Brock launches community partnership to research pathways to economic growth

Assessing Niagara’s economic potential. Examining job creation in the region. Tracking numbers and trends of workers coming in and out of the area.

These are some of the topics a newly-formed, Brock University-led research consortium plans to pursue in the next five years.

Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO), Niagara College’s School of Business and the Niagara Workforce Planning Board will jointly produce research on Niagara region’s economy, business development and workforce innovation.

“The partnership is based on the shared values of responsiveness to the needs of the local community, a commitment to collaboration that celebrates and leverages the diverse perspectives and strengths of stakeholders, and pursuit of world-class research excellence,” says a Memorandum of Understanding the participating organizations signed at Brock June 12.

NCO Director Charles Conteh explains that the three-way partnership will enable researchers to get a “panoramic view” of how the economy, business and labour interact with one another as Niagara moves forward with regional development.

“Rather than us being confined to our silos, let’s synchronize our efforts,” Conteh says of the consortium.

“Let’s co-ordinate our strength and together begin to ask larger questions about the economic vitality of Niagara and job creation: What are the gaps? What are the challenges? Bottlenecks? Constraints? How can we overcome them?”

He says each institution has its own strengths, enabling each to bring to the table unique knowledge, funding, contacts, experiences and other resources.

“When you combine the job creators and the labour force, that is the wealth of our region,” says Conteh. “When you have productive, innovative businesses, when you have highly skilled, confident and adaptive workers, you have a winning region.”

Research generated from the five-year partnership is meant to guide politicians as they create and implement policies, programs and services, Conteh says.

“The partnership provides us a basic legitimacy and strength, the resources to impact action more, to influence outcomes, to be part of the conversation,” he says. “We have a great capacity to actually mobilize our research into the hands of policymakers, to use evidence to influence, engage and advise policy action.”

The June 12 Memorandum of Understanding outlines “forms of co-operation and collaboration” between the partners, including:

  •      Preparing research reports and/or policy briefs on group-decided projects
  •      Co-ordinating research activities that may include other community organizations
  •      Supporting the partners’ projects by sharing expertise and contacts
  •      Organizing joint forums with community partners in Niagara
  •      Obtaining funding from various sources for “policy-relevant” research

“Brock University is deeply committed to working with the community by building partnerships in reciprocity and mutual respect,” says Brock’s Interim Vice-President Research Joffre Mercier.

“Our commitment is highlighted in our Strategic Mandate Agreement with the Province of Ontario, which describes concrete actions Brock is taking largely through our transdisciplinary institutes and centres to work as partners with our community stakeholders.

“Their input informs and directs our research, and our research will help inform decisions that will enhance the economic and social health of Niagara,” Mercier says. “The Niagara Community Observatory plays a key role in directing and driving these efforts, and we are grateful to them for their hard work.”

Niagara College and the Niagara Workforce Planning Board are equally enthusiastic about the potential benefits of this agreement.

“Niagara College is pleased to have a role in this important partnership with Brock University and the Niagara Workforce Planning Board,” says Vivian Kinnaird, Niagara College’s Dean of Business, Hospitality and Environment. “This partnership will allow us to work together on research that will be beneficial for the Niagara region.”

This type of collaboration between post-secondary education and labour market experts is “key to identifying labour market research priorities for our community, and it leverages our individual roles and strengths in support of economic development in Niagara,” says Niagara College President Dan Patterson. “The MOU we’ve signed today reflects our shared goals of aligning the skills and knowledge of our workforce with the current and future needs of Niagara’s business and industry.”

The Niagara Workforce Planning Board is thrilled to be partnering with Niagara College and Brock’s NCO, said Chief Executive Officer Mario De Divitiis.

“This initiative ensures streamlined and effective collaboration between some of the foremost public research institutions in the region, and that opens up so much possibility for Niagara.”

Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory is a public-policy think-tank working in partnership with the Niagara community to foster, produce and disseminate research on current and emerging issues.

It produces a range of policy briefs on topics of interest and concern to Niagara region.

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