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Operational Research, Workshops and Events

Abstracts & photos from #OR56 Day 1 Third Sector conference presentations

Pro Bono O.R. in the Third Sector

Mrs Felicity McLeister (The OR Society)

2014-09-09 08.58.18 (Custom)Providing Pro Bono O.R. to third sector organisations is an idea that has been around The OR Society for quite a while. A pilot project was started in 2011 and the interest it generated let to a formal Pro Bono O.R. imitative being set up by The OR Society in September 2013. Since September Pro Bono O.R. has received over 40 enquires, has completed 6 projects and is currently working with a further 8 organisations (as of June 2014).

This session will provide details about Pro Bono O.R., talk briefly about some of the case studies, provide an overview of the experience from both a volunteer and organisational perspective and provide further information about how you can get involved.


Measuring the Impact of Community-Based Interventions to Improve Health and Well-Being

Miss Samantha Mackay and Mr John Newman (Apteligen Ltd)

This presentation will demonstrate recent work that has been undertaken with national care and support providers from the third sector: • To develop a measurement and evaluation framework for assessing the impact of an innovative, community and asset-based intervention for vulnerable people that aims to improve independence and quality of life, and • To design and build a modelling tool to demonstrate early impact of the pilot project, based on a sample of typical cases


Developing a Tool to Help Dog Breeders Predict Genetic Risks

Dr Sophie Carr (Bays Consulting Limited) and Mr Ian Seath (Improvement Skills Consulting Ltd)

D-D_slideThere are a growing number of DNA tests to help dog breeders identify potential breeding pairs that could be affected by inherited diseases. In particular, Miniature Wirehaired Dachshunds known to suffer from a form of Epilepsy called Lafora Disease. Whilst there are two different tests available to determine if a Dachshund carries the autosomal recessive mutation, not every dog is tested. Consequently this creates 4 populations: tested; untested; clinically affected (i.e. showing symptoms) and clinically not affected. What was required was a simple, robust approach to support informed decisions about which pairs of dogs could breed whilst minimising the number of puppies with Lafora disease. As part of an OR Pro bono project, an Excel tool was developed to evaluate the risk factors associated with the mutation status of DNA tested and untested dogs. The results of the project will be used as part of an education programme to help breeders understand why DNA testing for Lafora Disease is so important. This presentation will explain the maths and probability theory that lies behind this problem and show how the tool was developed.


Probabilistic Weather Information for the RNLI

Mr Ed Wheatcroft (London School of Economics and Politics), Mr Russell Hocken and Ms Cath

Reynolds (RNLI) and Prof Leonard Smith (London School of Economics and Politics)

RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. Every year, volunteer lifeboat crew are called out around 8,000 times. Difficult operational decisions about what a lifeboat is capable of in rough seas sometimes have to be made. This project aimed to provide a risk visualisation tool to help inform these operational decisions by combining academic work around weather risk analysis with RNLI knowledge and data about incident rates.

The project will also help determine timescales on which existing weather forecast products might better inform RNLI activities.


Never Too Late To Learn – Lessons from a Recent Assignment

Mrs Susan Merchant (Blue Link Consulting)

Planning for a recent 3-hour strategic planning workshop for a charity’s board of trustees was challenging because of personalities and timeframes. After much deliberation, the author hit upon a manageable method which worked well on the day and from which satisfactory feedback was obtained. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned which the author will share and will look for look for suggested improvements from the audience.


It’s a Dog Life: Modelling UK Dog Population

Mr Alessandro Arbib (DECC)

2014-09-09 14.46.17-1 (Custom)The breeding, ownership and welfare of dogs in the UK is a complex social area. Although there has been research into the size of the dog population, nobody has pulled all this together into a single model that everyone can use to help focus priority issues. A consensus understanding of the population and how it is stratified is crucial to allow proposing meaningful welfare improvement policies. From November 2013 to May 2014 a group of 3 OR analysts and an engineer from DECC worked with the RSPCA (the UK’s leading animal welfare charity) and Dog-ED (a Social Enterprise applying Systems Thinking to canine welfare) to provide analytical evidence about the number of dogs currently present in UK and how they move through the system. The project involved a significant literature review to collect the data necessary to produce a snapshot of the UK dog population; designing and building a “stocks and flows” model to investigate the flows of dogs from the different categories; and developing recommendations for possible uses and future development of the model. Lack of consensus amongst the data sources, and considerable variation in data quality and definitions used made it difficult to provide accurate answers to the customer’s problem. We will describe our main outputs including estimated upper and lower bounds for the dog population, a “stocks and flows” model developed in Excel, and a list of the main data gaps and issues we met in our work. Last but not least, we will focus on the valuable experience of working for the Third Sector, summarising the main lessons learnt and the value that OR was able to add in this area.


Keynote: What’s So Special about the Third Sector? What makes Third Sector O.R. Different

Ms Ruth Kaufman

2014-09-09 15.33.04 (Custom)

2014-09-09 15.38.43 (Custom)The OR Society’s Third Sector initiative has two main components: a Special Interest Group, to promote knowledge and understanding of Third Sector O.R.; and a Pro Bono scheme, where O.R. people offer to do free O.R. work for a third sector organisation. But is there really any difference between doing O.R. in the third sector and doing it with a government or private sector organisation? Is “it’s for charity” really a good enough reason to work for free? This talk explores these issues, taking charities as an example of third sector organisations. It considers three areas of inherent difference between charity, private and public organisations – legal form, governance, and resourcing – and other factors such as organisational size, culture, and business environment. It goes on to consider the implications for practising OR in three broad areas: strategy, efficiency, and profitability. It argues that many of the fundamental organisational problems, and therefore the fundamental O.R. responses, are essentially the same across sectors; and that it is not possible to draw hard and fast distinctions between sectors, especially given the blurring of the lines between charities and other bodies that is part of the current government’s strategy to shrink the welfare state. Nonetheless, it concludes that there are a number of features that characterise Third Sector O.R. as a result of the differences between charities and the rest. Of course, one of these differences is that charities are set up because someone, somewhere, thinks that something is a Good Thing to do, regardless of democratic mandates, statutory requirements, or market imperatives. The talk concludes with a discussion of what it is that may inspire the OR volunteer to buy into that Good Thing enough to share their time and expertise for free.














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