Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Addressing Loneliness in Rural North Yorkshire: The project and my experience as a Pro Bono volunteer #ProBonoOR #ORblog #ThisisOR

Addressing Loneliness in Rural North Yorkshire
The project and my experience as a Pro Bono volunteer
By Sarah Culkin, UK Department of Health
The problem:
An organisation in the North of England took over a rural visiting service for the elderly and was very keen to ensure that as much benefit as possible could be provided for recipients of the service.  It therefore requested a pro bono study from the UK OR Society to help a project team understand how a strategy for improving the service could be constructed.

The approach
I was assigned to the task by The OR Society and started work by collecting information and evidence through interviews with stakeholders, accompanying the project team on visits to clients, reviewing survey feedback and finance information.  This information was used to produce an initial system diagram. I then facilitated a workshop with key stakeholders to present, discuss, amend and build on the system diagram (see figure 1).


Figure 1. Part of the System Diagram

The system diagram allowed a birds-eye view of the service, helping to see how people flow through the service and how it interacts with other neighbouring services and stakeholder groups.
Back at the office I reviewed the map and conducted thematic analysis on all of the interview notes and other textual information.  This analysis allowed clarification and quantification of major themes and topics occurring in the information and led to a list of clear recommendations. For example, it showed that volunteers were not being used to good effect, instead visits were mostly performed by the three staff members, and links and communications with other organisations were also underdeveloped, leading to a confusion and sometimes duplication of work.  By refocussing the work of the permanent members of staff to these areas, meant that the service could grow and also be more targeted and efficient. 

These recommendations were assembled into a strategy map, showing how they link together and lead from inputs to desired outcomes.  From this a balanced scorecard of measures can monitor progress and outcomes of the service to ensure maximum benefit (see figure 2).



Figure 2. Strategy mapping of recommendations

My experience as a volunteer
I was made to feel very welcome by rural visiting team, right from the beginning. There could have been some suspicion about my role, as the review had been arranged through the chair of the umbrella organisation that the service sat under. The service had only recently been taken over by that organisation, and was based remotely, so it was seen as a good opportunity.

The service team in Ripon was small, but they were very dedicated to their elderly clients, this was easily seen as I accompanied them on home visits. In my role it was important that I ingratiated  myself, made the team feel at ease, and explained clearly what I was and wasn't there to do.  At the same time it was important to remain impartial and analytical, and be prepared to deliver recommendations that may rock the status quo.  This balance was something I also felt quite keenly when writing up the final conclusions and recommendations in my report.

The experience was so rich, like nothing I have experienced in my day job at the Department of Health.  For example, at the end of the stakeholder workshop where we reviewed and refined the system map, the service team leader hugged me because she was so pleased with the results - definitely not something that has happened in a civil service meeting before!

Because I was getting experience of a sector directly related to the work of the Department of Health, I was fortunate to be able to do this project as part of my CPD hours. As a result I have brought back so much that informs my day-to-day work, my understanding of the realities of care and the challenges the front-line face. In many ways it has been far more valuable than a training course, and without the cost. And the thought that I may have influenced decisions about this valuable service for the better is incredibly rewarding.

The benefits of the study
·         As a result of the analysis the client, project team and analyst all gained a thorough understanding of the service and the wider system it is part of ;
·         A Strategy map for reducing loneliness was identified and evidenced. This would be used in future, for example, to track numbers of volunteers used, how they contribute to the numbers of visits made, and how well the service works in partnership with neighbouring  organisations;
·         The client  was ‘taken on the journey’, so now understands where strategies come from;
·         The work produced a solid foundation from which to re-model the service and apply for associated funding.
At the end of the study the client said: “I’m really pleased with the report and it will be very useful indeed for forward planning and to support our Big Lottery bid

    


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Improving employability through skilled volunteering #ORblog

'Skilled volunteering is essentially lending your expertise to benefit a charity. Skilled volunteering has a huge positive impact for charities and boosts volunteers’ professional experience, improves employability and extends your professional network. In a survey that LinkedIn carried out with professionals, 40% stated that when they are evaluating candidates, they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience.'

This is an exert from a great article on Yahoo news about skilled volunteering. To read the full article: Everyone has a skill to share, even if they don’t shout about it… why not volunteer? Please click here

Monday, 18 May 2015

Skilled volunteer analysts required for several projects across the UK #ProBonoOR #ORblog

Pro Bono O.R. is currently recruiting volunteers for several projects.  Please take a look and read the project scopes to see if you would be able to help.  Please get in touch if you require any further information.

C Change Scotland

Information about the organisation:
Charitable objectives: Support people to live the lives they choose regardless of age or circumstances
Main activities of the organisation: Change Scotland is a supported living organisation that provides individually tailored person centred support to people that want a better life.

Project summary:
Project 1: Evidencing the local economic community benefit and wider economic impact of our practice of local recruitment and use of community resources.
Time commitment: approx. 5 days
LocationGlasgow (Mix of onsite and remote working)

Project 2: Identifying the real cost reductions of transforming individualised services and the economic and social benefits to the individual, community and society.
Time commitment: approx. 5 days
LocationGlasgow or Aberdeen (Mix of onsite and remote working)

Please read the detailed project scope (1)/ detailed project scopel (2) and if you feel you are able to offer your assistance please complete the application form and return to me along with your CV by midday on Monday 1st June.


Please note the following projects have previously been advertised and are due to close this Wednesday.  If you haven’t yet applied but are interested please do get in touch.

Extra Care

Information about the organisation:
Charitable objectives: To provide better lives for older people in high quality affordable homes.
Main activities of the organisation: Care and housing provider.

Project summary:
Project 1: To develop a customer requirements and satisfaction measurement process that can be used to inform what the service provides, to whom and when.
Time commitment: approx. 6-9 days (see project scope for a breakdown)
LocationMix of onsite (Birmingham, B31 2FR) and remote working.

Project 2: To analyse demand for the Fitness Suite service so that opening hours are better matched to customers' needs (with a view to increasing usage and therefore revenues).
Time commitment: approx. 6-9 days (see project scope for a breakdown)
LocationMix of onsite (Birmingham, B31 2FR) and remote working.

Please read the detailed project scope (1)/ detailed project scope (2)/ and if you feel you are able to offer your assistance please complete the application form and return to me along with your CV by midday on Wednesday 20th May.  

Oxfordshire Advocacy
Information about the organisation:
Charitable objectives: To provide a free, confidential and independent advocacy service.
Main activities of the organisation: Advocacy support delivered by trained volunteers and part time staff.
Project summary:
Project: To review how they measure outcomes of advocacy cases and thus their effectiveness, impact and outcomes.
Time commitment: approx. 5 days
Location:  Initial meeting in Oxford, then home based.

Please read the detailed project scope and if you feel you are able to offer your assistance please complete the application form and return to me along with your CV by midday on Wednesday 20th May.

Please specify on your application which project you are applying for.

These projects are suitable for an individual, a pair or a team of analysts.  If you would like to work on the project but cannot commit to the required time please do get in touch as I may be able to pair you with another analyst.  Additionally if you would like to work on a project with the support of a mentor please do specify in your application and I can arrange this.  Lastly, if you are interested in working on a project but cannot meet the deadline specified please do register your interest in the first instance before the deadline.

If you require any further information please do not hesitate to get in touch.

I look forward to hearing from you and once again thank you for your help and support.

Kind regards
Felicity McLeister
O.R. Pro Bono Project Manager
(Mon, Tue & Wed)
Direct Tel +44 (0)121 234 7826, Main Tel +44 (0)121 233 9300

If you are not already a member of The OR Society and are interested in joining please visit https://www.theorsociety.com/ or send an email to carol.smith@theorsociety.com

Additionally you may be interested in becoming a member of our Third Sector Special Interest Group (ORiTS). For more details visit:  https://www.theorsociety.com/Pages/SpecialInterest/ORThirdSector.aspx

Other webpages that may be of interest:

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Free event: O.R. & Oxfam


O.R. & Oxfam: Optimising donation bank collections using remote monitoring sensors

(The OR Society: Joint Third Sector SIG, SORG and CORMSIS Event)

Date/time:         Thursday 11 June 2015
Registration from 15.30 with refreshments
Talk 16.00-17.30
Location:           University of Southampton, Highfield Campus
Building 2, Room 3043
Please use this link for directions:
Cost:                 FREE

The major charities can spend around 20% of their income on logistics, collecting new donations from donation banks and recycling unsellable textiles via various outlets. This talk will describe the key learning outcomes from a project undertaken with Oxfam which installed remote monitoring sensors into a subset of their textile donation banks and using the fill levels reported daily, derived collection strategies using tabu search methods. These were based on a set of rules to only allow banks to become eligible for servicing once they had reached a specific fill level. The problem was made more complex by the need for the collection vans to also visit Oxfam shops on a fixed schedule basis to remove unsold textiles. Following live and simulated trials, the results suggested that time and distance savings of up to 30% over the current fixed schedules could be achieved when a minimum bank and shop fill level of between 50% and 60% was used as a collection trigger. Some of the outcomes from the project are now being developed commercially in the form of an app, to allow the area managers, shop managers and drivers to communicate and manage collection scheduling in a more dynamic way.

To book your place please visit: Eventbrite: O.R. & Oxfam
For further information please contact:   felicity.mcleister@theorsociety.com            


Note: Please note parking is limited so you are advised to travel by public transport (there are excellent bus links to the university from both train stations).  If you do require parking please contact me ASAP.            

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

O.R. & Oxfam: Optimising donation bank collections using remote monitoring sensors #ORblog

A great example of how Operational Research is applied:


Cherrett, T.J., Shingleton, Duncan and Norton, Ben et al. (2014) Developing a smartphone app to enhance Oxfam's supply chain visibility. International Journal of Logistics: Research and Applications

This paper reports on the development of a smartphone app designed to give drivers and managers in a charity organisation greater visibility of transport, donation bank and shop stock in time and space. Trials of the app with samples of drivers and shop managers across three counties in the UK showed that users’ understanding of vehicle activity and how time was utilised in the business was enhanced. The app also informed their decision making, aided some collaboration and helped in their understanding of donation bank and shop performance, with one region altering their collection schedules. The quality of 3G signal was an issue in certain areas which impeded performance and the rules by which the messaging platform should be used in such a tool need careful consideration.


A version of the app is currently being developed and tested by a commercial company working with Oxfam which will run the algorithm described in the paper

To request a copy of the paper please visit: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/370805/ 


Friday, 8 May 2015

Skilled Volunteered analysts required for several projects #ORblog


The Pro Bono O.R. scheme is currently looking for volunteers for three projects.  

Please find details of the new projects below.  

Extra Care

Information about the organisation:
Charitable objectives: To provide better lives for older people in high quality affordable homes.
Main activities of the organisation: Care and housing provider.
Project summary:
Project 1: To develop a customer requirements and satisfaction measurement process that can be used to inform what the service provides, to whom and when.
Time commitment: approx. 6-9 days (see project scope for a breakdown)
LocationMix of onsite (Birmingham, B31 2FR) and remote working.

Project 2: To analyse demand for the Fitness Suite service so that opening hours are better matched to customers' needs (with a view to increasing usage and therefore revenues).
Time commitment: approx. 6-9 days (see project scope for a breakdown)
LocationMix of onsite (Birmingham, B31 2FR) and remote working.

Please read the detailed project proposal (1)/ detailed project proposal (2)/ and if you feel you are able to offer your assistance please complete the application form and return to me along with your CV by midday on Wednesday 20th May.

Oxfordshire Advocacy
Information about the organisation:
Charitable objectives: To provide a free, confidential and independent advocacy service.
Main activities of the organisation: Advocacy support delivered by trained volunteers and part time staff.
Project summary:
Project: To review how they measure outcomes of advocacy cases and thus their effectiveness, impact and outcomes.
Time commitment: approx. 5 days
Location:  Initial meeting in Oxford, then home based.

Please read the detailed project proposal and if you feel you are able to offer your assistance please complete the application form and return to me along with your CV by midday on Wednesday 20th May.

Please specify on your application which project you are applying for.

These projects are suitable for an individual, a pair or a team of analysts.  If you would like to work on the project but cannot commit to the required time please do get in touch as I may be able to pair you with another analyst.  Additionally if you would like to work on a project with the support of a mentor please do specify in your application and I can arrange this.  Lastly, if you are interested in working on a project but cannot meet the deadline specified please do register your interest in the first instance before the deadline.
I
f you require any further information please do not hesitate to get in touch.

I look forward to hearing from you and once again thank you for your help and support.

Kind regards

Felicity McLeister
O.R. Pro Bono Project Manager
(Mon, Tue & Wed)
Direct Tel +44 (0)121 234 7826, Main Tel +44 (0)121 233 9300

If you are not already a member of The OR Society and are interested in joining please visit https://www.theorsociety.com/ or send an email to carol.smith@theorsociety.com

Additionally you may be interested in becoming a member of our Third Sector Special Interest Group (ORiTS). For more details visit:  https://www.theorsociety.com/Pages/SpecialInterest/ORThirdSector.aspx

Other webpages that may be of interest:

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Third Sector event: Services to Young People (write up & presentations)

Author: Jeff Jones

O.R. SOCIETY “THIRD SECTOR” SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP

SERVICES TO YOUNG PEOPLE


The “Third sector” Special Interest Group held its Spring Seminar on the 23rd April, at the London School of Economics.

The topic was pro-bono consultancy, carried out by OR Society members, to charities involved in providing support to children. The Seminar was notable for its range of topics: from strategic planning to detailed help to individuals; from poverty models for the whole country, to services in the London Borough of Camden. The Seminar was well attended by both OR analysts and charities, the lecture theatre being completely full; and it was followed by a reception of drinks and snacks in a nearby room which provided a lively networking opportunity.

The first speakers were Malcolm Fenby and Joanna Ziff, who had worked together pro-bono for the Childhood Trust. They started by emphasising the size of the problem of poverty in London. More than 600,000 children in London live in severe poverty, two in five of the UK’s children living in poverty are living in London, and London has the fourth highest rate of child poverty among the world’s richest cities.

The Childhood Trust is an umbrella organisation, that passes on funds to 28 charities ( 2012–13 figures) operating in London. It funds projects in all London boroughs. The project was aimed at providing better data to the Trust, to enable them to target resources on those projects that have the greatest positive impact on alleviating child poverty in London. The project team proposed the development of an Impact Report incorporating infographics to illustrate key statistics. It was proposed that where data availability was sufficient, appropriate charts and graphs would also be included in the report.

Following consultation with The Childhood Trust staff, the project team designed a questionnaire to send out to all 24 recipients of funding via the 2013-14 Big Give. The questionnaire was designed in Survey Monkey and sent out from The Childhood Trust to maximise the response rate. The questionnaire response rate was a good 58%.
From this the suggested desired outcomes were:

  • Partner charities to think in terms of measurement (indicators) when thinking about Impact.
  • The standard of Impact measurement (conducted by partner charities) to be raised to that of the best (of the existing measurement).
  • A standard set of Impact Measurement tools (measures and methods) are identified that can be used by many charity partners (possibly grouped by activity).

The Trustees were invited to endorse these outcomes.

  
 
The next speaker was Rose Drummond, working for Elfrida Rathbone Camden (ERC), a charity supporting young disabled people living in the London Borough of Camden, their carers and families in need. It is a small charity involved in a diverse range of projects:
  • Advocacy – for families of young carers
  • Life skills courses - for young disabled people to bridge the gap from adolescence to adulthood
  • Support and advice – for families with a range of problems. Debt and welfare advice, family relationships, parenting, children’s emotional problems, education.

There is a diverse range of funders for different projects, and each project had its own monitoring and evaluation framework.
This project’s aim was to develop a measurement framework at top organisational level that would bring together the diverse range of projects. From their detailed background research, Rose’s team realised it was unclear what outcomes to measure - the projects were too diverse to simply combine existing outcome frameworks. So they chose the Charities Evaluation Service template to structure the framework – a flexible step-by-step guide to defining outcomes, indicators, collection methods and frequency.

The main method to find an agreed value system was a facilitated 3 hour workshop to agree key outcomes, involving 12 people representing ERC charity exec/trustees, service users and staff/volunteers. This was a key success of the project – a unique opportunity to hear from all these groups and get buy-in, agreement and joint ownership.
The workshop agreed that the main priorities were:
      Improved mental health
Increased opportunity to access employment, volunteering, training
Increased access to support and social networks
Reduced risks, and
Cultural shift - the community benefiting from the contribution of disabled people.

This enabled Rose’s team to design an indicator framework which was usable by all projects.

The next speaker was Sue Merchant, an ex-president of the OR society. She had been working for AYME, the Association of Young people with ME. This is a charity which supports young people (up to 26 yrs) who have Myalgic Encephalopathy (Chronic fatigue syndrome).
AYME. The charity:-
  • ·         Provides telephone and on-line support to sufferers/families
  • ·         Provides help booklets on the condition
  • ·         Produces a newsletter
  • ·         Raises awareness of the condition nationally
  • ·         Helps educate professionals on the condition, and
  • ·         Employs sufferers as volunteers.


The task was to facilitate a half day workshop of trustees and CEO to help produce a new strategic plan. The problems were that there would be limited time with the client, the workshop date was perilously close, the knowledge level of trustees was variable, and the AGM immediately preceded the workshop, so a full half day was unlikely.

After an initial investigation, Sue sorted all the ideas for improvement (so far collected) into groups and typed up under these headings for circulation at the workshop:

  • ·         Increase staff/volunteer capacity
  • ·         Enhance member services
  • ·         Improve awareness of ME and AYME
  • ·         Increase number of members
  • ·         Increase income
  • ·         Improve communication internally.


The workshop was divided into two groups- each discussing half of the ideas, seeing if there was anything to add,  and 
  • annotate with symbols: smiley faces, £ and clouds 
  • sort ideas into symbol charts and present back to the other group 
  • prioritise actions – green dots on each of the charts
  • agree action plan for next steps
  • Trustees to look later at budget and resources to adjust list.


The client found this analysis very useful, and subsequently used it to devise their new strategy.

The final speaker was Dave Buxton, the founder of dseConsulting.  Dave explained that he encourages his staff to spend 2 weeks a year doing pro-bono work in the charity sector, to broaden their experience. He talked about his recent work for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, looking at the causes of poverty. J

RF had previously tried to model poverty using system dynamics, which is a high level method dealing with aggregate data on the numbers in poverty, and the flows in and out, and the causality. This proved not to be very successful, and so a more detailed and bottom-up approach was required.

Dave introduced the technique in which he specialises, which is Agent Based Modelling. ABM, in this case, involves detailed models of a range of household types; for each, building in the likely behavioural response to changing external signals. These can then be aggregated up to national level figures, but it is structured as a bottom up approach. The specific question investigated was, given a child (say a 5 year old), what is the chances, given various future changes, that he/she will be in poverty in 20 years’ time?  These complex models can thus be used to investigate the effects of different future trends, and different policies. So far it has shown some unexpected results. For example that school expenditure and housing were not major factors, but that home life and teacher quality were important.

Finally the Chairperson (me) thanked everyone for coming. And in particular the five excellent speakers, and Felicity McLeister – the O.R. Pro Bono Project Manager, for doing all the work while Jeff took the praise. And especially Henrietta Burr, from the LSE management department, for the fantastic support she gave throughout.

The presentations can be found on The OR Society website, in the Document Repository; and a video, including interviews with the speakers, will be put onto YouTube.

Jeff Jones

Note: if you are unable to access the presentations via the Document Repository I have requested the slides be uploads onto the Pro Bono O.R. webpage under 'Latest news' so please look out for them there shortly.