By Juan Medina, Children’s Services Research Advisor, Halton Region
I had no idea what to expect when I started working for the Halton Region two years ago. I was juggling with a lot of personal change – a new career, the first time working for government, and moving back to my hometown in the midst of COVID-19. Admittedly, what felt the most daunting was how little I knew about early learning and child care, especially within the local context of Halton Region. I saw the large learning curve ahead of me as a wall that would take months to climb.
On my first day on the job, my supervisor shared a list of resources to orient me to the role. On that list was Our Kids Network (OKN) and the OKN Data Portal. A proponent of independent learning, she encouraged me to ‘play around’ in the Data Portal as soon as I had a chance to, and I was not disappointed when I did. What I found was a gold mine of information in a sandbox of data. An interactive platform that allows you to inspect, analyze, and visualize local-level data from different sources – a data nerd’s dream! Instead of climbing, I found myself digging, deeper and deeper, through a wealth of knowledge that spanned years and topics. I spent an entire day investigating, discovering, and learning about Halton’s children and youth.
The 7 Ideal Living Conditions for Halton Children and Youth
I also quickly learned about OKN’s role as a collective impact organization within Halton Region. As a partnership of organizations and agencies that serve local children and youth, OKN uses a “collective impact” approach to outline ideal evidence-based conditions for the well-being of children, families, and the community. Established in 2005, these target conditions known as the ‘Halton 7’, have since been used as goals to measure and inform our collective work. In fact, OKN recently developed a short new video that describes the importance of the Halton 7 in helping local children and youth thrive.
The Halton 7:
- Children are healthy
- Children are learning
- Children are positively connected
- Children are safe
- Families are strong and stable
- Schools are connected to the community
- Neighbourhoods are where we live, work and play
Information in the Data Portal is categorized using the Halton 7, which supports evidence-based decision-making and action planning in our region. With the Halton 7 as desired goals in mind, users can work through current and historical data to identify local successes, needs, and areas for growth. Furthermore, this tool contributes to data equity within our region, as it makes data accessible, understandable, and free for all knowledge seekers. OKN aims to mobilize knowledge to service providers and users, and the Data Portal is their crown jewel in this endeavor.
A Vital Resource of Halton Data
Luckily, this playground of data is not just for the self-proclaimed “data nerd” like me. The Data Portal is very user-friendly, and OKN offers workshops and resources that teach anyone how to use, understand, and apply data. To this day, I refer to the Data Portal often and have fun exploring every time it is updated. In the two years I’ve been with the Region, OKN has launched the Data Portal 2.0 and continued to update it as new data becomes available (over 50 new indicators were added from the Halton Youth Impact Survey earlier this year!). The Data Portal has become an invaluable source of information for me, just as it has been for service providers and service users in the community since 2014.
I encourage you to reflect on your childhood days playing in a sandbox – a place where we could explore, feel, and shape our surroundings to the best of our imaginations. The Data Portal provides the same ‘discovery’ opportunity as we examine, learn, and seek to understand our local context. Sure, we may not always feel ready or able to get our hands dirty with data. But the deeper you dig, the more likely you are to find hidden treasure.