How can we understand liveability through the voice of citizens and measure Victoria’s progress toward a sustainable future?

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

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The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is looking for startups to develop innovative ways to define, measure and track liveability standards across Victoria by enabling the community to voice what matters to them.

This challenge is an opportunity to help the government understand what Victorians’ think is important to make the state a ‘great place to live’. These insights will help government prioritise resources against achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) that Victorians value most, potentially shaping policy and planning responses on a range of issues from water and air to planning, health and infrastructure.

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What is the problem?

Victoria is the fastest-growing state in the country. Our challenge is to ensure that as it grows, Victoria remains one of the most liveable places in the world. This is a tough challenge considering we don’t currently know which SDG’s Victorians care about most and where we should be focusing our efforts to help us stay on track.

At present, we rely on intermittent surveys to measure liveability. The questions and indices are generally based on what governments, academics or think tanks believe is important to people, rather than what the community actually values. This reduces the usefulness of the results.

Current measures also struggle to take into account that Victorians are not one homogenous group, but many diverse and intersecting regional, racial, socio-economic and gendered communities. We know that people have different perceptions about what is important however we lack visibility about what these are, making it difficult to respond on a localised level.

What is liveability and how does it relate to the SDGs?

What makes somewhere a great place to live is tricky to define. It will be a combination of many factors that may include the values of the community, the presence of parks and gardens, the access to schools and transport, or the cost of housing. These are just the obvious ones.

The United Nations have mapped out a blueprint to a better life they call the Sustainable Development Goals. There are 17 wide-ranging SDGs that include everything from improving health and ending poverty to tackling climate change. They are a call for action to all countries in a global partnership.

The Victorian Government is keen to align future initiatives and resources to achieve these targets. Many of the SDG’s relate to improving Victoria’s liveability, however, we can’t address them all at once and need a pragmatic, citizen-centric way of prioritising our approach.

What are we looking for in a solution?

We need a tool to help us tap into community sentiment in an innovative way. We need to upgrade our currently limited, static picture of liveability to a more meaningful, representative, and timely picture of what is most important to Victorians. Once we know this, we need to create an accessible, single source of truth for how we’re tracking against liveability related SDGs.

Every city, town and suburb is unique, so the solution must have the ability to identify what our liveability targets should be across different parts of the state, in particular for our Traditional Owners and Aboriginal communities.

The UN has recommended that where relevant the SDG indicators be separated by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location, or other characteristics in accordance with the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics. We agree and need a solution that provides visibility of the different layers of people’s experiences and how liveability priorities may differ.

This challenge would suit a team that has deep expertise in the social sciences, and that are able to combine social data with other data sets that relate to the SDG. We are looking for a multidisciplinary approach that generates actionable insights that government can use to help inform and track the progress of liveability-related policymaking and funding initiatives.

We are looking for solutions that:

Who are the customers and end-users?

This is an exciting opportunity to help the government adopt a collaborative approach to policymaking, ensuring the needs of a diverse range of Victorians are represented.

The solution has the potential to scale across all parts of government and may also have applications in private sector organisations looking to understand how impact can be measured.

Customers and end-users could include:

What help is available to co-design the solution?

The DELWP team can provide the successful startup with access to:

A comprehensive briefing pack including analysis of the SDGs and the state government departments responsible for them will be made available at the information session.

Liveability and Victoria

Liveability is one of Victoria’s important competitive advantages and a number of Victorian government departments and agencies have responsibilities to improve the state’s liveability. DELWP has a key role to play to make our cities and towns more liveable, affordable and sustainable while preserving our natural environment on which life depends given their responsibilities across planning, water, energy, environment, emergency management, climate change, and local government.

What’s already underway?

The Victorian Government, in consultation with the community, has already implemented a wide range of action plans vital to Victoria’s future liveability.
Those include:

Further info on the challenge:

1.The first paragraph on page 17 of the briefing document states: We are not expecting solutions to rank the Victorian definition of liveability to the Target or Indicator level but understanding the goals at the target level will be crucial as it is not always readily apparent the specific areas to which the goals relate.
Are you able to elaborate and explain what you mean by this in a bit more detail?

Basically what we’re saying here is that targets within the goals aren’t always obvious by the name of the goal. For example, if you look at Goal 14, “Life below water” you would assume that DELWP’s Water and Catchments Group would be responsible. But in reading the targets you’ll find that the focus is all on marine life and actually has very little relationship with what the Water and Catchments Group does. Or for a different example, would you have guessed that the target and indicator relating to conservation of plant and animal genetic resources falls under Goal 2 “Zero Hunger”? So we aren’t asking you to measure down to the target or indicator level, but you will need to understand what the targets and indicators for each goal are so that you can accurately measure perceptions of that goal. Victorians might consider conservation of native plants really important but if you ask them about “hunger”, will their answer capture their feelings about conservation?

2. What will happen if the definition of liveability according to Victorians does not fit with the literature / framework that DEWLP is working within? And, what happens in the likely scenario that the definition is not static i.e. we hypothesise that the definition and therefore needs will change depending on the time of year and the seasons.

This is exactly why we’re asking the question – we want to know what’s important to Victorians so that we can deliver for Victorians (the govt is accountable to the community). This is data that we can provide to policy makers in our department, and that’s also why we’re asking you to help us measure our progress towards what Victorians want. It’s worth noting that DELWP is primarily responsible for the environmental (planet) aspects of liveability and this is where part of the opportunity comes in for you to be able to sell your solution to other govt departments who have a focus on people and prosperity.
Please refer to the challenge statement – what are we looking for in a solution? Yes – we are looking for a solution that is not static and reflects the changing needs of Victorians. The section of the Q&A where we discuss Bushfires vs Coronavirus may be helpful to you here

3. Flowing on from 2, what happens if we are unable to find (because it doesn't exist) a data source that can track these definitions?

Please refer to the briefing pack section 5.4.

4. What are the challenges that DELWP has found in trying to engage with communities across Victoria in the past, especially in relation those communities that are under engaged?

Many key communities are over-engaged (by which we mean a lot of engagement requests) and under resourced – eg Traditional Owner groups are sought out constantly for feedback on a whole host of issues but may have limited capacity (ie usually very small orgs with few staff). The same is true of many small/under resourced groups that should be represented. So your solution needs to take that into consideration and not be yet another request for input from these groups. In terms of being under-engaged – we need the startup to find the gaps for us and provide advice. We also can’t rely on people being online and filling out half-hour long surveys as by nature the people who have the time/inclination to do so will self-select to be a narrow group and not representative. The key challenge with getting under-represented communities to engage is just that, getting them to engage through traditional methods – in essence that is the core of the challenge; is there another way to give these groups and individuals a voice?

What is the opportunity for the successful startup?

This challenge would have up to $185,000 in funding which includes:

How does CivVic Labs work?

At CivVic Labs, we go out to government departments and agencies and look for big problems that would benefit from new technology.

These challenges are broadcast to the Victorian startup ecosystem and the best solutions progress to an accelerator experience where you develop a Minimum Viable Product in collaboration with a government customer.

At the end of the program, you're in the running to secure up to $185k to fully develop the solution and we support you along the way with co-working space, coaching, workshops and mentoring.

For more on how this works, head here.

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