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Analytical Volunteer Programme

Applications for volunteer analysts are now closed for this round and will reopen again next Autumn.

Applications for organisations are now closed for this year’s programme.

If you would like further information, or would like to be added to our mailing list please contact: analyticalvolunteer@gmail.com.

What is the Analytical Volunteer Programme?

The Analytical Volunteer Programme (AVP) is an annual programme that arranges for government analysts to work in voluntary sector organisations on short term placements.

It provides an excellent opportunity for voluntary sector organisations to benefit from free analytical expertise and for government analysts to develop and build new skills.

Who can volunteer? 

The scheme is open to anyone working in the UK government who is confident they have analytical skills they could apply to help voluntary sector organisations. The scheme is open to all analytical professions as well as those who do not align with a specific profession.

You should discuss the programme with your line manager before applying.

Which organisations can ask for help?

All voluntary sector organisations are welcome to apply for a volunteer analyst.

We work with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) to run the scheme but you do not need to be a member of the NCVO to apply.

How does the scheme work?

Every autumn government analysts apply to volunteer and voluntary organisations ask for help. The programme organisers match analysts to organisations and arrange placements.

Volunteers can specify how much time they are able to contribute, from half a day up to five days. The time doesn’t have to be taken in one chunk – for some projects it may be more practical to provide some initial support for a day or two, then some further help after a few weeks.

For example, if helping with a survey a volunteer might spend two days helping with design and set-up. They would be expected to keep in touch and advise with phone calls while the data is being collected and then, perhaps after two to three months, spend another two days helping to analyse and report on the survey.

What do volunteers get out of it?

Volunteers apply their analytical skills to help voluntary sector organisations to identify, collect and analyse data. The placement may focus on delivering a specific project or it might contribute to an element of a larger project. Volunteers will be given a clear brief.

Working in a voluntary sector organisation provides:

  • a valuable opportunity to develop and demonstrate a wide range of skills
  • an opportunity to carry out influential analysis
  • an experience of a new working environment, including seeing how other organisations operate
  • an opportunity to take on a challenge
  • an opportunity to learn more about how voluntary sector organisations work, the pressures they face and how they use analysis

What do organisations get out of it?

Voluntary sector organisations receive free analytical assistance in a skilled area that they may not normally have access to.

The scheme:

  • enables organisations to use data to measure and improve their impact, target work, apply for grants and streamline activities
  • allows organisations to set up and improve systems and processes
  • gives staff the opportunity to learn new skills so they are able to replicate analysis
  • provides a level of analytical expertise to support a project that the organisations wouldn’t be confident in tackling alone

Do government departments support volunteering?

Most government departments provide a minimum three day volunteering allowance for staff as part of their corporate social responsibility policies.

How to apply 

Applications for organisations are now closed for this year’s programme.

Applications for volunteer analysts are now closed for this round and will reopen again next Autumn.

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

What will happen after I apply?

After the closing date, we will match the applications from voluntary sector organisations with volunteers who have suitable skills, based on the information you provide in your application. Where possible volunteers will be matched with one of their preferences.

We will notify you when you have been matched with an organisation and ask you to confirm you will be taking up the placement.

At this point if you have been matched with a placement that was not listed as one of your preferences and feel the placement assigned is unsuitable we will try to rearrange an alternative match if there are any placements unfilled. Otherwise, when confirmation is received we will put you in touch with the organisation then it is up to you to make further contact, discuss the work, arrange timings and any other logistics. We will contact you again to see how you are getting on and then after the placement to get feedback which may help us to improve the scheme in future years.

If we are unable to match you to a suitable project in the first instance we will let you know. If other placements subsequently become available that are suitable for you we will try to pair you with an organisation.

Where will I be placed?

Some of the placements will require you to work at the location of the organisation, while other placements can be undertaken remotely. This would need to be agreed with the organisation.

What type of work will I be doing?

The aim is that you will provide analytical skills to solve a problem or contribute to a project in a voluntary sector organisation. For more detailed information, please take a look at the case studies. Please note that although the scheme has now widened to include other analysts, in previous years all volunteers were statisticians and the case studies reflect this.

Will I be the only analytical volunteer in the organisation?

Although some projects may require more than one volunteer, it is more likely that you will work on your own with the organisation.

Do all volunteers get placements?

The number of placements will depend on the number of voluntary sector organisations that apply, so we can’t guarantee a placement for everyone. We will only arrange placements where the skills on offer match the support required by the organisation.

Are the placements only in London?

Organisations across the UK are invited to apply and placements could be anywhere in the country. In the past many placements opportunities have come from organisations based in London but we have also had placements on offer outside London, particularly in Wales and the South of England.

How do I get permission for taking the time off work? Can I claim paid leave?

You should discuss the programme with your line manager before applying. Most departments allow employees between three and five days paid leave each year to participate in volunteering activities, as part of their corporate social responsibility policy.

Who pays for travel and subsistence?

In many cases your department may be willing to cover any travel and subsistence costs. However, as this is essentially a voluntary exercise the expectation is that individuals will cover their own costs. The voluntary sector organisations will not be asked to cover any costs. It’s a good idea to discuss this with your line manager before applying.

What happens if I can’t provide the help required or things go wrong?

Initially, any problems should be discussed with the organisation to ensure that you both have the same understanding about the task and what is expected to be delivered. If you don’t feel able to deliver the task as described, discuss this with your contact in the organisation to establish whether you can deliver any alternative work.

In rare instances the scope of the work required by the organisation might unforeseeably change and it’s possible this may result in you not being able to deliver the work required. If this happens or you have a matter that cannot be resolved through discussion with the organisation then please contact the AVP organising team (analyticalvolunteer@gmail.com).

What happens if the placement overruns and exceeds 5 days?

At the beginning of the placement, you should discuss the project aims and deliverables with your paired organisation. If you do not think these cannot be realistically delivered within your agreed time commitment you should raise this with the organisation and discuss what is achievable. If, once the (maximum) five allocated days are over, there is still work outstanding there is no obligation for you to complete the work, although you may choose to do so at your own discretion and in your own time.

What happens if the placement falls through?

In some instances circumstances within organisations change and they may no longer require or be able to take on a volunteer analyst. If this happens let us know and if we have any unfilled placements available that are suitable for you we will try to match you with an alternative organisation.

If it goes well, will I be able to carry on helping the organisation?

This is an annual programme so you and the organisation could both apply next year and request to be matched, if that is what you both want. If you wish to carry on providing voluntary support to the organisation outside this programme, you could discuss with your line manager whether any provision can be made for that, or do so in your own time.

What is the role of the AVP organising team?

The AVP organising team is there to help arrange placements between analytical volunteers and voluntary sector organisations.

What the team do:

  • reach out and contact potential organisations that may be interested in a volunteer
  • establish and confirm a list of placements with organisations
  • feedback the confirmed placements to government analysts
  • match willing analysts to placements based on analyst choice, skill set and experience
  • answer queries and attempt to resolve any issues along the way
  • mediate between the organisation and the volunteer before, during and after the placement as required

What the team don’t do:

  • quality assure the work of volunteers
  • guarantee any outcomes
  • hold responsibility for the work of the volunteer
  • provide resource for the placement

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

Do I need to have some analytical knowledge to get help?

No, you do not need analytical knowledge but you do need a clear idea of the kind of help you need and why you feel an analyst is likely to have the right skills to help.

What sorts of things might a government analyst do or help us with?

There are a range of possibilities. You might have information from your day to day work that needs analysing, require advice on carrying out or analysing a survey, need help searching for data about a particular topic or want to assess the value for money of a project.

There is a possibility that the original project may change in direction or evolve over time. This can be the result of many factors such as resources, new information and/or the advice from the volunteer etc. but must be agreed by both the volunteer and the organisation.

More detailed examples are given in the case studies. Please note that although the scheme has now widened to include other analysts, in previous years all volunteers were statisticians and the case studies reflect this.

Will I have to pay anything?

No, the scheme is free of charge to voluntary sector organisations. The analyst will be paid by their employer and will be doing this as part of the time they are allowed for voluntary activities.

Will I have to provide some resource?

You will need someone from your organisation to spend time explaining what you would like the volunteer analyst to do, giving them some background about the task and the organisation and being available for queries etc.

Some projects can be completed by the analyst remotely, but if not it will be useful if the volunteer can have a desk to work at and access to your IT system, although it may be possible to work around this if necessary. You will get most out of the placement if someone is identified to work reasonably closely with the volunteer.

Will expenses be paid?

No, we are unable to offer expenses to voluntary sector organisations but are not expecting any expenses to be incurred. We will match volunteers to suitable locations (if suitable, volunteers may even do some or all of their work remotely) so we are not anticipating significant additional travelling expenses. If there are, these will need to be agreed between you and the analyst – in some cases the analyst’s employer may be able to cover them

Will the volunteer analyst understand what my organisation does and how we have to manage on a tight budget?

The volunteer will be given some initial briefing about the sector which will address some of these questions. Part of the aim of the scheme is for the analysts to find out more about the sector first-hand and for you to learn more about how they work in their government department. You may both be surprised by the similarities as well as the differences. The sorts of people who volunteer for the scheme will often have an interest in the sector but will have different levels of knowledge and experience; some may already be involved in the sector while others may not be.

Could the analyst help us understand how we can influence government policy?

No. The volunteer is there to provide the benefit of their analytical expertise and will not be able to advise how to influence government policy.

If the government volunteer will be looking at our data, do we need a confidentiality agreement?

If the volunteer has access only to aggregate data (so individual clients are not identifiable) you do not need them to sign a confidentiality agreement, although you could request it if you wish.

If they will have access to identifiable data, then it is good practice to ask them to sign a confidentiality agreement. They would not, of course, pass on any information they had access to but it may help to allay any fears that your clients, volunteers or staff might have (for example, if the volunteer analyst came from the Department of Work and Pensions and was working with a charity helping people who have been sanctioned by job centres.)

If necessary, we can provide a standard confidentiality agreement for you to use.

How do I know that I will get someone with the right skills or knowledge?

The AVP team running the scheme will match up the applications from volunteer analysts and voluntary sector organisations so that you get someone as close as possible to what you have asked for. That’s why it’s important to give some thought to what analytical support would be most helpful to you before completing the application form and when completing it, to clearly explain what you need and the analytical skills you require (if you know).

Will every organisation get a volunteer?

We will only arrange placements where there is a reasonable match between the skills on offer and the requirements of the organisation. The number of placements will depend on the number of analysts who volunteer, so we may not be able to help every organisation that applies.

What will happen after I apply?

We will match the applications from voluntary sector organisations with volunteers who have suitable skills, based on the information you provide in your application. Both parties will be notified who they have been matched with, or if a match has not been possible. Contact details will be provided, it is then up to you to make contact with your matched volunteer to discuss the work, arrange timings and any other logistics.

What happens if we are not getting the help we expected or things go wrong?

Initially, any problems should be discussed with the volunteer to ensure that you both have the same understanding about the task and what is expected to be delivered. If the volunteer doesn’t feel able to deliver the task as described, discuss this with them to establish what they are able to do for you. If the matter cannot be resolved then please contact the AVP organising team (analyticalvolunteer@gmail.com).

Will the volunteer’s work be quality assured?

No, we are unable to provide any quality assurance of the work completed as part of the scheme.

It is also important to note that all work carried out is the volunteer’s own work and it is not appropriate for any of the outputs from this programme to be badged as a government product or government endorsed.

What happens if the placement overruns and exceeds 5 days?

At the beginning of the placement, you should outline your aims and deliverables for the project with your paired volunteer and discuss whether these can be realistically delivered within their time commitment. If, once the (maximum) five allocated days are over, there is still work outstanding there is no obligation for the volunteer analyst to complete this work, although some may agree to do so at their discretion and outside their work time.

What happens at the end of the placement?

You and the analyst will both be asked for feedback on the placement, what went well and not so well and what was achieved as a result. This will allow us to evaluate the scheme as a whole to help us improve it for future years.

If it goes well, will we be able to carry on getting volunteer help from the analyst?

We hope this will continue as an annual programme so you and the volunteer could both apply next year and request to be matched, if that is what you both want. Sometimes with these sorts of schemes, if a bond has been established, the volunteer continues working with the organisation but in other cases there will be no further contact.

What is the role of the AVP organising team?

The AVP organising team is there to help arrange placements between analytical volunteers and voluntary sector organisations.

What the team do:

  • reach out and contact potential organisations that may be interested in a volunteer
  • establish and confirm a list of placements with organisations
  • feedback the confirmed placements to government analysts
  • match willing analysts to placements based on analyst choice, skill set and experience
  • answer queries and attempt to resolve any issues along the way
  • mediate between the organisation and the volunteer before, during and after the placement as required

What the team don’t do:

  • quality assure the work of volunteers
  • guarantee any outcomes
  • hold responsibility for the work of the volunteer
  • provide resource for the placement

Case studies

Esther Sutherland, a social research fast streamer at the Office for National Statistics, volunteered with Confluence – a partnership delivering an arts-regeneration project in Haverfordwest. Here’s what she said about the placement:

How long did you spend on the placement?

The work was spread over several months

What did you deliver?

Myself and a colleague in Newport designed a survey to evaluate an arts programme the organisation had been running for several years. The organisation ran the survey for several weeks and we returned to analyse the results and write a report with the findings. One of the main reasons the organisation asked for the evaluation was to use it as evidence for future funding.

What did you gain from the experience?

I gained some really key transferable skills from the programme. Firstly, I learnt how to listen to the customer and apply my social research knowledge to deliver something methodologically robust which meets their requirements.

Would you recommend the scheme?

Yes. The programme gave me fundamental experience in leading on a research project, taking initiative and delivering at pace. If you’re interested in gaining these skills to progress your career or to use them in your day to day job I’d highly recommend applying to volunteer.

Cameron Levvy, an economic adviser in the Department for Transport, volunteered with Hestia – a charity based in London that provides support for people experiencing domestic abuse, modern slavery and mental health needs. Here’s what Cameron said about the placement:

How long did you spend on the placement?

About two months, spread evenly, a couple of hours a week.

What did you deliver?

Hestia produce quarterly reports, based on survey data where they ask people they’ve supported what they thought of their services. The tool I developed took this input data and automatically produced a series of visualisations for the reports, which beforehand had to be created manually every time. This also reduced the scope for errors, as the data didn’t have to be re-inputted every time a report was created. The visualisations now also update every time data is input, and can give results on a ‘rolling year’ basis. This helped the team create the reports far more quickly.

What did you gain from the experience?

Excel skills, engaging with external stakeholders, thinking creatively about difficult data problems.

Would you recommend the scheme?

Yes.

Chris McKee, a statistician at the Department of Transport volunteered with Guide Dogs – a charity who work towards giving people who are blind or partially sighted the same freedom of movement as everyone else. Here’s what Chris said about his placement:

How long did you spend on the placement?

The work was spread out over a period of time, so rather than have to commit several days in one go, we were lucky that the charity were very flexible and allowed us to fit it round our day jobs at times that were convenient for us.

What did you deliver?

Two of us were paired with the charity, and were asked to design a survey, and subsequently clean and analyse the data, to establish how much time volunteers give to the charity, and what kinds of roles they do. The end product will be a factsheet containing key figures from the survey, and a short report highlighting how we arrived at the final figures.

What did you gain from the experience?

I’ve gained a much better understanding of how the charity sector works, a feel for what consultancy work might be like (i.e. being pulled onto a project and having to learn the area quickly), and a much better understanding of the world of guide dogs and visually impaired people! The placement has been very rewarding as a result.

Rachel McIlroy, a Senior Analytical Manager in NHS England, volunteered with the Bath based Trauma Recovery Centre (TRC) – an organisation with a purpose of bringing positive, hopeful and strategic intervention to families who are struggling having experienced trauma. Here’s what Rachel said about the placement:

What did you deliver?

I spent a day and a half scoping and reviewing the needs of Bath Trauma Centre, followed by 3 and a half days of data support and analysis. TRC needed help to summarise their client / activity data for their annual report and load data captured in a number of ways into their online database solution. I also gave them guidance on how they could do further analysis on some of the clinical measurements they record, so they can evidence their effectiveness in supporting children who have experienced trauma.

What did you gain from the experience?

It was really interesting to work with a completely different area of information. Professionally, it’s been useful to help hone my skills in understanding what a customer wants in terms of analysis as they don’t always know themselves. Personally it’s a fantastic charity doing really valuable and effective work and I’ve been privileged to be involved.

Would you recommend the scheme?

Absolutely.

Madeleine May, a statistical officer at the Department for Culture Media and Sport, volunteered for a five day placement with the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI), an organisation that gives small charities the strategic support they need to keep running. Here’s what she said about the placement:

How long did you spend on the placement?

I spent five full days with the FSI and thoroughly enjoyed having one project to focus on – in my normal role I’m often juggling several projects at one time. This allowed me to explore the dataset fully and consider different ways of presenting the analysis. I tried to ensure that the work I had done could be replicated in future years.

What did you deliver?

I was asked to analyse the data from an online survey of the charity’s members assessing their skills gaps and difficulties filling vacancies. I met with the charity a couple of weeks before the placement to understand what was needed. This was a very helpful meeting and I came away feeling that their expectations were reasonable.

What did you gain from the experience?

I found the experience very helpful in developing my project management skills – working on my own meant that I had to manage my own time effectively. Working alongside people without a background in analysis meant that I was able to use dissemination skills in order to explain the work I had done in a way that they could understand. I also had to make decisions, provide advice to the charity on how to present data and ways that they could improve their online survey in the future.

Overall, I felt that the placement allowed me to build on skills that I have learnt in my current role but with a level of independence that I do not usually experience.

Would you recommend the scheme?

Absolutely.

Here’s what the FSI said about Madeleine’s placement:

Madeleine assessed responses from the charity members we work with for our Skills Gap Research. Analysis of the results took place and the first draft of the report was delivered.

Having Madeleine join us was a huge asset to our organisation. As a small charity we do not have the expertise in house to deliver the project without already adding to stretched workloads. Furthermore, without experience in this area it would have meant a huge amount of time would need to be inputted into the research delivery, which Madeleine was able to complete in one week.

We were extremely impressed with the quality of the work produced by Madeleine which will mean the delivery of the most comprehensive piece of research we have launched so far. In addition to this Madeleine has put in place the structure to allow us to replicate the level of assessment for future years.

This has been an extremely valuable experience for us and we hope it is something that may be delivered in future years. Thank you again for the opportunity to take part in this project.

Lisa Eyers, a senior statistical officer at the Ministry of Defence, volunteered for a five day placement with Barnardo’s, a charity that works to transform the lives of vulnerable children and young people. Here’s what she said about the placement:

What did you deliver?

After spending most of the week looking at their administrative data on volunteers, how it was recorded, stored, reported and fed into their Management Board, I produced a report with a number of recommendations and ideas for improvement in all of these areas. This was to be taken forward as part of their volunteering strategy; establishing robust processes for measuring their success.

What did you gain from the experience?

I gained an awful lot from it. It was fascinating to see how such a different organisation can have very similar issues with data and statistics. The task was very challenging but I felt like I could use my knowledge and experience to point them in the right direction and I’m happy with what I achieved. It was a great confidence boost to be valued as an expert, and to see that my skills are transferable. And of course it was fantastic to be helping such a worthy cause.

Would you recommend the scheme?

Absolutely. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Here’s what the Barnado’s said about Lisa’s placement:

The expertise that Lisa brought to Barnardo’s was exactly what we were looking for. The report she produced for us is forming the basis of a significant piece of on-going work. Without her external view and significant experience it’s unlikely that we would have got the traction that this piece of work needed.

Robert Drake, a statistician at the Department for Education, volunteered at Healthwatch Central West London, a charity that aims to engage, provide evidence and influence the planning and delivery of publicly-funded health and social care services in Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster. It also provides information to help people access and make choices about their health and well-being services. Here’s what he said about the placement:

How long did you spend on the placement?

Total of three working days; one day a week for three weeks.

What did you deliver?

I made changes to their patient story database spreadsheet so that data was better validated and consistently recorded in the correct categories. I linked the tables used in their management information to the data itself so that they updated automatically and didn’t need someone to do the calculations manually. I designed a new report layout for the patient stories database, which again automatically updated saving about half a day’s work each quarter putting the report together. This was also consolidated into a single side of A4 as they wanted to have something shorter and more user-friendly. I also left as many notes as possible about what I had done and how any of the formulas I used worked.

What did you gain from the experience?

It was really interesting to see the ways in which a non-government organisation used to collect and store information. It made me realise how well the GSS does things and that good practice is not necessarily the norm elsewhere. It was really nice to be so appreciated for doing something which I do day-to-day. Spreadsheets are second nature to me and my colleagues but three days’ work has really (hopefully) made a difference to the way in which Healthwatch works in collecting and disseminating data. I really found the whole thing very rewarding, and it’s nice to meet new people and get out of the civil service and Whitehall bubble. It also ticked a lot of boxes on corporate objectives and was good for feedback towards an end of year review…

Would you recommend the scheme?

Definitely.

Here’s what Healthwatch said about Rob’s placement:

Although three days may seem like a relatively short period, Rob managed to make a significant impact and was a great asset to our organisation.  He provided us with numerous ways to effectively manage our data. For example, at Healthwatch Central West London we use a database to record qualitative patient stories and to produce reports for commissioners. Rob was able to make our database much more user friendly by developing helpful formulae, enabling us to present the data in a clear and accessible ways. He also provided great support to our Quality Manager meaning we can monitor the local NHS patient experience and outcome measures in a more efficient and robust manner.

Adam Evans, a statistician at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, spent three days volunteering with Leonard Cheshire Disability, a charity that supports thousands of people in the UK and around the world with physical and learning disabilities to fulfil their potential and live the lives they choose. Here’s what he said about the placement:

What did you deliver?

An analysis investigating whether planning requirements for disabled or elderly friendly homes is holding back the number of houses being built (the answer appears to be that it doesn’t).

What did you gain from the experience?

An understanding of a different work culture, an insight into how charities perceive Government and our work, working in an environment where you are the only analytical ‘expert’ and a chance to see how government statistics are used by non government organisations.

Would you recommend the scheme?

Definitely.

Here’s what Leonard Cheshire Disability said about Adam’s placement:

The placement was really helpful to our campaign. Adam analysed the impact of having a Lifetime Homes policy on the rates of building new homes across all local authorities, and produced some helpful graphs to illustrate his findings at the end. We intend to use his research in an upcoming report.

Contact

Email: analyticalvolunteer@gmail.com