A unique partnership formally connecting a community and a university was officially launched Tuesday afternoon.
Officials from Brock University and the Town of Lincoln launched the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab at an event at Vineland Estates Winery, kicking off a long-term relationship that will benefit current and future students at the University along with current and future residents in the southern Ontario town.
Brock and Lincoln signed a Memorandum of Understanding in February with the goal of creating opportunities for students and advancing the Town’s overall development. The Brock-Lincoln Living Lab that was launched Tuesday will focus on addressing specific local needs around community sustainability and well-being. Brock faculty and students will contribute to the Living Lab’s work through their research and the partnership offers a conduit for experiential education that extends curriculum into the community.
The Brock-Lincoln Living Lab will provide real benefits to the community of Lincoln and to the Brock community by leveraging the resources, capacities and talents of both communities.
“The relationship between Brock and the Town of Lincoln is blossoming and represents a wonderful example of how collaboration can benefit everyone,” said Brock University President Gervan Fearon. “Brock is a comprehensive university with a clear mission to serve local communities and the announcement today directly speaks to this mission.”
Town of Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton said the partnership is an important step in the Town’s growth.
“The development of the Living Lab further demonstrates a greater Brock presence in our community, meeting one of Council’s goals this term,” she said. “The benefits of this co-operative venture are vast. With access to research specific to our community, we are better able to guide policy development and decision making.”
The partnership with the Town of Lincoln is through Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. Director Ryan Plummer said the Living Lab will enrich the experience of students studying in the Sustainability Science and Society program, as well as others taking courses in environmental sustainability.
“These direct experiences complement classroom learning by students and offer powerful benefits of situating learning in the community, bridging the ‘theory-practice’ divide, and enriching understanding of complex problems,” he said.
An example of the type of hands-on learning that will come out of the Living Lab started this summer when Brock Master of Sustainability co-op student Meghan Birbeck worked at the Town of Lincoln on initiatives such as sustainable development of the Town’s future transit system and other community programs.
“We’re proud to be the first community in Niagara to establish this innovative approach and partnership that brings Brock to Lincoln,” said Michael Kirkopoulos, CAO, Town of Lincoln. “The Living Lab is a way to benefit from the research and work the University does to enhance the services we deliver to residents, businesses and visitors. I look forward to continuing to work with Brock in the future.”
The Brock-Lincoln Living Lab is initially set to last five years. Among some of the more specific targets the two sides are working toward are:
- Conduct a needs assessment within the first year of operations identifying priorities, proposed activities and objectives to be achieved within the first five years
- Hold public events each year pertaining to knowledge mobilization and community engagement
- Engage graduate and undergraduate students in co-operative education, course projects and independent research projects
- Initiate research projects by Brock faculty
- Explore and pursue mutually beneficial opportunities of shared interest such as grant proposals and community forums
- Promote the Living Lab locally and develop networks nationally and internationally
- Support Lincoln in following other national or international initiatives that can help promote community sustainability and are in line with the spirit of the Living Lab