Daily Archives: November 20, 2007

Community-Based Operations Research

Because my flight arrived a little late for the INFORMS Annual Meeting, I missed the tutorial entitled “Community-Based Operations Research” by Michael Johnson (U Massuchusetts Boston) and Karen Smilowitz (Northwestern). Fortunately, they have a corresponding paper on the CD that came with conference proceedings, and it is excellent. Beg, borrow or steal this paper!

What is Community-Based OR?
Community-based OR is a subfield of public-sector OR, and it has the following characteristics:

  1. It focuses on human stakeholders and is interested in human versus physical resources
  2. It focuses on disadvantaged, underserved, or vulnerable populations
  3. It focuses on community-level characteristics, such as socio-economic status

One of the key characteristics is that there are multiple stakeholders, and hence, multiple decision makers. These decision makers are often local or are disadvantaged. Looking at tradeoffs in efficiency/effectiveness and equity are a necessity. Johnson and Smilowitz recommend that OR practitioners emphasize models that provide specific, theory-based guidance to local decision makers that can be easily applied to different applications, rather than develop high-level models and then apply them to the specific scenario at hand.

What are Some Examples of Community-Based OR?
Johnson and Smilowitz group community-based OR in four catogories:

  1. Human Services: services to senior citizens, humanitarian logistics, public libraries, public education, and family support services.
  2. Community Development: housing, community/urban planning, transportation.
  3. Public Health and Safety: health care, criminal justice, emergency services, hazardous facility location, and the correlation of chronic diseases and individual deprivation or social externalities.
  4. Nonprofit Management: management of community-based service providers.

What is Some Further Reading in Community-Based OR?
The list of references in the paper is extensive, so I will summarize just a few here.

  • Urban Operations Research by Larson and Odoni (1981). [Read the book online here]
  • Facility Location with Price-Sensitive Demands: Private, Public, and Quasi-Public by
    Donald Erlenkotter [abstract]
  • Adventures in policy modeling! Operations research in the community and beyond by Edward H. Kaplan [abstract]
  • Modelling Effectiveness-Equity Trade-Offs in Public Service Delivery Systems by
    Marvin B. Mandell [abstract]

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