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AiThority Interview with Amy White, Director of Social Impact and Communications at Adobe

Amy White, Director of Social Impact and Communications at Adobe

Hi Amy, welcome to AIThority Interview Series. Tell us about your role at Adobe and how you rely on technology to stay on top of your game.

I serve as Head of Social Impact and Communications for Adobe, leading corporate philanthropy, employee community engagement, environmental sustainability, and technology to transform initiatives across the business. I’ve always been passionate about driving progress on social issues and identifying ways that we can use technology to make that progress.

Adobe is committed to making products that empower people to change the world. To that end, we are doing things like helping non-profit organizations scale their impact through digital transformation, enabling our customers and communities to drive impact through innovative uses of our technology and empowering creators with the tools, skills and platforms they need to share their unique and diverse perspectives in the world. Technology serves as a foundation for so much of what we do in the social impact space, and the more we can learn to harness the power of technology for good, the more we can create a better world for all.

What were the major challenges that you dealt during the pandemic months? How did the pandemic influence the new trends in social impact monitoring and brand communications in your business domain?

Over the past two years, brands have had to adapt and reinvent themselves in the face of the unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic. Much has been surfaced about inequalities impacting various communities – from social justice, environmental concerns and health disparities to workplace culture and mental health. This has presented an opportunity for companies to evolve how they do business and make strategic investments in the communities in which they live and work. In Adobe’s case, this has led to some exciting new programs and initiatives such as the Equity and Advancement Initiative, a multi-faceted grant-making program that will invest US$20M over 3 years in support of 11 leading non-profit organizations doing incredible work across the globe.

The pandemic has also accelerated digital transformation for brands across all industries. And at Adobe we’ve seen how our solutions are uniquely positioned to support the new digital-first reality. For instance, across the three Adobe Clouds we are helping our customers reimagine business workflows by enabling digital collaboration and virtual design, creating virtual engagement paths for customers and reducing waste by eliminating traditional paper communications. From empowering the first-ever online Census in 2020 to creating COVID resources to enable the dissemination of critical health information, I’m proud of the very real impact our solutions have had on the world during the last unparalleled two years.

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Any key learning from these domains that you would like to share with our readers:

Some of the major themes we’ve seen throughout the pandemic have been around responsibility, access and impact. The responsibility to create a more equitable world and empower our employees, customers and communities. Leveraging technology to create access to healthcare and education. Enabling creators, customers and communities to drive awareness impact to address some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental issues. As the world continues to move toward digital-first, we aim to lead the way in creating the transformative technology that unlocks creativity and empowers people from all backgrounds and communities to create a more inclusive, inspiring and innovative future for all.

You recently partnered with Google to launch The Readability Consortium (TRC). What’s the foundational idea driving this major digital revolution in the online space?

Reading is a fundamental skill necessary to function in society. Yet, at least 773 million people globally lack basic literacy skills according to the United Nations. Literacy issues can hold people back from academic success, obtaining jobs, or advancing careers. It can even increase risk of health issues, especially mental health and sense of belonging. So with the rise of digital experiences, the partners of The Readability Consortium saw an opportunity to personalize digital reading with the goal of making reading comprehension more equitable and empowering readers at all levels. We believe this work has the potential to revolutionize the way reading is taught to children and adults and uplift communities through increased literacy.

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We all know how marketing and customer service teams leverage digital resources for their business functions. How would your collaborative research program, The Readability Consortium (TRC), influence the adoption of digital tools in education and academic institutions? How is Adobe leading the mission in 2022?

Initial research from The Readability Consortium has found that individualized reading experiences can improve a person’s reading comprehension and speed by up to 20 percent. This is a particularly important issue since COVID-19 has wiped out 20 years of educations gains, creating what many are calling a reading crisis. If every student had the option to customize the format of their textbooks or change the font of that hard-to-read novel, imagine how the trajectory of their education and success might change. As schools invest in more classroom technology, Adobe and The Readability Consortium want to ensure educators are equipped with the tools to create this possibility for students. We are using our expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning to help create solutions that allow people to find their best reading “prescription” and use it across digital experiences.

You do so much in the field of AI for document processing. Tell us how Adobe’s AI capabilities could prove to be a game-changer for digital reading experiences. What kind of product roadmap have you built at Adobe to expand on your collaboration for The Readability Consortium (TRC)?

At Adobe, we know technology has the potential to transform the world and nearly every experience we create. Because phones are the most accessible device worldwide, we started there. A first step in bringing this technology to market was the AI-powered Liquid Mode feature available today in the Adobe Acrobat mobile app, which automatically reformats digital files for easier navigation on smaller, mobile screens. Now we want to expand this to all reading surfaces through help from our Readability Consortium partners.

Your plans for The Readability Consortium (TRC) in 2022:

Our goal of helping individuals reclaim lost ground and improve proficiency is a multi-year journey. In 2022, The Readability Consortium will continue to conduct research to guide development of open-source research tools and the largest open dataset of digital reading behavior. By bringing Google into the fold this year, we have also expanded our network of experts and researchers who are looking at how fonts impact reading experiences.

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Your plans for 2022: What kind of future do you foresee for the AI in digital reading, particularly in healthcare and edutech domains?

I believe AI is an essential piece of helping enhance digital reading experiences for everyone – especially underserved populations throughout the world who do not have access to reading and education resources. For instance, people who struggle with reading comprehension are at a major disadvantage when it comes to understanding medical advice or necessary educational materials in a classroom or work environment. I envision a future where anyone can pick up a digital medical form, or a classroom assignment and easily personalize their reading experience to allow them to actually understand the text and readily access resources. Through the responsible use of AI, we can create ethical and trustworthy innovations that close gaps in education and set our future generations up for success.

Thank you, Amy! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

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Amy White has made a career in the social impact sector and currently leads corporate social responsibility and social impact communications for Adobe Inc. This includes enterprise-wide efforts in corporate philanthropy, environmental sustainability and human right initiatives as well as communications and positioning for programs and impact globally. Prior to Adobe, Amy designed and launched the CSR function at Nordstrom including significant work in setting the companies 5-year goals and deliverables and integrating sustainability throughout business operations. Before moving into corporate social impact, Amy led the Employee Engagement & Community Relations team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with oversight of global internal communications, community grantmaking, the foundation’s social responsibility strategy and a number of strategic initiatives in each of the markets where the foundation operates. Amy holds a Master of Public Administration and Non-Profit Leadership from Seattle University and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington.

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