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Data & Connection Series: Community-Led Research in Comox Valley

The Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) gathers population-level data about children’s development and well-being through the Child Development Monitoring System (Monitoring System). Monitoring System data are woven into the fabric of BC — for over 20 years, these data have been used by school districts, health authorities, communities, and governments, as well as cross sector networks to inform actions in support of children and families. 

Feeling connected to others is an important source of children’s developmental health, well-being, and resilience (Oberle et al., 2014Masten, 2018). Our Data & Connection Series profiles how communities have used Monitoring System data to inform community actions focused on connection — connection between sectors and organizations, families and services, and children and families themselves. This is Part 3 in the series.

SEE PART 1: How Revelstoke Used 20 Years of Data to Strengthen Connection
SEE PART 2: Innovative Programming in Kootenay-Columbia

Building Connections in Comox Valley

Established in 2015, the Comox Valley Early Years Collaborative (Collaborative) is a “network of over 50 individuals and organizations committed to improving the lives of children in the Comox Valley.”

In 2019, in an effort to address concerns about rising Early Development Instrument (EDI) vulnerability rates in the region, the Collaborative launched the Building Connections for Valley Families initiative. Building Connections is an ongoing community-led research initiative that uses a social innovation lab approach to collectively inform and engage with communities with the goal of enhancing early years supports and services for children (conception to age 8), their families, and the Comox Valley.

Building Connections uses EDI neighbourhood boundaries as their organizing structure to focus on strengthening neighbourhood-level connections and to be able to use EDI and other Monitoring System data to track the impact of the initiative over time. The initiative started in the neighbourhoods with the highest EDI vulnerability rate and fewest resources, programs, and services for families, and continues to progress across the region.

Alongside Monitoring System data, information was gathered from families and service providers in each neighbourhood through surveys and focus groups to inform the initiative. Findings from this community-led research suggested the need for more family connection opportunities — a need that became more urgent as the research progressed during the pandemic. Other key themes that arose across all four Comox Valley neighbourhoods included: concerns about the “expert-driven” nature of early years services feeling less welcoming for some families, the unequal distribution of family programs and services leading to less access for rural families, and concerns that families with fewer resources (educational, financial, transportation, time) and those newer to community experienced more challenges accessing programs and services.

In response, Building Connections has focused on reorganizing existing supports, addressing access barriers (in particular, issues of centralization and affordability), and taking a locally-based approach to developing new programming. Building Connections has hired neighborhood Family Connectors, staffed by parents with young children who live in the area, to facilitate local family programming opportunities and to provide outreach support to families. This model aligns with the social innovation approach that advocates for local citizen leadership in tackling complex challenges.

Building Connections is an ongoing, iterative initiative across four distinct ‘neighbourhoods’. To date, feedback from families has been positive. Not only has the Building Connections initiative increased local family connections, it has also strengthened connections and collaboration amongst the cross sectoral Collaborative. While not claiming the project has made the only difference, the Comox Valley group is celebrating a reduction in vulnerability in the Wave 8 EDI results and is focused on embedding and growing the project.

A more extensive summary of the Building Connections for Valley Families is now available.

View Report

Project Lead: Joanne Schroeder
Collaborative Coordinator: Jessie Gill

If you have questions about this project, please email us.

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