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Pro Bono Economics

Imagine you work for a charity. You are passionate, committed, highly skilled in understanding what makes a difference, on the front line, to people. You know your charity delivers services to lots of people, and you believe it does great work.

But you’re not sure that you can demonstrate your positive results, nor identify which of your actions have the greatest impact on people’s lives.

Your problem is this: you need to understand your data better, and get new data too. But no-one in your charity is a data expert, and frankly you don’t have the time to devote to learning how to do it yourself. Nor the money to hire someone.

In fact, if you’re reading this, you probably don’t run a charity. You’re probably an analyst in Government: social researcher, economist, statistician or similar. You love your work; it’s endlessly fascinating, full of challenges, and you can see every day the potential you have to mobilise data to support better decisions. You may also have an ambition to develop your skills and use them as a volunteer to make a difference to people’s lives.

There is an obvious solution to both the charity’s problem and your ambition: bring the two together. Make a match between a charity that wants and needs analysis or advice; and you as the expert who wants to apply your skills in a new environment.

In addition to my day job as Head of the Office for Statistics Regulation, I’ve just joined Pro Bono Economics (PBE) as a trustee. Making the match between a charity that needs analysis, and the expert analyst, is exactly what Pro Bono Economics does.

It’s a fantastic organisation. It connects economists and other skilled professionals with charities for focused projects that make a real difference to those charities and to the people they serve.

It harnesses the power of analysis, using good data, proven tools and expert judgement to help charities be more effective – which in turn drives improved wellbeing for people and communities across the country.

What struck me from my first couple of Board meetings is that Pro Bono Economics’ mission is all about skilled volunteering – using the sort of skills that are found in abundance in the Government analytical community. And it’s not just economists. For so many charities, the need is not only for modelling and impact evaluation skills, but also to understand, organise, structure, clean and better collect their data. Without this data, they can be flying blind.

And these data skills are exactly the skills in our world.

So if you are interested in volunteering to support a charity through Pro Bono Economics, please get in contact with me at ed.humpherson@statistics.gov.uk. I can put you in touch with Pro Bono Economics. Or, if you prefer, you can visit their website directly. And remember, as Civil Servants, we are all entitled to take a minimum of three days paid special leave a year for volunteering. Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary and Head of Civil Service wrote about the benefits of volunteering in a blog back in in 2015.

There’s also an event for potential volunteers in London on the 8 November 2018, to be held at Chicago Booth School of Business. We’ll hear presentations from two Pro Bono Economics charities, following a panel discussion, drinks and networking. More information and registration is available here. Please come along and get to know who we are and what we do.

And in the interests of completeness, I should add that there’s also a Government Analytical Volunteer Programme. I’m not directly involved with it, but it looks like it operates a similar model to Pro Bono Economics.

Volunteering is good for you, allowing you to use and improve your skills in a new environment whilst learning more about the issues facing charities and communities across the UK. If you want a fantastic opportunity to make a difference, volunteer with PBE.

Ed Humpherson
Sarah Tucker
Director General for Regulation at UK Statistics Authority.