York’s Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Unit, in partnership with the York Region Community Foundation (YRCF), has released its first Living in York Region Vital Signs report.
Titled “Living in York Region: Our Community Check-up”, the report presents context indicators for 12 issue areas and summarizes the opinions of more than 1,000 York Region residents who attended focus groups and completed an online survey between March and June 2011. The project is part of a national initiative covering 22 Canadian communities.
The report provides baseline indicators and resident perceptions of how well the region’s communities are faring in key quality of life areas such as learning, health, housing and the environment. It emphasizes the importance of connections in an area encompassing some 1,756 square kilometres of rural, forested and urban landscape and concludes that York Region is a healthy community.
“York has been pleased to be part of this important project in York Region,” said Robert Haché, vice-president research & innovation at York. “This report will provide a baseline against which our knowledge mobilization and social innovation initiatives can be measured. We will now have the ability to describe the difference that research is making in the lives of our local communities.”
Staff from York University’s KMb Unit served on the project steering committee to support the strategic and operational objectives of the report. David Dewitt, former assistant vice-president research, served as the University’s representative on the project’s leadership council, which provided strategic oversight around the development, rollout and sustainability of the project. York alumna Marie Murnaghan (PhD ’10) contributed to the project by seeking and analyzing data in the 12 indicator areas.
“This report, based on research and data as well as the experiences and voices of York Region residents, holds great potential in mobilizing action around the human services provision,” said Michael Johnny, York’s knowledge mobilization manager. “The KMb Unit at York will continue to work with leaders and decision makers, using this report, to help support informed decision making on important issues to all residents of York Region.”
The report found that York Region residents have great pride in their communities, whether they are long-time residents or newcomers, but years of sustained growth – and the prospect of much more to come in the future – have created pressures in two key areas that require urgent attention.
The first area, subtitled Getting Around, highlights that infrastructure and services – and most importantly public transit – must keep pace with growth so people are able to move conveniently and efficiently within York Region and connect to neighbouring communities.
The second priority, subtitled Housing, asserts that there be more affordable choices and supports for people in emergency situations.
To these two priority issues the report adds a third that speaks of the need to build awareness and to better communicate York Region’s existing strengths. The issue, subtitled Navigating Existing Resources, highlights the importance of ensuring that people know what services and programs already exist in the region and how to access them.
The Living in York Region Vital Signs report is part of the Vital Signs national initiative comprised of annual community check-ups that are conducted by 22 community foundations across Canada to measure the vitality of communities. The project received funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
The full report can be downloaded from the Living in York Region website.