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To Think Local and Act Local You Need Local Data

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By Jennifer Temmer, November 27, 2018

In recent years, there has been a renewed effort to focus our consumption, charity and development efforts locally.

We’re encouraged to buy, eat and even travel close to home to reduce our ecological footprints. Business groups run Buy Local campaigns in nearly every urban centre. As a counter reaction to our increasingly digital world, leaders of all stripes—political, religious, educational, environmental—have suggested we strengthen our connection to and understanding of our sense of place.

Data is no exception to this trend.

City data

There are increasing calls for urban and rural communities to access and use local-level data for informed decision making, planning, accountability and mobilization. Across Canada, civil society organizations such as the National Climate League and their regional climate hubs call for greater access to local-level environmental data. Similarly, collaborative efforts to localize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as those from organizations involved in Alliance 2030, amplify the call for localized data to track progress on the SDGs.

Winnipeggers have taken the local data movement to heart and lead the way on several fronts, sharing their know-how with the rest of Canada. Winnipeg is home to the Prairie Climate Centre (PCC), and the Canadian Climate Atlas. Based at the University of Winnipeg, the PCC shares data for key climate indicators, developing climate data reports for numerous Canadian cities. The PCC makes an impact through knowledge mobilization, sharing documentary-style videos and articles about communities taking action to reduce their carbon emissions and improve community resilience to climate change.

The Climate Reality Project Canada's (CRPC's) Climate Hub in Winnipeg digs deeper into climate trends and impacts data, providing access to climate-related data at the city level. This work has made an impact by involving citizens to advocate for access to environmental data. The Winnipeg-based hub is part of a larger effort by citizen groups across Canada to advocate for, track and compare local-level environmental data.

“Currently, some of the most exciting and effective climate action is taking place at the local level. Having reliable, consistent measurements that we can share is a really useful way to increase visibility of what our neighbours are doing. And hopefully, this will be a gateway to greater collaboration across the country." - Curt Hull, Climate Leader, Climate Reality Project Canada Board Member

The Peg Community Indicator System (CIS), run by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the United Way Winnipeg, curates over 60 indicators to measure community well-being and sustainability related to the seven themes of the built and natural environments, health, basic needs, economy, governance and social vitality and education. Together, this data forms a basis for community priority setting and decision making. Peg’s recent efforts to connect their indicators to the SDGs further acts to inspire action across the city. Peg’s data has helped inform local government officials, educate youth on data literacy, set strategies for philanthropic organizations and stimulated conversations and storytelling on topics that matter to Winnipeggers.

“The indicators presented in Peg were instrumental to the development of the For Every Family Initiative—a project aimed to enhance the well-being of children and families in our community by enhancing the services of family resource centres. The data in Peg provided an evidence-based foundation to this initiative and was key in developing the case for support for our partners, including the Province of Manitoba, The Winnipeg Foundation, and numerous other foundations and philanthropists. By analyzing the data related to readiness to learn, children in care, and household income, we were able to identify how to best focus our energies in order to have the greatest possible impact in our community.” - Kathy Knudsen, Vice President, Community Impact – United Way Winnipeg

Peg is also the flagship CIS on IISD’s Tracking-Progress platform; an easily replicable on-line tool enabling communities across the country to determine and measure their own indicators of sustainability.

The Manitoba Collaborative Data Portal (MbCDP) is a key resource for spatial data and related resources aimed to promote informed discussion and decision making through access to data. The portal shares data on topics related to community health, transportation and housing. The MbCDP and the Winnipeg Data Consortium members lead the way in community data validation through their work to draw the consensus, understanding and shared knowledge needed to strengthen the local data landscape.

Together with other academic, government and civil society institutions, these four initiatives form part of a rich community data landscape that helps to inform, improve and support local efforts to shape the city into a more sustainable and equitable place.

This article first appeared on the Community Climate Hub on November 26, 2018.