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Yale SOM Research on Algorithms for Volunteer Matching Honored at INFORMS Conference

Doctoral student Akshaya Suresh and Professor Vahideh Manshadi won the Public Sector Operations Research Best Video Award.

A recent Yale SOM study that redesigned the ranking algorithm for VolunteerMatch—the world’s largest online platform for connecting volunteers to organizations—to improve access to volunteers won two awards at this year’s annual meeting of INFORMS (the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) in Phoenix.

“Analytics for Societal Impact: Improving Access to Volunteers on VolunteerMatch” won the Public Sector Operations Research Best Video Award and received an honorable mention in the Doing Good with Good OR Student Paper Competition.

The paper was co-authored by Akshaya Suresh, a doctoral student in operations, and Vahideh Manshadi, professor of operations, together with Scott Rodilitz, who received his doctorate at Yale SOM and is now assistant professor of decisions, operations, and technology management at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and Daniela Saban, associate professor of operations, information, and technology at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

In the study, they found that small tweaks to VolunteerMatch’s ranking algorithm can result in a big increase in the number of organizations that receive volunteers (equity) without impacting the total number of volunteers (efficiency). They implemented their algorithm—which is grounded in their theoretical and simulation studies—in a series of field experiments on the site. Based on the encouraging results of these experiments, they were able to launch their new algorithm as the default ranking algorithm on VolunteerMatch nationwide. Extrapolating their experimental results to a national scale, the researchers estimate that their new algorithm would lead to redirecting more than 30,000 volunteers to organizations that would have been overlooked otherwise.

These awards were presented in mid-October at the INFORMS annual meeting.

Read more about the study on Yale Insights.