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Frequently asked questions - Economists
Why should I volunteer?
There are many reasons for volunteering, and they can be different for each individual. Importantly, you can make a contribution to the work of a charity and help them to do what they do better, and you can learn and develop new skills. Read more about the benefits of volunteering.
What skills do I need?
Most important are the ability to identify an appropriate counterfactual and experience of doing cost-benefit analysis or working on evaluations. We can use volunteers with different levels of skill and experience, and recognise that most will not have knowledge of the area a particular charity works in. Where we can, we will supply guidance on methodology and technical issues, as well as access to subject-specific papers and reports.
To scope a project, we use senior economists with extensive experience of working with data, who can spend a relatively short amount of time with a charity, assessing the data they currently collect and whether it is fit for purpose.
Peer reviewers are senior economists who are independent (i.e. not involved in the initial project or in any way connected to the project economist/team), and can offer their view on the quality of the analysis produced by the volunteers, making specific comments about anything which could be improved.
Economists producing economic analysis will vary more in their levels of skill and experience. If you have only just begun your professional career we would still be happy to consider you as a volunteer working within a team, most likely a team of colleagues.
What do other economists say about volunteering?
Feedback from our volunteer economists can be found here.
How can I volunteer?
Applying is simple with our online application form. But please take time to read more about the process and the commitment before you apply here.
How much time will you need from me?
This is difficult to answer. If you scope a project this should take no more than a couple of days. If we ask you to peer review, this will require reading and commenting on a piece of work and should not take more than a day. If you work on producing a piece of advice or analysis, the amount of input can vary, from a few days to a few weeks, though elapsed time can be a year or more.
We prefer to work with a team from a single organisation for larger projects. This means that, should one economist no longer be able to assist due to a change in circumstances, another volunteer can take their place.
We are aware that your availability will vary, so we ask our volunteers to update us on changing circumstances. If we approach you for a project, the first question will always be ‘are you still available?’.
How else can I get involved, other than volunteering on a project?
If you don't have time to volunteer on a project, there are other ways you can contribute as an economist.
We are building a resource base for economists working on our projects, and are looking for expertise in certain areas or methodologies to help develop some of these resources. If this is something you are interested, register with us and let us know in your application that you are interested in volunteering in this way.
If you work with other economists and your organisation is not currently a partner of ours, please do consider getting in touch with us to make an introduction to the relevant people in your organisation.
Providing the opportunity to volunteer requires the support of a small central team. This requires funding, and the sustainable model for the long-term is for the economics profession to support us. If you believe that Pro Bono Economics is worthwhile, please consider making a donation to us.
If you think that your organisation might be interested in supporting us in some way please do get in touch.
Will I work alone?
If we identify you as a scoper or peer reviewer, both of which involve short pieces of work, you will most likely work individually. If you are producing analysis or advice, you are unlikely to do this alone. If you are in the early years of your career you will always work with a more experienced economist.
Whatever role you undertake, we are here to provide help and support and we will always offer back up when needed.
What help and support can I get?
If you volunteer as an individual, as opposed to working as part of a team from your workplace, we will make sure that, if necessary, we match you with other economists on a project to ensure the work is manageable and that you have the support or assistance you need.
We will try to ensure you have access to materials relevant to the subject you are covering: other reports, related literature, guidance on methodologies, cost data etc. We can link you with data experts, or people with experience of working on projects, who can give advice. Whatever project you are undertaking, we will be on hand to help with any problem.
We are developing training modules, based on a pilot programme we have previously run, to prepare you for various aspects of taking on a project. Once completed, these will be available on our website.