June 21, 2022Print | PDF
Organizations seeking to harness the innovation, insights and research skills of Wilfrid Laurier University’s faculty and students now have a one-stop shop option to help them partner with university resources.
Newly minted at the Brantford campus, the Laurier Hub for Community Solutions (LHCS) will act as an intake point for groups seeking expertise to address community-based challenges and opportunities. The hub team will assist community partners in finding the appropriate collaborators for their projects, essentially playing matchmaker between the university’s faculty, researchers, students and 23 research centres, and the broader community. While the hub is located at the Brantford campus, partners will be able to tap into Laurier’s expertise at all locations, including Waterloo, Kitchener, the Northwest Territories, Milton and their surrounding areas.
“This is a natural next step for the university,” said Heidi Northwood, senior executive officer of the Brantford campus and senior executive officer of global strategy. “The number of partnerships and research collaborations between the university and community partners has been growing, and ranges from informal student volunteerism to data analysis, formal research studies and compensated consultancy work. This new model will provide a clear point of entry for potential partners, helping to connect them with the best possible collaborators for their projects.”
The first formal partnership for the LHCS was confirmed in March 2022 when the City of Brantford’s municipal council voted to support a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and the university. The MOU outlines a shared commitment to enhance working relationships, advance shared strategic priorities, and develop structures and procedures that support partner projects across the two organizations in areas of shared priority. Approval of the MOU formalizes current collaborations and establishes the groundwork to explore possible future partnership opportunities.
“We are pleased to have the City of Brantford as the Laurier Hub for Community Solutions’ first official partner,” said Northwood. “We hope to expand our network for the research hub to include other municipalities and community service providers whose needs and objectives align with our research expertise. We believe the fruits of these partnerships can be mobilized and duplicated to benefit other small-to-medium sized cities and towns.”
Community-engaged research at Laurier has ranged from hyper-local projects focusing on local history and bolstering awareness for the work of community non-profits, to universally relevant themes. At the Brantford campus, undergraduate User Experience Design (UXD) students developed a digital app to simplify work for the City of Brantford’s community ice rink volunteers, while another UXD class partnered with the Downtown Brantford Business Improvement Area to develop projects to support pandemic recovery.
Laurier researchers have tracked municipal initiatives like the Brantford Downtown Outreach Team, helped transform police training related to mental health calls for service, and provided important analysis that can inform how communities can more effectively approach challenges like homelessness.
“By providing a consistent point of contact, the Laurier Hub for Community Solutions can set our partners up for success, providing guidance and expertise on survey design, budget consultation, methodology and timelines,” said Northwood. “This next step will help position Brantford as a centre for municipal research, and a leader in community-based research and solutions.”