Executive Summary: Waterloo Region, Ontario

Waterloo Region is a community full of startups, tech companies, advanced manufacturing, high finance and world- class academic institutions. When the numbers showing that children and youth in the community weren't doing well, it was shocking. So regional stakeholders came together to try and understand what was going on. Why graduation rates were low. Why vulnerability to children in the early years was worsening.

The fact is Waterloo Region – like Canada as a whole – isn't the best place in the world to be a young person. It's average. (Maybe below average.) But that can change. And Smart Waterloo Region (SWR) is going to change it, by doing some of the things this community does best: collaborating, creating cool tech, innovating and getting the community involved.

Smart Waterloo Region Challenge Statement

We will become the benchmark community in Canada for child and youth well-being by using early intervention, youth engagement and a connected-community framework to create adaptive, data-driven programs and scalable learning technologies that improve early child development, mental health and high school graduation rates.

The SWR initiative is a $155M project. It's aim: to work with community partners, experts and tech companies to design, develop and deploy technology and data enabled programs and services with the intent to improve child and youth well-being. In partnership with UNICEF Canada, SWR will create and launch a data platform to collect, house, analyze and use data that feeds understanding of the complex nature of well-being, and to give the right people (children, youth, families) the right information or the right technology at the right time. The scope of SWR activity is intended to reach deeply and widely into the community to enhance child and youth well-being for as many residents as possible.

Through a ground-breaking partnership with UNICEF Canada, and based on significant evidence from community engagement and research, SWR has identified important root causes, areas of need and potential technology- and data-driven solutions that might help. SWR worked directly with children and youth, government, school boards, tech firms, child and youth service partners, Indigenous people and more to identify why and how technology and data- enabled solutions might improve child and youth well-being, specifically in the areas of early childhood development, literacy, mental/emotional health and sense of belonging.

The list of solutions addresses nearly all aspects of the community - with supports for things such as for rural education, Indigenous STEAM programming and resources to help new Canadians get connected. And through the UNICEF Canada partnership, SWR will create the capacity to better understand the nature of well-being, and the impact of programming in the region and – once scaled – across Canada through a data-rich platform. The SWR Data Collaborative platform, has proven that SWR can pull data from organizations of all sizes and all geographies provide meaningful analysis on key factors related to child and youth well-being.

Waterloo Region does things differently. Some say it comes from barn raising roots - from a time when neighbours came together to help neighbours. Or it's from the entrepreneurial ecosystem which prizes agility and adaptability. Whatever the case, Waterloo Region is a small competitor in a big category, and every bit of funding goes further here. It makes a bigger impact.

Children and youth in this community need help. And that's what drives Smart Waterloo Region; the idea that everything planned here, can make a difference in every child's life, for the rest of their life. In short, when Waterloo Region wins, Canada wins.

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