Building Bridges is a programme jointly funded by the Big Lottery Fund and European Social Fund, to help people overcome their barriers to employment and education across Swindon and Wiltshire.  The programme is a collaborative effort involving 40 organisations across Swindon/Wiltshire providing a range of different interventions.  These organisations can make cross-referrals as needed to meet client needs, which is particularly beneficial for clients facing multiple, complex challenges and barriers to employment. 

Building Bridges approached Pro Bono Economics for support in developing an appraisal model allowing them to review the benefit-to-cost ratio of the programme.  

PBE matched a team of volunteer economists from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to work with Building Bridges and create a spreadsheet-based model for their use.   The first phase of the work involved working with Building Bridges on developing the various data requirements for measuring outcomes from the programme.  The second phase involved monetising these outcomes, principally by valuing the individual’s income from employment.   The model is a flexible tool for estimating the potential benefits from moving participants into employment.  This relies on several assumptions, including: hours worked and wage rate, duration of employment, and the extent to which employment outcomes can be attributed to the programme.  These assumptions can be tested and improved as the programme evolves, depending on the data collected by Building Bridges (particularly concerning longer-term outcomes for the individuals).   

Although there is some labour force data on propensity for individuals to move in and out of unemployment, this may not properly reflect the starting position of the programme’s participants, and also varies significantly depending on demographic factors (age, education, etc).  As a result, it was not possible to develop a robust counterfactual.  Therefore, the appraisal model presents the monetised estimates of benefits against the costs of the programme to determine the break-even attribution ratio required for the programme to demonstrate a benefit-to-cost ratio greater than one. 

Building Bridges will be delivering services for some time to come, and the model allows them to capture activities and outcomes in future years and update the results accordingly. 

Thanks go to Dorota Denning, Kimon Doulis, Victoria Duley, Peter Gambrill and Jamie Hett for their work on this project. 

21st December 2018