Working with Pro Bono Economics: Sinem Cakir

Sinem Cakir was the Chief Executive of MAC-UK at the time of the Pro Bono Economics report. MAC-UK is a London-based charity working to radically transform excluded young people’s access to mental health services.

Can you tell us a bit more about MAC-UK – it’s story, vision and goals?

MAC-UK was founded in 2008 by clinical psychologist, Dr. Charlie Howard. When working at an NHS mental health clinic, Dr. Howard noticed that none of the youth offenders referred to the clinic were turning up for their appointments. Knowing that one in three people who commit an offence have an unmet mental health need at the time, she thought, there must be a better way to deliver mental health services to excluded young people to tackle the complex problem of youth offending.

To find out, Dr. Howard stepped out of the clinic and on to the street, building a relationship with a young man who had found himself involved in gang-related activity. Together, they founded MAC-UK’s first ever project, ‘Music and Change’, using a youth-led approach to make mental health support more accessible to excluded young people and, in turn, help improve their well-being, increase their social integration, and reduce their risk of offending.

Where does Pro Bono Economics fit in to MAC-UK’s Journey? 

Music & Change operated in Camden between 2008 and 2015. We could see the benefits which projects were having on the excluded youth and intuitively felt that such projects could be justified economically – that the value of our outcomes outweighed the running costs. But we lacked the robust analysis to communicate that value effectively, and to fight back when a commissioner suggested our services were “very expensive”.

Pro Bono Economics helped us to develop a better understanding of how data could be harnessed to communicate the economic impact of our programmes.

How was Pro Bono Economics work of value to you?

The benefits of Pro Bono Economics’ work were threefold:

  1. Invaluable insights: The report itself helped us to communicate with funders, commissioners, stakeholders and prospective partners of all kinds. For example, the report revealed that the average cost of a contact hour for a young person at Music & Change was no more expensive than the cost of an outpatient appointment at a Mental Health Trust (in fact it could be cheaper!)
  2. Improved understanding: Their work helped us better understand how we could and should be collecting and using data to tell a powerful economic story. What valuable data were we already collecting, and what were we still missing?
  3. Confidence boost: It allowed us to step back from individual cases and the difficulties of the day-to-day and opened our eyes to the broader value of our work at an organisational level.

Would you recommend Pro Bono Economics to another charity – if so what would you say?

I already have recommended Pro Bono Economics to others.

When I do, I tell them: “Even if, like us, you are somewhat uncertain about the value and sophistication of your data, Pro Bono Economics will probably be able to do something with the tools you already have.

They will be supportive, honest and clear (in terms of what they can and can’t do) and hold your hand every step of the way."


To read our report with MAC-UK, click here.