This article was originally featured in the Comox Valley Record. See the original article, or click the image below.

The Comox Valley Community Foundation will be participating in a breakthrough data-gathering process to obtain in-depth knowledge of our community’s most pressing needs.

vital-signsVital Signs was first started by the Toronto Foundation in 2001, after a group of civic leaders came up with a new way to engage their community in understanding and monitoring the health and vitality of Toronto. Vital Signs became a national program in 2006 and continues to grow each year across Canada and internationally.

Community foundations across the country have embraced the program. A total of 49 Canadian community foundations are now involved with Vital Signs, with 28 community foundations releasing Vital Signs reports in 2015.

“Community foundations are evolving from being a funder to broader community service,” said Norm Carruthers, president of the Comox Valley Community Foundation. “We’re looking at identifying community needs and will be proving information, support and finances to begin to address problems.

“Vital signs is a way to understand people’s concerns and have the ability to act on them. People can start holding conversations, and we can find a role to help facilitate that process.”

Community foundations use Vital Signs as a catalyst to involve their community and develop a picture of quality-of-life using a wide range of national data and local research. This community knowledge helps foundations decide where to focus their attention and resources to have the greatest impact.

Vital Signs uses community knowledge to measure the vitality of our communities – gathering data and publishing reports on significant social and economic trends to tell the story of how Canadian communities are faring in key quality-of-life areas.

Along with statistical data, another aspect of the Vital Signs project is a survey of residents within the community

The United Way of Central and Northern Vancouver Island is one of the major partners in the local study.

“We are excited to be part of this project,because it will enable us to identify a wide variety of local issues, and then help with the strategic (direction) of our community,” said Jody Macdonald, community development officer for the UWCNVI, and Vital Signs project manager.

Macdonald said the survey will offer invaluable information as to what the community wants.

“We want to know where the priorities are, for the community, both in terms of what the (data) says, and what the people say. Do they match? And where should we be investing the funds to ensure we are enriching the lives of everyone here.

“Another piece of it is that we hope it leads to more vital conversations between agencies, not just within individual agencies, but collaboration across the different funders and agencies that provide the services.”

Other partners in the project include the local Rotary Clubs, the Comox BIA, and the Comox Valley Social Planning Committee.

Macdonald said the information from the report will be a useful tool for all social agencies, when applying for grants and related monies.

“In Port Alberni they did a little survey of the Vital Signs after it was launched and six months afterwards the agencies that had used Vital Signs when applying for grants raised over a million dollars, just by using some of the data,” said Macdonald. “So it does have actionable items for the local agencies, to be able to apply for grants, outside of the community.”

The online survey is available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/VitalSignsComoxValley