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What is Community Operational Research?

Midgley, Gerald; Johnson, Michael P.; Chichirau, George


Michael P. Johnson

George Chichirau


Community Operational Research (Community OR) has been an explicit sub-domain of OR for more than 30 years. In this paper, we tackle the controversial issue of how it can be differentiated from other forms of OR. While it has been persuasively argued that Community OR cannot be defined by its clients, practitioners or methods, we argue that the common concern of all Community OR practice is the meaningful engagement of communities, whatever form that may take – and the legitimacy of different forms of engagement may be open to debate. We then move on to discuss four other controversies that have implications for the future development of Community OR and its relationship with its parent discipline: the desire for Community OR to be more explicitly political; claims that it should be grounded in the theory, methodology and practice of systems thinking; the similarities and differences between the UK and US traditions; and the extent to which Community OR offers an enhanced understanding of practice that could be useful to OR more generally. Our positions on these controversies all follow from our identification of ‘meaningful engagement’ as a central feature of Community OR.


Midgley, G., Johnson, M. P., & Chichirau, G. (in press). What is Community Operational Research?. European journal of operational research, 268, 771-783.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 8, 2017
Online Publication Date Aug 13, 2017
Deposit Date Aug 10, 2017
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal European journal of operational research
Print ISSN 0377-2217
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 268
Pages 771-783
Keywords Community Operational Research; Community-based operations research; Problem structuring methods; Process of OR; Engaged OR
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a description of an article accepted for publication in: European journal of operational research, 2017.


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Copyright Statement
© 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

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