Welcome to the Niagara Community Observatory

The 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.

Announcement: Wilson Foundation Partnership

Exploring Niagara’s Economic Past and Potential Future

The Niagara Community Observatory and Brock University are excited to partner with the Wilson Foundation to tell the story of Niagara’s economic development.

Our interdisciplinary team will focus on five key economic sectors: hydro-electric power generation; manufacturing and industry; marine transportation; tourism; and agriculture and agri-business. The information and knowledge gathered will be presented through digital media, archives and special collections’ exhibitions, symposiums for researchers and the academic community.

The project will also provide experiential learning and research opportunities for Brock’s student body.

NCO Director, Dr. Charles Conteh, will lead the two-year project along with a research team gathered from the university’s Faculties of Social Sciences, Humanities, Education, and Goodman School of Business, as well as Library Archives and Special Collections.

For more information, please see The Brock News announcement from Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022.

Hot off the Presses!

Growing agri-innovation series phase 3

Our latest policy brief — #55 — has just been released!

Systemic Barriers and Drivers to Technology Adoption in Canada: Lessons for Agri-Innovation in Ontario from Stakeholders of Canada’s Global Innovation Clusters was written by Dr. Amy Lemay, Allison Clark, Dr. Jeff Boggs, and Dr. Charles Conteh as part of our ongoing research project funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

In this policy brief, which follows a working paper released in May 2021 and policy brief #53 released in November 2021, our attention turns to one-on-one interviews conducted with stakeholders of Canada’s Global Innovation Clusters (formerly known as Innovation Superclusters). This is the third phase of a more extensive four-pronged study to investigate opportunities and challenges associated with building competitive production systems in Ontario’s agri-food sector, focusing on the barriers and drivers associated particularly in the development and adoption of automation and robotics technology.

The interviews provide insights into the challenges faced by researchers, technology developers and intermediaries in developing, scaling and commercializing automation and robotics technologies and their perceptions of barriers and drivers of adoption faced by their end-users, such as farmers.

This is an Ontario Agri-food Research Initiative (OAFRI) project. OAFRI projects are funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a fiveyear, $3-billion commitment by Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial governments that supports Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors.

SPECIAL REPORT CELEBRATING THE VPR CANADA GAMES RESEARCH GRANTS PROGRAM

The NCO kicked off a great day of celebrating Brock research on October 6 at the Brock-Canada Games Academic Showcase with its special report LEVERAGING RESEARCH FOR LEGACY How a stakeholder can leverage a major sport event to create lasting legacy for its own community and beyond: The case study of Brock University’s Canada Games Research Grants program. The report, written by Dr. Carol Phillips, Jake Quinton, and Dr. Julie Stevens frames the $200,000 grants program as a legacy-builder for both the university and Niagara. Some 34 faculty, six staff and 82 students across all Faculties participated on 30 projects, and 32 community partners also got involved.

new policy brief:

IMPROVING SAFE AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR WOMEN IN NIAGARA, BEFORE AND AFTER COVID-19

The NCO has just released its full policy brief, Improving Safe and Affordable Housing for Women in Niagara, Before and After COVID-19, written by Dr. Joanne Heritz, Dr. Kathy Moscou, and Dr. Charles Conteh. This policy brief is the culmination of a year’s work, funded through SSHRC and in partnership with the YWCA Niagara Region, in which the research team listened to women’s stories of homelessness in order to inform policy change.

The full brief follows our public event, held at Pond Inlet on Wednesday, June 22 where we released a fact sheet, Unhoused in Niagara, giving a snapshot of our findings. More than 50 politicians, community service workers, and academics gathered to hear that presentation by Dr. Heritz, Dr. Moscou, and research assistants Tara Dekker and Katie Keays. Special thanks goes to our amazing panel: Jenny Shickluna (Mgr. Housing Programs, Niagara Region), Wendy Sturgeon (Exec. Dir. Niagara Chapter- Native Women Inc.), and Christina Thomas (community support worker and a member of the project’s Housing Advisory Council).

Student Research

The NCO welcomes graduate students who may wish to be affiliated with the institute, participate in its community outreach activities, and contribute to producing and disseminating evidence-based research on current and emerging issues in Niagara and beyond. Visit our Opportunities to Participate page for more information. If interested, contact the NCO Director, Dr. Charles Conteh, by email: cconteh@brocku.ca.

IMPROVING COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

The NCO is extremely excited to present you with some great student research from Dr. Pascal Lupien’s fourth-year class: POLI 4P36/5P36: Comparative Democratization in a Global Age.

This applied research project matched fourth-year Political Science students studying democracy, with community organizations dedicated to supporting citizen participation and inclusion. The purpose of this experiential education project was to support and inform the organizations’ advocacy efforts and research needs. At the same time, the project provided students with experience in developing the kind of professional research project that will help them find employment in sectors such as non-profits, government, consultancy, think tanks, and international organizations.

A Case Study on Asset-Based Community Development Organization: Creating Stronger Neighbourhood Relationships is written by Cody Lee, Korrah Sawyer-Dimech, Hailey Bayne-Foster, and Sam Van Clief. This policy brief is based on research conducted with Fitzgerald Neighbours, a neighbourhood association in St. Catharines. It explores ways to enhance the engagement of neighbourhood associations in municipal governance, in an effort to better democratize local politics, and examines how neighbourhood associations can help municipalities by, for example, improving public consultation processes.

Increasing Civic Engagement Among Non-Citizens in Hamilton, ON is written by Mattheus Roest, Rima Channan, Carlie Pagliacci, and Sulemana Saaka. The policy brief identifies tangible and practical mechanisms, channels and procedures for providing non-citizen newcomers with opportunities for local civic/political engagement and considers the best means of developing or applying these practices in Hamilton.

2021 RESEARCH

To be, or not to be, remote?

Dr. Kate Cassidy (Dept. of Communication, Popular Culture & Film) and research assistant Mackenzie Rockbrune open our Fall term with their research into what employers and their employees need to consider as we navigate our way back from pandemic-induced remote work.

Policy brief #52 To be, or not to be, remote? Examining the essential factors needed for ongoing remote work success   provides some questions that all employers should be asking as they determine a new remote-work policy.

Thank you to all who attended our Oct. 20 presentation. What a great conversation. Special thanks to our panel: Mishka Balsom, Pres. & CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce; Dolores Fabiano, Executive Director of the South Niagara Chambers of Commerce; Laurie Ryan-Hill, HR Director for community support agencies Mainstream and Gateway; and Stacy Terry, Executive Director for Distress Centre Niagara.

Here’s a great write-up of the work in The Brock Press.

2021 summer reading

As we head into summer, the NCO would like to bring to your attention a couple working papers we’ve published from our ongoing research projects.

Neighbourhood Associations and the Municipality: Supporting Citizen Engagement in the City is written by Dr. Carol Phillips & Dr. Charles Conteh and is meant as a backgrounder for local municipalities looking for ways to better support neighbourhood associations. The research stems from a City of St. Catharines initiative to host a neighbourhood forum in March 2020, that was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions. It is the NCO’s hope that this working paper can be used to re-start the conversation towards hosting a similar event once large face-to-face gatherings are allowed.

Preliminary Findings of a Provincial Survey on the Adoption of Automation & Robotics Technologies in Ontario’s Agriculture Sector  is written by Dr. Amy Lemay, Dr. Jeffrey Boggs, and Dr. Charles Conteh as part of our OMAFRA 2020-22 Agrifood Innovation Research Project. Interviews and focus groups will be conducted to supplement the findings in this survey, with a policy brief to be released in Fall 2021. Contact Dr. Lemay at mlemay@brocku.ca for more details.

PARKS & RECREATION AS AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE

June – We had a great turnout and discussion on our latest research, Parks and Recreation as an Essential Service: Using a health equity lens to strengthen provision in Niagara. Thanks to our panel: Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley, St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik; Commander, Mobile Integrated Health for Niagara EMS, Marty Mako; and Niagara Falls Director of Recreation & Culture, Kathy Moldenhauer.

COVID-19 and its restrictions on parks and recreation delivery has highlighted the importance of the sector to our citizens. The challenges of pandemic crisis management in the sector has also provided an opportunity to position parks and recreation delivery within a broader public health and community well-being conversation.

This latest policy brief, #51 in the NCO series, was created in partnership with the Centre for Sport Capacity and addresses the role of parks and recreation as an important policy tool to address broad society-level crises facing all Niagara communities. It is written by Dr. Julie Stevens, Dr. Martha Barnes, Sarah Ane, and Dr. Carol Phillips.

WHAT’S ART GOT TO DO WITH IT?

April – Our latest brief explores the role of the arts and arts education as a community emerges from the pandemic. NCO Policy Brief #50, What’s Art Got To Do With It? The role of arts and culture in a community’s survival during a global pandemic, is written by Dr. Kari-Lynn Winters, an associate professor in the Faculty of Education. Dr. Winters uses vignettes to tell the stories of how people can use the arts as a source of empowerment.

Dr. Winters writes:

These vignettes highlight human experiences. This assemblage celebrates artful practices, suggesting why the arts continue to be important to the lives of Niagara citizens, and should be supported by policy makers and
stakeholders even during a global pandemic and during the community’s recovery.

She also makes recommendations for policy makers to boost the sector — one of the most devastated by the COVID-19 restrictions — moving forward.

LAND-USE PLANNING IN NIAGARA

January – Sean Giverin, MA, adapted his graduate research project to become the NCO’s Policy Brief #49 Land-Use Planning in Niagara: A study in multilevel governance and smart growth. Giverin highlights the role of the municipality in combatting climate change in his research. The brief, co-authored by NCO Director Dr. Charles Conteh, examines how multiple tiers of governance can work together in a smart-growth approach to land-use planning. It calls for a broadening of the role of non-governmental actors in the implementation of smart-growth principles, including the Indigenous community and housing advocates. You can read more about the brief and its authors in The Brock News.

We had a great turnout February 24 for our presentation “Land-Use Planning in Niagara: A study in multilevel governance and smart growth”, by recent graduate student Sean Giverin and Dr. Charles Conteh. Special thanks to our panelists Doug Giles, Niagara Region’s acting commissioner of planning and development, Niagara Region Councillor Diana Huson, and Dr. Catherine Longboat, asst. professor in the Faculty of Education at Brock University.

From our Director

Dr. Charles Conteh, director of the NCO, is an associate professor in the Dept. of Political Science who specializes in public policy & management, political economy, and governance.

You can find his most recent column for The St. Catharines Standard here:
Engaging the next frontier of manufacturing in Niagara – May 31, 2019

Community Partnerships