Towards a better measurement of our community progress

Mayor Taylor Bachrach and Northern Health's Cormac Hikisch on their collaborative initiative ahead of Dr. Trevor Hancock's Wednesday speech.

We all want our community to move forward. But what does moving forward mean?

That is the question at the heart of a collaborative initiative the Town of Smithers, Northern Health and the Bulkley Valley Social Planning Society are undertaking. It’s called “Community Vitality: How Do We Measure Progress?”

Historically, communities have based their understanding of success on relatively few factors. Population is one measure to which many pay close attention. The amount of new construction and changes in tax base are also closely monitored.

We all know, however, that these simple measures don’t tell the whole story; there are a host of other aspects that most people agree make Smithers a wonderful place to live: employment, social support, access to nature, inclusiveness, recreation opportunities, safety, clean air, volunteerism. What if we tracked these kinds of factors, too?

The Community Vitality project seeks to do just that. With funding from Northern Health’s Partnering for Healthier Communities program, we are working to identify a comprehensive set of indicators that can help us measure our community’s vitality over time. The goal is for the indicators to be measurable, objective, and broadly representative of our shared values. Much of this data is already collected by various agencies, but has never been put together in one place.

Why take this on? As a famous management consultant once said, “What gets measured gets managed.” Measuring our community’s vitality in a more comprehensive way will not only give us a common language for discussing progress, but also inspire us to undertake practical actions and projects to improve our community.

Is the number of small businesses declining? We might need to invest more in economic development and business support. Is drinking water quality getting worse? Perhaps it’s time for new measures to protect our aquifer.

To kick off the project, we are pleased to host a presentation by Dr. Trevor Hancock from the University of Victoria. A physician and world-renowned expert on healthy communities, Dr. Hancock is known to be a dynamic speaker. He will be presenting on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Della Herman Theatre (admission is free). The event will include an opportunity for residents to contribute their ideas.

Then, on Oct. 8, we are holding a day-long workshop with community leaders from a range of organizations to identify potential Community Vitality indicators that will form the basis of an annual report card.

Our community is always changing. Through this Community Vitality project, we hope to help ensure future changes take us in the direction we all want to go: towards a community that is ever healthier, happier and more vibrant.

 

Taylor Bachrach is the Mayor of Smithers.

Cormac Hikisch is the Bulkley Valley’s Health Services Administrator with Northern Health.