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Living Mutual through Data Days for Good

Christine Pfeil

Posted on August 27, 2018

Christine Pfeil is director of MassMutual's data science development program.
Female teacher making presentation with 'Data Days for Good!' projected on wall

Minimizing patient transportation times, visualizing data trends in education, identifying success indicators in entrepreneurship, and modeling consumer protection issues: What do all of these have in common?

These were just some of the projects undertaken during the latest Data Days for Good effort at MassMutual this past July. Through this initiative, MassMutual employees volunteer time and skillsets with community partners and non-profits that advance social good, with the goal of addressing challenges through data science tools and approaches.

“Data Days for Good fosters team collaboration, cross functional interactions, skills based volunteerism, and community building,” said Sears Merritt, MassMutual’s chief data scientist. “These four days are an opportunity to step away from day to day work and learn from each other and our community in a new way, and to give back.” ( Learn more: Data science at MassMutual )

In all, 35 team members from data science, visualization, engineering, and analytics came together from Amherst, Springfield, Boston, and New York offices to collaborate on community projects.

Local students also joined in, with a team from Amherst College working alongside MassMutual data scientists, who acted as project mentors. Collectively, more than 1,000 hours were volunteered towards seven different initiatives over the course of the week.

Among these were:

  • Circles USA : Work was done on refining calculator tools that visualize and forecast the impact of the Cliff Effect for social workers at Circles USA, an organization-building community to end poverty. The Cliff Effect describes the scenario where individuals and families can’t afford to incrementally add to their income because of the unequal loss of benefits that often results.
  • Springfield Prep Charter School : An interactive data visualization dashboard was built that will allow for fast data reporting and analysis based on the school’s rich data platform. Springfield Prep is a K-8 charter school based in downtown Springfield.
  • Valley Venture Mentors : An analysis was conducted to help identify predictive features that can measure business success and performance. The aim of Valley Venture Mentors is to drive the entrepreneurial renaissance in Western Massachusetts.
  • DrivenData . A model was created to predict consumer complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This work also supported efforts to launch a public data-science competition towards this same goal. DrivenData is a platform that hosts socially minded data-science projects and competitions.
  • Open source contributions. Teams worked to contribute to the data-science community at large, and contributed to open source initiatives such as a tool to automate preliminary dataset analysis and a tool to build a data-science pipeline and share work.

“The nature of corporate volunteerism in America continues to evolve, and skills-based volunteering is emblematic of an exciting trend that brings the best institutional knowledge and skills of a company to bear for local community partners,” commented Dennis Duquette, head of community responsibility and president of the MassMutual Foundation. “Our colleagues in Data Science are leading the way in their community in a most exemplary fashion.”

In addition, Data Days for Good highlighted the work of partner institutions. Jane Adams, the data artist in residence at University of Vermont, shared innovative data analysis that tracked Vermont’s complex composting system. And Brant Cheikes, the executive director of the Center for Data Science at UMass Amherst, shared ongoing work with the Town of Amherst to conduct a study of downtown parking using machine learning to collect data.

This latest Data Days for Good initiative is just one example of the work MassMutual is doing to help our partner community groups. As a team, we are excited at the prospect of pursuing other opportunities to engage our skillset with partners and within our communities. It’s part of our Live Mutual commitment, and we’re happy to live up to it.

Learn more from MassMutual…

Data science at MassMutual: A grad’s view

School and work: MassMutual’s data science program

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The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.