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 http://www.theorsociety.com/Pages/Probono/volunteers.aspx, 
or email hope.meadows@theorsociety.com