An update on our racial justice efforts
In June 2020, after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis (USA) and the solidarity that followed as millions spoke out at Black Lives Matter protests around the world, I – like many others – reflected on the situation and how our organisation could contribute. I then shared some thoughts around DeepMind's intention to help combat racism and advance racial equity.
With other senior leaders at DeepMind, I spent time listening and talking to colleagues about how racism affects peoples’ personal and professional lives and replicates itself in the systems and structures of our society. We also explored - and gathered feedback - on how we could best support racial justice in the communities DeepMind interacts with.
Today I’m pleased to share one of the outcomes of that process: putting resources directly in the hands of Black communities, so they can decide where they need them most. In the past months, we made donations to organisations that play a vital role supporting Black communities in the UK, US and Africa. Specifically, we’ve supported organisations who are focused on impact in the AI/ML space, those supporting emerging regional tech communities, and those focused on broader societal impact. These donations are unrestricted, meaning each of these organisations can use the funds however they need to, to accelerate sustained impact.
Who are we funding?
We're delighted to support these organisations, and grateful to many of those who have shared with us an overview of their work:
- Black Cultural Archives (UK) is the home of Black British History, situated within the iconic Windrush Square in Brixton. Since its inception in 1981, they've become the leading non-governmental and heritage institutional voice for the Windrush Generation, also leading in the heritage sector for their work on workforce diversity and interrogating decolonial archival practices. Their overall mission is to collect, preserve and celebrate the histories of people of African and Caribbean descent in the UK, inspiring and strengthening communities, individuals, and society alike.
- Black in AI (USA) is a multi-institutional, transcontinental initiative creating a space for sharing ideas, fostering collaborations, and discussing initiatives to increase the presence of Black individuals in the field of AI.
- Black Thrive Global (UK) is a partnership between communities, statutory organisations, and the voluntary and private sectors. They work together to improve the experiences and outcomes of Black people in mental health services in the UK, as well as address the social inequality and injustices that lead to the disproportionately high rate of mental illness amongst Black people.
- Data Science Africa (Kenya) is a grassroots capacity building organisation that runs summer schools and workshops in the area of data science, AI and machine learning. Since 2015, they've run eight events in six countries in East and West Africa. They've also begun a research award program to support African researchers and a visiting fellowship program to support research visits to DSA partner institutions.
- Deep Learning Indaba (across the African continent) supports Africa’s community in AI to be owners and shapers of Machine Learning. Their mission is to strengthen Machine Learning on the African continent. One way they're doing this is by supporting AI communities through locally organised IndabaX events, which now includes 31 IndabaX ML communities across the continent. These events have been the best way to connect local ML researchers, engineers and enthusiasts to share their research, innovation and current challenges. Last year, they launched an innovative mentorship program and this year they're coming to the end of 11 research projects and are looking to further deepen their collaboration with Data Science Africa.
- StopWatch (UK) is a coalition of academics, lawyers, civil society organisations, and community stakeholders who aim to address excess and disproportionate stop and search, promote best practice and ensure fair, effective policing for all. This includes legal and policy analysis, media coverage and commentary, political advocacy, litigation, submissions to national and international organisations and community organising.
- Ubele Initiative’s (UK) work is grounded in community-based approaches to development, supporting Black and minoritised groups with their community assets through social action, enterprise development, and next-generation leadership initiatives.
Efforts within DeepMind
It's an honour to support these organisations and to have the privilege of highlighting their efforts, but we recognise that this type of support is only one small part of the important work we need to do. At DeepMind, we want to build safe and ethical AI and deploy it in a way that is beneficial to society, which requires holding ourselves to a high standard of equity and fairness in our research and internal practices.
Thanks to the commitment and passion of many groups within DeepMind, this thinking is shaping our efforts to improve representation in AI and to ensure a fair and inclusive workplace.
It's also a perspective that, step-by-step, we're integrating into our research programmes, carefully assessing our research for potential harms, ensuring space for critical reflection via research and discussion on socio-technical topics. We're also regularly reviewing internal hiring, promotion and project assignment processes through the prism of equity. Externally, our scholarship & mentorship programme, which supports underrepresented groups to pursue postgraduate study, has expanded dramatically in the past two years.
My deep thanks to everyone who has committed time, energy and passion to these efforts so far.