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GSS > Careers > Career Development > Analytical Volunteer Programme (AVP)

Analytical Volunteer Programme (AVP)

The AVP is an exciting initiative that arranges short term placements for government analytical staff in voluntary sector organisations. Last year the scheme was expanded to include volunteers from all four Government analytical professions – statistics, social research, operational research, and economics – and was a great success!

The AVP places one or two analysts in each organisation, with placements lasting from half a day up to five days. All departments provide a minimum 3 day volunteering allowance as part of their corporate social responsibility policies. You could help identify, collect or analyse data, and apply these or other analytical skills to help voluntary sector organisations, for example, by finding the most impactful ways to present data about specific topics or analysing impact.

The placements can focus on delivering specific projects, or contributing to an element of a larger project. Volunteers are given a clear brief to plan and deliver within the time period they are with the organisation.

Volunteer

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 and impactful analysis
  • An experience of a new working environment, including seeing how other organisations operate
  • An opportunity to take on a challenge and learn more about how voluntary sector organisations work, the pressures they face and how they use analysis

The biggest benefit for the organisation is that the resource is free of charge and in a skilled area that a voluntary organisation may not have access to. The scheme also:

  • Enables organisations to use data to measure and improve their impact, target their work, apply for grants and streamline their activities
  • Allows organisations to set up and improve systems and processes. Allows for coaching and teaching of transferring skills so that the organization is able to replicate analysis in the future
  • Provides a level of analytical expertise to help/ support a project that they wouldn’t be confident to tackle on their own.

The scheme is open to anyone working in government in England and Wales who has the analytical skills to help voluntary sector organisations. All voluntary sector organisations are invited to apply – although sadly we can’t guarantee all applications will be filled with an analyst. Though we are working with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) to run the scheme, you do not need to be a member of the NCVO to apply. All third sector organisations are welcome to apply.

How to apply 

Applications are now closed; we expect to offer this opportunity again in autumn 2018.

If you are an analyst interested in volunteering, or work for a third sector organisation that might benefit from the programme in future, please email us to be added to the mailing list.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for analysts and the third sector are available.

Further information

Got a question, suggestion or want to know more?

Email analyticalvolunteer@gmail.com.

You may also like to read some case studies to help give you a better idea of what the scheme involves. In April 2016 a progress review was published, summarising the outcomes and lessons learned from the 2014 and 2015 schemes.

Case Studies

Here we present a selection of case studies to give you more of an insight into the Analytical Volunteer Programme (AVP). We hope you find these interesting and informative.

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

Rachel:

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 to other analytical volunteers?

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, an organisation that gives small charities the strategic support they need to keep running

Here’s what they each said about the placement

Madeleine:

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.

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.

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.

The FSI:

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 they each said about the placement

Lisa:

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 to other GSS volunteers?

Absolutely. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Barnardo’s:

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 Higher Statistical Officer at 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 they each said about the placement

Rob:

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 to other GSS volunteers?

Definitely.

Healthwatch Central West London:

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, an Assistant Statistician at DCLG, 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 they each said about the placement

Adam:

What did you deliver?

An analysis investigating whether planning requirements for disabled / 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 to other GSS volunteers?

Definitely

Leonard Cheshire Disability:

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.