Monday, 16 December 2013

The potential of big data in the charity sector


http://www.statslife.org.uk/opinion/1101-the-potential-of-big-data-in-the-charity-sector#.Uq72Vde4MCA.twitter

Great article written by Dan Cory (CEO NPC).

The article highlights how many charities do not have the capability or capacity to make the most of big data to measure their impact.  This is where Pro Bono O.R. could help.  Please do get in touch to discuss how we could help.

Please have a look at the website for more information: http://www.theorsociety.com/Pages/Probono/Probono.aspx

Tweet Chat

Third sector? Want to know how Pro Bono O.R. can help? Just interested to find out more? Join me a 2pm today on twitter for a tweet chat #chator @FMcLeister


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

New Pro Bono O.R. webpage

The new Pro Bono O.R. webpage has now been launched.  To find out how to receive Pro Bono support, become a volunteer or to simply find out more, please visit http://www.theorsociety.com/Pages/Probono/Probono.aspx

Monday, 25 November 2013

What do organisations that have already received Pro Bono O.R. have to say?

Below are a few comments from organisations who've received Pro Bono support:

Crimestoppers: ‘We've benefited hugely from your work and support in all areas of the project, and from an organisational perspective you've enabled us to take a highly professional approach to increasing the efficiency of our charity.’ (Performance Manager)

Participle: ‘I have just started to digest the work you did for us and wanted to say a huge thank you.  This will be so critical to our growth and I am very grateful indeed for your time and expertise.  The team have described you as "a joy to work with”.’ (Principle Partner)

The Cardinal Hume Centre “We valued the opportunity to work collaboratively and without doubt benefited from the analyst’s expertise and commitment to the project.” (Operations Director)

We currently have two projects under-way with the RSPCA and Harrogate & Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service and several other enquiries at various stages.  We have 60 volunteers across the UK who are currently available to work on projects.  This puts us in a great position to offer Pro Bono O.R. across the UK.

For more information please see my blog (http://probonoor.blogspot.co.uk/), twitter (@FMcLeister) or LinkedIn page (Felicity McLeister).

If you are interested in receiving pro bono support, becoming a volunteer or just want to find out more information, please write to felicity.mcleister@theorsociety.com quoting ‘OR in the Third Sector’.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Explaining O.R. to a non O.R. professional

In a nutshell, operational research (O.R.) is the discipline of applying advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions.

By using techniques such as problem structuring methods (sometimes known as 'Soft O.R.') and mathematical modelling to analyse complex situations, operational research gives executives the power to make more effective decisions and build more productive systems based on:
  • More complete data
  • Consideration of all available options
  • Careful predictions of outcomes and estimates of risk
  • The latest decision tools and techniques
Once a good or better way of proceeding has been identified, O.R. people are often central to the implementation of the proposed change.

Organisations may seek a very wide range of operational improvements - for example, greater efficiency, better customer service, higher quality or lower cost. Whatever the business engineering aim, O.R. can offer the flexibility and adaptability to provide objective help.


Most of the problems O.R. tackles are messy and complex, often entailing considerable uncertainty. O.R. can use advanced quantitative methods, modelling, problem structuring, simulation and other analytical techniques to examine assumptions, facilitate an in -depth understanding and decide on practical action.

O.R. Pro Bono is offering free support to Third Sector organisations in the UK.  To find out more please email felicity.mcleister@theorsociety.com

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Pro Bono O.R. Update

I have now been in post for almost 2 months so I thought it would be good to give you an update on how things are going.  I am pleased to say, so far the project it thriving.  We already have one project under way with the RSPCA, another one about to commence with Harrogate & Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service and several other enquiries at various stages.

A big thank you to all the volunteers who have signed up to the volunteer’s database.  We currently have 60 volunteers across the UK who are currently available to work on projects.  This puts us in a great position to offer Pro Bono O.R. across the UK.

The biggest challenge now is continuing to increase the awareness of O.R. to the Third Sector and promoting the Pro Bono O.R. project.

Since getting started I have discovered the power of social media.  Having never tweeted, blogged or been on LinkedIn I wasn't aware what a useful tool social media in the work place was.  As I started my journey of discovery I realised the potential that social media could tap in to.  I have already has 6 potential enquiries from LinkedIn, have been retweeted and followed by various organisations and have had a blog published on Reach’s website (skilled volunteering charity).  I have become a big fan and would recommend it as a great networking/promotional tool.

If you are interested in receiving pro bono support, becoming a volunteer or just want to find out more information, please write to felicity.mcleister@theorsociety.com quoting ‘OR in the Third Sector’.
Twitter: @FMcLeister
LinkedIn:   Felicity McLeister

You may also be interested in our Third Sector Special Interest Group (ORiTS) http://www.theorsociety.com/Pages/SpecialInterest/ORThirdSector.aspx


Thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to hearing from you.  

Monday, 4 November 2013

Third Sector Special Interest Group: Pro Bono experience from both the volunteer providing analytical support and the social enterprise he worked with.

Ian's Pro Bono assignment with Participle got this response from their Principal Partner: 'I have just started to digest the work you did for us and wanted to say a huge thank you.  This will be so critical to our growth and I am very grateful indeed for your time and expertise.  The team have described you as "a joy to work with" so I do hope that we might be able to persuade you to collaborate with us again in the future.' So when Ian talks about success factors for a pro bono project, covering how a pro bono assignment differs from a paid one and sharing some lessons learnt, he knows what he's talking about.

Tips for pro bono OR projects
The Third Sector Special Interest Group met in October to hear about the experiences of a pro bono O.R. project from both the volunteer providing analytical support and the social enterprise he worked with. Ian Seath of Improvement Skills consulting and Amanda Briden of Participle both offered lessons learned from their pro bono O.R. project, providing some useful tips for those offering and receiving pro bono O.R. support.
Three top tips from Ian were:
·         Give the same commitment to pro bono projects as you would to your day job. Ian says: “I believe it’s important not to treat these projects as “free consulting” and something to be fitted into a busy schedule if there’s time.  These are “proper” assignments and need to be managed in the same way you would any other client engagement.  Sticking to deadlines agreed with the client are particularly important, otherwise you might send the signal that you are just “fitting it in” around other projects.”

·         Don’t overload the pro bono work with excessive project management. Ian says: “In my experience, some of the organisations I’ve worked with have been relatively “immature” in their management thinking and therefore a light touch approach to project management is called for.  More informal approaches and regular communication about progress tend to work better than the use of project templates and formality.”

·         Be clear about the nature of the volunteering role. Ian says: “It’s really important to have a discussion early on about the type of role the client expects you to play.  Do they want you as a “pair of hands”, an “expert”, or do they want to work collaboratively and work out joint solutions?  That discussion can help avoid any misunderstandings or mis-matched expectations.”

Ian also reflected that pro bono O.R. brought benefits to the analyst providing support as well as to the organisation being supported: “I really enjoy working with people who both need and want help, and who are very appreciative of the sort of support they wouldn’t normally be able, or prepared, to pay for.  The diversity of the Third Sector also makes it fascinating and offers an incredibly broad range of opportunities to work with interesting people on worthwhile projects.”

Ian’s presentation is now available on the Third Sector SIG pages of the OR Society website.

Three top tips from Amanda were:
·       
         Work with the right volunteer. Amanda asks herself: “Will this person be flexible?  Can they handle changes to the scope of the work and moving deadlines?  Are they willing to travel to meet you?  Do they want to participate in your service to better understand the work that they are helping move forward?  Are they motivated to produce a final product and document the key decisions that were made to reach it?”

·         Provide the right incentives. Before they start, Amanda likes to ask volunteers: “What do you want to get out of the experience?”  She makes an effort to deliver on this in order to ensure that the experience is not only valuable to the organisation, but also to those offering pro bono support.

·         Build in lead time. Amanda says that in the future, she’ll coordinate earlier and more consistently with internal and external stakeholders so that their inputs and feedback can be captured in a timely fashion.  She would like to minimise the amount of time volunteers are put ‘on hold’ waiting for key decisions to be made. 

Note:
Participle is a social enterprise based in London which works with and for the public to create new types of public services that make a real difference in everyday lives - designing, developing and taking to scale innovative solutions to social challenges.
Improvement Skills is a consulting firm which encourages its employees to offer one day a month as pro bono support to third sector organisations.


Read about Ian Seath's experience of Pro Bono support in the Third Sector

http://ianjseath.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/pro-bono-support-in-the-third-sector-a-consultants-perspective/

Case studies

See how Pro Bono OR has helped several Third Sector organisations.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/feow3cmvxskithm/About%20O%20R%20%20and%20Case%20studies%20Mar%202014.ppt


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

How can O.R. help you?

O.R. is about finding ways to apply analytical methods to make better decisions.  Third Sector organisations face extremely complex decisions about the direction they should take and how to allocate scarce resources.  Without the tools to model different scenarios and understand the consequences of them, it isn't surprising that many organisations, tend to rely on gut feelings.
An O.R. practitioner comes armed with an array of analytical tools plus the skills and experience to identify the critical factors and issues, explore the different options and explain the impact of them in real terms.

It won’t make the decisions for you, but it provides some of the head to your organisation’s heart and, when you combine the two, you are more likely to act in the interests of your organisation and its beneficiaries.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Pro Bono O.R. in the Third Sector

What is Operational Research:  In a nutshell, operational research (O.R.) is the discipline of applying appropriate analytical methods to help make better decisions.
I have just taken up the role as OR pro Bono Project Manager at The OR Society.  Having worked in the 3rd sector for 6 years and having never heard the term OR I can really see the need to raise OR’s profile in the 3rd sector.  My first exposure to OR was the OR55 conference in Exeter, what struck me most was how widely OR can be used in any sector and the variety of OR techniques that can be applied.  On the back of this I am extremely pleased to be working for The OR Society and am looking forward to seeing the results of the OR Pro Bono project.
The idea of providing pro bono OR support to the third sector has been discussed among ORS members for a number of years; a pilot scheme run by volunteers has been successfully running since 2011.  In my new role I now aim to build on its current success and establish a sustainable, thriving programme of voluntary OR support to the third sector.
The aim of OR Pro Bono is to:
·         To help third sector organisations to do a better job, impacting upon desired outcomes, and build capacity by using the skills of volunteer OR analysts and consultants both established and student.
·         To promote awareness and understanding of the benefits of OR across the third sector and to wider audiences.
·         To give OR analysts an opportunity to practise in a wider arena and develop their knowledge and skills.
The problems third sector organisations are faced with:

  • ‘We have lots of different options for the future but it’s impossible to decide which to choose in such uncertain times.’
  •  ‘We’re under huge pressure to do more with less, and we don’t know how we’re going to do it.’
  •  ‘It’s hard to stay objective when we’re faced with such emotionally charged decisions.’
  •  ‘We know we’re doing a good job – but how can we prove it?’


We have already helped several third sector organisations and are keen to work with many more.
If you work for a third sector organisation, would like to discuss pro bono support or need more information, please write to felicity.mcleister@theorsociety.com quoting ‘OR in the Third Sector’.

Twitter: @FMcLeister

LinkedIn: Felicity McLeister