Working with Pro Bono Economics: Rob Owen, St Giles Trust

St Giles Trust is a charity helping people facing severe disadvantage to find jobs, homes and the right support they need.

Your project was actually the first undertaken by Pro Bono Economics in its ten-year history, in 2010 – looking back now, what did that experience give you?

It gave us a credible evaluation of the impact of our work, for the first time. It was ground-breaking, something that had never been done before.

Pro Bono Economics sourced a team from consultancy Frontier Economics to analyse our data, extrapolate the value from it, and then check it over. This was way beyond anything we could have done ourselves as a mid-sized charity.

Did working with Pro Bono Economics help inform how you view your own activities?

One of my main takeaways from the collaboration was that it helped us articulate how we were proving value to society.

To give an analogy. If you buy a cheap bin-liner the chances are that it will split fairly quickly leaving you in a worse position than where you started. You will have to clean up the mess for one, and then most likely buy another good bin liner, which you probably should have bought in the first place.

What I’m getting at is that the unit costs for our services were often slightly higher than some other charities active in the reoffending space. This was deliberate as we knew the first weeks an offender spends outside of prison were – and still are – critical in determining his or her likelihood of reoffending, hence our extensive focus on them.

The Pro Bono Economics report validated this approach; for every pound spent on the “Through the Gates” programme a £10 social return was delivered. This really made us stand out from the crowd and supported our innovative approach to tackling high reoffending rates.

Did the report deliver practical benefits for the charity too?

It delivered a big leap for us in terms of our own visibility and credibility.

We operate in a really tough area when it comes to funding. A lot of our ‘competitors’ if you like have fallen by the wayside. Recognising this we took the necessary steps to diversify our funding stream, a process that was helped considerably by the analysis contained within the Pro Bono Economics report.

And one really massive benefit, was that the analysis help secured our place in the world’s first ever social impact bond, The Peterborough Project.

What would you say if you were to recommend Pro Bono Economics to other charities?

From my perspective, you need to be passionate about what you do. That’s what brought me to the charity world in the first place.

The Pro Bono Economics report helped us utilise the passion of myself and my entire team so that we could be as targeted, well-managed, and ultimately purposeful as possible.


To read our report with St Giles Trust, click here.