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Community evaluates ‘quality of life’

Myra Virgil, managing director of Bermuda Community Foundation (File photograph)

The Bermuda Community Foundation (BCF) has marked “Community Foundation Week” with the release of five Vital Signs® Summary Reports.

Last week, the BCF joined more than 1000 community foundations around the world in observing the occasion, which is designed to raise awareness about the increasingly important role these philanthropic organisations play in fostering local collaboration and innovation to address persistent civic and economic challenges.

Since the 2017 release of its first Vital Signs® study, the BCF has met with approximately 70 individuals from community organisations, not-for-profits, and government to further explore key issues in the community as determined by this study.

Vital Signs® is a community programme which uses local knowledge to measure the vitality of a community and support action towards improving the collective quality of life. It was originally developed by Community Foundations of Canada and has been adopted around the world. It effectively gauges the quality of life as determined by the community. This information creates a benchmark measurement which can be used by individuals and philanthropic organisations, such as the BCF, to target their giving more effectively.

The Bermuda Vital Signs research process began in 2017 with a community study on what people believed was important to their quality of life. Responses from a representative sample of the population guided the ensuing work.

Overall, the programme has involved hundreds of hours of research, in which the BCF team was supported by expertise from Strategic Evaluation Consulting. Sector experts were invited to sessions to examine the public opinion data from the main Vital Signs® report as well as relevant local and international data on: Health & Wellbeing; Arts, Culture and Heritage; the Economy and Work; the Environment; and Volunteering and Charitable Contribution. The group of experts examined and prioritised a list of key outcomes and indicators, resulting in a list of key desired outcomes and associated success indicators. The BCF, and potentially other funders, will use the results to guide its funding decision through 2021. The ultimate goal is to improve and strengthen results in the field. The five Vital Signs® reports reflect the findings of the convenings.

“We are so grateful to the individuals who attended the convenings and took part in thoughtful discussions to determine what would move the needle in the key areas the community felt were

First Vital Signs Summary reports released Nov 2018

important,” said Dr Myra Virgil, Managing Director of the BCF. “With decision-makers at the table, we know that we are receiving valuable, relevant and actionable information. The resulting reports have tremendous credibility, thanks to those involved.

“It’s interesting to note that over 85% of sector experts said that the “Vital Conversations” had inspired them to re-examine their own organisational outcomes with a view to adjusting if necessary. We hope that others will do the same.”

The BCF introduced the Vital Signs® programme to Bermuda to give the community the opportunity to evaluate what was important to their quality of life. This helps to enable donors to become better informed and community service providers to remain targeted on the most important quality of life issues. “We have invested resources to assemble a tremendous amount of information. In fact it’s proven to be a more extensive project than in most other jurisdictions, partly because this type of data had not been collected previously,” said Dr Virgil. “We have brought local experts together to work together on each of the seven Vital Signs® areas and we are making this information publicly available.

“There will be four more convenings to complete the Vital Conversation series. The resulting summary reports will be released at which point the convening work will be done. The BCF primary focus is building a community endowment fund from which grants are made annually and will use these reports to direct its giving and to advise other funders. We hope funders will be encouraged to work with us to support action in the critical areas that the reports identify.”

Dr Virgil also talked about the role of community foundations, which she said “represent one of the fastest-growing forms of philanthropy today. Every state in the USA has at least one community foundation — large and small, urban and rural — working to advance solutions on a wide range of social issues, in their own ways. In Bermuda, we are but one community foundation but we have found ways to facilitate discussion and a mechanism for helping folks tackle problems, collaboratively. As our contribution to Bermuda and as a tribute to the global effort to highlight local-impact philanthropy, this is just one of the roles we can responsible play.”

Nikkita Scott, BCF Board Director added: “Having observed the impact of community foundations on the lives of those in their regions, we are more determined than ever to bring our community partners together to find innovative and effective solutions for some of our most challenging social problems and advance the most promising of opportunities to benefit our residents.

“A key issue in ensuring we ‘get it right’ is access to data, which can be a challenge for Bermuda. We will do our best to ensure Vital Signs brings value to the process.”

To view the reports go to https://bermudacommunityfoundation.org/VitalSigns/ConveningReports.aspx. To learn more about donor-advised philanthropy go to www.bcf.bm. To read about the community foundation movement visit communityfoundationatlas.org/.

Press release from the Bermuda Community Foundation.