Written by Angela de Burger
The Adopting Common Measures program is highlighting key social purpose organizations across Canada and showcasing their impact and the progress they are making towards a more sustainable future for Canadians in keeping with Canada’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Always Moving Forward, that’s our slogan and our approach in every aspect of our community-building work,” says Jillian MacKinnon, VP Marketing, Communications & Strategic Initiatives at Envision Saint John.
Envision Saint John prioritizes collaboration so that everyone in the region can play a part in its growth and development. The Regional Growth Dashboard they developed offers a transparent, data-based view of how the region is doing in many different areas, revealing points of progress, challenge and opportunity for the entire community to act on in order to address pressing community needs.
Developing a data dashboard for the community
One of their core services is metrics and measurement, meaning they collect, evaluate, assess and publicly publish data in order to support the region’s growth strategy.
Their in-depth and wide-ranging Regional Growth Dashboard was developed and launched in late 2022. It provides information in six key areas: population, labour, real estate, tourism, trade and quality of life.
The data dashboard was created following best practices, referring to established frameworks (such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) and through consultations with regional and provincial data specialists.
The organization describes the dashboard as “a tool citizens can use to understand the current growth picture in our region, to track how the region is trending over the medium term, and to better understand the various data points that have an impact on our 10-year outcomes.”
Integrating emerging data needs
The social impact-focused areas of data are updated as new information becomes available and the dashboard is considered a living platform because it changes iteratively over time as data needs emerge. “Our goals are framed around the concept of achieving ‘growth where no one is left behind’, which could also be phrased as achieving positive social impact,” says Jillian.
They are not just about growth for growth’s sake. “We regularly have thoughtful and deliberate conversations with our partners and stakeholders to ensure our region is prepared for the growth we’re fostering,” Jillian says. “For example, there’s no use in attracting a talented labour pool to our region if there isn’t enough housing for them to access when they arrive. The collaborations taking place in our region are key to making sure we can deliver a great experience for everyone in the area.”
Effectively using data
Jin Hu, Data, Analytics & Research Manager, oversees and updates the regional growth dashboard and she says, “one of Envision Saint John’s deliverables as an organization is to offer data and metrics in as transparent a way as possible so that everyone in the region can see what’s happening and take action where needed.”
As a result, all the information contained in the dashboard is freely available to the public so anyone who wishes to consult the data sets has the ability to do so.
To create context for the data, Jin notes the dashboard has been designed to allow for comparing and contrasting information from the Saint John region to other regions across Canada. The data sets are drawn from a variety of trusted sources such as Statistics Canada, Greater New Brunswick Department of Education, and Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission.
Careful consideration is given to how and why people use the dashboard and that has affected both its design and ongoing evolution. To make it as easy as possible for people to use the dashboard, they offer 5 Tips to Get the Most Out of the Regional Growth Dashboard as well as responses to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
A regular topic of conversation within the Envision Saint John team is methods of presenting data so people can use it in new ways. This data is more than just numbers, it’s telling the region’s development story. Sometimes it can confirm an anecdotal belief held by the community and at other times it can dispel myths by providing actual data points for various subject areas.
“The dashboard is for everyone – it’s their data – and it’s creating opportunities for conversation that are new for our region,” says Jillian. “It’s changing people’s ideas about who is accountable for what happens in the community – we’re all accountable. Collectively, we have an opportunity to make a difference and by working together we can make regional development strides that would otherwise be impossible to achieve. The dashboard has quickly become a valuable resource in our region.”