Niagara Connects wants to see the region reach its full potential

By Maryanne Firth, The Tribune
Thursday, November 28, 2013 4:56:49 EST PM

Niagara Connects chair Dr. Madelyn Law looks over the network map created last December of the group's more than 1,500 links to other organizations in the community.

Niagara Connects chair Dr. Madelyn Law looks over the network map created last December of the group’s more than 1,500 links to other organizations in the community.

And to help it do that, the volunteer-led network has been hard at work over the past eight years creating tools to help strengthen Niagara’s future.

During a networking breakfast Thursday at Riverstone Event Centre in Welland, the group officially launched its latest resource, — a place for people to access and exchange news and ideas on Niagara-focused planning, collaboration, learning, innovation and community action.

It was community input and the desire for an “online repository for Niagara-focused information” that let to the creation of NKE, said Niagara Connects executive director Mary Wiley.

Through the tool and its online “knowledge brokers,” people are connected to other individuals in the community and to relevant data, research reports, webinars, electronic newsletters, community blogs and a calendar of community events, that can assist with their work in a variety of fields, she said.

The breakfast also marked the kickoff of research for the Living in Niagara-2014 report, a document issued every three years by Niagara Connects that outlines quality of life in the region based on 12 sectors that align with social indicators of health.

The report will identify where there are gaps and where there has been progress in Niagara living over the past three years, said Niagara Connects chair Dr. Madelyn Law.

“It will tell us where we are and more about where we want to be.”

A research team, including Brock University and Niagara College students, has taken on the project and is analyzing incoming data.

“Statistics are always changing and Niagara always performs better in some sectors and needs improvement in others,” Law said, citing the need for the report to be revised every three years.

“There’s always new data, always something we can learn. It’s also a chance to see what we’ve done well. It’s a good way to track progress and emerging issues.”

The report will be released next November.

While Thursday’s breakfast was a platform to release information about the report and online tool, it also served as an opportunity to honour community volunteers, dubbed Builders of Niagara Connects, who’ve assisted with the group since its inception.

Following recognition of the volunteers, attendees listened to a presentation on network mapping and how the method, which outlines connections between people in various organizations and communities, can be used to improve work being done by different groups in Niagara.

Twitter: @mfirthTribune

The Living in Niagara-2014 report will measure quality of life in the region across the following 12 sectors:

• Arts, culture and heritage
• Transportation and mobility
• The environment
• Learning and education
• Housing and shelter
• Crime, safety and security
• Health and wellness
• Work and employment
• Economic development, poverty and prosperity
• Belonging, volunteering, giving and leadership
• Getting started
• Recreation and sports

Niagara Knowledge Exchange & Community Calendar

Niagara Connects is a proud participating member of the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network.