© 2012

Community-Based Operations Research

Decision Modeling for Local Impact and Diverse Populations

  • Michael P. Johnson

Part of the International Series in Operations Research & Management Science book series (ISOR, volume 167)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxiii
  2. Models and Analytic Methods

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Michael P. Johnson, Karen Smilowitz
      Pages 37-65
    3. Philip D. Leclerc, Laura A. McLay, Maria E. Mayorga
      Pages 97-118
  3. Facility Location and Spatial Analysis

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 119-119
    2. Jorge A. Sefair, Adriana Molano, Andrés L. Medaglia, Olga L. Sarmiento
      Pages 143-171
    3. Douglas Hastings, Marie Lynn Miranda
      Pages 173-187
  4. Minorities and Disadvantaged Groups

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 189-189
    2. B. Jacob Loeffelholz, Richard F. Deckro, Shane A. Knighton
      Pages 213-249
  5. Service Delivery

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 273-273
    2. Hari K. Rajagopalan, Cem Saydam, Hubert Setzler, Elisabeth Sharer
      Pages 275-296
    3. Jaye Samantha Flavin, Ryan Murphy, John Ruggiero
      Pages 317-332
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 333-340

About this book


Community-based operations research (CBOR) is the use of analytical methods with government and organizations in the formal and informal non-profit sector to improve the lives of individuals and communities. The beneficiaries of these methods tend to be localized, as well as members of disadvantaged and underserved groups.  Examples of problems amenable to CBOR include: design of public infrastructure such as parks and public art; location of facilities such as homeless shelters or elder care facilities; social interventions such as public health initiatives or anti-violence programs, and improved processes such as grants management or human service provision, among many others. Solutions to these problems may be difficult and/or controversial due to conflicting notions of fairness, social impacts or social norms, or because of stigmatized or marginalized populations.

CBOR applications address the needs of organizations working for the public good which typically have limited exposure to operations research/management science. Thus, CBOR extends traditional OR/MS practice to allow for ‘solutions’ that consist of identification and formulation of decision problems, linkages between model-based prescriptions and social impacts relevant to providers and policy-makers, and a diversity of solution methods. This domain was first discussed in a chapter in Tutorials in Operations Research 2007 - OR Tools and Applications: Glimpses of Future Technologies (INFORMS 2007) by Johnson and Smilowitz and subsequently in an article that appeared in the February 2008 issue of OR/MS Today.

Community-based operations research is not primarily a new methodology or theory – its antecedents include community operational research, public-sector operations research and problem structuring methods. Instead, CBOR is a framework for applications of models and methods to address problems with common characteristics. The relevant analytical tools for CBOR come primarily from the decision sciences; these tools are intended to help individuals and organizations make better choices regarding strategies to design, services to deliver, facilities to locate, infrastructure to design, and so on. CBOR applications are drawn from disciplines with public-sector applications, including public policy, public management, urban and regional planning, housing and community development, urban affairs, human services, public health and gerontology.

The research in this book is intended to be normative (defined by stylized models of the real world) and prescriptive (what ought to be done) in nature. However, other research perspectives, defined by descriptive and positive approaches traditionally used in the social sciences are appropriate as well. It is hoped that this book will inspire researchers and practitioners to develop new models  and methods, or adapt existing ones, in order that public-focused organizations may better fulfill their missions, and for individuals and communities to develop to their fullest potential.

"The topic of this book is timely. The public sector is ready more than ever to implement Operations Research and Analytics methodologies and derive substantial benefits. While this book looks specifically at OR in local communities, this is the case across the local and federal sectors – in the US and in other countries. In the past few years we have observed a rise in applying analytical methods to challenges faced by public sector agencies. Moreover, these entities are actively looking today to implement new business processes which are analytically based. As government and non-profit organizations gather more high-quality data and make it available for analysts and the public, they are increasingly well-positioned to apply descriptive methods (getting insight from the data),  predictive methods (forecasting outcome based on the data) and prescriptive methods (determining best course of action). The contributions in this volume provide welcome examples of using real-world data to design policies and practices that generate tangible improvements in the quality of life of individuals and communities."

Rina Schneur, PhD, President, Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences and Director, Verizon

"This is an original book that demonstrates with clarity and passion that Operations Research can be successfully applied to a range of issues affecting public sector institutions, voluntary organizations and community groups. The authors build on the traditional strengths of US Operations Research (applied, quantitative modeling and analytic techniques) and show how they can be of significant value in improving the lives of disadvantaged and underserved sections of the community. This is an important contribution to the renewed relevance of OR in a changing America."

Prof. Gerald Midgley, Centre for Systems Studies, Business School, University of Hull, UK


CBOR Decision Science Operations Research Public Policy

Editors and affiliations

  • Michael P. Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. Public Policy & Public AffairsUniversity of Massachusetts, BostonBostonUSA

About the editors

Professor Michael Johnson currently serves as Graduate Program Director of the PhD Program in Public Policy and Chair of the Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs. Dr. Johnson received his Ph.D. in operations research from Northwestern University, M.S. in operations research from University of California, Berkeley, M.S. in electrical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1987 and B.S. from Morehouse College. Dr. Johnson’s research interests lie primarily in operations research/management science planning models for public-sector facility location and service delivery, with applications to subsidized/affordable housing, senior services and community corrections. Dr. Johnson also uses cost-benefit analysis to estimate impacts of public policies and information technology to design decision support systems. His primary mission is to develop quantitative methods that enable public organizations serving disadvantaged and vulnerable populations to jointly optimize economic efficiency, beneficial population outcomes and social equity. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Annals of Operations Research, Decision Support Systems, Environment and Planning A, Environment and Planning B, Housing Studies, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Journal of Geographic Systems, Journal of Housing Research, Location Science, Management Science, Papers of the Regional Science Association, and Socioeconomic Planning Sciences. Dr. Johnson has served as a National Science Foundation CAREER Postdoctoral fellow, and has previously received postdoctoral fellowships from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Urban Scholars program and the National Consortium on Violence Research. He is currently principal investigator on a Joseph P. Healey grant to develop decision models for foreclosed housing acquisition and redevelopment, and is investigator on a Centers for Disease Control grant to investigate neighborhood crime impacts of subsidized housing redevelopment.

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