Wednesday, 20 September 2017

OR59: Pro Bono Consultancy Tips and Tricks

In case you missed it, The Operational Research Society held its OR59 annual conference last week at Loughborough University. With more streams than the Isle of Arran, it's safe to say everybody's needs were catered for. Pro Bono got stuck in, investing must time in the Grand Challenges, OR in Consultancy and Third Sector Modelling.

There was a theme than ran throughout the 3 days of the conference, and that was a general sense of community; not only were we there to recognise and celebrate the accomplishments already achieved by OR affiliates, but we were also there to ensure that the growth of the OR community is sustainable. Expert knowledge is not the only thing that everyone at the conference had it common, people also shared the motivation to utilize OR to create a better future. If you're new to the OR community, as am i, then the conference teaches us that the OR community has a strong sense of identity and your invited to explore all of the common interests. 

As much as I'd like to report back on all of the talks I was able to indulge in, unfortunately my time is limited, and so is my OR knowledge! But there are a few lessons I took away which are important to share among our community within Pro Bono. The great thing about Pro Bono is it's slim criteria in order to get involved. Our volunteers range from young to OR analysts and practitioners to the extremely accomplished, and the not-for profits we work with range from start-ups to well established registered charities. With everybody in the mix, its no wonder my predecessor has done such a wonderful job in growing the Pro Bono scheme, the diverse involvement makes for a great equation that equals success. 

Having never heard of Operational Research until six months ago, I recognise entry into the OR community can be overwhelming, With all that knowledge comes great power, and when you meet so many people who strive to constantly improve their knowledge, suddenly you find yourself feeling overwrought. It's the equal measure of excitement that makes you want to explore every avenue in the OR community, mixed with enough nervousness to make you second guess every thought that comes to mind. 

If your familiar with OR but new to Pro Bono then we still have plenty of teachings for you. In case you missed the conference then here are some slides created by our very own Ian Seath and Jane Parkin, with advice on the Pro Bono process. On day 2 of the conference, Ian and Jane ran a workshop which provided some hints and tips for Pro Bono volunteers. The things we learnt include a list of considerations when preparing for an initial meeting with a client, as well as how learning how to overcome obstacles and challenges that may arise during a project. Importance was placed on the need to continuously refer back to the project definition and objectives, identifying the needs of the client during every step of the process. Feel free to download the slides and get involved in the scenarios we looked at during the workshop.     

Also available, a complete plan on the kind of things to consider ahead of a kick-off meeting

If you'd like to see any particular aspects of the Pro Bono application or project process to be covered with guidance from our veterans then please email with all queries. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

DoctOR will see you now

YHORG are hosting an event and you're invited!

YHORG are hosting a talk with guest speaker Charles Tallack. Content shows just how much OR is putting new life into the NHS. Discussion includes, approach and techniques, challenges faced, and the impact being made.

“… we will expand NHS operational research, RCT capability and other methods to promote more rigorous ways of answering high impact questions in health services redesign. “
OR doesn’t often get a mention in a national government strategy document, so this statement from the 2014 NHS Five Year Forward View, the blueprint for redesign of the NHS, is both exciting and daunting. Charles Tallack was subsequently appointed to set up and lead the NHS England Operational Research and Evaluation Unit. His team is contributing to the transformation of the NHS, and evaluating the impact that new models of care being piloted are having. They are modelling how the changes are supposed to work, and testing these models using advanced analytical techniques. 
Charles will talk about the pioneering approaches the team are taking and the impact they are having on the issues and challenges facing the NHS, and how he’s come to see OR and evaluation as natural bed fellows.

When? Wednesday 27th September 2017
Where? West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, LS2 7UP
Time? 5.30pm - 7pm

Places are limited so please contact Sarah Fores to book a place asap.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Free time is precious. Why become a Pro Bono OR volunteer?

Some say that volunteering is priceless, and they’re right. Except for the times when I can put a price on it! In 2017 to-date, pro bono OR volunteers input equates to £57,000.00 in billable hours. Those hours include aiding organisations seeking to improve operations, ration resources or measure impact, all of which lead to long term success. With OR solutions being provided through free consultancy, we are handing over both transparency and sustainability, two things I’m sure we’d like to see move of in the UK. 

We all know and love the basic motivations of volunteering, we know the spiel that informs us we are part of something good and we’re making a difference to something that is usually bigger than all of us. If you work with individuals from a charity, then you have also heard about just how much you can change that person’s life, whether it be a child who is struggling to invest in their childhood, or an elderly person who struggles to stay sociable; spending time with these individuals is a responsible thing to do. There is a whole underworld of motivations to volunteer and pro bono OR can make them all available.  

There’s a generic volunteer role in the charity sector that lets you productively procrastinate, but there’s something that charitable organisations don’t tell you as they attempt to sign you up and demand all your free time. They don’t tell just how self-full volunteering can be. Volunteering can help you work on ‘the self’ in so many more ways than advertised. Did you know that volunteering is actually good for your health? Not kidding. Research studies have shown that volunteering forces us to spend time thinking about others. When the spotlight is on someone else you tend to think less about your own situation and this incurs a decrease in stress levels. The effects of contentment lead to a better immune system as well as more logical thinking when returning to matters in your own life. But I’m no doctor, so go and see the effects for yourself.  

The good news is that beyond the role of ‘volunteer’, being an OR volunteer provides even more value to personal gain along with your project impact. Pro Bono OR volunteers get to take a holistic approach to tackling problems. You get to use a range of OR techniques whilst gaining consultancy experience and boosting your CV. Pro Bono projects are with organisations who strive to reach charitable aims and objectives, so the best part is you get to work on a worthwhile cause. Pro Bono projects provide a mutually beneficial relationship for the volunteer and the charitable organisation. Well what does The OR Society get out of it then? Glad you asked. By providing free consultancy to third sector organisations and pairing OR analysts on suitable projects, we continue the advancement of knowledge and interest in OR. That’s more than enough for us.   

What else does pro bono OR add to the volunteering experience? Well, with the guidelines in place, for all parties, it means we are able to control the risks. You are given an environment in which to find real solutions and improvements, and can adapt the project to treat the organisation as an individual. Every charity and social enterprise is different. Although third sector organisations face similar challenges and must contend with constantly moving boundaries, the wants and needs of every group is different; we identify every organisation as an individual. Nowadays, the charity sector is expected to do more with less and that is why volunteers are the most important resource community organisations have.
We currently have over 600 pro bono volunteers that are actively looking for projects. I’m afraid to tell you that I don’t have 600 projects for volunteers to work on, but the good news is that when you’re not on a project, you’re free to explore the OR community that The OR Society has built. As a volunteer you get to expand your network, meet and greet other analysts in both similar and diverse fields to you. As a pro bono volunteer you’re invited to several events throughout the year, and if we don’t host an event that grabs your attention, then simply let me know what captivates you and I can put it on my agenda. Getting onto that VIP list entitled ‘pro bono volunteers’ gives you the opportunity to explore OR and everyone in it. With over 160,000 charities in the UK, I’m sure we can find a project for you.

The benefits of being an OR volunteer continue. I’m not saying that being selected to work on a project is the best day of your life, all I’m saying is, your wedding day has nothing on the excitement these projects bring. Pro Bono projects provide real-world experience. If you’re looking to exercise old skills then this is the environment for you. Furthermore, if you want to learn new skills, whether it be OR techniques, consultancy or project management then this is still the environment for you. Employers highly rate individuals who display a range of soft skills, and pro bono projects are a perfect opportunity to show these. You’re welcome for the career boost. It’s what we’re here for.  Don’t forget, regardless of your motivations and/or experience, if you’d like to work on a project but need a confidence boost to get you through it then I can provide a mentor for you. Pro Bono OR supports and encourages you no matter what stage of your OR journey you are at. 

For more info about volunteering please visit, 
or email 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Win Free Tickets to The New Scientist Live

If you are a member of the OR Society or a pro bono OR volunteer the you could be in with the chance to win free tickets.

The OR Society is exhibiting at the New Scientist Live, which is taking place at the ExCel in London from Thursday 28th September 2017 to Sunday 1st October 2017. You can find more information about this exciting event here

We have five pairs of complimentary tickets, which we would like to offer to committee members and volunteers as gratitude for all of your hard work and dedication to the Society.

Each complimentary ticket is worth up to £26.00 and will allow entry for any one of those four days, so you could take a partner or friend, or travel solo and gain free entry for two of the four days. For those of you with families, children under 5 years are admitted free of charge and children aged between 5-17 years are admissible upon purchasing a “Child Ticket” for £15.00.

As we only have a limited number of tickets, we will draw five winners at random at noon on Friday 1st September 2017. If you would like to enter the draw, please email by this deadline. Winners will then be contacted by email on the afternoon of Friday 1st September 2017.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Pro Bono OR Case Study- Care4All Performance Management Dashboard

Care4All are an established charity who provide social care support and services for hundreds of vulnerable people in North East Lincolnshire and the surrounding area. The charity provides a diverse range of services and support whilst focusing on creating employment opportunities for people with disabilities. With 90 paid staff and 8 volunteers, the charity is constantly seeking to raise it's profile since it was established in 2007. 

Charitable objects include: 
-the relief of those in need, by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantages.
-the relief of unemployment for the benefit of the public in such ways as may be though fit, including assistance to find employment. 

Care4All had been through a period of significant change and need to make sense of the performance data the collect. there are a few key questions whic needed to be considered for this project:
  • -          What questions do the Care4all management board want to answer or metrics do they             need to monitor on organisational performance?
  • -          Does the data currently collected allow these questions to be answered? If not, what data         needs to be collected to answer relevant questions?
  • -          Does data need to be structured or collected differently?
  • -          How can data be routinely analysed?
  • -          How can the analysis be presented in a meaningful and powerful way?
After an initial meeting with the Chief Executive, the Pro Bono volunteer sought to support the charity by presenting meaningful organisational performance management information. After creating a performance management process the organisation had scope to present management reports using infographics. 

Another successful project, with big thanks to our volunteer.