Volunteer Profiles - Dr. Allan Little

29 November 2016

Dr. Allan Little volunteered with Tavistock Relationships to help them understand the impact of their "Parents As Partners" (PasP) programme. The full report can be accessed here.

Read about his experiences in the interview below.

1. How did you find out about Pro Bono Economics?
Through the Government Economic Service. This was followed by one of the Pro Bono Economics’ team approaching me to ask if I was interested in get involved with a new project with a charity.

2. What motivated you to volunteer with PBE and work pro bono for a charity?
To add value; many charities already evaluate their impact but often struggle to assess these impacts in economic terms. There was also a personal benefit; I wanted to expand my applied knowledge of cost-benefit analysis and other methods, and improve my economic skills to support my work at the Department for Education.

3. What did you hope to achieve while working with Tavistock Relationships, and to what extent did you achieve it?
I want to help Tavistock Relationships understand and articulate the economic impact of their pilot programme. Not only will a cost-benefit analysis help them better understand their economic impact and how to improve it, this report will be a useful communications tool for the charity, particularly when approaching commissioners.

During the project, I felt I achieved many of my aims. The analysis has proven useful to the charity and adds to the body of literature on the impact of interventions on couple relationships. The report was published during Mental Health Awareness Week when the theme was “relationships,” this meant the report for Tavistock Relationships was able to reach a wider audience.

4. What advice would you give to other economists considering volunteering with PBE?
First of all, do it! Sometimes the idea of beginning a project of this size can be daunting, but jumping into it is the best way to get started. Not only will it benefit the charity involved, but it will be a worthwhile and rewarding learning experience.

It is important to note that this does not need to be a solo task, I would recommend drawing on expertise in Government or academia. I collaborated with an economist at the University of Sheffield as well as getting help and direction from the team at Pro Bono Economics.

Make sure you write for your audience, in plain English. Maintain a focus on the impacts that the programme aims to achieve and those that the charity considers most important, even if these are less easy to ‘monetise.'

5. Would you do this kind of work again, and if so, would you do anything differently?
Definitely! The project surpassed my expectations. I’m talking to Pro Bono Economics about supporting on another project soon, with a charity that works in children’s mental health.

One aspect I’d probably pay more attention to, earlier in my next project, is data visualisation. The way we presented the data - towards the end of my last project - really helped the charity grasp the analysis. I’ll try to lift the presentation with some more appealing visual approaches next time.

6. And finally, how did Pro Bono Economics help facilitate the project?
I’m very thankful for their support throughout but particularly at the start and end of the project, facilitating the smooth running of the project but empowering volunteers to set the direction each project should take.

They helped set up meetings with the charity, establish aims and objectives, agree a terms of reference, and promote the added value economists can bring. They were vital when it came to publishing and disseminating the final report, developing the communications strategy and introducing my presentation on my report for Tavistock at the GSR annual conference.

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