Developing a 'Dynamic' Business Case

The Context

Community Service Volunteers (CSV) are a national voluntary organisation, creating opportunities for people to work as volunteers in a wide range of settings in the care sector. Together with In Control, a national charity aiming to give people control of the support they receive from agencies, they have been making the case for a particular model of supported volunteering as a means of tackling social isolation. They commissioned Symmetric to help with this work. Our brief was to assist in developing the business case for change and we used our experience in System Dynamics modelling to create a new approach.  

A 'Dynamic' business case

With CSV and In Control we developed a 'Dynamic' business case approach. This differs from a conventional business case in that it models change over time, drawing on, and bringing together evidence from a range of sources.

At the centre of the approach is a simulation model, developed using System Dynamics principles. This enbaled us to represent;

  • The dynamic nature of the population of people in isolation - every month, new people become isolated and isolated people become connected 
  • The service capacity - which depends on support staff recruiting, training and then supporting Volunteers (also known as mentors), who, once trained, are available to support people who are isolated 
  • the cashflow - based on real costs over time, including staff, training and volunteer expenses 

The model was developed in partnership with Essex County Council, and is based on what it would take to provide Supported Volunteering for isolated older people in a particular community. 

You will find a project report on the outcomes of the work on our Resources page. We also took part in a webinar which explains the project and how the model works, details below.

The Outcomes

Using the model we have been able to show good evidence that a scheme based on the contribution of one full-time volunteer support worker would have the following impact;

  • The number of isolated older people in a community (of 200,000) would reduce over five years from 700 to around 511; without the scheme the number would have risen to 749 
  • After five years, out of 348 people who had experienced a move out of isolation there would still be 179 people in the “connected” state, plus 78 people currently using the scheme 
  • Annual running costs are £91,336 rising to £97,985 in five years (variable costs associated with numbers of volunteers in active service rise as the scheme develops; costs not adjusted for inflation) 
  • The average costs were; 
    • £1,012 per person who started the scheme 
    • £2,034 per person still in the “connected” state 
    • £1,887 per reduction of one person in the “isolated” community

In addition;

  • It is well known that being isolated is associated with poor health. If the “isolated” population shrinks, some reduction in use of health and care services will result, for example, fewer hospital admissions and / or shorter lengths of stay, or reduced utilisation of home care. 
  • This model can show these effects, but users have been cautious about making bold claims without a clear basis on which to calibrate the likely impacts, so that part of the model is excluded from our report. But the benefits (savings) typically outweigh the costs of providing the supported volunteering service, in which case one can realistically hold that the scheme would provide a net saving.

The Webinar

Jemma Mindham of CSV and Douglas McKelvie of Symmetric explained the work and described the model in a recent webinar. You can see the full presentations here