Leader: Lessons from the Commonwealth Games

By the time you read this, the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will be well and truly over, but the games inspired me for the broad theme of this leader article. Whilst the Society can’t claim to have had any direct involvement in the organisation and running of the games (although I really hope there was some OR in there somewhere!), the Society’s offices are close to quite one of the games’ major city-centre venues, meaning our staff have been caught up in the excitement and disruption of snaking queues, closed roads and restricted access.

From an outsider’s perspective, the games seem to have been a huge success from the point of view of the overall aims of the movement and for the participants, spectators and locals. Reports of the buzz of the games and of the city are widespread and this must bring a warm glow of satisfaction to the organisers. Aside from this impressive amount of engagement on many levels, the games set quite aggressive targets with regard to sustainability and environmental impact too.[1]

The OR Society doesn’t yet have this kind of overall goal, but parts of this kind of approach are working their way into much of what we do. The one element specifically mentioned in our business plan is that of financial sustainability for the Society. Discussions on this theme have been prevalent in Board meetings throughout the pandemic of course but continue to be important because of the potential impact of open access on our publications income and the impact of high inflation rates on our costs, primarily the wages we pay to our staff. An extension to our publishing contract with Taylor & Francis comes into effect for four years starting in 2023. The terms aren’t as advantageous as the previous contract, and we’re certainly shouldering more risk when it comes to changes that open access are likely to bring to the finances of publishing.

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Executive Director, Gavin Blackett

Discussions about any salary increases for 2023 will be handled over the coming months. Board wants to treat the staff fairly in this respect, but the various options available do have important consequences for the overall budget for 2023 and beyond. Both of these challenges require us to think about future options – either for diversifying our incomes’ sources or for considering how we deliver our services. Inside OR, for instance, would be one of those considerations – should it only be available digitally or could we reduce its frequency or, perhaps there are other ways we could make it more cost neutral? (And we are happy to hear your thoughts on this.)

Further sustainability initiatives could take inspiration from the Commonwealth Games; we could look at ways to make the office carbon neutral. Hybrid working has helped towards this already – the office is already closed for two days a week. Conferences and events, especially when delegates travel long distances generate large amounts of CO2 . We’re already taking small steps, but perhaps we need to be more ambitious. Should alternate year’s conferences be virtual? The whole of the conferencing world is grappling and learning as we go as far as hybrid conferences are concerned. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the Commonwealth Games’ response and plant acres of trees to offset the carbon consumption.

Recreating the buzz of the Commonwealth Games in our interactions with members, delegates and other users of our services would be a great achievement. We’re doing our best to give you the platforms to do that through our programme of events – either face-to-face or online. We need you, the potential consumers of these services, to throw yourselves headlong into the activities to create the vigour, to create the good feeling. The annual conference, OR64, in a few days’ time, at the University of Warwick is the perfect opportunity and hopefully the Commonwealth Games has inspired you to get involved and make the most of the opportunity.