by Eileen O’Connor, Academic Co-lead, and Leigha McCarroll, Research Assistant, of the CCE Brokering (Ottawa) Working Group
Ottawa is home to a rich cast of academics and community organizations hoping to make the city a little more environmentally friendly. But with countless government departments, 6 post secondary institutions in the Ottawa/Gatineau region, and a slew of not-for-profit organizations of all sizes and functions, it can be challenging to know how to connect with others best positioned to help advance an environmental project or cause.
This is where our Community-Campus Engagement (CCE) Brokering (Ottawa) working group hopes to help. Over the past few months, we have been surveying the Ottawa environmental landscape as part of our efforts to develop an online database (and associated app) of community-campus engagement (CCE) opportunities in the environmental sector. These opportunities range from student volunteer placements in community organizations to course-based research projects and beyond. The goal is to ensure these opportunities are easily searchable in a central database.
Who is involved in building the database?
The CFICE CCE Brokering (Ottawa) working group is spearheading the task of building the online database. Our working group consists of community co-lead Jason Garlough, from Ottawa Eco-Talent Network (OETN); academic co-lead, Eileen O’Connor, from the Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Ottawa, and Leigha McCarroll, research assistant, recent graduate of Carleton University’s Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership program, and incoming PhD student in Public Policy at Carleton.
Why does this database matter?
Standardizing data on university and college engagement opportunities could make it easier for potential community partners, students, faculty and even the general public to search, filter, and discover new programs, researchers and services that match their interests.
How is the database being built?
Under the leadership of our former academic co-lead, Elizabeth Whitmore, from Carleton University, and former research assistant Colton Brydges, we conducted a needs assessment on brokering with local non-profit community organizations in the environmental sector. We also interviewed staff and researchers at local university and college campuses in Ottawa and Gatineau to learn more about pathways of community-campus connections.
The guiding objective is to respond to community-identified needs around missed opportunities in CCE, gaps in communication, and setting realistic expectations. As such, we collected data on CCE opportunities to develop an inventory of opportunities that can be shared in a user-friendly format for community partners.
So how did we bring all of this rich information together?
Over the last year, we’ve identified ways to standardize, organize and sort the information using feedback from the community partners, existing frameworks, tools and open data standards. We’ve met with community partners, professors, and staff at post-secondary institutions to identify various types of CCE opportunities. Using a publicly-accessible Google Sheet, we built a database to showcase these opportunities offered by post-secondary institutions in the National Capital Region in the environmental and sustainability sector. We relied on the Work-Integrated Learning framework conceptualized by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario to standardize a data structure by which we sorted the opportunities, and we recently shared our data structure with Ottawa Civic Tech volunteers for feedback and advice on making it as user-friendly as possible.
For users, we created a visualization that links to the Google Sheet that makes the information visually-appealing, easy to navigate, and downloadable. This allows the community to filter, sort and publish the thousands of CCE opportunities available in their region in any format they prefer or find useful. We also created a User Guide with step-by-step instructions and a glossary to help users as they navigate.
In terms of next steps, our team will pilot the tool with a small group of community partners in late Summer 2018, and will refine it based on feedback from this group.
Stay tuned for the publicly-available version launching in the Fall of 2018!