Thoughts on Covid-19 Recovery – Social Data for Social Solutions – Blog by Kirsty Macari, A&DS Board Member

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As we look to at how we build back after the pandemic, we asked our board members to reflect on the recovery from their personal and professional experience. In this blog board member Kirsty Macari looks at how data will help us target our responses to building back after the pandemic.

Life is data, whether it is digital, experiential, economic, BIG or small!  The experience we have all undergone over the recent months individually, and collectively, has created new information that should shape involvement in our places now and in the future.  Personally, I have seen it as an opportunity to remove the daily commute, re-prioritise, reflect and refocus on short and longer term ambitions.  It has added to my own dataset of impressions, senses and feelings.  I have been fortunate!

What it has also highlighted are the issues in relation to inequality and wellbeing for many but with that, the resilience of those, in their own time of need, to reach out within their communities.  No one has escaped this.  A sense of community has been what has for some, been a lifeline.

The Right Location

More so than ever the Place Principle can help with a collective approach to services with and for the community.  Services and assets are only useful to those that need it most, if they are in the right location.   A guide to how we achieve this, over and above the work already done, is by removing personal bias and utilising the data generated by those who need it most. We must work harder to build relationships and utilise the experiences of people – using “life data” to support decision making otherwise we risk being subjective in our decisions as planners, policy makers, architects or road engineers.

I have been heartened to see Year 2 students at the University of Dundee across wider Social Science subjects including urban planning, psychology, geography etc. use personas to inform their decision making as part of their People and Places module.  Removing their own bias whilst learning from others and exploring the impacts of change.  This was further used in Year 3 Urban Planning with students engaging in digital personas to support community engagement as a result of lockdown restrictions and to inform their planning policy decisions.

Adaptive Responses

The work highlighted recently by A&DS on Engaging Communities During Lockdown has shown how adaptive we have been as practitioners in reaching people and learning from their experiences of their places.  The digital shift has allowed a new way to data capture with maps, polls, webinars etc. and has resulted in some significant levels of engagement with different demographics.  It doesn’t and shouldn’t completely replace the ability to connect in person but be an added value to where we once were.  We must allow this new norm to continue, build trust with the process of gathering life experience as data, and ensure its responsible use which will provide a higher value return for social wellbeing than the monetary expenditure to date.

The community are the educators and knowledge holders and to that end we must all collectively become learning communities of place.


Image: Charles Deluvio on Unsplash.

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