*skip to the end for the 5 minute step you can take right now!
I was delighted to attend the Pro Bono Analytics session on Monday and learn more about some local organizations and their needs that INFORMS Pro Bono Analytics volunteers will help address, as well as listen to a report of a great project already done. David Hunt explained what Pro Bono Analytics does and shared the good news that it has just been approved to move from an initiative to a funded program with a dedicated INFORMS staff person. Anna Danandeh of Verizon talked about a project she did with Rina Schneur (formerly of Verizon) for an organization in Boston called On the Rise. Their focus is on providing services to women living on the edge of society by building relationships and providing services via their day shelter. They had some data and an executive director with some appreciation for quantitative approaches but not the skill set. She would bring them hypotheses about strategies they employed an interest in whether the data bore it out. Anna said her biggest surprise was how unstructured the data was, which meant that all the powerful tools she knew how to use offered limited value. But still the results they were able to achieve were helpful and gratifying.
David Hunt told me today that he went to speak to a gathering of Nashville area nonprofits today and is confident his talk will result in more projects, so sign up now to help!
It’s great to see the growing #data4good movement taking off at INFORMS. SAS has partnered with another leader in this movement, DataKind, and they connected our team from Advanced Analytics R&D to a project to help optimize transportation for the Boston Public Schools. The school system has a logistics team but without any OR skills. At the Pro Bono Analytics session I learned a new term, skilled volunteers, from Cindy Rivera of Hands On Nashville, who spoke about their work pairing volunteers with needs in the community. This term distinguishes those who offer their very specific skills versus those who provide needed but low-skill work anyone can do. It’s great to see market matching of this kind fulfilled, because the analytical skills our community has are in short supply and almost nonexistent in the nonprofit world, especially at the grassroots level.
So what’s the 5 minute thing you can all do now, if you’re still here in Nashville? Download the TraffickCam app and snap and submit photos of your hotel room, which will take less than 5 minutes. Why? Because these photos will populate a database hotel rooms worldwide, which investigators use to fight the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Sadly, traffickers regularly post photos of their victims in hotel rooms to advertise, so the database helps investigators find and prosecute the perpetrators. I now snap photos whenever I travel, which is one small but easy thing we can all do.