Online DatabiteOctober 19 2023

Democratizing AI : Principles for Meaningful Public Participation

Databite No. 155

Michele Gilman
Harini Suresh
Richard Wingfield
Meg Young
Brian Chen

“Public participation consists of measures that offer opportunities for people most likely to be affected by a given system to have influence into the system’s design and deployment, including decision-making power.” 

–  Michele Gilman


As AI presents technical and engineering innovations, the systems present fundamental risks to people, their families, and their communities. Public participation in AI will not be easy. But there are foundational lessons to apply from other domains. Author and legal scholar Michele Gilman’s latest  policy brief, Democratizing AI: Principles for Meaningful Public Participation, builds on a comprehensive review of evidence from public participation efforts in anti-poverty programs and environmental policy that summarizes evidence-based recommendations for how to better structure public participation processes for AI.

To discuss the policy brief, we invited Michele Gilman to be in conversation with Harini Suresh, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Brown University, and Richard Wingfield, Director of Technology and Human Rights at BSR. This conversation was moderated by D&S Participatory Methods Researcher, Meg Young, and D&S Policy Director, Brian Chen.



Michele Gilman | @profmgilman

Michele Gilman is the Venable Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She directs the Saul Ewing Civil Advocacy Clinic, in which student attorneys represent individuals and community groups in a wide array of civil litigation and law reform projects. She also teaches administrative law and evidence. Michele also serves as a co-director of the Center on Applied Feminism, which works to apply the insights of feminist legal theory to legal practice and policy. Her recent scholarship focuses on the intersection of data privacy and poverty, with articles published in the California Law Review, Vanderbilt Law Review, and Washington University Law Review, among others, as well as in publications including The Huffington Post, Salon, and The Conversation.

Harini Suresh | @harini824

Harini Suresh is a postdoc at Cornell University and incoming assistant professor of computer science at Brown University. Her work asks how diverse participation and knowledge of societal context can meaningfully shape the ML lifecycle, from problem conceptualization to evaluation. She is particularly interested in supporting grassroots community-driven and activist efforts. Her prior work has engaged with application areas including x-ray diagnostics, gender-based violence monitoring, and online content moderation. She draws from a range of approaches, from empirical studies to systems-building to feminist methodologies, and is an enthusiastic proponent of interdisciplinary collaboration for thinking about and addressing societally-relevant impacts of technology. Harini completed her PhD in computer science at MIT, where she contributed to several institute-wide efforts to increase engagement with ethical issues in computing. These included integrating course modules on social and ethical considerations into core computing courses, and creating the cross-disciplinary AI Ethics Discussion Group. 


Richard Wingfield | @rich_wing

Richard Wingfield is the director of technology and human rights at BSR. He works with tech companies — particularly those based in or with operations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa — to build human rights considerations and practices into their products, services, and policies. He brings a strong understanding of international human rights law and standards and how to translate the corporate responsibility to respect human rights into practice for companies of different sizes and sectors.​ Prior to joining BSR, Richard led the legal and policy team at Global Partners Digital, an international human rights organization focused on the impacts of digital technologies on human rights. He is also a trustee of the Kaleidoscope Trust, a UK-based charity that campaigns for the human rights of LGBTIQ+ people in countries where they are discriminated. Richard holds a LLB in Law and European Law from the University of Nottingham and is a qualified lawyer in England and Wales.





Curation: Meg Young and Brian Chen

Producer: Rigoberto Lara

Editorial: Eryn Loeb

Web: Alessa Erawan