Blog Post

Interesting case studies in digital and blended/hybrid service delivery

I have been identifying interesting and innovative projects in our sector, and beyond, that are worth learning more about. There are examples of both centralized digital service portals as well as decentralized digital service approaches in the sector and in other sectors. These are noted in an online spreadsheet that seeks to capture interesting and innovative uses of technology in the sector. There are over 130 projects listed. I have not captured them all. Add to this spreadsheet. Tell us about yours.

Most sector examples are funded by IRCC. More depth and analysis of these approaches will be provided in the final report when specific hybrid service models/case studies are outlined.

The majority of projects are run by community-based non-profit organizations. There are also newer actors, not funded by the government or part of the non-profit core of the immigrant and refugee-serving sector.

Trends

Website information and service portals remain the largest technology used. Online learning and webinars have become popular information delivery tools. Many digital projects use a combination of websites, online learning/webinars and mobile-friendly approaches (including mobile-friendly approaches, digital messaging and smartphone apps).

There are a few projects using emerging technologies such as direct service provision (through digital messaging, website portals, etc.) as well as smartphone apps, chatbots and AI, but these exist as outliers in the ecosystem.

Some projects, based on IRCC funding eligibility identify Permanent Residents (including pre-arrival clients) as their core target audience. However, newcomers, broadly defined, are the core target audiences for most digital projects. Many projects are usually services that are publicly available (websites, apps, etc.) that do not ask for eligibility information before a user can access the project or service.

Information and Orientation makes up almost all of the services provided. Some sites offer what could be called core Information and Orientation. These would be sites, apps, services that offer information, but without direct services. Most other types of services, such as Assessment & Referral, Intake, and Direct Support Services, include an element of Information & Orientation. There are some standalone digital Language Services and Employment-focused digital projects in the sector.

Almost two-thirds of digital projects indicate they support newcomers after arrival, with one-quarter focused explicitly on pre-arrival. Increasingly, digital projects are available along the entire settlement continuum, from pre-arrival to early arrival to approaching citizenship. As many agencies offering these settlement services serve newcomers along this entire continuum (along with those not funded to provide pre-arrival services, but, anecdotally, tend to receive messages and questions from per-arrival newcomers) this makes sense.

Example projects/programs

Here are just a few recent additions/discoveries we have come across during our work on the Technology Task Group. They are grouped into some draft categories.

Intake and Assessment

  • Gateway Calgary - a pilot project aimed at positively transforming the experience of newcomers in Calgary by streamlining activities with an emphasis on data sharing, planning, welcome packages, and referrals to organizations. It is a novel approach to coordinating and delivering settlement services that aims to improve the effectiveness of the immigrant-serving sector and make it easier for newcomers to navigate the system.
  • WE Value Partnership - WE Value will streamline the intake process and support successful settlement outcomes through collaboration across a variety of local partners. YMCA-SWO settlement advisors will administer a capacity-focused settlement assessment and provide clients with appropriate referrals and a consistent settlement plan based not just on their needs, but on their values, gifts, talents and assets. New Windsorites will be more quickly and effectively matched to local organizations who can help them ensure better settlement experiences, sooner. Ultimately, WE Value will connect new immigrants to the community and the community to them, to ensure that the talents of newcomers can be realized more quickly and more fully by the Windsor community – socially, economically and culturally.
  • NewTrack - NewTrack is a web based, (data stored in Canada on the cloud) built on a Microsoft Dynamics platform using the full capacity of automation and analytics to enhance client service experiences (as an example, client's not having to give their personal data multiple times when seeking more than one service within your agency) as well as improved staff-client service delivery (as an example, understanding in real time the clients' settlement journey or service touch points through the agency for better internal service coordination and client case management). ISSofBC will hold the license and intellectual property rights of NewTrack.
  • CARMIS - CARMIS is a complete case management for non-profits with Artificial Intelligence. CARMIS is the robust solution to challenges faced by non-profits. It allows agencies to comply with IRCC (iCARE) and other funder's reporting requirements without changing their existing processes. It gives a unified view of every interaction which an agency had with their clients using our 360 degree collaboration. CARMIS is an innovative artificial intelligence based case management system that is the complete solution for agencies of all sizes. 
  • E6-Newcomers Engagement and Empowerment Platform - E6-NEEP is designed to give Newcomers a seamless experience of getting services in their new country. It seamlessly integrates processes, data, technology, policies and reporting into a coordinated system to improve service delivery. It enables newcomers to share their information (tell their story) one time instead of duplicating their information multiple times with multiple service providers. It reduces the duplication of work effort and improves productivity by service personnel. The functionality of uploading data into government mandated systems eliminates the need for duplicate data entry activities. 
  • OCASI Client Management System (OCMS) - The OCASI Client Management System (OCMS) is a powerful and sophisticated website that can be used by multi-service agencies across Canada to record and retrieve important client information while generating detailed real-time reports on individual and group activities.
  • Using Intake to Drive Transformational Outcomes - co-creating a modern Intake system for the social services sector that is high impact & focussed on transformational goals. We want to leverage technology; Machine Learning, predictive analysis, modern databases & client focussed UI to help people succeed at life changing goals. We want to make the following shifts to the way we work… 1. Data collection as a chore → Data drives insights. ​2. Assessing Eligibility → Achieving Goals. ​3. Transactions → High Impact Referrals. ​4. Measuring Outputs → Measuring Outcomes. ​5. Reduce stress & Increase impact

Chatbots

  • Orientation to Ontario (O2O) Bilingual Chatbot - the chatbot is the newest addition to O2O’s client-centered user experience, where newcomers can access standardized information about settling in Ontario and connecting to community services as soon as they arrive, while accessing print and online resources, on-demand webinars and workshops, at any time.
  • VERA (Virtual Employment and Resource Attendant) - ACCES Employment’s Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered bot to improve services for job seekers, many of whom are newcomers to Canada. Using conversational AI, automation and machine learning, the bot acts as a virtual attendant, helping job seekers find the online resources they need, including articles, videos, skills assessments and e-learning modules. With approximately 75% of ACCES clients using self-serve and light-touch services, the bot will also free up time for ACCES employees to deliver other more customized services to job seekers online and in person. 
  • Chalmers App - Chalmers can help you find things like: free meals, overnight shelter, clothing banks, emergency contacts and can point you to offline and online mental health services. Bot creators ample labs are already working towards the most requested items like housing, eviction, employment, legal-aid, harm reduction, mental health services, and additional languages. 
  • Destin AI - Destin AI is an intelligent immigration platform (calls itself "Your virtual immigration assistant"). The website uses a FB Messenger chatbot to determine the immigration eligibility of the inquirer. The bot answers questions, checks eligibility and connects users with a professional immigration expert based on their needs.
  • Immigration Virtual Assistant (IVA) Chatbot - An early innovation from a Canadian immigration law firm. IVA is (was?) a FB Messenger-based chatbot to help people navigate Canadian immigration to figure out if an option was good for them.

Smartphone Apps

  • Arrival Advisor - The app helps newcomers identify their most relevant services and information using information on their circumstances and needs, e.g. how long they have been to Canada. The app helps newcomers to navigate their settlement journey step-by-step by providing intuitive recommendations of the tasks they should take next. The app centralizes data on settlement and community services and works with service providers to ensure that service information is continually up-to-date. No accounts nor personal information is required for using the app.
  • Welcome to Alberta app - Welcome to Alberta is a settlement mobile app designed to help immigrants and refugees to achieve a smooth and successful transition into their life in Canada. The mobile app will help newcomers to be able to access information on immigrating to Canada in a centralized fashion. 
  • PointB - PointB provides information, resources and online support to newcomers to Canada as part of the YMCA Immigrant Services program. Use is by invitation by the YMCA of Hamilton|Burlington|Brantford Immigrant Services. Also at https://pointbapp.com/login
  • MNLCT Newcomer Support App - This app was developed in partnership with iCent – a platform for international students and newcomers – and is designed to provide virtual tools to better support immigrants and refugees who are settled or settling in Ontario.

Sector coordination

  • SettleNet.Org - The main objective of this project is to develop and maintain a bilingual National Settlement Sector Community of Practice (CoP) where sector staff, leaders and those in related fields can learn, share, connect and collaborate.
  • National Newcomer Navigation Network (N4) - a national network for the diversity of providers who assist newcomers to navigate the complex Canadian healthcare and social service systems.

Mentoring

  • Snapp (Skilled Newcomers and Professionals Partnership) - introduces new immigrants and local professionals in British Columbia for 1:1 video calls to meet, connect, and share insights about starting your career in Canada.
  • Immigrant Networks - uses a proprietary software that incorporates Algorithms, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to help you actively connect with individuals from your profession.

Digital literacy

  • ISSofBC Digital Literacy Curriculum Resource - designed to aid English language instructors and those in the Settlement field in helping newcomer clients overcome digital literacy barriers. Understand learners’ basic digital skills gaps and learning needs through our Interactive Online Activities and Assessor Rubrics designed for teachers.
  • eSkills - online courseware that will build English-language learners’ digital literacy, which will help them succeed in professional environments.

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