For the past four months I have been the Research + Policy Intern at BII+E.
I’ve always been one for an unconventional path, which is one of the reasons I was so drawn to BII+E – for their drive for innovation in the policy space, willingness to take risks, and lead on original methodologies. Knowing that I had shared interests, I was tipped off by my favourite policy prof, Leslie Regan Shade, about BII+E’s amazing work in policy + human centred design. I began following the institute on social media and attending in-person events related to the AI + Society workstream. I applied as soon as I saw their post for a summer research + policy intern, it was my dream position.
From day one of my internship I felt incredibly supported by the team, including my mentors Nisa Malli and Sarah Doyle, who were steadfast touchpoints for me throughout my time here – providing sharp insights, new connections, and support when I needed it. Our internship coordinator Michelle Park went above and beyond to ensure that we were regularly supported and challenged in our roles. Michelle also gave us the opportunity to be part of the steering committee for a series of intern networking events, Policy N’ Pub, which we designed and executed throughout the summer internship. These events were so valuable in terms of community building and knowledge sharing with fellow policy interns, and higher-level policy professionals in Toronto.
The work I’ve accomplished while at the Institute this summer has exceeded all of my expectations. Being given agency to contribute and put forward projects of my own design, work independently with the full support of the management and senior staff here at the Institute has fostered my growth in ways I couldn’t have imagined. My first project was to draw from my past expertise in art-based practices to produce a guide to support the Institute’s mission to communicate engaging, experimental research findings. This also served as an excellent bridge into my career in policy, allowing me to apply my prior knowledge to a new field of work for me.
I also contributed to the development of the AI & Society workstream, in collaboration with the talented team and workstream leads: Sarah Villeneuve, Megan Hellstern and Heather Russek. In this role, I co-produced a literature review and environmental scan investigating daily data practices, and perceptions about consent and privacy in Canada; co-developed a proposal for a project about AI’s applications in the Canadian legal sector; helped facilitate workshops around topics of AI Literacy and Ethics; and was part of ongoing sessions about the workstream’s strategy and stakeholder development.
Another project of mine this summer contributed to the Skills for an Innovation-Driven Economy workstream. Working with economist Viet Vu and senior policy analyst Creig Lamb, I developed an art-based approach to the presentation of their findings, with the goal of increasing uptake, use and impact of the Institute’s research with new audience segments, namely post-secondary students. This project allowed me to further develop my qualitative research skills by designing and conducting targeted user research with the goal of understanding audience interests and needs relative to the research, and preferred modes of engaging with the findings. Being able to see a project through from inception, scoping, to the final pitches with the management team was extremely valuable.
I would tell future interns to embrace ambiguity and be open to new methodologies and ways of collaborating. Take initiative and design your path, BII+E has been extremely supportive in actualizing my goals from the outset of the internship and encouraged me to get out there and meet members of the policy community, attend events and conferences, and pitch projects. There are a lot of reasons to consider interning with BII+E, but maybe none is more worthwhile than being a part of something bigger than yourself. The work done here — stimulating actionable innovation policy— has the potential for great impact and change.
(Learning more about user research methods at the UXR Conference, with Annalise Huynh (BII+E) and Zahra Rajabi (Sidewalk Labs))
BII+E couldn’t have been a better fit for me, and the experience and knowledge that I’ve gathered during my internship has been invaluable. I look forward to continued collaborations with the team throughout my final year at UofT’s iSchool in Critical Information Policy and User Experience Design.