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I find analytics to be a natural fit for a non-profit mindset, but marketing sounds more like selling goods than a social good. How can these ideas fit together? As Booth students, we have the opportunity to translate learning and expertise from one area to find insights in another. We can learn from each other and find new paths for our respective interests and sectors of work.

Marketing skills can contribute to social impact when the arena is public policy and the delivery is government services. In marketing, the terms “customer” and “cost to acquire” can map to recipients of government services and re-enrollment. When you frame a concept—such as the loss of a customer—as a person losing access to a food supply, you can see how marketing can relate to public good. This is marketing work using the language of social services and public policy. It is applying insights from machine learning and algorithms to the social impact space. 

During the Marketing for Good panel, hosted by the Kilts Center for Marketing, marketing professor Sanjog Misra made the following service improvement example. With machine learning, it is possible to understand the point at which SNAP (food stamps) eligible participants do not re-enroll for food assistance services. This identifies a critical moment for intervention and a crucial step in having a positive social impact. A targeted re-enrollment process for eligible people would support those with the most need so that benefits do not lapse. Using machine learning enables re-enrollment without creating an administrative burden and avoids the cost to re-enroll lapsed participants. 

While reducing costs is important, the food benefit not lapsing is the actual improvement. Keeping food support in place where applicants are eligible creates a positive social impact. Avoiding additional administrative burden for those already overstretched is a public policy approach that benefits from thinking like a marketer  (limit the cost of re-acquisition). 

Hearing how AI can reduce costs while increasing social good inspires Booth students like me to be innovative in how we can positively impact the social services sector and contribute to good governance.

Watch the recording and read the transcript of the full event here

Shari Felty

Weekend MBA Student

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