AI is changing everything. The social sector is no exception. Jared Chung, Founder and Executive Director of CareerVillage.org, has been laser focused on what AI can – and should – mean for the future of work. His tech nonprofit, CareerVillage.org, runs a digital community where students can get free personalized career advice from real-life professionals. This week, CareerVillage.org announced the launch of Coach, its new generative AI tool making great career resources available to everyone. But the implications of this tool expand beyond workforce development. Coach offers a new model for how the social sector can build and deploy generative AI to best serve those most in need.
Shannon Farley: Jared, you were in Fast Forward’s second Startup Accelerator cohort almost a decade ago. At the time, we were crowdsourcing answers to career questions over beers at happy hour. And today, CareerVillage.org is a leader in social sector innovation. We’ve come a long way! Tell us about the new tool you’re launching.
Jared Chung: Yes! We’re launching a first-of-its-kind AI Career Coach. We’re calling it Coach. Coach can help people practice mock interviews, improve their resumes, explore new career options, clarify job posts, and much more. In short, Coach helps with everything you need to get career-ready and actually land a great job. Coach is knowledgeable, encouraging, and reliable, just like every career coach should be.
And the most exciting part is that we’re not doing this alone. We are forming a coalition with major workforce and education institutions. AVID, Year Up, Opportunity@Work and Empower Work, to name a few. Coach will be aware of the full catalog of services our partners offer and will recommend resources tailored to the unique needs of each user at the perfect moment for them. Coalition members, a mix of nonprofits, schools, and EdTech organizations, are set to start testing Coach this summer.
Farley: Congratulations. This is really exciting. As access to AI developer tools become more widespread, we’re starting to see the first waves of generative AI use cases in the social sector. What inspired Coach?
Chung: There is a big question I think we need to wrestle with in the social sector: who is going to benefit from AI? Our team is clear on this: we’re going to empower the people we serve with the best-available tools. We started testing generative AI early, and found very quickly that it could handle a huge number of career development activities really well. The challenge was that it needed heavy customization and subject-matter expertise to be effective.
And our community is super energized by this. This is a natural next step for CareerVillage.org, which has helped over 7 Million people get career advice over the past decade. For years we’ve been mobilizing huge online communities to give career advice, and now, we have this opportunity to use AI to scale up even further.
Farley: Like all tech, generative AI is just a tool. It matters if good actors are building, because we know the bad actors will. We believe that tech nonprofits are well positioned to build AI that benefits the most-in-need. We are bullish on the potential for good AI. The coalition model CareerVillage.org is deploying with Coach is an interesting way to do this. What’s the thinking behind that?
Chung: I believe the coalition model is one of the true “killer apps” of AI for the social sector. For decades, a dream of our sector has been to find ways to make sure that all of our beneficiaries get access to the best services of each nonprofit. But coordinating that and collaborating with hundreds of other nonprofits has been so difficult… it’s been a real barrier for most nonprofits. You need to be able to know which services are appropriate for which beneficiaries, and introduce those services at the right moment when they are most needed. With AI, we can potentially absorb all of that complexity.
For example, if we’re doing resume drafting with a high school sophomore who wishes they had a little tutoring help in chemistry, we need to be able to connect them to that help. Or if we’re doing career exploration with a junior and learn that she wants to get started looking for scholarships, we need to connect her to those platforms.
The “aha” moment happened early in the R&D stage of the project when we noticed that Coach was already trying to recommend specialty services from some of our favorite nonprofit peers. We quickly realized that it was better to create coalition-backed AIs as a shared service for the whole sector than it would be to create a “closed system” AI that only served one purpose at a time.
Farley: One of the tropes of the social good sector is that organizations should collaborate more. We agree, but historically, collaborative social action is hard and expensive. This model could have big implications in terms of how the social sector should be thinking about AI…
Chung: It really does. In essence, this model is shifting the narrative of AI in the social sector from a tool of individual efficiency to a catalyst for collective impact. That’s a huge leap and a major opportunity for future collaboration.
Our coalition model demonstrates the potential of AI in breaking down silos. It’s proof that AI can bring different organizations together to work in harmony, making a bigger splash than we ever could on our own.
Farley: Who is in the coalition?
Chung: Right now, the coalition involves heavy hitters like AVID, Year Up, Opportunity@Work, MENTOR CA, SFUSD, CAPs Network, and others committed to being part of the beta.
Collectively, all of the 16+ educational and workforce institutions we plan to have in the coalition serve over 100 Million beneficiaries around the world each year.
Farley: That’s incredible. How are you thinking about the development and deployment of the product?
Chung: We are about to launch Beta testing with a group of educators, students, program coordinators, and others. A core principle of our project is ensuring responsible AI. So, we are doing a lot of testing, careful refinement, and really challenging the safeguards in this beta testing phase. I expect that the list of nonprofits, foundations, employers, and other institutions interested in getting involved will grow relatively quickly. (Editor’s note: Learn more here.)
Farley: I really appreciate that you are centering safety from the outset. While safety as a guiding principle is critical with any product, it’s especially true when building for underserved populations. Can you tell us more about why this model will help you–and other nonprofits who follow in your footsteps–best serve your beneficiaries?
Chung: For most people, career guidance is a huge life-changer. It helps you find career goals that inspire you, know what to do to reach your goals, and practice your execution so that you are ready when opportunity knocks. This is essential economic development and social sector work. But until now, we’ve never been able to put a world-class personal career coach in front of every underserved person.
This model is all about making resources more accessible, more personal, and more responsive. One of the major challenges in supporting underserved communities is that resources are scattered and hard to navigate. There are so many amazing groups out there trying to do good, but they often hit a wall because they don’t have the means to scale up their efforts. With Coach, we’ve essentially created a digital one-stop-shop where all these services come together.
Then there’s the magic of personalization. With AI, we can tailor resources to meet individual needs at scale. We’re paying special attention to accessibility features and working with partners that are experts in designing tools that meet the needs of all types of learners.
What’s more: AI is an ace at gathering and sifting through user feedback. This way, we can always keep our finger on the pulse of what our users want, and keep making the tool better. It’s about building this tool not just for users, but with them. Now that’s powerful.
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