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Friday, 9 December 2011

What's a RECI?

Following a multi year project that explored various regional governance entities and a great deal of scientific survey work a new tool called the Regional Economic Capacity Index or RECI has been released by the Harris Centre and is available over here. The project was a partnership between Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, The Harris Centre (MUN) and the University of Kentucky and it has been underway since about 2008.

I was involved with some of the community meetings in the pilot regions when I worked with MNL when the project began. It has taken quite a bit longer then originally envisioned but the RECI tool is finally online.

Like many academic tools I suspect this one will largely go unused by the majority of community and Government folks who should be using them. The same applies to the entire Community Accounts setup over here. As if it wasn't bad enough that we don't have many people doing proper community planning, we do have some available tools and people don't generally use them.

While RECI is a new and useful tool it isn't quite what I recall as the planned super tool that was talked about in the beginning. The current release can be searched by economic zone, by Rural Secretariat area or by what it calls by "functional region." It is this functional region idea that I found the most interesting aspect of the original research. Part of the intent was to examine how government implemented boundaries like economic zones and Rural Secretariat areas were different from the actual and practical regions that people determined for themselves by virtue of where they worked, went to school, availed of services and purchased groceries and larger items. Unfortunately very little of that seems to have made it into the tool beyond some statistical analysis and the functional regions map.

The tool is certainly useful, and if you explore the details of each community it provides analysis based on how each community is positioned within its region in terms of demographics, working conditions, geographic location, and local governance structures. But the unfortunate part is that all we get is a list of communities and a collection of tables and graphs with very little interpretation. The nature of the tool will lead to even less use by those who should be it's largest clients.

There were a number of very interesting and useful maps that were included in preliminary presentations on the project that have not made it through to RECI. Like this one, or this one, both presented at MNL events in 2010. It is still a worthwhile tool, and I hope it gets used to it's full potential, however I was hoping for a combination of more information and more interpretation. Here's hoping they keep updating and improving RECI to build it into what could be a critical part of regional planning for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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