Publicis Sapient at Fast Co. Innovation Festival: The Power of Tech for Good
(bright music) - I am delighted to introduce Publicis Sapient. Publicis Sapient is... Woo, that's right, Publicis Sapient is a digital business transformation company helping organizations across industries, like Goldman Sachs, Marriott and Walmart transform digitally. In partnership with Oscar-winning director Ben Proudfoot, Publicis Sapient has created a series of short films to show the positive impact that technology can have on people.
We are proud today to share highlights of the second film, Forgiving Johnny. Forgiving Johnny follows the story of Johnny, an individual with developmental disabilities who faced a 20-year prison sentence after an altercation with his brother-in-law. It tells how Noah Cox of the L.A. County Public Defender's Office
used technology created by Publicis Sapient to find the medical records he needed in order to defend Johnny more effectively and divert him to a mental health facility. This film showcases the impact of digital advancements on major societal issues and institutions and let's give you a sneak peek. - You can tell a lot about a country by how it treats its most vulnerable people. That's why I'm here. - He was my brother, but we raised Johnny, like he is our son.
But everything changed. We can't control him. - His disabilities were causing his interaction with the criminal justice system.
His maximum punishment is 20 years in the state prison. - I want him home, but Johnny hurt my husband. - Diversion is an opportunity to avoid a conviction by doing treatment, breaking away from the criminal justice prosecution, the chance to change everything, for Johnny.
But, this case is limited by the amount of time we have, and paper equals time. - Forgiveness is the best thing that we can have because it make our heart free. (applause) - We'll be catching a little bit more of the movie as well, but I wanted to start off by asking you, Ben, talk about what attracted you to this story. How did your involvement come about? - Yeah, thank you.
Well, my dad was a lawyer and he had just passed away in 2020. And I think my sort of heart was searching for a story like this. His passion was all about equal access to the law. I'm from Nova Scotia in Canada, and I remember growing up, the car was always filled with boxes and bankers boxes and bankers boxes of paper. If anybody has a parent who's a lawyer, you know the feeling of a trunk filled...
Somebody over there, a trunk filled with bankers boxes full of case files. And when the opportunity arose to work together with Teresa and her team at Publicis Sapient to find a story about how technology was transforming the L.A. Public Defender's Office, I was intrigued for that reason.
And when I talked to Noah and he told me about... I mean, you quickly see this warehouse, there are massive warehouses filled with truly millions of boxes and tens of millions of documents. I think Publicis Sapient digitized 160 million documents, just the L.A. County Public Defender's office.
And I was astounded by the the way that that increase in efficiency actually changed the outcome for people. And in this case, Johnny's life changed. He faced 20 years in prison and because of something that was quickly able to be done by the public defender, he was freed. And I think we can all agree that inefficiency is something we wanna try to reduce in our justice system, for sure. And I was moved by the story, I thought it was an important story and a great example of how technology is bringing us closer to our highest aspirations and values as a society. - Thank you, Ben.
We're gonna hear a lot from you about the movie as director. I'd like to bring in Publicis Sapient and, Teresa, what did you hope to achieve with this project? - For me, the goal was very clear. I think first and foremost, I wanted to tell a human story, how digital transformation and technology can actually impact people's lives for the good. I wanted to show that technology can be a force for good and technology is the enabler, not the enemy. Especially right now, there is so much negative discourse in the role of technology. I also wanted to show that digital business transformation, which is what we do as a company, is not just about big business helping big business but, ultimately, is in the service of people.
And we create solutions like the one we did for the L.A. Public Defender's office, as Ben said, that we digitized millions of records, it can really help people like Johnny that otherwise would not be able to get the help. So it can help people that actually need it. So I think this film, and if you get to watch, and I encourage everybody here to actually watch the entire documentary, just 20 minutes.
It's a beautiful story, but you will see it's a great example how technology lived its promise. Technology in this case became the equalizer. It democratized access for all. And when you watch the film, you'll see that a law existed in California, as Ben said, but people like Johnny would never have had access to that law.
and would never have been able to grant forgiveness, which he so deserved, that was his right by law. Because as you saw in that clip, his attorney said, paper is money. And so in that sense, what technology has done in this case, it leveled the playing field between a large law firm and a public defender that doesn't have a lot of resources. And then finally, the other motivation for me, is that, like I said, as a company, this is the type of work we do and I really wanted to bring humanity to that work, show the meaning and make it relatable, easy to understand and to show that what we do as a company is not just to help our clients, which it is, to help them drive outcomes, efficiencies, reduce cost, drive more growth, but also it does help our clients' customers, which is real people, ordinary people, people like Johnny and that to me was a huge motivation as well. - Yeah, you mentioned the digitization of records and that can seem very cumbersome and laborious and then to transfer it into this beautiful movie, it's 20 minutes as Teresa mentioned, so encourage you all to see it and you really see the family of Johnny and you get to see the impact, the human impact. And I'd like to ask you, Nigel, as CEO of Publicis Sapient, lots of companies work with tech and lots of them want to do good and it's mixed on how effective they are.
How does Publicis Sapient do it? - I think when you think about anything, what you focus on as the primary outcome is what you ultimately accomplish, right? So in this case, our orientation in the context of not only the L.A. Public Defender's office but with many of the clients we work with is focusing very much on the human outcome we're trying to create. So in this case, building a case management system and digitizing millions of records, 160 million, Ben mentioned, or enabling lawyers to fight up to 200,000 cases a year wasn't the objective alone. The objective was always focused on the individuals in the midst of this transformational story, the individuals being the lawyers defending people and, ultimately, the people benefiting from this defense whose lives were fundamentally being affected. Because if I go back to the premise that if you focus on something that that's what you choose to accomplish, that idea is true of any industry in any business and area we work in.
So very recently, we just launched a platform that allows people to identify where the nearest charging stations are, which is essentially, think about it as the Airbnb for charging. So if you've got a charger in your home and you're not using it, I can use it because it exists on this platform that we've built. That kind of addresses range anxiety. Now, if you think about the humans in the middle of the story, why aren't people buying electric cars? Well, they're not buying electric cars because they're worried about range and how quickly they'll get the next charge. So we essentially partnered with a very large automaker to build this platform that is essentially allowing people to go in there, lodge their own personal charging device and get paid for it when somebody uses it in a kind of Airbnb fashion.
But the insight comes from the idea that people have range anxiety and that's what's preventing them from being able to buy electric cars and drive electric cars. And so if you start from that human perspective, then it's very much at the center of what it is that you are trying to do as opposed to a kind of byproduct on the side. And these examples hold true in various different industries, in many contexts, whether it's providing healthcare or dispersing aid or, in this case, criminal justice reform because when you start with the person, our philosophy around transformation centers around this acronym we call SPEED. So it's an acronym which is all about helping organizations move quickly, but doing so in the context of bringing a bunch of different priorities together and it's an acronym because it stands for strategy, the S, which is be very clear about what are the strategic priorities you're trying to affect and in this case, it was about the individuals' experiences who were experiencing criminal justice reform and the lawyers who were needing to provide this service to these individuals and leveling them up, as Teresa and Ben were talking about, right? So that's the strategy. The P is the product, so how is the actual physical product that you are building being built? So in this case, the case management system, which is not just about digitizing a bunch of records, but it's also about allowing them to see and connect the dots on various pieces of information and build patterns that they otherwise would not be able to do.
Then the E is experience, so the experience of the lawyer, the experience of the individual, and more broadly of anybody interfacing with that platform. The next E is engineering. So really thinking about technology as something that can be used to differentiate and create value and then the D is data and AI. So how do you make it a living, breathing system 'cause that system is only as good as the data in it, and the more you can connect the dots across those pieces of data. So that SPEED acronym is a metaphor for making sure you deliver on all of these outcomes, which then, I think, deliver the purpose in this case of enabling the reform that allowed Johnny to kind of essentially receive what was something that he was genuinely deserving of. - So the SPEED for tech is this process that, I mean, you highlighted connectivity.
I think it's really remarkable as well that it's Johnny and it's also the lawyer, so there's multiple humans and stakeholders, as we would say, too, so that's brilliant. And we're gonna see a clip now from the movie. So Ben, set some context for what we're about to see.
- Yeah, so this clip talks about the stakes of the case and the, specifically of the California law, which is a new law in California that allows for defendants with a developmental disability to apply for diversion where they seek treatment instead of going to prison. And the lawyer, Noah Cox, talks about, you know, how sort of this digital case management system allowed him to build his case for Johnny to access that diversion. - This was an extremely high-stakes case for everybody involved. They didn't want him to go to jail. Diversion is an opportunity to avoid a conviction by doing treatment.
Breaking away from the criminal justice prosecution, you get diverted out of the system. If granted, it would allow him to get help and keep his record clean. It's a big deal. For Johnny, it would be a huge deal. But to apply for diversion takes a lot of time.
The average felony case that I work on ends up being 5,000 pieces of paper. Every single issue on a case is limited by the amount of time we have and paper equals time. Now, in Johnny's case, it was the very beginning of when I was able to really move everything, send everything, receive everything digitally and it was the first time that we were able to get experts to conduct neuropsychological testing via video. And because our file exists online, I could see all the police reports, hospitalization records, educational records, medical records, all the treatment records instantly.
It's game changing. - Ben, yes, thank you. (applause) Nigel had mentioned that it's not just the digitization of the records, it's a lot more connectiveness and accessibility and themes we're also hearing with AI, not that AI was necessarily part of it, but that is a theme we're hearing and Ben, from your perspective, what did you learn about the role of digitization as experienced by public defenders? - By the way, I would love for you all to just follow me around and every time a clip plays, a round of applause, it's very nice.
What did I learn? I mean, I learned a lot. I'm not in the digital transformation business. I'm in the storytelling business. And so I've learned a lot from people who literally wrote the book on digital business transformation. I think what's interesting to me about it is how this technology that was developed in business is now starting to reach the most analog corners of our public life and it's making a real impact. I think honestly hearing this story was the first time I had genuine hope for the future of the criminal justice system.
I mean, you really think about that, and I'm not an expert on it, but just what you read in the paper and what you hear and it just really feels broken and difficult to fix and like just impossible to improve and I had never really considered the effect of technology having a positive impact on people. But as soon as I heard this story, I said, ah, and this is just one human story. I mean, Noah himself has 300 cases. There are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of these cases and this isn't the only impact of this case management system.
Another thing that happened that, like Nigel was saying, that it's able to identify patterns, so people within the L.A. County Public Defender's office were able to show that certain judges had racial biases because over and over and over again, they did certain things, but it was all in the paperwork. Nobody could really connect the dots until it was all digitally available.
Those are just two examples of how this is happening. So I loved seeing how something that we developed for one purpose or what we thought was one purpose, because it had the end person in mind is now being able to really the highest aspiration, like to apply justice equally. So it's inspiring and it's interesting to think what can this do in healthcare? What can this do in other parts of civil society? It's an exciting shift that I think can bring us a lot closer to where we want the world to be. - Yeah, and just gonna add to that, I think Nigel touched on it, this is actually a good example when we create solutions where we put people at the center, and that's the outcome you can generate and I believe with the L.A. Public Defender's office, they actually shift from being case-centric to being people-centric.
So when you shift your thinking, you shift your approach, then you are thinking about how can I help these individuals versus I can manage these cases. - Purpose-led. - And a mindset shift and a purpose shift from case-centric to people-centric. And Ben, you mentioned having hope again, I think that goes really deep in transforming how we look at things. And Ben, you also mentioned that this could be applicable, this approach and this mindset could be applicable to industries outside of the public sector.
Nigel, you mentioned a few great examples. Do you have some more? - Yeah, I mean when you think about this orientation, and you just take that one example. When you talk about AI as an example, which is such a conversation du jour, AI is all about the quality of the data that are essentially training the models. So in this instance, you are able to start to think about things like, can you do pattern recognition where a particular lawyer has defended these kinds of people, they've got real expertise in this particular area as opposed to randomly matching lawyers and defendants based on availability and time. Just think about that as an example. You start to think about healthcare, where we're working with hospitals to look at how you can aid or enable humans to do what they're good at, but allow technology to do what it's good at in some instances, like pattern recognition for doctors to be aided by information at their fingertips from multiple examples of a similar case or in a similar situation, but being able to do that in context, or recognizing the reaction somebody might be having to a vaccination based on being able to coalesce vaccine data from across the world.
I talked about the example in the automotive industry, but think about financial services. We've been involved in this business of transforming businesses digitally for a long time, from building some of the first online banks and equities trading platforms, so the first time you could buy a stock online, which for somebody growing up today, seems just natural, where else would you buy a stock except for online. But there was a time when you didn't. And so now we're helping reimagine the next iteration in that journey. So thinking about trade finance as an example, which is a super complicated area of multi-geography trades and how do you actually entirely take out and digitize trade finance, which is a hugely complicated area, or get into the heart of banking with mainframes that existed from the 1980s and move those to modern core banking environments that allow you to deliver financial services products in the same way a FinTech might.
Or figure out what are the best ways to distribute stuff to people with retail delivery where you don't have vans driving all over themselves because you are able to figure out, based on what people order and what temperature the groceries need to be stored at, which delivery vans can cover which routes without needing to drive over themselves. And these are all things we're doing from retail to healthcare to financial services on a regular basis, all of which have millions of Johnnys embedded in them from people during the pandemic who couldn't get access to food because they lived in locations that weren't conducive to kind of getting food delivered easily or people who were not able to bank, but now were able to bank because there were tools that allowed them to do that. Each of these is a story of hope and a story of a positive shift in the world that I think often gets overlooked in the broader discourse around technology with centers around very narrow aspects of technology, often social media. I mean, even there, we're using platforms like WhatsApp, as an example, which is to kind of enable transactions and get people driving commerce. And so there's so much more to even a company like that, which has historically got a brand around one idea, but being able to expand its products to do so much more.
- You've given us so many industries and examples and to me, it strikes me as a very expansive way of looking at tech for good. And Teresa, I'll ask you, throughout this whole process, were there expansive learnings or unexpected surprises? - A lot of learnings, not many surprises, a lot of learnings. I'm a CMO, are there any CMOs in the room here? Not many, but one of the biggest learnings for me actually was not to think like a CMO, even a marketeer, because if I thought like a CMO or a marketeer, I would consider the risks of making this investment and I would probably come to conclusion that's not a good career move. And as a result of that, I wouldn't invest and we wouldn't be here talking about it today. Instead, we took a very unconventional approach and basically threw away the marketing playbook, meaning no brief, no review, no back and forth. And instead, I literally gave here Ben, now my partner in crime, all autonomy to go really go find the truth and that's like, I tell them, go find the truth in our work.
And that gave them the sort of the license to create a story that is authentic, it's real, it's engaging, it's entertaining, and, frankly, has been one of the best assets to elevate our brand. And what it taught me in this process is actually that great marketing and differentiated marketing, it's really about informed judgment. I made a decision to make an investment in a film that, although it is about our work, but does not, and again, encourage you to see it, it does not show our work, doesn't mention the work, it doesn't even mention our name. And like I said, it's been a great asset for us to elevate our brand.
And the other discovery, for me, that's a personal one and very inspiring one. In this process, I really discovered that our work really does have meaning. And as a company, we do live our purpose and our purpose is to help people thrive. And I really
discover this, that our work does inform our purpose, and as a company, we are living that purpose, not through CSR or a 30-second commercial or post on our wall, but through what we do. So that, for me, was the most inspiring thing. - This sounds like a really compelling example of big business partnering with filmmaking. And Teresa, you reflecting on the marketing side of it and kind of not being a marketer and then getting still a really great return is fantastic. It sounds like it impacted you almost as a CMO and how you thought.
Are there other ways that technology has impacted, and I'll ask you as well, Nigel, our two folks from Publicis Sapient, how has technology impacted you both from the C-suite personally or professionally? - I think you have every... Ben talked about the context for how he found the story because of his dad and his dad passing away. And for me, technology, our purpose is, Teresa talked about it, it was helping people thrive. She didn't complete that, is in the brave pursuit of next and how things are gonna evolve and how things are gonna... So for me, that started very early on. As a kid, I had something called dysgraphia, which made it very difficult for me to move things with my fingers and fine motor skills becomes a challenge.
It wasn't even diagnosed with that language. We know what it is today. Back then, a lot of people thought I'm not very bright, because I couldn't articulate ideas in written form.
I could do it verbally just fine, but I wasn't able to to to kind of write and then all of a sudden, I discovered computers and all of a sudden I could communicate ideas, write code, and I went from being potentially somebody who was borderline like an underperformer to an overachiever very, very quickly. And so to me, it very much brought this idea that I was surrounded by as a kid at the time, which I didn't think about until that moment that technology is a superpower and it's an incredible super... It's the thing that makes Batman Batman from a regular person or Wonder Woman or Iron Man, like these were superheroes, not born with things, but augmented through technology, became incredibly powerful. And so to me, at a very early age, it became my purpose which is I believe I want to be in a world where technology can benefit and create and shape the world for individuals and people. And in Sapient, I found a company whose purpose was that, to help people thrive in the brave pursuit of next.
And the confluence of those two things I think is what makes it so very personal for me to hear stories like Johnny, because I see versions of my own story in that story. - I guess technology for me has fundamentally allowed me to do things that I never imagined I could do. I grew up in a village of a thousand people in northern part of Portugal. In my village when I grew up, most people didn't have running water in their houses. And today, not everybody still does. And no one actually has like connected gas into their homes, but everybody has a cell phone and has wifi in the village.
So technology has enabled me to connect with people in that village to be part of those traditions, those customs virtually. Also as a mom, I have two teenage sons and has enabled me to have a career and be a mom, to work from home and to be home, present for the moments that mean, to be there for them, what actually matters. So for that has really enabled me to do the things that I never imagined I could do, nevermind my own career. So yeah, I'm grateful for it.
- And we've been talking about technology for good, and Ben, I'd like to bring it back to you as the director, parting thoughts for when we watch this film, how we should be experiencing it, things that we can reflect on. - Well, I think, hopefully the film speaks for itself, but I think the real takeaway for me is like I just have to return to the idea of hope. Like that was a very moving story of feeling like you're blocked from your potential, but with the right tool, and now you're sitting here as CEO, like what other, what other human potential can technology unblock? What barriers can we break down? And to me that's very hopeful, very inspiring.
I mean, even what I do as a filmmaker is entirely digital from the image captured and the sound captured all the way through to that projector, wherever it is, projecting the film. And that is an entirely digital process that if it was celluloid would've been too expensive, it would've been too cumbersome to have going on here today. And so I feel very hopeful for the future and I feel like it's in good hands and I'm thrilled to be a part of that story.
- I'm gonna just make another shameless plug to watch the film, but we talked a lot about technology, but when you watch the film, it's really, for me, the theme is forgiveness. That's what I think the central story is. - We've talked about hope. The film is called Forgiving Johnny. Nigel, did you have one more thing to say? No, no. Well, I'm gonna repeat your mantra or your motto, not to steal it, but maybe it's something we can all just carry today, thrive in the brave pursuit of next.
Thank you all so much for your insights and for this wonderful film. - Thank you. (bright music)