art institutions in the United States, which are largely non-profits are. Really stepping up and really make an effort to serve the community by putting on these massive free concerts across the city.

[00:24:03] And it's one of the things that makes New York and all of our cities special is the arts and culture that are largely non-profits. So just wanted to celebrate that.

[00:24:13] Probably get out to our concert. That's awesome. Thanks Nick. Thanks

[00:24:17] storage.

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