Data collection and communication of results

The most effective way to illustrate the Community Pulse's participatory approach is through specific examples of indicator activity where citizen groups are involved in collecting data. The local EcoCentre collects statistics on local flora and fauna, monitoring environmental changes. The Citizens' Monitoring Network gathers data in neighbourhoods regarding street and beach cleanliness, and the effectiveness of council's waste management. Local schools monitor how children are transported to class - walking, public transport, or private cars - to better understand local transport limitations and opportunities. Clients of other community organisations shop for quality and cost-effective lunches to compare affordability across the seven neighbourhoods. However, this engagement is not solely for data collection, but also for the creation of meaning through experience.

A quintessential Community Pulse indicator is the unique Smiles Per Hour. It is not only a measure of neighbourhood connectedness, but also attempts to catalyse this behaviour. Smiles Per Hour is one of four measures of social connectedness that determine whether streets are becoming friendlier. Residents have expressed that they feel happier and safer when they know their neighbours better. These benefits of health and wellbeing provided by social connectedness are empirically well-established (Wilkinson and Marmot 2003). Rather than solely publishing an annual report, data is provided in creative and meaningful ways: in local papers, on street signs, or in bus shelter advertisements. Fourteen Smile street signs are permanently posted around CoPP. Data is also reported back up to Council in regular formal reports, to other departments for their own decision-making processes and, most importantly, back to residents not only as timely information, but also as a methodology for local action planning groups. Citizens may act on this new knowledge by participating in their community, adjusting their own behaviour, or extending their understanding about these important local issues.

The Smiles Per Hour measure is a useful example of participation processes with a straightforward and easily understandable methodology. Local residents act as researchers on designated streets. While maintaining a neutral expression, eye contact is made with passers-by and the number of people who smile first are counted. Baseline measures are obtained in low, medium, and high pedestrian traffic streets and shopping centres in each of the seven neighbourhoods. Volunteers are trained as Smile Spies to measure Smiles Per Hour on a quarterly annual basis. As with other indicators, Smiles Per Hour measures a particular local value by engaging residents in the data collection. This is a very real way for individuals to understand the impact of social connectedness and to further the agenda of social change. Each indicator has its own unique character and potential to engage and inform multiple stakeholders in what citizens have identified as priorities.

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