Thursday, 31 July 2014

The value of LinkedIn for Third Sector organisations

Having recently read Alex Swallow's post on 'How LinkedIn changed my life' it really struck me how valuable LinkedIn has been for Pro Bono O.R. (Operational Research). It has helped me build up connections with people I would never have been able to otherwise and has enabled me to explain what O.R. is and how it is and can really benefit Third Sector organisations in the UK.
To then back this up I then received an email yesterday from Karen Weaver (CEO of HARCVS) who has written an article on how LinkedIn offers opportunities for charities:
Linking In offers opportunities for charities
'Volunteers find their way to charities via many routes and of course take on a wide
variety of roles. In recent years social media has become a valuable additional channel and HARCVS has just benefited from excellent support from a volunteer which commenced with LinkedIn.'
To find out how Karen discovered Pro Bono O.R. and how the project went please read the following article on pages 6-7: Care in Action Newsletter

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Sharing ideas between the Health and Third Sector O.R. groups was a great success

After a wonderful break away in sunny Somerset it's exciting to be back in the office and catch up with what's happening with Pro Bono O.R. 

We have 11 projects currently being carried out and have been thrilled to hear that both the volunteers and organisations are really enjoying the experience.

The idea of Pro Bono O.R. originally came about through members of the Third Sector group (part of The OR Society).

Back in June there was a joint meeting held between 2 groups at The OR Society.  The Health and Third Sector groups met to share ideas and learn from one another.  It turned out to be a great success with over 50 people attending. Speakers included Nigel Edwards (CEO, Nuffield Trust), Linda Henry (Director, Unique Improvements), Sam MacKay and John Newman (Apteligen)and Jérémie Gallien (Associate Professor of Management Science and Operations at London Business School)

Click on the link for the write up: link

Monday, 14 July 2014

Press release from decisionLab (Pro Bono volunteers at decisionLab helping make the world a better palce)

Press release from decisionLab: see how the OR consultancy firm are supporting Pro Bono O.R. by undertaking projects with Marie Curie and Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

decisionLab problem solvers
making the world a better place
Where other supporters might run a marathon, shave a leg or bake a cake, decisionLab consultants are applying their problem solving skills pro bono, directly to the issues tackled by some of the UK’s best known charities.

Major corporations and government departments have long understood the benefits of better decision-making underpinned by Operational Research (OR).  Sometimes known as management science, OR uses maths, data analytics and computer science to help understand complex business problems and provide tools which improve decision making.

Specialist OR consultancy decisionLab has been instrumental in improving outcomes, and profits, in sectors ranging from aerospace to utilities.

Now decisionLab problem solvers are making better outcomes accessible to the third sector.  First to benefit are the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Marie Curie Cancer Care.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation undertakes research into the root causes of poverty and effective ways to reduce social and economic inequalities.  decisionLab Director David Buxton, one the UK's leading authorities on Agent Based Modelling and Simulation, is advising the endowed foundation on adopting this OR technique, which takes into account individual behaviours, to improve its research.

Chris Goulden, Head of the Poverty Team at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation told us that Although we already use sophisticated quantitative research techniques, ABMS is new to us and, with David’s support we want to understand if this approach can deliver more accurate research into the long term implications of government policy designed to tackling its effect.

Marie Curie is the leading charity providing care to people with a terminal illness in their own homes or in one of its nine hospices. The charity is also a leader in research into the best ways of caring for people with a terminal illness. The Great Daffodil Appeal is the charity’s annual flagship fundraising campaign and all money raised allows Marie Curie Nurses to provide more free care to people at a time when they need it most.

decisionLab director Liz Archibald and modeller Kevis Pachos are now working to improve the logistical planning of the Great Daffodil Appeal campaigns for 2015 and 2016.

Tracey Murray, Head of Fundraising Campaigns for Marie Curie, said: We rely on our biggest annual fundraising campaign to help us deliver services to people who are terminally ill and support for their families at a very difficult time.  We constantly review the way we deliver the appeal and with decisionLab’s help we’re looking at cost savings and operational efficiencies which will deliver an even bigger return on our investment so we can support more people with a terminal illness and their families. 

The three decisionLab founders, Liz Archibald, David Buxton and Kate Swatridge, make no secret of their ethical leanings.  And they are building philanthropy into the DNA of their fledgling business by offering every employee up to five extra days each year to work on charitable projects.  

Now, as a growing firm, they’re stepping up their commitment to make the world a better place through the OR Society’s Pro Bono programme.  David told us that “Conscious that being good at what we do means we have a role in creating wealth for commercial institutions, we want to commit our time and expertise to improving the income and effectiveness of charitable organisations too. Kate herself is currently on sabbatical contributing her expertise to projects in Africa and more sustainable farming initiatives.”

It’s not just the charities, and those who rely on them, who benefit from the increased expertise and capacity decisionLab contributes, Liz added “Our volunteer problem solvers get to put their analytical skills into practice in more diverse situations and develop their knowledge of different kinds of organisations with disparate operational challenges.  We see it as an enriching experience which enhances the skills we offer to corporate as well as charity clients.  We also get to educate a wider audience about Operational Research and increase awareness of our profession.  Everyone benefits.” 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

How small charities can have a big impact

Just came across this article from The Guardian on the voluntary sector network blog. I have taken excerpts below...

'Small charities are increasingly having to innovate and do more with less to survive.

It is no secret that charities are facing tough times. Demand is up and funding is down meaning that charities – especially the smaller ones – are having to think outside of the box to survive.'

During a live debate hosted on 20th June the following questions were raised:

'• What innovative techniques small charities can use to maximise and measure their impact

• How small charities can cut costs while maximising social outcomes
• Where to begin and what to consider when approaching impact measurement'
If you missed it, don't worry.  These are exactly the type of questions that Operational Research can help you with.  
O.R. is about finding ways to apply analytical methods to make better decisions. Third Sector organisations face extremely complex decisions about the direction they should take and how to allocate scarce resources.  These are some of the issues the organisations we've worked with have faced:
 ‘We have lots of different options for the future but it’s impossible to decide which to choose in such uncertain times.’
  ‘We’re under huge pressure to do more with less, and we don’t know how we’re going to do it.’
  ‘It’s hard to stay objective when we’re faced with such emotionally charged decisions.’
  ‘We know we’re doing a good job – but how can we prove it?’

UK based organisations in the third sector can now benefit from O.R. consultancy at no cost. The Operational Research Society is offering third sector organisations the opportunity for free consultancy to help reduce costs and improve utilisation of limited resources.

The society wants more organisations to benefit from operational research and recognises that third sector organisations have an even greater need to be more efficient.

For more information please contact me at

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

How much is volunteering really worth?

Pro Bono O.R. is dependant on its volunteers in order to operate.  Without our volunteers, the third sector would not be benefiting from all the free consultancy hours.  These hours of face to face support and remote support that have so far been given to over 12 charities and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

We are currently trying to measure the 'economic value' that Pro Bono O.R. is worth by measuring the number of hours/days a volunteer works on a projects multiplied by the hourly/daily rate of an O.R. consultant/analyst.  We know that our volunteers are providing significant value but how much?  Read the interesting blog below from NCVO on how much volunteering is worth to the UK

“It’s the economic value, stupid”…but is volunteering really worth £100bn to the UK?

NEW Pro Bono OR Project: ChaplaincyPlus

ChaplaincyPlus Project Analysis of Communications Data for Continuous Improvement Project : Undertake da...