Brock research explores Niagara Canada Games municipal collaboration

Although Niagara’s 12 municipalities worked together to host the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games, collaboration was experienced differently across the region, says new Brock University research.

Following the dissolution of the Niagara Sport Commission, the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games Host Society was created to carry out preparations for the event.

But the loss of the regional organization changed the dynamic of Niagara Region’s planning process, new research from the Niagara Community Observatory (NCO) has found.

“Rather than being a tightly connected, collaboratively-working network, most of the time municipalities were connected to, and working with, the host society,” says Associate Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies Kyle Rich, one of the authors of the latest NCO brief.

This was one of several findings that emerged from the research, “Municipal collaboration in regional event hosting processes: The case of the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.”

The research team, headed by Rich and consisting of Associate Professors of Recreation and Leisure Studies Erin Sharpe and Martha Barnes, NCO Research Co-ordinator Carol Phillips, and Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Graduate Student Emily Romano, set out to document how local municipalities co-operated once Niagara was chosen to host the Games.

Through a series of interviews and analyzing social networks, the team set out to explore municipalities’ understandings of collaborating within a regional hosting process and how assets, knowledge, networks, and other capacities shape relationships within the regional hosting process.

Rich says that a range of professional sport and recreation officials from various municipalities exchanged ideas at the planning table in the lead-up to the successful bid, but once the host society was created, inter-municipal communications decreased and the nature of that collaboration changed.

“Because of how the network was structured, many municipal officials said they lost that ‘Team Niagara’ feeling of working towards a common goal,” says Rich. “They felt their hosting role was much less involved and meaningful, with the host society becoming ‘just another user group.’”

Other findings include:

  • A regional mindset or identity was an important factor in establishing initial and continued buy-in for the regional hosting model.
  • The geography of the region and the varied funding, assets, staff, and other resources across municipalities complicated the processes for some municipalities to participate in parts of the event.
  • The ’13-for-13’ cultural program, which saw each municipality host a festival that celebrated a particular province or territory, was a successful and celebrated way for all municipalities to be connected to regional event hosting processes.
  • Municipalities defining the regional hosting approach as being a success were those that thought the benefits of their participation outweighed the costs, whether they were large or small.

The research resulted in four recommendations on how to use municipalities’ existing networks, set up collaborative structures before event planning starts, develop mechanisms to facilitate participation in the event, and be “creative and strategic” when planning sport and cultural programs.

“The findings of this research will inform structures and strategies that enable municipalities to work well together and gain benefits for their own municipalities, and also how event bids are pursued and assessed,” says Rich.

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