© Helvetas / Sabin Selimi

Navigating AI & Digital Innovations: 6 Tips for Guiding Global Teams

BY: Cesar Robles, Gloria Spezzano - 11. January 2024
© Helvetas / Sabin Selimi

Artificial intelligence (AI) and technology in general are disrupting the world as we know it. At Helvetas we have embarked on a digital transformation journey, and we want to get it right – which means ensuring that innovation and technology are used in responsible and equitable ways.

Helvetas hosts an annual “Shareday” for the organization’s more than 1,400 staff around the world. The day is an opportunity to reflect, to challenge ourselves, and to move forward. Below are insights into the process of how we tackled this year’s theme of navigating Helvetas’ digital transformation journey.

1. ↔️ Thinking past and future

It’s crucial to reflect on what has been achieved and what’s coming up. With this in mind, each department briefly outlined their main digital changes in recent years, and then shared a glimpse of upcoming developments.

For example: mobile time expense processing and time recording, online travel booking, a customer relation management system with automated segmentation and AI supported processes, further digital skills development, safeguarding of values as we incorporate AI and other digital transformations, and the systematic incorporation of AI for advisory services.

2. 🧭 Getting involved in our digital transformation (DT) strategy

To communicate technological change effectively, it is important for all teams to have a voice in the process. Helvetas’ IT team showed us the journey to have a DT strategy ready by September 2024, as well as how staff is getting involved in the implementation.

For example: A comprehensive digital program management platform has been created for better efficiency, quality and risk-management; e-learning is being streamlined; and Helvetas is considering becoming not only users of AI, but also creators of solutions within projects in the future.

“Skills for Development” Project in Myanmar | © Helvetas / Min Nyan Seik
The Skills for Development project in Myanmar. © Helvetas / Min Nyan Seik
A virtual tour of project success stories in Guatemala. | © Helvetas / Ana Isabel Mendoza
A virtual tour of project success stories in Guatemala. © Helvetas / Ana Isabel Mendoza
Female farmers being trained as masters trainers under the “Nutrition in Mountain Agro-Ecosystems” project in Pakistan. | © Helvetas / Muhammad Riaz
Female farmers being trained as masters trainers under the Nutrition in Mountain Agro-Ecosystems project in Pakistan. © Helvetas / Muhammad Riaz
Development of drone services in Moldova. | © Helvetas / Laura Andros
Development of drone services in Moldova. © Helvetas / Laura Andros

3. 🚀 Innovation game

Innovation doesn’t happen automatically, and it is amplified when we do it collaboratively. Helvetas’ Learning and Innovation team showed how this is possible through a game where staff had to come up with clever ideas to tackle inequality using two odd objects: a chair and smartphone. Staff came up with fun and creative ideas.

For example: A social media campaign of chair photos with the tagline “Everyone Should Have a Seat at the Table.”

4. 🤖 Artificial intelligence

AI is changing quickly. The Learning and Innovation team shared three ways to navigate this responsibly as staff: 1) be careful, cautious and act with common sense when working with AI; 2) use our internal guidelines to know which tools have been screened and how to use them; and 3) get in touch with the IT team for their advisement whenever there’s interest to use a new AI tool for work.

Technologist Kai Hansen and Algorithm Watch’s Policy Manager Bettina Duerr enlightened us with their take on AI’s opportunities and risks. Kai reminded us that the “AI train has left,” and we need digital skills to be fit and play along responsibly. Bettina asked us to keep in mind AI’s particular impact on the environment (it takes more server power!), labor (conditions for workers “feeding” the apps aren’t exactly fair) and power dynamics (most AI users are white upper-class men).

Lastly, the Learning and Innovation team shared an internal – safer version – of ChatGPT for Helvetas’ work, and staff did a hands-on exercise to see how it works.

For example: A group of staff used ChatGPT for the first time to draft a social media post about Human Rights Day, while others wrote a post without aid from ChatGPT. The Global Communications team then selected their favorite post, which was created without the use of ChatGPT.

Visual Panorama of Helvetas Global Shareday | © Helvetas / Bernd Steimann
Visual panorama of Helvetas' global Shareday. © Helvetas / Bernd Steimann

5. 🛒 Innovation marketplace

Digital innovation is happening in many of Helvetas’ projects around the world. Through a digital marketplace, colleagues travelled virtually around to learn to learn about those innovations, ask questions and share ideas to scale these solutions.

For example: A few stalls in the marketplace were Tuji Chatbot, an instant messaging application that provides career orientation through automated messages for youth to reduce drop-out rates; and #DevPolHack, which merges development, policy and hackathons in an effort to make the world a better place for all.

6. 🏆 Innovation Incubator

Innovation and clever ideas can be triggered if we have a digital space that is relatable, useful and accessible for all colleagues.

For example: We created an “Innovation Incubator” platform where all staff can post their ideas, challenges and create channels of innovation-related topics. We focused on making the platform user-friendly: the interface is simple, and the space was launched through mini live sessions in multiple languages to all staff. We also hosted a competition to award staff who share the most on the platform. During our global Shareday we announced the winners, who came from around the world (Bangladesh, Switzerland, the USA, Albania and Madagascar), proving that the platform is indeed becoming a convergence point for innovation within our organization.

About the Authors

This post was created with the help of human intelligence 😊 by Cesar Robles, Gloria Spezzano, Masha Scholl and Becky Neely.

Learning & Innovation

Building the capacities of staff and partners to effectively share what they know, to learn together and create effective solutions is crucial to our success.

Gender and Social Equity

Helvetas makes sure that our work actively and meaningfully includes and supports the most disadvantaged groups.