Free-conomics (Ep. 103)
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Free-conomics.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript here.)
The gist: economists are a notoriously self-interested bunch, but a British outfit called Pro Bono Economics is giving away its services to selected charities. Martin Brookes is one of its founders:
BROOKES: When we first set up Pro Bono Economics, there were some economists who thought it was wrong, in principle, to give a service to charity for free. That if the service of analysis of their data was valuable, they should have to pay for it.
If the supply side was reluctant, so was the demand side:
BROOKES: If you go and talk to fundraisers, one thing that fundraisers don’t tend to do is use data. They don’t tend to sell a charity to a potential donor by telling them numbers. They tend to sell the story by telling a story about a beneficiary.
But PBE is making its way, matching up volunteer economists with charities who want help in maximizing their efforts. One of PBE’s first partners was Barnardo’s, which helps victims of child abuse. Here’s the report compiled by Bank of England economists Greg Thwaites, Amar Radia.
Martin Brookes is also interested in a ranking of charities by efficacy, which unsurprisingly has encountered a bit of pushback from charities.
I have not heard of anything like PBE in the States; have you?