Blog Post

Projects looking at the future of settlement work in Canada

By: Marco Campana
October 29, 2020

The future of work is a huge topic. For the immigrant and refugee-serving sector, I thought it would be useful to pull together projects, reports, surveys, and sector-specific professional development opportunities.

I'm including all possible elements, such as funded projects, informal work, relevant professional development (courses, webinars, workshops, etc.) that I know of. This includes specific research related to skills, competencies, future of settlement work (and possibly more broadly future of social services work). Also sector surveys I know of (past (research) and planned (that I know of), and surveys from the broader non-profit sector, such as those done by the Ontario Nonprofit Network, Toronto Community Foundation, and others. 

The goal is to ultimately share this with the sector to get input, feedback, and to raise awareness. Ultimately, it would be great to connect all the actors to collaborate together, complement and build on each other’s work. Doing this could leverage one bit of funding to support work in another area, leverage the data from one survey (eg. wages/compensation) with another (eg. technology infrastructure), etc.

This is just an initial snapshot. More to come.


AMSSA Settlement Sector and Technology Task Group

The objective of this Task Group is to discover, examine, and learn about the settlement sector’s needs to fully transition to a digital transformation and a hybrid service delivery model with some recommendations on next steps. This would include infrastructure, privacy issues (e.g. advice and protocols on how to safeguard information), professional development for staff, including digital literacy. This is one of many steps or activities that must be undertaken to inform an IRCC broader policy on digital transformation and blended settlement service delivery.

WES Mariam Assefa Fund (proposed, funded projects will start in November 2020)
Funding projects to envision the future of the immigrant-serving sector in Canada.

Alternate Service Delivery (ASD) research being done by IRCC
Presentation slides from NSIC learning exchange - June 22, 2020.

Health of Sector National Settlement and Integration Council Working Group (IRCC)
Launched at the December 2019 NSIC meeting, the Health of the Sector working group's objective is to conduct a dialogue towards developing a vision and work plan on the health of the settlement sector focusing on the jobs and people working in the sector.

Advisory Committee on Social Innovation (IRCC)
The Advisory Committee on Social Innovation (ACSI), a fifteen member external expert panel, is made up of Committee members selected for their diversity of lived and professional experiences in areas of particular interest to Settlement and Integration Policy. While all members have a background in either social innovation or settlement/immigration, they also possess expertise in areas such as integration, social inclusion, technology, evaluation and social finance

Future Skills Centre 

The Future Skills Centre is dedicated to helping Canadians gain the skills they need to thrive in a changing labour market. They are doing research & funding innovation projects that may intersect with our sector’s interests. Some funded projects of interest:

There is also potential to access future of work funding from FSC in the future.

Professional Development

Quick list of sector-specific professional development programs/projects:


A chronology of technology and innovation research in the Canadian immigrant and refugee-serving sector
When it comes to looking at technology to serve clients in the immigrant and refugee-serving sector the conversation, and literature, spans almost two decades. This is a chronology of these conversations and related literature.

Settlement 2.0: How might we best leverage technology and innovation to facilitate settlement outcomes for newcomers?
PeaceGeeks received funding from IRCC to develop a vision and action plan for exploring how technology and innovation can best facilitate settlement outcomes for supporting newcomers. The intent is to provide a strategy for a brighter future for the sector that prioritizes empowering newcomers to be agents in their own settlement journey and which builds the overall capacity of the sector to embrace innovation towards more successfully and sustainably supporting newcomers over time. Settlement 2.0 explores the pre-conditions necessary so that change can happen, and how the sector can embrace technology and innovation in service delivery with the goal of helping newcomers to Canada to thrive.

The Competencies of Front-line Settlement Practitioners in Canada
This 2019 pan-Canadian research report identifies eight critical competencies that could form the basis of training to help settlement counsellors be successful as the job is redefined and the range of work is extended.

Nudge Challenge: Increasing the uptake of settlement services among newcomers using behavioural insights
Students from the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management presented ideas about how to use technology and persuasion techniques to increase newcomer use of settlement services.

AMSSA Lecture: Digital Access and Digital Literacy
Dr. Suzanne Smythe and Dr. Amea Wilbur interviewed over 25 language and settlement workers during the important time. In this interactive session from October 5, 2020 blending dialogue and questions with participants, Dr. Smythe, Dr. Wilbur and guest speaker Marcela Mancilla-Fuller presented key themes from the conversations and insights from related research among newcomer communities during COVID times: 

  • What improvisations and innovations did settlement and outreach workers adopt to reach out to newcomer communities? 
  • What have been the successes and surprises bringing learning and services online? 
  • What new pedagogical and social inclusion challenges persist? 
  • Who continues to be excluded from these learning opportunities and what are the implications of this for equity and justice among low income and racialized communities? 

Surveys & reports

COVID & Canada’s Settlement Sector Survey: Report
We had 166 respondents who completed the full survey. They represented nine provinces and two territories. True to what we know of the sector, workers and leadership are resilient, adaptable, & committed to the well-being of their clients. Both workers & leaders are getting used to a new workday flow. While they balance life with families (both in-home, extended, and overseas), all are working to create some structure in their day.

Understanding the Digital Capacity of Newcomer Settlement Organizations - survey & research findings
Conducted in 2017, this research project conducted for IRCC was designed to gain a deeper understanding of the digital capacity and needs of service provider organizations that serve newcomers in Canada and inform support recommendations for the sector. OpenNorth collected the input of 261 newcomer settlement organizations with a primary data collection tool and presented its findings in a French and English webinar (the report is simply a presentation deck of their survey findings).

Communities of Practice: Environmental Scan Research Report prepared for Settlement Sector Practitioners across Canada
This 2018 Environmental Scan research & report represents one component of a multi-year and multi-phased project: to foster development of an active online community of practice for settlement sector practitioners across Canada.The survey tool endeavored to draw a snapshot of current ICT practices, to gauge levels and types of use within the sector. The survey was deployed by the National Advisory Committee umbrella organizations to settlement practitioners across Canada. A ‘needs and wants’ picture emerged through the practitioners’ responses. This information gathered begins to form a picture of what practitioners are looking for: not only to do their jobs; but also revealing various frustrations and indicating where certain impediments occur. The report sections entitled Survey and Current Digital Practices within the Settlement Sector outline these in more detail.

Digital Messaging for Settlement and Integration (DMSI) project (2018) (report not public but it should be, so here it is)
This 2018 Digital Messaging for Settlement and Integration (DMSI) project explored how digital tools, in particular messaging apps like WhatsApp and text messages/SMS, can close the information gap between newcomers and settlement services, and provide added value to those services. Drawing on findings from a survey of key informants (332 respondents), interviews and focus groups representing immigrant and refugee-serving organizations across Canada and a literature review, this scan provides a snapshot of the current use of digital messaging in direct service delivery. 

AAISA’s Provincial Settlement and Integration Sector Survey 2020
"AAISA was interested in gaining a better understanding of what technological capacity support agencies in the sector would benefit from. 62% of agencies indicated that training or support to increase their internal technological capacity, This was followed by an interactive service delivery or learning platform (60% of agencies)." And, agencies are interested in online and blended learning to build their capacity.Survey overview:

"The Alberta Association for Immigrant Serving Agencies (AAISA) undertook its 3rd annual provincial sector survey from April to June 2020. The survey was sent to 100+ agencies, and obtained responses from 55 agencies, resulting in the survey’s highest response rate yet.  

The survey aimed to examine and understand the priorities, and areas of improvement in the settlement and integration sector, to identify any current systems-level issues that are affecting newcomer-serving agencies and to highlight areas of improvement for the next fiscal year. The survey results inform the development of AAISA’s future activities and projects that will aid newcomer-serving agencies to be equipped with the tools to provide high-quality, innovative and adaptable programs and services to newcomers in the province of Alberta. 

The results of the survey are summarized in these infographics. The findings start by giving a profile or overview of the sector, and then the findings are divided into each of AAISA’s departments: Engagement, Research, and Policy, Professional Development, and Business Development, Administration, and Outreach."

Toronto South LIP: Urgent and emerging Newcomer Needs survey during the COVID-19 Emergency - Toronto, Ontario –August 2020
"This needs assessment provides a snapshot in time of urgent newcomer needs in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic. The information was collected with a survey that ran in July, 2020.101 surveys were completed by representatives of 66 organizationslocated throughout the GTA. Survey respondents were representatives of community service organizations (settlement, health, mental health, employment, etc) and school boards. They were asked to note specific emergent newcomer needs in the categories listed below. The answers are summarized in this document." 

Lack of access to technology to access services comes up as a challenge throughout.

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