Niagara Connects – Built by the Niagara-wide Community for the Community

In 2005, a group of Niagara-based leaders met to discuss creating a Niagara-wide approach to integrated socio-economic planning. In 2006, they hosted a facilitated meeting of interested citizens from across the region, to define the vision. Strong support was expressed for creating a community-driven body to champion Niagara-focused, collaborative, evidence-based community planning that describes and uses Niagara’s many assets to build a strong socio-economic future for our region.

As a result of this collaborative action, in 2007 the Niagara Research and Planning Council (NRAPC) was formed, to lead and strengthen a culture of evidence-informed socio-economic planning. Founding membership of the Council was comprised of citizens from across the region, dedicated to community action leading to stronger decision-making for Niagara’s future. In late 2012, NRAPC re-branded as Niagara Connects. Until 2014, financial administration was provided by the Niagara Community Foundation. In mid-2014, NRAPC incorporated as a Canadian non-profit, with the operating name Niagara Connects.

Niagara Connects is a social enterprise, with a fee for service revenue base. Niagara Connects Subscribers are organizations that invest in Niagara Connects services and annual Subscription. They receive customized Knowledge Broker support for opportunities to engage, share, contribute to, and benefit from Niagara Connects network activity. We provide Backbone Support services for a number of Niagara-wide systems initiatives

Living in Niagara report 2017The Living in Niagara report is a triennial measure of quality of life in Niagara, based on the 12 Living in Niagara Sectors, which align with the Social Determinants of Health. The first Living in Niagara report was released in 2008, to provide a baseline comprehensive picture of Niagara’s asset-based strengths, as well as challenges affecting life in our region.

The report is a planning tool that is widely-cited by people, organizations and businesses gathering evidence to support Niagara-focused plans and reports. The Niagara Community Foundation (NCF) is a partner in production of the report. NCF asks its Community Grants Program applicants to show how they will address issues/indicators in the report.

The Living in Niagara-2011 report includes 65 Suggested Action Steps across the 12 Sectors. The Living in Niagara-2014 report, released at the November, 2014 Niagara Community Foundation Leaders Breakfast, with almost 500 people in attendance, includes 10 Overall Themes for Action and 57 Suggested Action Steps across the 12 Living in Niagara Sectors.

Niagara Knowledge ExchangeThe niagaraknowledgeexchange.com (NKE) tool supports evidence-informed planning, collective action and Niagara-wide innovations. It is populated by people working with Niagara Connects Knowledge Brokers.

The NKE tool is built and strengthened by and for users. In November 2010, NRAPC hosted a community forum to discuss the concept of online horizontal knowledge-sharing to support more effective planning in the region. Over seventy people from across Niagara who work in the area of socio-economic development participated. Speakers emphasized the innovation, positive community action and economic benefits that would result from effective knowledge brokering and online sharing of Niagara-focused information to support focused planning.

Through a facilitated round-table process, participants described creation of an accessible, reliable, relevant Niagara-focused online space for collaborative exchange of data, reports, mapping and other information to support socio-economic planning. A Niagara-wide community calendar was envisioned as an essential planning and collaboration tool to include on what became the NKE.

Thirty forum participants volunteered over the next six months to create the framework for the NKE. They envisioned construction of the NKE tool as an essential first step in strengthening a Niagara-wide culture of people, organizations and businesses working together to understand the qualities and value of data for Niagara. A collaborative of Niagara organizations secured Ontario Trillium Foundation funding to support construction of the NKE, from 2012 to 2014.

As of 2016, average NKE metrics show that each month: 800 people view 3,000 pages and 50 resources are uploaded to the NKE. Over 1200 people from 700 organizations and businesses receive weekly E-blasts that include links to new resources on the NKE.

Niagara Connects Knowledge Brokers (KBs) connect people to people and people to relevant, reliable evidence, to support planning for impact. They host regular webinars to highlight Niagara-focused innovations, with an average of 100 participants and 50 views of webinar archives. Over 2500 @niagaraconnects Twitter Followers receive links to evidence that Niagara Connects KBs add to the NKE.

Niagara Connects Strategic Focus Areas, 2016 – 2018

Niagara Connects is a Niagara-wide network of people for collaboration, planning, learning, innovation and community action toward a stronger future for Niagara.

Network Aim: To support enhanced quality of life in Niagara, by facilitating access to relevant, reliable data, information and knowledge; and convening connections between people and organizations working in and across the 12 Living in Niagara Sectors. The 12 Sectors align with the Social Determinants of Health.

Mission: Generating knowledge that drives community action

Guiding Principles:
– Community strengths, research, and evidence are linked in order to plan for a stronger Niagara
– Different interests are engaged to work together mobilizing for change
– Research and activities are guided by communities

Strategic Focus Areas, 2016 to 2018

Niagara Connects Strategic Focus Areas, 2016 – 2018