Leader: Early reflections from the new ED


Reading my predecessor’s article in February’s edition has inspired me to start penning this, my own scheduled leader column for Inside OR. That, and the inspirational backdrop of North Wales - where I am visiting recent President and current Past President Professor Edmund Burke for a meeting as part of my induction – has given me the impetus. Offering (hopefully) some thoughtful and coherent reflections on my first few weeks in post. I am also acutely aware that my conscientious and highly competent colleagues in the marketing team will soon be reminding me and chasing the copy!

Listening to the challenges that the OR Society have navigated over the past few years has affirmed my respect and admiration for all those involved in the work of the Society. I would particularly like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Gavin Blackett, who has been at the helm since 2006 and has been entirely gracious and supportive during our handover. I am very grateful to Gavin for the time he has spent over the past weeks to help me assimilate into the organisation, impart his (considerable) corporate knowledge and generally help me to understand the complexity and nuances of the organisation. I wish Gavin every success in his new role with IFORS and I am also glad that he is still available at the end of a telephone, should I need his advice on something!


I was fortunate enough to attend the Blackett lecture and Awards ceremony towards the end of 2022 and met with members, award recipients and a small number of the staff team. It was a wonderful insight into some of the work of the Society and my overwhelming experience was how much of a vibrant community was on display and how valued we are as a Society. Displaying how these two ORS strategic objectives are being lived so overtly was of great reassurance and inspiration to me. I have been struck by how committed and engaged our community is, from the staff to the member volunteers and office holders and everyone in between. It is heart-warming to see and not to be underestimated. The strength of our community is our greatest asset and harnessing and growing this culture is the key to our success. What is less clear to me, however, is how visible the OR Society is to those outside the fold. The work of OR is so broad and impacts so many facets of everyday life, that we have a duty to explain better who we are, what we do, and be more visible to the outside world. Notwithstanding that working to ensure a ‘visible’ Society is the third of our three strategic objectives, it just seems the right thing to do and will help us project our work, demonstrate relevance and grow our influence and impact. What a wonderful opportunity we have in this anniversary year to focus on our ‘visibility’ as a learned society, professional membership body, and charity

Seb Hargreaves.jpg

Seb Hargreaves,
Executive Director, 
The OR Society


There are several challenges as well as opportunities that I have observed within my first weeks. Not least our long-term financial sustainability. We have been fortunate over the past decades to rely on significant revenues from our highly regarded publications portfolio. All of this is then reinvested back into the OR Society to deliver member services and support the running costs of the organisation. Clearly, this has been due to considerable work and many years of nurturing and developing our highly respected journals, which have benefited from the traditional subscription revenue model for publishing. In the era of open access, however, we are going to need to shift our reliance on publication income from it being an almost exclusive source of revenue for the Society. Even by fully embracing open access, it is unlikely to continually maintain or increase the levels of publication revenue we have hitherto become accustomed. Evolving our publishing methods and portfolio to better meet the needs of our members, potential new audiences, and respond to the changing model for how publication revenue is distributed will help mitigate any losses. Diversifying our income, however, with new revenue streams is the way to reduce financial risks and grow the Society for the benefit of all. Of course, we will continue 


to monitor our cost base to ensure we are driving efficiency and cost-effectiveness in our operations, but we are likely to need to take some difficult decisions as well as to be bold and creative in the way we consider new opportunities. We have some exciting projects in the pipeline that will hopefully help to grow sustainable income for the Society and complement our traditionally dominant publication revenue. We are investing in becoming an awarding organisation for the purposes of End Point Assessment through accreditation with OFQUAL. This will allow us to formally assess apprentices on our new Apprenticeship scheme (run in partnership with GORS and the University of Kent). Becoming an End Point Assessment Organisation will enable us to scale and potentially offer other similar apprenticeship opportunities. The scheme offers a useful revenue stream for the Society as well as providing a valuable service to those embarking on a career in OR. Other opportunities include an AI assurance programme and further development of our accreditations and professional qualifications in partnership with the Science Council and others.


I am keen that we revisit our strategy and business plans with the Board and General Council to ensure that the direction of travel set in 2019/20 remains true and consistent with our values and vision. This will provide a renewed mandate to ensure that the Society’s resources can be focussed most appropriately on meeting our objectives. It will also give us the impetus to review our Member Value Proposition and of course correct or develop new products and services to best meet the needs of our diverse members. Areas of focus could inlude: how we best support our student members to help them transition to and retain full membership of the Society into their careers. Similarly, how we make the best use of technology to enhance our member offer and provide an optimised member experience. I feel humbled and privileged to be leading the staff team of the OR Society. I am very much looking forward to working with our new President, Gilbert Owusu, the Board, General Council, our various Committees, and the staff team to ensure that we rise to these challenges and exploit the opportunities. I can assure you all of my determination and commitment to best support our endeavours and realise our vision. Collectively we can create a vibrant, valued and visible Operational Research Society with a shared ambition and purpose.


Finally, I am determined that we harness the goodwill and financial support (where appropriate) of our valued community. We benefit from a highly engaged network of members and supporters, many of whom offer their spare time in support of the Society. This is fantastic and we couldn’t achieve all that we do without you, our network of members and member volunteers who offer precious time and expertise so freely in support of our endeavours – so thank you. This alone demonstrates how important the Society is to those who are part of it, so, my question is; would you ever consider leaving a gift in your will to help the Society thrive and continue our valued work for future generations? There is no expectation to put the Society before family, friends and other interests and we recognise that the cost of living crisis means asking for regular donations to the charity may be unrealistic. Leaving a gift in your will is a way to donate that ‘pays it forward’ and does not immediately hit your pocket. We will be exploring ways to incentivise members and supporters to leave a legacy to the OR Society, and as a registered charity, this is (and always has been) entirely possible and of course, would very much be welcomed. If you are thinking about writing or updating a will, please consider leaving a gift (for example, a small percentage of your estate or a fixed sum) to the OR Society. Details of how to do this can be seen on page 11. In our 70th anniversary year (75th of the earlier OR Club), what better way to mark the occasion by helping to ensure we can remain a visible, valued and vibrant OR community and Society for the next 75 years and beyond? Thank you for your continued support.