Tag: BLC

“Data can be used for great good to make a significant positive difference in our communities and our lives… but not without some problems.”

– Naveen Pinjani, Sr. Director Big Data Analytics at Daugherty Business Solutions

At the Data for Good conference on October 5, speaker Naveen Pinjani, along with consultant Jonathan Leek, dynamically kicked off a panel on the Vacancy Collaborative. The Vacancy Collaborative’s mission is to address St. Louis’s vacant property issue and perfectly reflects the conference’s core goal: to celebrate the combination of values-based-leadership and analytics.

Leek knew two things before the creation of the Vacancy Collaborative: He was a skilled data analyst and he wanted to help the community. Knowing this and the brutal fact that about 15 percent of all land in St. Louis is vacant, he put his skills to use.

Addressing this issue has been complicated. Leek asked, “How do we address what we can’t understand?” The data problem presented was that there are city employees who are doing the best they can, but aren’t trained in using and analyzing data. Leek recognized that systems are often put in place by those unfamiliar with data best practices. Along with volunteers, Leek set out to use his data skills to tackle the basics—how many vacant properties/lots exist, where they’re located, and what to prioritize.

Over the past year, the Vacancy Collaborative has combined four data sets, cleaned them up, and defined what each set means. They are on their way to incredible impact. The volunteer aspect of the project comes with its pros and cons; Leek explained its lack of bureaucracy is great, along with the autocratic decision-making process, but there’s a lack of input from domain experts and limited tools, resources and time.

Even with the negatives, the Vacancy Collaborative was able to convince Cindy Riordan, CIO of the city of St. Louis. Riodan said, “The vacancy data lit a spark with our [the City of St. Louis] staff.”

The vacancy issue affects the entire city from crime rates, to public health, to the city budget. The Vacancy Collaborative is now working on refining its web portal and even expanding to new data sets unrelated to vacancy. If you’re interested in reading more, check out STLVacancy.com.

Sarah Podolsky, BSBA ’19, wrote this on behalf of the Bauer Leadership Center. Pictured above: Jonathan Leek, a consultant with Daugherty Business Solutions and volunteer with the Vacancy Project, presents to the Data for Good audience.

Hundreds of students, business leaders, and alumni assembled at Olin for the school’s first “Data for Good” workshop on October 5, 2018. The event shined a spotlight on WashU Olin’s focused approach toward values-based, data-driven decision-making among its students by drawing together industry experts who spoke of using big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, to make material improvements in their businesses—and the community at large.

The Center for Analytics and Business Insights and the Bauer Leadership Center co-sponsored by the daylong workshop. Here are some quotes and highlights from the event. And don’t forget to check out the attached video (above).

Jake Porway, keynote speaker and the CEO and founder of DataKind: “The whole reason we’re talking about data for good at all is that in the last 10 years, we’ve dramatically changed out world. There’s now more cellphones on the planet than people, we’re instrumenting our bodies to measure everything from our heartbeats to what tugs at our heartstrings.”

David Stiffler, vice president, global corporate responsibility, Equifax: Using data to create social impact “makes a ton of sense. But if I’m only talking to my leaders about philanthropy and charity, they’re only going to pay attention on the weekend. I needed to stop talking about this in passionate terms, but talk about it in terms of the bottom line. They had to see there was something more than a PR or charitable brand stamp on an event.”

Chris Merz, vice president, product development and innovation, Mastercard: Finance companies are leveraging the power of data, AI, and machine learning to recognize “out of pattern” behavior in customers’ credit card usage—even to the point of noting when users don’t enter a password with their usual cadence. “Moving to chips on credit cards was a big cue to fraudsters to move online. That was the path of least resistance. The most common point of exploitation is online.”

Cindy Riordan, chief information officer, city of St. Louis: “Data-driven decision-making is a big pillar in Mayor (Lyda) Krewson’s administration.” Partnering with the Open Data Project to create a database of vacant properties in the city “lit a spark in our staff and made us look for more partnerships. We can’t do it by ourselves. This opportunity to partner with volunteers has been a great asset. I challenge you to look at how you can partner.”

John Ose, director of analytics, Ameren: “We use our data to try and find ways to help our community, helping those in need. For us, it’s about powering the quality of life.”

Read more about the Data for Good workshop, featuring an interview with Tony Sardella, adjunct lecturer in business strategy and CEO of evolve24, a panelist at the workshop.

Suppose your company made a substantial annual investment in a major civic event that measurably improved the lives of community members. Would that affect the business opportunities you pursue? The way you market your business? Your philanthropic spending?

The answers, of course, are all “yes.” But take a step back: How do you know your annual investment is providing those measurable returns? These questions lie at the core of a featured presentation at Olin’s inaugural Data for Good conference on October 5.

The presentation by Tony Sardella, CEO of predictive analytics technology company evolve24 is one part of a daylong agenda for business leaders and academics examining strategies for using data to make a positive and principled difference in businesses, organizations, and the community at large. Sardella will present on “Fostering Community Well-Being: Using Data to Drive Better Program Decisions.”

Making a difference with data

“That’s the goal: to let a company or a city or an organization know they’re really helping,” said Sardella, an adjunct lecturer at Olin. “How do you know your best programs? A lot of organizations are really struggling with that.”

In his presentation, Sardella will unveil a new study of civic well-being in the city of St. Louis, part of a broader study evolve24 has conducted in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, the District of Columbia, and San Monica. The research measures the outlook of residents and cross references residents’ “subjective well-being with data such as health, crime, housing starts, and other tangible data points.

Sardella was surprised to find, for example, how deeply the annual Shakespeare Festival St. Louis appears to influence civic well-being in the community. “That was definitely a little bit of an ‘ah-ha!'” Sardella said. “We had no idea.”

He said evolve24 uses publicly available digital content in its analysis of “subjective well-being,” running the unstructured, anonymous data through complex algorithms that can analyze what makes people happy about their communities—and what doesn’t. Data comes from open social media sites, blogs, comments in public forums, media news coverage, and elsewhere.

WashU leadership in the field

Knowing this information, he said, means organizations can better understand where their programs and initiatives have the biggest impact. Sardella hopes his presentation will highlight the ways business analytics—used with a values-based framework—can drive more principled decision-making. He also hopes it puts a spotlight on WashU Olin’s leadership in this area of business strategy.

“This is really important for WashU,” he said. “I’m passionate about it because some companies are starting to pull the plug on their data lakes. They’re struggling to create value for the business. But it’s about better decision-making. To make a better decision, you have to quantify and predict the consumer trends and make decisions now that match with those trends.”

Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights and the Bauer Leadership Center will jointly present the October 5 Data for Good conference, which reinforces a key component of the Business School’s strategy to produce values-based, data-driven decision makers who are equipped to change the world, for good.

“It’s clear how carefully the organizers dovetailed their agenda with the needs of business leaders today and in the future,” said Olin Dean Mark Taylor. “I’m very much looking forward to hearing some of the takeaways our community colleagues and students will gain from our first Data for Good conference.”

The agenda includes presentations by executives from Equifax, Mastercard, and Daugherty Business Solutions that will explore issues such as data privacy, community philanthropy, and collaboration with a community to use the data.

The program will conclude with a keynote address by Jake Porway, founder and executive director of DataKind, a nonprofit that partners data scientists with leading social change organizations to ask the right questions—and find answers to maximize social impact.

Olin’s Data for Good conference starts with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m. on October 5 in Emerson Auditorium. Click to learn more and register.

Allison Halpern, BSBA ’18, wrote this post on behalf of Bauer Leadership Center.

Last week, the Bauer Leadership fellows discussed the challenges and responsibilities of a leader. All fellows are MBA students serving as Center for Experiential Learning team leads for a project within their practicum program. In this role, they need to manage relationships with their teammates, mentors, and clients.

To navigate these winding roads successfully, they collaborated and role played tough situations to understand how to solve problems and create impact as a leader. To extend this conversation beyond the meeting walls, I wanted to share their words of wisdom here to continue building values-based leaders here at WashU.

Communicate Early; Set Goals; Manage Expectations

Many fellows discussed coming into a team with prior friendships with other members. Established relationships can be difficult to break, especially if you are coming into a role as a superior with a team of fellow students. It is important to set the goals up front for you as a leader and other team members in various roles to give them freedom and leadership.

This allows everyone to have responsibilities where they can shine. It also grounds you with a sense of authority and respect.

And these conversations go beyond the team, too. Each group has a mentor to guide them through the practicum. They are there for guidance and to provide a more experienced perspective, but making sure they are doing this properly can be difficult.

Taylor Ohman, previous CEL team lead and BLC Fellow, said it well: “This is the Center for Experiential Learning—the point is to work through the struggles and learn how to do better.”

With this in mind, its important for this mentor to let students solve problems to learn and grow in this safe space.

Take on the Responsibility of the Team

As one of the fellows said it, be a “leader servant.” Leaders will get much of the praise when things go well—and all of the brunt if they don’t. If another teammate is having an off week, it is on the leader to pick up the slack.

And if nitty-gritty administrative work needs to be done, it is important for the leader to pick up on it to allow the rest of the team to focus on the parts that matter most to them. As a leader, it is your job to bring the best out of your team.

Sometimes, that means doing the not-so-glamorous work and taking the fall when things go wrong. But it’s also important to know how to bounce back.

Adapt, Improvise, and Shift Plans, If Needed

Of course, you can set goals and take on hard responsibilities, but some things just might not go as you thought—and that’s OK. As a leader, it is critical to learn how to act on your feet and continually manage performance.

If someone is not performing up to par, discuss it with this person in a direct, mature, and decisive manner. Improvise on what their responsibilities are to provide tasks that can be benchmarks for success. Every team member will work differently, so work to understand these differences to create a cohesive team dynamic.