Tim Harford at the Royal Institution
"Good Causes and Bad Statistics"
Pro Bono Economics hosted its flagship lecture...
We piloted an introductory training course for economists with Matrix Knowledge in 2010. The feedback we received was useful in determining the kind of support that economists may need when taking on projects in a new sector.
Knowing that the time of our volunteers is limited, and that a half day training course is not always practical, we are considering better ways to use the content of this training, including looking at online modules, mentoring and other forms of support.
We look to ensure that our volunteers are supported throughout a project, whether through mentoring by an experienced economist, advice from volunteers who have completed a project, or by regular input and advice from our central team. We have a wide and varied network of volunteers offering help, so we encourage economists on a project to ask if they need any further assistance or support.
Some of the questions we are asked by charities come up time and time again. Some of the challenges we hear are shared: a lack of publicly available data, absence of common standards, the impossibility of creating a control group, the list goes on.
Rather than have the same conversation each time, we see part of our role is to address some of these issues by engaging with a range of charities and other stakeholders.
We held a round-table discussions after the publication of our report for Tomorrow’s People which brought together charities in the Welfare to Work sector, along with NPC, Social Finance and representatives from the Office for Civil Society. The aim was to generate discussion around building common metrics for evaluating third sector Welfare to Work activity.
Whilst we did not expect the event to provide clear answers, it was useful in engaging these groups, agreeing and clarifying the need for a good system of social impact measurement that provides rigour, comparability and usability for all involved.
We hope we can continue conversations like these to help the third sector establish standards in impact measurement.
When we have produced a series of projects for charities delivering similar interventions, we plan to synthesise the information and lessons learnt from these reports, as a resource for all the charities in that sub-sector.