2016 has been a challenging year for us all, including for charities in the UK. With economic uncertainty casting a dark shadow over the sector, and concerns of financial sustainabilty coming to the fore, it is reassuring to see how many organisations are continuing to do great work on decreased budgets and the willingness year upon year to talk about impact, value and how to do better for less.

At Pro Bono Economics, it has been due to the sheer hardwork and determination of our volunteers, who make up the backbone of our service, and our generous funders that we have yet again managed to deliver even more high quality analysis projects to some of these great organisations. As we come to the end of 2016, we would like to thank all our volunteers for giving their time and expertise, our partner charities for their dedication, and our funders for supporting us throughout the year.

Two events during the year provided a powerful focus for our work. At our PBE Lecture in February, Tim Harford provided an entertaining insight on a serious topic. “Good Causes and Bad Statistics” highlighted the perils and pitfalls of finding good data to back up charity campaigns, a topic which troubled the sector during 2016. In November, our celebration of volunteering brought together our economists and charity CEOs to reflect on their achievements, over 300 assignments with charities since we started work in 2009.

In all, we worked with over 40 charities during the year, covering education, employment, criminal justice, health and mental health. The sheer range and professionalism of this work is compelling, and all the more impressive that this work is done by volunteers, often in their own time. We continue to highlight our skilled volunteering programme as an exemplar, building on Andy Haldane’s fascinating broadcast on Radio 4 documenting the economic and social value of volunteering.

Key report launches:

Our report for British Science Association was launched at the House of Lords with Lord Willetts. Volunteers from the Treasury, Cabinet Office and DEFRA looked at the impact of BSA’s Silver CREST Award on GCSE results. They found that students’ grades improved and they were more likely to take a STEM subject to A-Level. Since then, BSA has received funding from the Education Endowment Foundation for further research on this programme.

Our report for Prisoners Education Trust by volunteers from Ofcom was released in tandem with the Queen’s speech on prison reform. It showed that PET’s funding of long-distance learning programmes for prisoners reduced re-offending rates and the benefits to society vastly outweigh the costs.

Our report for Tomorrow's People by Bank of England volunteers demonstrated the benefit of the charity’s employability programmes for disadvantaged young people. The report foreword was written by Mark Carney and was launched at Number 10 Downing Street.  

Our second report for St Giles Trust looked at “Choices”, an early intervention programme for young people susceptible to criminal behaviour to improve their employability and resilience. The report builds on the success of our 2010 report for St Giles, which helped them to secure the world’s first social impact bond.

This was also a year of organisational change. We said goodbye to our Director Sue Holloway who did so much to establish PBE’s successful operating model. Sue is now leading Project Oracle. Julia Grant is now leading PBE, working alongside Lord Gus O’Donnell who has joined the PBE Board as chairman.

We also welcome Gemma Bruton, our new Director of Services, to the Executive Team.

On behalf of PBE, thank you again for your commitment and support. We wish you all the best for 2017.

New opportunities at PBE

Pro Bono Economics is at an important and exciting stage in its development and is looking for suitable candidates to join a panel of Economic Associates to work with us on a consultancy basis.

Read more about opportunities here.

19th December 2016