Working with Pro Bono Economics: Will Brett, specialist in community-led national policy campaignsWill Brett

Will Brett has been, among other things, Director of Communications at the New Economics Foundation and Head of Campaigns at the Electoral Reform Society.

Can you tell us a little about the campaigning work you were doing and what you were looking to achieve?

I was and am working closely with Power to Change, the charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses. We are seeking to leverage our influence and networks to win serious policy commitments from Government to help communities take on more ownership and control of their own high streets.

How did you come into contact with Pro Bono Economics?

Power to Change had been heavily engaged with much of Pro Bono Economics’ own community-focused work for a while, and felt that the team there could potentially support our prospective campaign via the provision of some analytical work.

Were you familiar with Pro Bono Economics’ work beforehand?

I’d heard the name before but not massively. But I had introductory conversations with their Director of Public Affairs and Chief Economist. They talked me through how the charity worked, and its traditional way of supporting charities.

Did a formal project then follow-on from your initial conversations?

Not quite. Unfortunately the project pipeline for Pro Bono Economics at that time was completely full, so there just wasn’t the capacity for a ‘normal’ project if you like.

What they did do however was put the call out to their network of 500-odd volunteer economists, explaining what I was after, what expertise would be most beneficial to our campaign, and urging anyone who might be able to help to get in touch.

What was the response like?

Fantastic. I got offers of help from all corners, including some very senior economists from very serious outfits. The follow-up conversations helped me understand the kind of evidence that was out there when it came to understanding UK high streets.

How would you sum up your engagement with Pro Bono Economics?

It was great. Even after it became clear that a more standard project, the kind they normally do for charities, would not be possible they still went out of their way to help connect me with some really impressive and helpful people.

Moreover, I think the value policy campaigns can generally derive from better understanding and utilising the available data and evidence is still underappreciated. This is an area where Pro Bono Economics can definitely help.