February 1, 2022 - Surveys, surveys, everywhere. If you live and work in Northern Ontario, you no doubt have been targeted by a survey. Likely more than one. You may even receive a few on the same day. The reason for that is simple.
Statistics Canada, believe it or not, has finite resources. Meaning they target their data collection and reporting to larger population centres. So, yes, if you live in the “Big Five”, Kenora or Elliot Lake, then StatCan knows a few things about you. Live in Schreiber or Kapuskasing? Wait five years until the Census comes out. Then wait another five to see if anything has changed. Are you a leader or member of a specific First Nation, or a Métis community? Good luck, even in Census years.
This is why countless economic development agencies, local planning boards, service providers, universities, governments and yes, research institutes, send out surveys. Asking you what is going on is one of the best ways to figure out what is happening and what has changed.
Problem being, you don’t have the time to answer 700 different surveys and, individually, we don’t have the resources to ask everyone the same questions at the same time to avoid duplication. Even though, asking everyone the same question at the same time is the best way to get reliable, comparable, useful information about what is or is not actually impacting your community.
Knowing what is happening in Sudbury is great. Knowing if the same thing is happening in French River is essential. Without timely, comparable results from other communities you have no idea if the problem you are facing, or the success you are having, is local or global. Is North Bay really doing a bang-up job attracting and retaining immigrants and migrants? Or are people just fleeing the GTA and landing randomly across Northern Ontario? You will want to know if you are looking at modeling your marketing efforts on theirs. (author’s note – North Bay is doing a bang-up job.)
This February, Northern Policy Institute (NPI) in partnership with organizations, agencies, and governments in every region of Northern Ontario will be making a collaborative effort to ease your survey pain and enhance our collective understanding of our communities. We are modelling this effort on work done by StatCan at the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic.
As the pandemic took off, faced with the need to get detailed information, quickly, but consistently, Statistics Canada did something truly innovative (for them). They crowdsourced a survey. In partnership with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and a series of other national employer groups StatCan started collecting data from anyone who would reply about the effects, real or feared, of the pandemic. It worked.
StatCan designed the survey, organizations across the country promoted it and the data came in. The data from these efforts was crucial in informing policy responses at the federal and provincial level. This type of burden sharing allowed the collection of important information in a timely and consistent way. If StatCan can do it, so can we.
We are christening February “Measurement Month”. NPI has developed a series of surveys with input from Environics Research Group and partner organizations across Northern Ontario. We have asked an even larger group of partners to promote these surveys to their members and clients. And we are asking you to do the same. Pick one survey, the one most relevant to you, and reply to it. Pick one survey, the one most relevant to your clients or networks and encourage them to respond as well.
We hope to repeat Measurement Month every February going forward. The focus of this first Measurement Month is: how welcoming are we, really? Significant investments are being made to combat racism, attract migrants and immigrants, and to make northern Ontario the most welcoming place in Canada, for everyone. We need to know where we are today, so that tomorrow we can assess how far we have gone.
There are five surveys to choose from: one about lived experience of racism in our regions, one for new residents in specific cities or towns (whether you came from 200 or 10,000 kilometres away), one for those who came to and have now left these same cities or towns, one for employers, and one for service providers. You can access these surveys online at www.northernpolicy.ca.
Measurement Month starts on February 1st and data collection ends February 15th. As with StatCan surveys, the data collected will be properly collated and vetted to protect individual anonymity. Then it will be publicly released by NPI; anonymous groupings will be shared, on request, with policy makers and program delivery agencies in every one of our communities. Help us help you. Let’s get it (the evidence) together.
Charles Cirtwill is President & CEO of Northern Policy Institute. Northern Ontario’s Independent Think Tank with offices in Thunder Bay, Sudbury, and Kirkland Lake.
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