Measuring Sense of Place in NL Regions: Developing Indicators for a Province-Wide Study of Sense of Place and its Role in Sustainable Community Development

This project is a pilot study to assess sense of place within Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) communities and regions. This study will identify factors that constitute sense of place in different regions of the province and develop ways of measuring and assessing them. The study will focus on four pilot regions in rural and urban contexts to better understand how sense of place is defined across the province and how it can be drawn upon in place-based development. The intention is to develop a proposal for a larger research study based on the findings of this pilot, which will eventually assess sense of place and its roles in community and regional development processes across NL. The present scoping study will provide preliminary findings for the larger proposal, as well as incorporating a mixed methods approach to inform the creation of both quantitative  instruments and qualitative methods such as focus groups and key informant interviews in the larger study.

Potential pilot regions include St. John’s (large urban), Corner Brook (small urban/resource-based), the Bonavista Peninsula (rural adjacent to urban), Fogo Island (rural non-adjacent), and the Labrador Straits (remote). The research team has pre-existing research experience in each of these regions, allowing for this study to build on the findings of previous research that is relevant to the project. In each region, we will conduct a review of available secondary literature as well as semi-structured interviews (5-10 per region) and focus groups (1 per region) to identify elements of sense of place and develop and test qualitative and quantitative indicators that are applicable across each region. At the same time, we will examine if and how sense of place plays a role in local development and consider its ability to engender new place-based development initiatives. This study will have several beneficial theoretical and practical outcomes, including a better understanding of how sense of place is constructed in different communities in NL, improved methods for measuring sense of place through indicators that can be used in the province and beyond, and an enhanced understanding of how rural communities and regions can mobilize sense of place in support of sustainable development.

As noted above, the outcomes of this study will inform the development of a larger proposal to be submitted later on to support a larger province-wide study on sense of place. Results from this pilot study will be compiled, analyzed, and expanded into a larger study for which long-term funding will be pursued. The pilot study is being supported by the Memorial University SSHRC/Vice-President’s Research Grant, a special internal award designed to provide seed funding to pilot research that will support the development of proposals made to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in the future.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Kelly Vodden, Environmental Policy Institute, Grenfell Campus of Memorial University

Co-Investigator: Dr. Daniel Nadolny, Department of Psychology, Grenfell Campus of Memorial University

Project Coordinator: Brennan Lowery, Interdisciplinary PhD Student, Environmental Policy Institute, Grenfell Campus of Memorial University