In order to enhance continuity and interest in this field, IFORS has launched a program to conduct workshops in non-IFORS Conference years, to be held across IFORS’ different regions, with the aim of promoting a deep discussion about the role of OR in developing countries.
The first workshop of this new programme was held in Djerba, Tunisia, from 12-13 October, which welcomed 30 participants from all around the world. The workshop was designed to introduce Problem Structuring Methods (PSM), and give guidance on how they could be applied to problems within a development context. PSM are a family of methods that aim to support a group of decision-making actors and stakeholders in addressing a problematic situation of shared concern within a complex and uncertainty environment. Typically, the most challenging element is to address what the problem is and, consequently, define the critical issues and systemic relationships between them. Examples of PSM’s discussed during the workshop were Soft System Methodology, Strategic Choice Approach, Robustness Analysis, SODA – Strategic Options Development and Analysis. The participants were guided through the theme by Professor Mike Cushman and Professor Jonathan Rosenhead of the London School of Economics, and Professor Leroy White of the University of Bristol.
The daily agenda consisted of experts’ presentations followed by concrete and illustrative real world case studies, which have encouraged discussion and knowledge sharing by the group. Additionally, participants were asked to contribute with examples of a development issue or problem relevant to their own country and situation, which were then discussed during the workshop with the tutors.
The coffee breaks were a perfect excuse to enjoy the sun of Djerba, and simultaneously, continue the scientific discussion between the participants and the tutors. The continuing interaction between the members of the workshop made the scientific program unique, interesting, and helpful for the ongoing research of all the participants.
At the end of the workshop, the participants had gained a deep knowledge about the theme and had a better understanding of how PSM can help them to deal with complex and difficult problems. There was a shared feeling that the two days’ workshop were not enough to discuss and share all the knowledge and doubts of the researchers. The entire group stated that a key factor for the success of the workshop was the fact that it was held for a small group from all over the world with different and heterogeneous backgrounds.