Scottish Government widens analyst matchmaking service to help voluntary organisations harness data

Professor Roger Halliday, Chief Statistician & Data Officer, Scottish Government

A Scottish Government scheme which matchmakes data analysts to voluntary sector organisations has been widened beyond the public sector.

The Analytical Exchange programme, which has been running since 2012, is inviting analysts from all backgrounds to apply their skills in the third sector, focused around data, analysis, statistics and research on very short sharp projects.

Under the programme, analysts work with organisations to help them with research, data analysis, evidence gathering, monitoring and evaluation, data collection and visiualisation.

These can be anywhere between an afternoon to 10 working days. Individuals or small groups of statisticians, economists or researchers then act as analytical consultants to collect and analyse data, solve problems and evaluate impact.

Professor Roger Halliday, Chief Statistician & Data Officer, Scottish Government, said: “Since its inception in 2012, the scheme has supported projects in over 200 organisations and provided a total of around 700 days of support to voluntary sector organisations. I’m delighted to say that this year we’re opening up this scheme up to analysts beyond the public sector – you just need to let me know about your analytical skills to make sure we match you to an appropriate opportunity.”

Aileen McDonald, a Data Assistant Instructor at CodeClan, Scotland’s award-winning digital skills academy, participated in the 2019 programme whilst working for Merkle Aquila and supported a project with The Edinburgh Welcoming Association, which supports migrants and refugees to build positive new lives in Scotland through a number of programmes. 

She worked on their Welcoming Friends programme, which is ‘a one-to-one befriending scheme aimed at vulnerable newcomers to Scotland who face barriers to integration, primarily women with children’. As part of that, she produced an independent evaluation report for the funders of the programme, to evidence uptake and impact.

The report included analysis of their current data sources, and highlighted areas of development based on the programmes aims and objectives. It also included recommendations on data collection, future analysis that could be done once more data is collected, as well as tools to make the data processes more efficient.

Aileen said: “I learnt a lot about the work and challenges of the charity sector through my discussions with people at The Welcoming, and worked to take these into account through the report recommendations. My exchange programme experience was really rewarding and I gained a lot. I think one of the best ways to develop your data skills is working on real projects in sectors or organisations that you are unfamiliar with because the context of how data is collected and used is always different – which is why I’ll be signing up to the exchange programme again this year.”

A trustee at The Welcoming said: “Thank you for making this possible in a grassroots organisation with a lean team and thousands of beneficiaries. Funding for the befriending program has now been guaranteed for a further three years (being able to demonstrate that we take impact evaluation seriously played a big part in our interview with National Lottery), so over 300 vulnerable newcomers (primarily refugee mothers and carers) will be supported one-to-one with local befrienders, and women’s conversation cafes will be extended beyond The Welcoming, building to six more accessible community centres where they are most needed across Edinburgh. Aileen put a lot of thought and work into her report, and rose to the challenge of summarising our partly qualitative and mostly incomplete data. I am so pleased.”

Application form for individual analysts.

Application form for voluntary organisations.