Monday, 25 September 2017

OR Group of Scotland Event with guest speaker Ruth Kaufman


The OR Group of Scotland will be hosting an event this week with a talk from our very own OR Society President, Ruth Kaufman.

President of the Operational Research Society

Speaker: Ruth Kaufman OBE, FORS, FIMA


Abstract: The OR Society, with around 12 FTE staff and a turnover around £1million, falls definitely into the ‘S’ subset of SMEs. With 3,000 members, it is pretty small as far as learned societies go, as well. But its reach, impact and ambitions are disproportionately great. Part of this discrepancy is explained by the nature of OR itself: its massive power to transform and improve, even whilst most people who benefit from it have never heard of it, and many people who work in the field hesitate to define it. In this talk, I will review some aspects of the current position of the ORS and of OR in the UK and discuss how the ORS and OR professionals can best capitalise on our strengths and opportunities.

Biography: Ruth Kaufman, a `Companion' of the OR Society, became President of the Society in January 2016. Like many other members of the OR Society, she fell into O.R. by accident, in her case having taken a maths BA in the School of Social Sciences at Sussex University. This led to a long career in public sector O.R. and wider management at London Transport, London Electricity, Department of Health and Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD). At ECGD, she joined the Executive Board, having responsibility for strategy and change management as well as leading an influential OR group. In the voluntary sector, Ruth chaired a small charity, Woman's Trust, for five years and was a founder member of the OR Society's Pro Bono Scheme. Ruth is currently (amongst other things), Advisor to the Finance Committee at the National Federation of Women's Institutes, a visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and a freelance consultant and advisor. She was awarded an OBE for 'services to Operational Research' in the 2016 New Year's Honours list.


Time: 28th Sep, 2017, 4.30pm

Venue: SW204, Strathclyde Business School, 199 Cathedral Street, Glasgow G40QU


If you'd like to attend the event then head over to this link and register for free
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/management-scienceor-society-seminar-ruth-kaufman-president-of-or-society-tickets-37643321187 

For any queries or for further info please email ashwin.arulselvan@strath.ac.uk

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

OR59: Pro Bono Consultancy Tips and Tricks


In case you missed it, The Operational Research Society held its OR59 annual conference last week at Loughborough University. With more streams than the Isle of Arran, it's safe to say everybody's needs were catered for. Pro Bono got stuck in, investing must time in the Grand Challenges, OR in Consultancy and Third Sector Modelling.

There was a theme than ran throughout the 3 days of the conference, and that was a general sense of community; not only were we there to recognise and celebrate the accomplishments already achieved by OR affiliates, but we were also there to ensure that the growth of the OR community is sustainable. Expert knowledge is not the only thing that everyone at the conference had it common, people also shared the motivation to utilize OR to create a better future. If you're new to the OR community, as am i, then the conference teaches us that the OR community has a strong sense of identity and your invited to explore all of the common interests. 

As much as I'd like to report back on all of the talks I was able to indulge in, unfortunately my time is limited, and so is my OR knowledge! But there are a few lessons I took away which are important to share among our community within Pro Bono. The great thing about Pro Bono is it's slim criteria in order to get involved. Our volunteers range from young to OR analysts and practitioners to the extremely accomplished, and the not-for profits we work with range from start-ups to well established registered charities. With everybody in the mix, its no wonder my predecessor has done such a wonderful job in growing the Pro Bono scheme, the diverse involvement makes for a great equation that equals success. 

Having never heard of Operational Research until six months ago, I recognise entry into the OR community can be overwhelming, With all that knowledge comes great power, and when you meet so many people who strive to constantly improve their knowledge, suddenly you find yourself feeling overwrought. It's the equal measure of excitement that makes you want to explore every avenue in the OR community, mixed with enough nervousness to make you second guess every thought that comes to mind. 

If your familiar with OR but new to Pro Bono then we still have plenty of teachings for you. In case you missed the conference then here are some slides created by our very own Ian Seath and Jane Parkin, with advice on the Pro Bono process. On day 2 of the conference, Ian and Jane ran a workshop which provided some hints and tips for Pro Bono volunteers. The things we learnt include a list of considerations when preparing for an initial meeting with a client, as well as how learning how to overcome obstacles and challenges that may arise during a project. Importance was placed on the need to continuously refer back to the project definition and objectives, identifying the needs of the client during every step of the process. Feel free to download the slides and get involved in the scenarios we looked at during the workshop.     


Also available, a complete plan on the kind of things to consider ahead of a kick-off meeting https://www.dropbox.com/s/2z356z76y8n9bvq/Example%20kick%20off%20meeting%20plan%20final.docx?dl=0

If you'd like to see any particular aspects of the Pro Bono application or project process to be covered with guidance from our veterans then please email hope.meadows@theorsociety.com with all queries. 






Monday, 18 September 2017

DoctOR will see you now


YHORG are hosting an event and you're invited!



YHORG are hosting a talk with guest speaker Charles Tallack. Content shows just how much OR is putting new life into the NHS. Discussion includes, approach and techniques, challenges faced, and the impact being made.

“… we will expand NHS operational research, RCT capability and other methods to promote more rigorous ways of answering high impact questions in health services redesign. “
OR doesn’t often get a mention in a national government strategy document, so this statement from the 2014 NHS Five Year Forward View, the blueprint for redesign of the NHS, is both exciting and daunting. Charles Tallack was subsequently appointed to set up and lead the NHS England Operational Research and Evaluation Unit. His team is contributing to the transformation of the NHS, and evaluating the impact that new models of care being piloted are having. They are modelling how the changes are supposed to work, and testing these models using advanced analytical techniques. 
Charles will talk about the pioneering approaches the team are taking and the impact they are having on the issues and challenges facing the NHS, and how he’s come to see OR and evaluation as natural bed fellows.

When? Wednesday 27th September 2017
Where? West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, LS2 7UP
Time? 5.30pm - 7pm

Places are limited so please contact Sarah Fores sarahfores@gmail.com to book a place asap.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Free time is precious. Why become a Pro Bono OR volunteer?

Some say that volunteering is priceless, and they’re right. Except for the times when I can put a price on it! In 2017 to-date, pro bono OR volunteers input equates to £57,000.00 in billable hours. Those hours include aiding organisations seeking to improve operations, ration resources or measure impact, all of which lead to long term success. With OR solutions being provided through free consultancy, we are handing over both transparency and sustainability, two things I’m sure we’d like to see move of in the UK. 

We all know and love the basic motivations of volunteering, we know the spiel that informs us we are part of something good and we’re making a difference to something that is usually bigger than all of us. If you work with individuals from a charity, then you have also heard about just how much you can change that person’s life, whether it be a child who is struggling to invest in their childhood, or an elderly person who struggles to stay sociable; spending time with these individuals is a responsible thing to do. There is a whole underworld of motivations to volunteer and pro bono OR can make them all available.  

There’s a generic volunteer role in the charity sector that lets you productively procrastinate, but there’s something that charitable organisations don’t tell you as they attempt to sign you up and demand all your free time. They don’t tell just how self-full volunteering can be. Volunteering can help you work on ‘the self’ in so many more ways than advertised. Did you know that volunteering is actually good for your health? Not kidding. Research studies have shown that volunteering forces us to spend time thinking about others. When the spotlight is on someone else you tend to think less about your own situation and this incurs a decrease in stress levels. The effects of contentment lead to a better immune system as well as more logical thinking when returning to matters in your own life. But I’m no doctor, so go and see the effects for yourself.  

The good news is that beyond the role of ‘volunteer’, being an OR volunteer provides even more value to personal gain along with your project impact. Pro Bono OR volunteers get to take a holistic approach to tackling problems. You get to use a range of OR techniques whilst gaining consultancy experience and boosting your CV. Pro Bono projects are with organisations who strive to reach charitable aims and objectives, so the best part is you get to work on a worthwhile cause. Pro Bono projects provide a mutually beneficial relationship for the volunteer and the charitable organisation. Well what does The OR Society get out of it then? Glad you asked. By providing free consultancy to third sector organisations and pairing OR analysts on suitable projects, we continue the advancement of knowledge and interest in OR. That’s more than enough for us.   

What else does pro bono OR add to the volunteering experience? Well, with the guidelines in place, for all parties, it means we are able to control the risks. You are given an environment in which to find real solutions and improvements, and can adapt the project to treat the organisation as an individual. Every charity and social enterprise is different. Although third sector organisations face similar challenges and must contend with constantly moving boundaries, the wants and needs of every group is different; we identify every organisation as an individual. Nowadays, the charity sector is expected to do more with less and that is why volunteers are the most important resource community organisations have.
  
We currently have over 600 pro bono volunteers that are actively looking for projects. I’m afraid to tell you that I don’t have 600 projects for volunteers to work on, but the good news is that when you’re not on a project, you’re free to explore the OR community that The OR Society has built. As a volunteer you get to expand your network, meet and greet other analysts in both similar and diverse fields to you. As a pro bono volunteer you’re invited to several events throughout the year, and if we don’t host an event that grabs your attention, then simply let me know what captivates you and I can put it on my agenda. Getting onto that VIP list entitled ‘pro bono volunteers’ gives you the opportunity to explore OR and everyone in it. With over 160,000 charities in the UK, I’m sure we can find a project for you.


The benefits of being an OR volunteer continue. I’m not saying that being selected to work on a project is the best day of your life, all I’m saying is, your wedding day has nothing on the excitement these projects bring. Pro Bono projects provide real-world experience. If you’re looking to exercise old skills then this is the environment for you. Furthermore, if you want to learn new skills, whether it be OR techniques, consultancy or project management then this is still the environment for you. Employers highly rate individuals who display a range of soft skills, and pro bono projects are a perfect opportunity to show these. You’re welcome for the career boost. It’s what we’re here for.  Don’t forget, regardless of your motivations and/or experience, if you’d like to work on a project but need a confidence boost to get you through it then I can provide a mentor for you. Pro Bono OR supports and encourages you no matter what stage of your OR journey you are at. 


For more info about volunteering please visit http://www.theorsociety.com/Pages/Probono/volunteers.aspx, 
or email hope.meadows@theorsociety.com 



Thursday, 24 August 2017

Win Free Tickets to The New Scientist Live


If you are a member of the OR Society or a pro bono OR volunteer the you could be in with the chance to win free tickets.

The OR Society is exhibiting at the New Scientist Live, which is taking place at the ExCel in London from Thursday 28th September 2017 to Sunday 1st October 2017. You can find more information about this exciting event here https://live.newscientist.com/

We have five pairs of complimentary tickets, which we would like to offer to committee members and volunteers as gratitude for all of your hard work and dedication to the Society.

Each complimentary ticket is worth up to £26.00 and will allow entry for any one of those four days, so you could take a partner or friend, or travel solo and gain free entry for two of the four days. For those of you with families, children under 5 years are admitted free of charge and children aged between 5-17 years are admissible upon purchasing a “Child Ticket” for £15.00.

As we only have a limited number of tickets, we will draw five winners at random at noon on Friday 1st September 2017. If you would like to enter the draw, please email charlene.timewell@theorsociety.com by this deadline. Winners will then be contacted by email on the afternoon of Friday 1st September 2017.


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Pro Bono OR Case Study- Care4All Performance Management Dashboard


Care4All are an established charity who provide social care support and services for hundreds of vulnerable people in North East Lincolnshire and the surrounding area. The charity provides a diverse range of services and support whilst focusing on creating employment opportunities for people with disabilities. With 90 paid staff and 8 volunteers, the charity is constantly seeking to raise it's profile since it was established in 2007. 

Charitable objects include: 
-the relief of those in need, by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantages.
-the relief of unemployment for the benefit of the public in such ways as may be though fit, including assistance to find employment. 

Care4All had been through a period of significant change and need to make sense of the performance data the collect. there are a few key questions whic needed to be considered for this project:
  • -          What questions do the Care4all management board want to answer or metrics do they             need to monitor on organisational performance?
  • -          Does the data currently collected allow these questions to be answered? If not, what data         needs to be collected to answer relevant questions?
  • -          Does data need to be structured or collected differently?
  • -          How can data be routinely analysed?
  • -          How can the analysis be presented in a meaningful and powerful way?
After an initial meeting with the Chief Executive, the Pro Bono volunteer sought to support the charity by presenting meaningful organisational performance management information. After creating a performance management process the organisation had scope to present management reports using infographics. 

Another successful project, with big thanks to our volunteer. 



Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Starting a charity? ...Keep it simple

The early years journey of a charity can be a fist-shaking experience, but it doesn’t have to be thanks to the endless support that organisations can provide NFPs today. Many start-ups have the same questions, and although there’s no blanket solution, often you find that keeping it simple is a start. The following three steps are a guide to the very early years, after that, there’s Pro Bono OR! Come see for yourself…. http://www.theorsociety.com/Pages/Probono/HowcanORhelpyou.aspx

Define your aims and objectives
Although crowd-funding is more popular than ever, gone are the days that charitable objectives are simply a monetary figure. Charitable engagement has grown from the face-to-face fundraising that we all swerve to avoid in the high street, to creating punishable challenges like trekking across Africa in your undies with nothing but a pencil and a rubber duck! If we expect the community to hop on board with our out-of-the-box events then we need to make sure our purpose is clear. Aims and objectives don’t just have to be facts and figures, let us know the real reason you’re dedicating all of your time for this particular charity, or this particular cause and event. Making your aims personal and precise is the best way to make digital communication induce empathy. Making your aims clear is the best way to retain the attention of your audience.  
If you’re early on in the start-up journey then go ahead and be honest with your every intention. Let me know that the first four months will be spent refining a fundraising strategy, or that the six months after that will be working towards effectively measuring impact. The sooner you’re up front, the sooner the community can either signpost you all my known contacts, or they hop off the train because you’re not heading for a destination that they can see themselves ending up at.
So what if you have all of the motivation and you know qualitatively how you want to achieve, but you can’t quite seem to create a visual for others to see? If that’s the case then it’s time to cut that picture up, back into the smaller pieces you originally used to make it. We do this by making SMART targets: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely; and I cannot stress the ‘realistic’ enough. A large amount of charities lose funding, discounts and corporate backing because they fail to meet their targets within the first 3 years of set up. You’re better off meeting lower targets that failing to over-achieve. Ego should be removed when setting aims and objectives! 

Be a social media guru
Lesson number one: learn to separate professional and personal social media. More importantly, look away once in a while, before it consumes you. Social media will be the death of us all. I’m speaking from experience. During my time living in Australia, I was walking in the CBD on weekday lunch break (something we in the UK aren’t partial to, because we’re ‘too busy’) and as I was approaching a crossroad, stupidity unfolded right before me. A woman was walking whilst peering down at her phone, she considered herself too busy to even look before crossing the road. Of course that didn’t give the bus coming up behind her much time to stop, so I ran into the road and pulled her back to the pavement. Dignity isn’t a word I use often and this occasion was no exception. Not only did I get clipped by the bus, but I managed to trip up the curb and was used as a landing pad for the nice corporate lady in a suit. The smoothie that was in her hand was now providing new colours on my top. The fact that I dislocated my shoulder saving that woman, only to have an absence of thanks, is not the point. The reason that woman risked her life was because reading her social media notifications was more important that the 12 tonne bus heading her way. It’s possible to be SMART with your social media use to, it’s just a case of defining the aims of your use:
  • -                 Aim to build a network – There’s no better phrase than ‘I know a guy.’
  • -      Increase your reach by intentionally reaching out to people you think might be interested; but don’t be afraid of not hearing back from a stranger who hasn’t yet earnt your respect!
  • -          Use meta-tags – The internet is a great invention that everyone uses but no one understands. Meta-tags provide specific information about a page including content description, author info and key words or phrases. Use this to extend your reach to people who may not have necessarily taken interest at first glance.
  • -          Be authentic, not robotic – Don’t post information you think I want to hear. Post information you want me to hear, then tell me why it’s important to you.
  • -          Use the internet site appropriately – We all shake our fists at the 140 character capacity that twitter allows, so instead of trying to Shakespeare your post up, simply signpost. Signpost to your website, to your blog, to your stats and figures, or to your gallery that shows just how great the people you work with are. Be smart with social media platforms.
 Elaborate on your call to action
Call to action can be used as both motivation for a message receiver, as well as a marketing term to show next steps to an audience. It’s all very well using social media to signpost me to your website but don’t waste it by not finishing my journey for me. Now that I am on your website I want to know what’s next. I can see what you hope to achieve and when you want to achieve it by, but now I want to know how you intend to do it. More importantly, where do I come into this? A call to action tells the customer what you want them to do. The actions are simple:
-fill out a form
-re-post a blog
-attend an event
-register for info
-fill in a survey
-buy something
-find out more…

A call to action should be simple, clear and interactive. You may be a small charity, but now suddenly your audience understand both your wants and your needs. Isn’t that what we all want in life?


For more info on how Pro Bono can help with: 
  • Strategic planning/review
  • Impact measurement
  • Process improvement
  • Data analysis
  • Business planning
  • Efficiency improvement
  • Options appraisal
  • Decision making
and more! Please get in touch with hope.meadows@theorsociety.com

Friday, 28 July 2017

Looking for pro bono volunteers to work with Rainbow Trust Childrens Charity

Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity

Project summary:

Project:
To evaluate the impact of special sibling support for brothers and sisters of children who are life-threatened or terminally ill. The volunteer will help shape and define the remit of the evaluation
The volunteer will work with the Manchester Sibling Support Worker and National Manager to answer the questions above and produce a report to measure the impact of this 5 year project. This evaluation will be submitted to the Big Lottery Fund as part of a final grant report in March 2018.
Time commitment: 10-15 Days over the duration i.e. 2 days a month approximately
Location: Manchester (OL8 4QQ) /Leatherhead Surrey (KT22)

Please read projectscope and if you feel you are able to offer your assistance please complete the application form and return along with your CV to hope.meadows@theorsociety.com by Friday 11th August.

Information about the organisation:

Charitable objectives:
OUR VISION:  One day all terminally ill children and their families will have access to a Rainbow Trust Carer.
MISSION:  Rainbow Trust provides emotional and practical support for families who have a child with a life threatening or terminal illness.
OUR USP: We offer the whole family individually tailored, high quality support for as long as they need it.

Main activities of the organisation
Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity supports families who have a child with a life threatening or terminal illness. For these families, life is unthinkably tough. Their lives are shattered into a million pieces as they struggle to cope with the possibility that their child might die.
Rainbow Trust Family support workers provide individually tailored support to help families navigate through this period of great stress and uncertainty.   Each family is designated their own Family Support Worker who provides emotional support to help them face each day, as  well as helping with the practicalities of taking care of the sick child and siblings, helping with house work and transporting families to hospital.   We provide help however and whenever a family needs it most.
Some families are supported a few times each week, some call us as and when they feel in need, and everything in between. From supporting in the home, at hospital when children receive treatment, to being there for the whole family if a child dies.

For more info about Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity please visit: https://rainbowtrust.org.uk/
For further information about the Pro Bono scheme please visit: http://www.theorsociety.com/Probono

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Updated useful software list

Simply a signpost to free software, to cater for your every need...


The list is ever-evolving and we would welcome further contributions or to hear about any tools or software you have successfully used in the past. Ideally the software should be free to use. Please email any suggestions to hope.meadows@theorsociety.com.

A big thank you to those who have recently sent in suggestions and made important contributions to the list.
Tool Link Category
Apache OFBiz http://ofbiz.apache.org/ supply chain management
Apache Zeppelin https://zeppelin.apache.org/ Data visualisation
ArangoDB https://www.arangodb.com/why-arangodb/ Graph Database
ArcGIS https://www.arcgis.com/features/index.html Geospatial / Mapping software
Awesome R https://awesome-r.com/ Various: Data manipulation; Database management; Graphical displays; Machine learning; Bayesian…
Bizagi http://www.bizagi.com/en Simulation
Blender https://www.blender.org/ 3D Modeling and animation
Cassandra http://cassandra.apache.org/ Database
ChartsBin http://chartsbin.com/about/apply Geospatial / Mapping software
CMPL https://projects.coin-or.org/Cmpl Optimisation
CODAP http://codap.concord.org/ Data visualisation
D3 https://d3js.org/ Data visualisation
Data Wrapper https://www.datawrapper.de/ Data visualisation
DREAM http://dream-simulation.eu Simulation
Dygraphs http://dygraphs.com/ Data visualisation
Elements https://elements.cloud/ Process Mapping
Exhibit http://www.simile-widgets.org/exhibit/ Data visualisation
Flare http://flare.prefuse.org/ Data visualisation
Free MS Windows images https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-edge/tools/vms/ Operating System
GDAL http://www.gdal.org/ Geospatial / Mapping software
Gephi https://gephi.org/ Data visualisation
GLPK https://www.gnu.org/software/glpk/ Optimisation
GNU Octave https://www.gnu.org/software/octave/index.html Programming language
GRASS https://grass.osgeo.org/ Geospatial / Mapping software
Gretl http://gretl.sourceforge.net/ Econometrics / Time-Series Analysis
Insight Maker https://insightmaker.com/ Simulation
Interactive Data Visualizations for the Web http://philogb.github.io/jit/ Data visualisation
iPython/Jupyter http://jupyter.org/
https://ipython.org/
Programming environment
Java https://www.java.com/en/download/ Programming language
jORLib http://www.coin-or.org/projects/jORLib.xml Optimisation
Kibana https://www.elastic.co/products/kibana Data visualisation
Leaflet http://leafletjs.com/ Data visualisation
LibreOffice Calc https://help.libreoffice.org/Calc/Welcome_to_the_Calc_Help Spreadsheet analysis
ManPy http://www.manpy-simulation.org/ Simulation
Mathics https://mathics.github.io/ Computer Algebra System
MongoDB https://docs.mongodb.com/ Database
Neo4J https://neo4j.com Graph Database
NetLogo https://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/ Agent-based simulation
Odoo https://www.odoo.com/ supply chain management
Open Door Logistics Studio http://www.opendoorlogistics.com/ routing & scheduling
Open Refine http://openrefine.org/ Data Cleansing
OpenBoxes https://openboxes.com/about.html supply chain management
OpenSolver http://opensolver.org/ Optimisation
Openstreetmap http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=5/51.500/-0.100 Geospatial / Mapping software
Pandas http://pandas.pydata.org/ Statistical analysis
PostGis http://postgis.net/ Database (spatial)
PostGres http://www.postgresql.org/download/ Database
Prefuse http://prefuse.org/ Data visualisation
PSPP https://www.gnu.org/software/pspp/ Statistical analysis
PULP http://www.coin-or.org/PuLP/ Optimisation
Pyomo http://www.pyomo.org/ Optimisation
PyPy http://pypy.org/ Programming language
Python https://www.python.org/ Programming language
QGIS http://www.qgis.org/en/site/ Geospatial / Mapping software
QuickCode https://quickcode.io/ Programming language
R https://www.r-project.org/ Statistical analysis
Raw http://raw.densitydesign.org/ Data visualisation
Rstudio https://www.rstudio.com/ Statistical analysis
Ruby http://rubyinstaller.org/ Programming language
Ruby on Rails http://rubyonrails.org/ App Builder
Sage http://www.sagemath.org/ Computer Algebra System
SQLlite https://www.sqlite.org/ Database
SimPy https://simpy.readthedocs.org/en/latest/ Simulation
SymPy http://sympy.org/ Computer Algebra System
TileMill https://tilemill-project.github.io/tilemill/ Geospatial / Mapping software
Visualise Free http://visualizefree.com/index.jsp Data visualisation
Vizable https://vizable.tableau.com/ Data visualisation
Watchmaker Framework http://watchmaker.uncommons.org/ Optimisation 
Xmind https://www.xmind.net/ Mind mapping
yWorks https://www.yworks.com/products/yed Graph/Diagram Drawing