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Community-Focused Problem-Solving with Operations Research and Analytics
EMPath Outcomes Workgroup (2019)
  • Michael P Johnson, Jr.
In these days of ‘analytics’, ‘big data’ and ‘smart cities’, many of us are aware of the importance of data and quantitative analytic methods for program design, implementation and evaluation. Less commonly-understood are specific tools and methods for community-based interventions in which the problem to be solved is unclear, and the ways in which data of many different kinds can be used to develop interventions that represent best-possible uses of organization and community resources. Moreover, it is also less commonly-understood how to put communities, and community members, near the center of problem-solving and decision-making.

Examples of challenging problems include: How can we meet community needs for retail outlets? What houses at risk for foreclosure, abandonment or blight should an organization seek to acquire for renovation and re-use? What transportation investments (pedestrian, bicycle, auto, mass transit) can best meet the needs of changing communities? How can we design specific strategies for community resilience in the face of climate change?

In my presentation, I’ll introduce the field of analytics, and explain how one branch of it, ‘community-engaged
operations research’, can enable community-based organizations that are mission-based but resource constrained to collect and use data for creative decision-making. I will discuss ways that qualitative and quantitative data can support program design through community involvement in problem identification, data collection and analysis, and recommendations for new services, programs, and infrastructure. This workshop will include a presentation of community decision-making principles, break-out sessions for hands-on data analysis and decision-modeling, and talkbacks to support group learning. No computers or previous experience with any sort of analytics, planning or decision modeling are necessary.
  • community operational research,
  • community-based operations research; analytics
Publication Date
January 15, 2019
Boston, MA
Citation Information
Michael P Johnson. "Community-Focused Problem-Solving with Operations Research and Analytics" EMPath Outcomes Workgroup (2019)
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