Friday, 17 July 2020

New to volunteering? Some top tips for successful outcomes (Guest blog from Ruth Kaufman)

Many thanks to Ruth Kaufman OBE, FORS for writing this guest blog.

New to volunteering? Some top tips for successful outcomes

“OR” is one of the most adaptable disciplines imaginable, and its practitioners are among the most flexible, prepared to bring scientific rigour and methods to any question even if it is outside their previous specialism. Given this adventurous approach, it is always a good idea to see if there are any tips from previous explorers.

For Pro Bono OR, there are two types of novelty for many of us: working with charities, and working as volunteers. Neither of these are terribly difficult areas, but they both bring special issues which are worth noting. This post looks at working with charities for the first time, and a second will look at working as a volunteer.

In most ways, working as a consultant to a charity is no different from working as a consultant anywhere, and the same success factors apply. Here are five top tips for charity special features.

1) before you meet the client, do prior research. Make sure you understand the basics of the charity sector (there is a useful summary available as part of the Pro Bono resource set). Armed with that, find out, for your client: what are their charitable objects; who are their beneficiaries; what are their main funding sources; how many staff, volunteers, and trustees do they have. These will all be part of your client’s day-to-day reality, and they’re all things you may not have come across in a non-charity organisation, whether or not it is not-for-profit.

2) identify the stakeholders In particular, find out about how the work is split between paid staff, volunteers and trustees (who are usually also volunteers); and in particular how they manage the interface between staff and trustee board

3) understand clients’ time constraints. Charities – small ones, especially – are run by volunteers to an extent that is unthinkable in other organisations. Trustees, in particular, will have a significant role in decision-making, but will be doing this as a tiny part of their day-to-day life. Only rarely will a trustee have signed up in advance to commit a significant amount of time, at regular well-specified intervals, to the charity. This can also be an issue for paid staff, depending on sources of funding; sometimes there is no money for staff to do anything other than deliver services specified by the funder, so thinking about strategy or change is all done in ‘spare time’ snatched from other activities.

4) build communication and trust A critical issue here can be language. Many charities will have staff who are suspicious of ‘business agendas’ and anxious that commercial considerations may be used as an excuse for driving out the qualitative aspects of their work. This is mainly a matter of being sensitive to the fact that terminology or arguments that sound professional and normal in the business world may bring different connotations to people focused on helping beneficiaries. Of course it is important to say what you mean; just do it in ordinary human language.

5) co-producing with the client It takes two parties to deliver a successful consultancy project. Agreeing terms of reference, project plans and deliverables; adapting these as necessary; managing expectations; keeping commitment through to the end; these crucial success factors rely on both consultant and client . The difference with charities is that the charity is less likely to have experience of such things than other organisations you have worked with. Make allowances! Watch out for risks such as specification changes, project drift, misunderstandings, reprioritisation. Never put these down to incompetence or lack of interest from the client, unless the evidence for that is overwhelming – they are much more likely to be due to inexperience with project management, or the organisation’s vulnerability to external events temporarily blowing it off course. Responding with a suitable mix of empathy, sympathy, and professionalism will make all the difference.

To see some of the projects we've worked on and to find out how to get involved please visit the Pro Bono OR webpage

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

New Project with Blast Fest: Help this charity with their mission to explore science and technology through Black arts and culture














Making and Measuring Change: collecting data that counts

Project:

Blast Fest needs help with strategic planning, deciding how the impact of its festivals should be measured, and investigating data collection..

Project description:
The Blastfest Science Festival was first piloted in Manchester in 2017; by 2019 it had expanded to 4 cities. The Director now wants help with strategic planning for the next 5 years. 
The volunteer will need to work with the Director to plan and then run a half-day facilitation session (presumably online due to the current social distancing restrictions) which should cover strategy, impact and how this could best be measured. 
The Director would like a short report summarising the outputs from the facilitation session together with recommendations for data collection.
The volunteer should have experience of facilitation. Some knowledge of impact measurement would also be helpful.

Time commitment3 - 5 days 

Location: All the work can be done remotely (Blast Fest is based in Birmingham). 

If you feel you are able to offer your assistance please complete the application form and return along with your CV to amy.hughes@theorsociety.com by 26th June 2020.

The OR Society fully supports equal opportunities. As such, we welcome applications from the partially sighted or blind, or those with disabilities.

Information about the organisation: 
BLAST Fest is a new genre of Science Festival where science and technology is explored through Black arts and cultural spaces. Piloted in Manchester Summer 2017, the 3-day event included a BLAST Marquee at the Manchester Caribbean Carnival - providing a weekend of fun, hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) activities for everyone to enjoy. BLAST Fest leverages the cultural assets that already exist within local, diverse communities such as Caribbean Carnivals, and other cultural events. They have designed a method called ‘flipped engagement' where the ideas for science engagement are generated and initiated from within the community. We then ‘reach out’ to the STEM sector to help co-create an exciting programme of activities and events.

For further information about Blast Fest please visit https://www.blastfest.org.uk/

For further information about the Pro Bono OR scheme, please visit: www.theorsociety.com/Probono  or email ProBonoOR@theorsociety.com

Monday, 4 May 2020

New Pro Bono OR project: Help to carry out an organisation review for this women and children's charity









Hamlin Fistula UK 

Organisation Review 

Project:

HFUK are dedicated to restoring the health and dignity of women who have survived the horrendous – and preventable – childbirth injury: obstetric fistula. HFUK need a PBOR volunteer to help carry out a stock-take of its organisation and performance prior to recruiting a new CEO.

Project description:
With the current CEO due to retire in the next year, now is a good time to review HFUK’s organisation and performance. The review would likely focus on a SWOT analysis with a view to identifying options for:
Recruitment profile of new CEO
Opportunities for improvement of marketing and fundraising processes
Targeting current and future donors
HFUK’s primary role is to raise funds for hospitals in Ethiopia and has been successful in this for around 50 years, but largely dependent on major donations made several years ago. The donor base is ageing and this presents a challenge for the future. The organisation is also immature in its use of digital technology and sees this as an improvement area/opportunity.
Project Stages: 

Agree Terms of Reference with Chair & CEO
Information gathering from staff & trustees (e.g. SWOT)
Analysis of donors (donation patterns & demographics)
Identify key issues and opportunities (report/present) 

This project would suit a volunteer with experience of helping senior managers with strategy (options/decision-making/systems thinking).

Time commitment3 - 4 days 

Location: All the work can be done remotely (HFUK is based in Birmingham). 

If you feel you are able to offer your assistance please complete the application form and return along with your CV to amy.hughes@theorsociety.com by 18th May 2020.

The OR Society fully supports equal opportunities. As such, we welcome applications from the partially sighted or blind, or those with disabilities.

Information about the organisation: 
Hamlin Fistula UK is a charity dedicated to the treatment and prevention of childbirth injuries in Ethiopia.  The first Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia in Addis Ababa to help women in need, which has now treated close to 60,000 women. Today the organisation in Ethiopia has expanded and includes five regional hospitals, the Hamlin College of Midwives and Desta Mender, a rehabilitative farm and training centre for long-term patients. All centres are run sustainably in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health.  
HFUK believe in a world without maternal death, birth injuries or obstetric fistula, and support Hamlin Ethiopia to work towards this vision. 

For further information about HFUK please visit https://hamlinfistulauk.org/ or email Chair@hamlinfistulauk.org

For further information about the Pro Bono OR scheme, please visit: www.theorsociety.com/Probono  or email ProBonoOR@theorsociety.com

Friday, 28 February 2020

Porchlight Project 2: Understanding the needs of the vulnerable









Porchlight Project Two

Understanding the needs of the vulnerable 

Project:

Using data mining or AI methods to analyse screening tool data against outcomes data, to assess which factors are mostly likely to affect a negative (or dangerous) outcome

Project description:
Porchlight and its partners offer a wide variety of services to help tackle problems of homelessness, mental health and poverty. At present, each of these services collects different data. 
Porchlight is preparing to roll out a new screening tool, which for the first time will aim to collect consistent data about client need at time of referral regardless of the entry point of the client. 
In time, this information will be collected for around 10-15,000 referrals pa, across 20 or so services. Porchlight staff have strong data analytical skills but little experience with off-the-shelf data mining or machine learning tools. 
They are seeking a volunteer who has such experience, to help establish what tools and methods would be appropriate, and what sort of analyses would help them in designing services to meet the needs of their vulnerable clientele.  

Time commitmentTo be negotiated depending on volunteer availability:
- Initially 1-2 days on site to understand the data being collected by Porchlight currently, and propose suitable tools and analyses
- subsequently 3 or more days spread out at intervals to support Porchlight in implementing the tools and undertaking data analyses. This support could continue longer term,  depending on Porchlight needs and volunteer availability. 

Location: Ideally, most of the time should be on site at their office in Canterbury CT1 2UA

If you feel you are able to offer your assistance please complete the application form and return along with your CV to amy.hughes@theorsociety.com by 23rd March 2020.

The OR Society fully supports equal opportunities. As such, we welcome applications from the partially sighted or blind, or those with disabilities.

Information about the organisation: 
Porchlight is Kent’s largest charity for homeless and vulnerable people. They provide services for people who have nowhere to go and no-one to turn to. Some are living on the streets, others need support to prevent or resolve any issues that could put them at risk of homelessness. Each year, Porchlight support more than 7000 individuals and families.

For further information about Porchlight please visit https://www.porchlight.org.uk/ or email ChrisCoffey@porchlight.org.uk

For further information about the Pro Bono OR scheme, please visit: www.theorsociety.com/Probono  or email ProBonoOR@theorsociety.com

Porchlight Project 1: Valid, reliable, consistent: making reporting effective.










Porchlight Project One

Valid, reliable, consistent: making reporting effective 

Project:

Help ensure that a new data collection tool gives reliable assessment of client need, by devising suitable staff training and support materials

Project description:
Porchlight and its partners offer a wide variety of services to help tackle problems of homelessness, mental health and poverty. At present, each of these services collects different data. 
Porchlight is preparing to roll out a new screening tool, which for the first time will aim to collect consistent data about client need at time of referral regardless of the entry point of the client. However, depending on how they first access Porchlight services, new clients may be assessed by any one of 300 or so staff, working in one of 20 different services. 
Porchlight is looking for a volunteer who has experience of roll-out of similar reporting systems, who can propose, and potentially help design, suitable training and follow-on support materials that will give assurance that the data is consistent, reliable and valid no matter where it was collected or who collected it

Time commitmentTo be negotiated depending on volunteer availability:
- Initially 1-2 days on site to get to grips with the issues facing Porchlight’s data team, and to explore ideas that Porchlight could take forward
- If needed, up to 3 more days to help explore the options in more detail and/or help design the relevant materials days 
- potentially more support depending on Porchlight needs and volunteer availability

Location: It is expected that the initial day will be on site at their office in Canterbury CT1 2UA. Thereafter, the volunteer can work from wherever they prefer.

If you feel you are able to offer your assistance please complete the application form and return along with your CV to amy.hughes@theorsociety.com by 23rd March 2020.

The OR Society fully supports equal opportunities. As such, we welcome applications from the partially sighted or blind, or those with disabilities.

Information about the organisation: 
Porchlight is Kent’s largest charity for homeless and vulnerable people. They provide services for people who have nowhere to go and no-one to turn to. Some are living on the streets, others need support to prevent or resolve any issues that could put them at risk of homelessness. Each year, Porchlight support more than 7000 individuals and families.

For further information about Porchlight please visit https://www.porchlight.org.uk/ or email ChrisCoffey@porchlight.org.uk

For further information about the Pro Bono OR scheme, please visit: www.theorsociety.com/Probono  or email ProBonoOR@theorsociety.com

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

New Pro Bono OR project with More in Common: Operationalizing Impact Measurement












More In Common

Operationalizing More in Common’s Impact Measurement

Project:

Having developed an ambitious metrics framework linked to their efforts to unite divided societies, More in Common is now looking to set up a best-in-class system for measuring and tracking the impact of their work.

Project description:
More in Common need help setting up the right systems/dashboards to keep records of the impact of their work.
The charity are in the process of trying to set up Salesforce to do this. However they are not sure they have the right design and technical implementation skillset to do this in a way that will let us build a robust, but flexible and easy-to-use interface. This will be quite important for a) getting organizational adoption and buy-in from our colleagues and b) adapting to a complex and often changing field of work. 
In terms of skills, we are ideally looking for someone who has database (preferably, but not necessarily, Salesforce) design/building experience. But more generally we need someone who can help us translate our static table of metrics/indicators into a dynamic process that enables us to measure the impact of our work. 

Time commitment: 6 days 

Location: It is expected that half-days at the beginning and end of the project would be spent at the Kings Cross offices, but the work will be done remotely. Access to the database will be given.

If you feel you are able to offer your assistance please complete the application form and return along with your CV to amy.hughes@theorsociety.com by 2nd March 2020.

The OR Society fully supports equal opportunities. As such, we welcome applications from the partially sighted or blind, or those with disabilities.

Information about the organisation: 
More in Common’s mission is to understand the forces driving us apart, to find common ground and help to bring people together to tackle our shared challenges. They draw from groundbreaking research to test and find solutions, working with partners that have the capacity to make a real difference at scale. They help build the larger field of efforts to strengthen democratic societies against the threats of polarization and division.

For further information about More in Common please visit https://www.moreincommon.com/ or email naureen@moreincommon.com

For further information about the Pro Bono OR scheme, please visit: www.theorsociety.com/Probono  or email ProBonoOR@theorsociety.com

New to volunteering? Some top tips for successful outcomes (Guest blog from Ruth Kaufman)

Many thanks to Ruth Kaufman OBE, FORS for writing this guest blog. New to volunteering? Some top tips for successful outcomes “OR” is...