Analytics Academy: Interview Hartstichting's Herman Knul

Analytics Academy: Interview Hartstichting's Herman Knul

George Soroko
05 november 2019
Learning Academy


Q: For those not aware of Hartstichting [EN: Heart Foundation], what are you mainly busy with?

A: Our company was founded in 1964 with the aim of finding solutions for heart diseases. We do it on the basis of donations rather than government subsidies, so we raise our own funds to develop projects to help decrease heart problems in the Netherlands. We keep a team of volunteers to help us with that. The raised funds are used, as one example, to sponsor projects and research done by people in the education of becoming surgeons and doctors. We have a medical team that evaluates those research proposals and decides which projects will be sponsored.  We also work to raise awareness about heart diseases among Dutch people and try to propagate a healthy lifestyle. One way we do it is by encouraging people to become ‘burgerhulpverleners’ [EN: relief workers] who, together with the ambulance, are ready to help with First Aid heart issues. Our main ambition is to halve the increase of heart diseases by 2030.

Q: How do you think econometricians and operational researchers can help you?

A: These days we see that despite new donors coming over, more and more people withdraw their donorship from the Hartstichting. And this is not just the issue with us but with most health organisation across the country. We want to reverse the trend and convince people to keep their donations. One of the things we do is we try to reach those people by phone, that  is around 12.000 of the 500.000 donors that we currently have, to ask them to become our donors again. And this is where econometricians and operational specialists may be of help – create a model to help us reach those people most efficiently. So far we are doing it on a somewhat random basis, but we hope that you can help simplify the process.

Q: Is it the first time you are taking part in Analytics Academy?

A: Yes, VSAE reached out to us and invited us to participate. Having discussed that, we came up with the project that I explained earlier. We chose this project for Analytics Academy because we already did phone campaigns in the past, so we have all the data. You can use that data to build up a model from.

Q: What can econometricians and operational research take away from your project?

A: You have a practical case, not pure theory. This is a real-life problem, outside of academic environment, with available data, so I think it is great experience to have when doing your study.

Q: Do you have any full-time econometricians working for you?

A: No, we don’t, but we do have a data analytics team of about 6 people here, who mostly come from a background  in Market research and Database Marketing.