Showing posts from 2014

Helping the Hungry by Improving Processes

Helping the Hungry by Improving Processes (Press release)
The O.R. (Operational Research) Society runs a Pro Bono O.R. scheme which provides third sector organisations in the UK access to free O.R. consultancy that can help increase efficiency and effectiveness.  In April 2013 Welcome Centre food bank received support to help them to prepare for an increased demand on their services.
The rise in the number of people using food banks has increased dramatically in 2014. David McAuley, the chief executive of the Trussell Trust, says that in reality half a million people are struggling to feed their families.   
The Welcome Centre in Huddersfield provides emergency food and toiletries packs, household goods, bedding and clothes to people in crisis.  As proved to be the case in 2014, The Welcome Centre was expecting a big increase in demand and needed to know how the operation could be improved both in the short term and for the future when new IT and accommodation could be found.
The consulta…

Pro Bono O.R. Christmas newsletter

The OR Society: Pro Bono O.R. (December 2014 newsletter - Issue 1) Follow me on twitter  Follow me on LinkedInSend me an email
Thank you! Well what a year 2014 has been for Pro Bono O.R.  Whether you are a volunteer analyst, an organisation who we have supported or a contact who supports or promotes the scheme, I want to say a big thank you from myself and all the staff at The OR Society, without your support we would not be where we are today.
The Beginning Back in 2011 a few members of the society got together and decided to pilot a scheme to offer third sector organisations free consultancy to help to help reduce costs and improve utilisation of limited resources.  On the back of its success in September 2013 The OR Society launched its Pro Bono O.R. scheme.
Where we are now Since Sept 2013 the scheme has completed 9 projects, has 15 active projects and a further 10 which are being scoped.  Below you can see some of the organisations we have worked with and are currently working with. We…

Food bank case study: See how O.R. is helping the hungry by improving processes

The rise in the number of people using food banks has increased dramatically in 2014. David McAuley the chief executive of the Trussell Trust says that in reality half a million people are struggling to feed their families.   

In an article in the Guardian, David McAuley said 'Going to a food bank is a last resort when all else has failed'  See the full article here.

Last year two Pro Bono O.R. volunteers were asked to help the Welcome Centre food bank. The centre was expecting a big increase in demand and needed to know how the operation could be improved both in the short term and for the future.  Following questionnaires and a series of workshops the Chair of trustees said 'with your input we feel we are more equipped to deal with the expansion of the organisation'.

For further details of the case study please see the slide below:

For further case studies please visit: or for futher information please email me at fe…

Using Knowledge Management to increase Third Sector Resilience

Using Knowledge Management to increase Third Sector Resilience: a Third Sector Special Interest Group discussion (The OR Society) by Ruth Kaufman and Nigel Cummings
Whilst there has been much talk about the need for third sector organisations to collaborate, there has been scant coverage of how to manage the shared information and knowledge flows that underpin such partnerships. The Third Sector Special Interest Group (SIG) was therefore delighted to host a joint presentation from Dr Gillian Ragsdell, Senior Lecturer in Knowledge Management at Loughborough University and Moya Hoult, Chief Officer of Charnwood Citizens Advice Bureau, describing a knowledge management application aimed at doing exactly that.
Charnwood Connect is a project spearheaded by Charnwood CAB and funded for two years by the Big Lottery, bringing advice and advocacy services in the area together into collaborative service provision. The aim is to make the best use of resources in the current environment of funding…

IFORS (International Federation of OR Societies) promotes Pro Bono O.R. who are leading the way with skilled O.R. volunteering

The UK O.R. Society are the first to launch such a scheme (Pro Bono O.R.) and as such want to share their experience and good practice to encourage other Societies to set up similar schemes.

This month IFORS have promoted the scheme in their newsletter (page 18): and plan to publish summaries of several volunteer projects in the next few issues to show the benefit of such schemes.  IFORS also have a section on their website as well as on-line resources where further information about Pro Bono O.R. can be found.

The article covers how the scheme works, benefits for the organisations and the volunteers, spreading the word and a summary of a recent project with the Dachshunds Breed Council: Developing a tool to help dog breeders predict genetic risks.

For further information please either contact me directly on or visit the webpage.

Pro Bono O.R. - Recruiting new volunteers

As you may be aware The OR Society launched its O.R. Pro Bono initiative for UK based third sector organisations in September 2013. The society wants more organisations to benefit from operational research and recognises that third sector organisations have an even greater need to be more efficient.
The success of the scheme has outweighed our expectations.  In the first year we completed 7 projects, are currently working on 14 others and have more than 10 that are at the initial scoping stage.  The response from both the organisations and the volunteers has been overwhelmingly positive, the difference Pro Bono O.R. has made to some of the organisations in such a short space of time has been significant.  The volunteers have all provided 100% positive feedback having enjoyed the experience, learnt new skills, gained valuable experience working in another sector and made new connections.
The success of the scheme means we are now recruiting for more volunteers across the UK.  Signing up…

A few good reasons to volunteer

I came across a few articles today that promote volunteering, not only because it can contribute to 'the greater good' but because it can also be good for you!

This first article claims that volunteering can boost physical and mental health - so much so that it recommends that doctors should encourage patients to volunteer.

This second article says 'Research has found that having wide-ranging interests outside of work - particularly volunteering - can help improve your productivity and wellbeing.'- Josephine Fairley
Lastly this article encourages us to take our skills Pro Bono (exactly what our Pro Bono O.R. volunteers are doing)
If you didn't already think volunteering was a great idea then maybe these artic…

Another successful project and positive outcomes all round!

The latest triumph for Pro Bono O.R. is with a small charity that supports families and individuals facing a wide range of trauma or tragedy.

The Charity was two years into planned expansion of its services and were seeking advice on a particular element of it.  The case study slide below gives more detail:

The feedback from the Charity was fantastic.  Here's what the CEO had to say about the volunteer: 
'He was absolutely brilliant. He was able to review complex issues and get straight to the heart of what was going wrong. He was then really flexible and agreed to work with the Chair and myself to resolve our roles and move forward together.'

When asked what difference this work would make to the organisation this was her response: 
'We are taking his advice forward to create a detailed business plan as well as to guide the work of the Board. This is going to make the organisation move forward professionally and will ensure sustainability.'

We are delighted to hear Pro …

Pro Bono O.R.:Reaching new heights

Well what an exciting month November has turned out to be for Pro Bono O.R. I have made some great connections and the scheme has generated the most number of monthly project leads to date.  Really looking forward to seeing the impact O.R. will make to these organisations and hearing the feedback from both the organisations and volunteers. Pro Bono O.R. is all about helping third sector organisations, whether that is by increasing efficiency, helping to reduce costs, plan strategy or demonstrate impact, there is usually a way O.R. can help.   This month Pro Bono O.R. has also gone global with the American OR Society (INFORMS) set to launch their own Pro Bono O.R. scheme in 2015.  One of our own members of the Pro Bono O.R. steering group went over to San Francisco to present a talk about Pro Bono O.R. at the INFORMS conference. This month we have 10 new projects leads from third sector organisations across the country.  Many of these are as a result of cross working with other scheme…

Pro Bono O.R. making an impact

I was thrilled to receive an email yesterday from Mary Dawson, CEO of Springboard, saying what an impact Pro Bono O.R. had made. Springboard is one of the charities Pro Bono O.R. has worked with. Springboard works through skilled tutors, trained volunteers and secondary school peers, to improve literacy in challenged schools and communities. The slide below outlines the work a Pro Bono O.R. volunteer carried out with the charity. Mary got in touch to share their latest impact report (covering 13/14 academic year). In her words 'Thank you again for the support we received through The OR Society which made this work possible.' I am so pleased to see how Pro Bono O.R. is making a difference not only to Springbaord but all the other third sector organisations that Pro Bono O.R. is working with.
To find out more about Pro Bono O.R. please visit our webpage or email

What are the pitfalls and issues for Pro Bono O.R. consultants - and how can we avoid them?

Ruth Kaufman ran a workshop at OR56 (The OR's Society's annual conference) titled -

Doing well at doing good: What makes a Pro Bono project successful
The purpose of the workshop was twofold:

1)  The Third Sector - including charities, social enterprises, mutual and indeed any 
organisations that are not part of the private or state sectors - is Different. And doing 
O.R. as a volunteer rather than as a paid person or student is also Different. But does 

that mean that you need to approach the project differently?

2) This workshop brought together people interested in how to make pro bono projects 
run smoothly, to share experiences on the pitfalls and opportunities of Pro Bono O.R.

These were the outputs:  Identified and prioritised those factors that need to be right if a project is to be successful Identified key issues for pro bono practitioners related to those factors Identified other issues that pro bono practitioners must bear in mind Identified some ‘wish-list’ items that would…

Is O.R. consultancy for the 3rd sector different from OR elsewhere? Ruth Kaufman says yes – and no

The keynote talk from Ruth Kaufman at The OR Society's annual conference (OR56)
What’s so special about the Third Sector? Ruth Kaufman Chair of Third Sector Special Interest Group
Abstract The OR Society’s Third Sector initiative has two main components: a Special Interest Group, and a Pro Bono scheme, matching O.R. volunteers with third sector organisations needing their input. But is there really any difference between doing OR in the third sector and doing it with a government or private sector organisation? Is “it’s for charity” really a good enough reason to work for free? This talk explores these challenges, taking charities as an example of third sector organisations. It considers three areas of inherent difference between charity, private and public organisations – legal form, governance, and resourcing – and other factors such as organisational size, culture, and business environment. It goes on to consider the implications for practising OR in th…

Pro Bono O.R. making a difference

It's so rewarding to get such great feedback from the organisations Pro Bono O.R. works with.

Here is some feedback from two projects we've recently completed:

Fly2help is a small charity supporting families and individuals facing a wide range of trauma or tragedy and encouraging aerospace careers.  The charity was about to embark on an expansion of its services and wanted reassurance about their plans. When talking about their Pro Bono volunteer they said this: 'He was absolutely brilliant. He was able to review complex issues and get straight to the heart of what was going wrong. He was then really flexible and agreed to work with the Chair and myself to resolve our roles and move forward together.'

The Dachshund Breed Council
DBC is a community group that works with breed clubs and breeders to improve dogs’ health and welfare.   The problem they faced was that some Miniature Wirehaired Dachshunds suffer from a form of epilepsy called Lafora Disease.  2 DNA tests ar…

Free event: Using Knowledge Management To Increase Third Sector Resilience

Venue: RNLI Boardroom, 124-126 Webber St, London SE1 0QL 
Speaker: Gillian Ragsdell & Moya Hoult
Date: Monday, 10 November 2014 at 12:30 - 15:00

How can sharing information help build resilience in the voluntary sector? Gillian Ragsdell and Moya Hoult will be discussing their experience of a Big Lottery funded project entitled ‘Charnwood Connect’ to show how knowledge management practices can help to build and sustain meaningful partnerships, and, in turn, lead to increased resilience. Charnwood Connect, launched on 1st October 2013, aimed to encourage voluntary and public sector organisations to work together to achieve more for service users and service providers, building on the success of the well-established advice providers in the Borough. With collaborative working becoming an increasingly important cornerstone of the voluntary sector, it is timely to reflect on the benefits and challenges of Charnwood Connect and to share lessons from the early stages of the project. Gillian R…

Helping AYME (Association of Young People with ME) focus on the future

After hearing about the project Pro Bono O.R. carried out for 'Work for Us' and the very positive feedback, Vanessa (Deputy Chair) at AYME got in touch.  AYME needed to revise its 3-5 year strategy in the light of changing circumstances and several new trustees.   Pro Bono O.R. provided an external facilitator who ran a half day strategic planning workshop. The slide below provides a summary of the project.  

In order to receive Pro Bono O.R. support please send an email to
For more information please visit the webpage which has details of how to get involved, all the case studies and latest news.

Join the Social Impact Analysts Association for Talking Data this November

Talking Data is the fourth international annual conference from the Social Impact Analysts Association (SIAA) on the 3rd and 4th November in Toronto, Canada. Join impact analysts from across the globe to discuss questions around how we can ensure that the data we collect is creating the most social impact or value.

Help drive the impact agenda forward across charities, businesses, and governments at this fantastic international opportunity to participate in two days of workshops, dialogue and networking at an international level.Find out more information here:
Why are we Talking Data?
Collecting data is not enough. Data will not speak for itself. Work needs to be done to ensure that measurements deliver the right message. From writing social impact reports for our funders to telling stories to inspire our stakeholders, how we present data has a huge effect on how it is interpreted and then used. This is why at SIAA’s annual conference this year we will be talk…