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Catholic Relief Services

The Center for Business Analytics is pleased to recognize Catholic Relief Services as an honoree of the 2023 Drexel LeBow Analytics 50 Awards. Read more about how Catholic Relief Services used analytics to solve a business challenge.


Kathryn Clifton, PhD, Global Data Analytics and Reporting Lead


Catholic Relief Services


Humanitarian Development

Business Challenge

One of the biggest challenges Catholic Relief Services faces in the aid industry is making sure the organization is reaching the right people at the right time with its humanitarian support — helping those whose lives most hang in the balance due to urgent issues, such as extreme hunger or disease. One of the reasons it can be so hard to target the right people is that they are not always available to enroll in or attend the organization’s services. People with low socioeconomic status work hard and are often busy; however, machine learning and AI are increasingly helping to bridge the information gap, allowing Catholic Relief Services to be far more efficient with aid dollars while saving countless lives in the process.

Analytics Solution

AI helps Catholic Relief Services track the efficiency of aid programming — such as tracking attendance data for food distributions in places, such as Southern Madagascar, that are struggling with extreme hunger. AI also helps to track the gender, age, ethnic group and location of the people receiving aid, which enables Catholic Relief Services to adjust programming while addressing any gaps. Such real-time aid tracking and decision-making can mean the difference between life and death for those in particularly vulnerable situations. For example, the organization noticed in Benin that families of five with children behaved very differently than families of five with adults. Those with children were more likely to show up to get their bed nets. When the project was finished, the organization was able to share this type of information with the government to further efforts that could be targeted toward families of adults and families living near borders or highways that were less likely to show up to bed net distributions.


Catholic Relief Services’ AI model has been successful in countless ways, including in several malaria bed net distributions as well as within several food security programs and water and sanitation programs. Excitingly, the organization has plans for using the AI model in even more programs. Insights from the model allow these programs to target groups and identify their challenges while making the programs function far more effectively. In this way, AI is a game-changer for the aid sector, and the organization expects it to become even more vital to the work it does in the future.