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AI Training for Social Entrepreneurs

Sampo Leino, Head of Learning @ MinnaLearn, sits down to discuss the Elements of AI for Business learning program as part of Tides AI. Beyond the hype, Leino shares his insights on democratising knowledge and hopes for a world where AI is accessible to all.

INCO: AI training for social innovators - it’s exciting. Can you give us an overview of the Elements of AI for Business learning program and what you hope to achieve?

Sampo Leino: The Elements of AI for Business learning program is a four week learning program for groups of ten people, and it's built from a few building blocks. One is curated chapters and exercises from our award winning elements of course, and then three engaging workshops to explore AI, use cases for work and build a shared understanding.

So it’s theory and it’s practice and combines the two on how to use this in your work. 

INCO: The combination of both practice and theory - that’s great to hear. Given how present AI is today, in the news and in our feeds, what inspired the development of this learning program? 

SL: I don't know how you feel about it, but I feel that AI is like a huge megatrend right now. I think it'll transform the way we work, the services we use and the services we produce. I think it's going to be similar to what the Internet has done to the world - so a big impact. It might feel like we’re on the top of that hype train, that it's already happened or that everyone's doing it and it's too late.

But, we're really at the beginning of that wave. So at MinnaLearn, we thought that it'd be really important to start building the fundamental knowledge that AI is not magic and that AI is for everyone. And then to start finding practical applications that provide actual, meaningful value, that's really, really important. What I’m seeing is that because AI is so trendy, there's so many AI services, and sometimes it feels like it's just like a stack you put at the end to say, we use AI this, this is AI. 

I think that's where it's important to understand, just like when the Internet came, that just because you make your work happen on the Internet doesn't mean that you've already culturally aligned to be an Internet company or to do things in the way we now do things on the Internet. Because that cultural shift takes a long time. At home, at work, everywhere. So I think it's just really important to do it, inspiring to be part of it, right?

INCO: That's a very good point - we’re really only at the beginning. And if we’re speaking of beginnings, how does the course approach teaching AI to participants who might not have a technical background? 

SL: We've always aimed with our courses and programs to make complex topics understandable, and we've become measurably good at this. So this is visible, for example, from our 1.3 million students on elements of AI and these people come from all walks of life, the ideas and to make learning material for technical experts, the idea is to democratize information for people.

So on the theory side, the way we do it, we spend a lot of effort designing and describing things in a way that is approachable so that anyone from your grandmother to your teenage child could understand these topics. And then on the workshop part, we design processes that really help people do step by step the practice work so that we don't assume that anyone has beginning skills.

But it also means that we don't assume that you can't do challenging valuable things. Just because you are a beginner might mean that you need extra help to get started, but that doesn't mean that you can't make amazing outcomes and insights. And I think that's an important part of how we design our learning. 

INCO: It sounds so accessible! And for those who go on to complete the program, what do you hope they’ll take away from this program? 

SL: Of course, running this program, I've seen lots of business and work insights, of course, but like personally what I hope to see is that the participants would feel inspired by the potential of AI democratizing the way we do stuff. So maybe people that have less can do more because these tools allow them to do more.

Just like when the internet came, it used to be that only someone could reach the printing press and then ask for something to be printed and published and shared. So maybe this allows for people to do more work and be more, more, more like let's say you'll just like, reach higher levels, even though they don't have all the resources that a big organization might have.

I hope they're inspired. I hope they create like they start creating innovations that really make a positive impact. Of course, we all have fears. What might AI do? Well, does it take our jobs? Will we use it as a tool for destruction? But I hope people will be inspired by that wow. Now this gives me the potential to reach these things, to make these services and create something that makes the world a better place.

INCO: Looking to the future, is there anything else you’d like to share?

SL: We want to help make AI accessible for all and then empower people to be able to learn and teach is very important in this mission. So I've always been a champion of this idea. But a great way to learn is to teach because you're constantly learning from your students. So I think it's exciting to have this kind of train-the-trainer program where people are both learning and then teaching it forward. And that's a way to spread information around. And I'm really excited to see all the amazing work that the trainers and their students will accomplish on this journey.

I know from experience - it takes a lot of work. But I'm always really proud when I see what's accomplished. So that's my message to them. I'm excited to start.

AI Tides is on a mission to democratise AI knowledge. This train-the-trainer program will enable 30 people from 10 European countries to teach an AI program in their communities with the skills and tools to leverage AI, to address some of the biggest challenges society faces.


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