Blog Post

Useful resources about digital and hybrid/blended service delivery

By: Marco Campana
January 14, 2021

This is a short list of existing and useful materials in and outside of the sector related to digital and hybrid service delivery. The list is merely at a starting point. Please share any material or resources (practical and research-based) that we have not identified that will contribute to this work.

This list includes

  •  funded projects, informal work, relevant professional development (courses, webinars, workshops, etc.). 
  • specific research related to skills, competencies, future of settlement work (and possibly more broadly future of social services work). 
  • sector surveys we know of (past (research) and planned (that we 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 of sharing this information is to get input, feedback, and to raise awareness. I also want to connect all the actors to collaborate together, complement and build on each other’s work (you know, knowledge mobilization). 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), inspire one group's work to be replicated somewhere else, etc.

Projects

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
The WES Mariam Assefa Fund’s grantee partners share our commitment to building inclusive, equitable economies where all immigrants and refugees can thrive. Our partners are champions for their communities and leaders in their fields. Ensuring that immigrant and refugee workers can access good jobs and advance in their careers requires a range of solutions and approaches. Our partners bring the needed expertise in workforce training and adult education; immigrant and refugee integration; innovation and social finance; worker organizing; financial inclusion and community wealth-building; policy development and advocacy; and much more. Alongside our partners, the Fund seeks to create a community where organizations can collaborate, share knowledge and resources, and collectively work to drive lasting change in the U.S. and Canada.

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

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:

Specific immigrant and refugee-serving sector research

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.

IRCC New Technologies for Information & Orientation
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has a business need to better understand the many new technologies available to communicate settlement information with permanent residents. This includes things such as mobile apps, use of artificial intelligence, online tools and social media. The objective of this work is to provide IRCC with a report looking at new technologies for communicating settlement information to newcomers to Canada. This report includes a scan of these technologies and a high-level analysis of where there are promising practices, gaps or outstanding questions.

Researching the Effects of Blended Learning in LINC: A Demonstration Research. In this study, students expressed high satisfaction with the blended learning program approach and teaching. There were also important intangibles due to the use of technology: “Students noted their growing awareness and use of technology not only in day-to-day tasks but also in their learning of English.” 

This was reflected in teacher assessments as well: “...teachers expressed confidence and a high degree of satisfaction in using the blended learning approach in teaching LINC. Each noted that learning language via technology empowered students both in their English language learning and in developing much-needed technology skills that would both serve them well in their settlement in Canada.” Additional evaluation reports can be found on the LearnIT2Teach site.

Sector 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.

COVID-19 RAP SPO Survey (April 3 2020 update)
Thirty-three agencies responded to a survey intended to get a better understanding of how RAP SPOs across Canada are responding to the unique challenges and issues currently being faced as a result of COVID-19 in order to continue to support vulnerable GAR clients.

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)
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. 

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, 2020.101surveys were completed by representatives of 66organizationslocated 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 needsin 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. 

Impact of COVID-19 on Black Canadians
Through a partnership between the African-Canadian Civic Engagement Council (ACCEC) and Innovative Research Group (INNOVATIVE), this research study was designed to explore perceptions of Black Canadians and the broader Canadian population regarding the direct health and economic impact of theCOVID-19 virus on Canada’s Black Community.2.

The state of the Ontario nonprofit sector three months into the COVID-19 crisis
ONN and the Assemblée de la Francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) partnered on a bilingual survey to understand of the impact of the pandemic onOntario’s 58,000 nonprofits and charities, and the effectiveness of the public policy and supports provided by the provincial and federal governments.

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." 

Toronto South Local Immigration Partnership (TSLIP) announces new Access to Technology for Service Providers and Newcomers Report
The Systemic Issues and Social Change working group (SISC WG) facilitated by the Toronto South Local Immigration Partnership (TSLIP) is pleased to announce and share the findings of a new report on Access to Technology for Service Providers and Newcomers during COVID-19. This report is based on results from two online surveys (one for service providers and one for newcomers) supplemented by phone interviews with newcomers who have been unable to access remote services.

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

Sector Professional Development

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

Digital Literacy & Digital Equity

Digital Divide in Canada:

Recent research:

Access efforts:

Examples of device donation programs:

Advocacy

Resources from other sectors

AlphaPlus
AlphaPlus helps adult education organizations use technology to impact learner outcomes, improve business practices and strengthen program delivery through increased digital literacy. provides tools, training and tailored coaching services to organizations applying technology in adult learning environments. Our approach is designed to meet individual needs, identify new and existing resources, increase organizational and instructor confidence, and enhance the learner experience. We guide and support adult education service providers and educators to take control of their digital technology with:

  • One-on-one technology coaching services.
  • Learning sessions and workshops delivered on-site.
  • Ad hoc support to identify and integrate digital tools and strategies.
  • Access to adult education resources that improve practices and communication.
  • Training, webinars and industry news.

First Nations Technology Council
We are an Indigenous-led not-for-profit working to ensure that Indigenous peoples have the tools, education and support to thrive in the digital age. We are mandated by Indigenous peoples in British Columbia to advance digital and connected technologies.

  • We provide funded and accredited education programs to advance Indigenous peoples careers in innovation and technology.
  • We participate in and lead community research projects that result in tangible benefits for Indigenous peoples.
  • We create strategies to advance equitable, affordable and sustainable access to technology in Indigenous communities.
  • We advocate for better policy solutions for internet affordability and reliability in Indigenous communities.

TechSoup Courses
Courses for Nonprofits and Libraries. Our learning content is designed specifically for staff at organizations like yours. Learn from experts that have deep experience in the sector and understand your unique needs. Our courses are developed in-house by our instructional design team in partnership with subject-matter experts. We partner with experts that have significant experience to ensure that our content is relevant to your needs.

NetHope’s Center for the Digital Nonprofit
Through collaboration, we bring together the expertise of the technology sector with the on-the-ground experience of nonprofits to create a foundation for forward-looking organizations to deliver aid, relieve suffering, and build hope. By providing the expertise, resources, tools, guidance, and grantmaking needed for digital transformation, The Center helps nonprofits achieve the efficiency of tomorrow today.

Teaching Social Work with Digital Technology
This book was written to help social work educators make pedagogically sound, rational, practical, and ethical decisions about integrating technology into their social work programs and across the curriculum. It covers a range of essential topics, from understanding digital literacy skills to ethical implications for technology in social work practice, from using technology in the traditional classroom to fully online teaching environments. Case studies, practical examples, and technology tips are integrated into each chapter, and checklists show how technology is integrated with the Council on Social Work Education’s EPAS competencies, the NASW’s Code of Ethics, and other social work practice standards and guidelines. Appendices provide a wealth of practical materials.

Useful policy documents:

CCPA:

Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons:

Consent for digital services:

Evaluating digital projects

Webinar recordings from other sectors that provide useful information about evaluating digital service delivery during COVID and beyond. A strong focus is on evaluating and measuring digital services.

#BuildBackBetter: Building a Tech and Data Savvy Social Sector
On November 3, Future of Good with support of Community Foundations of Canada and United Way Centraide Canada brought together speakers from across Canada to explore supporting a tech and data savvy social sector to #BuildBackBetter.

Ontario Centre for Excellence for Child & Youth Mental Health Webinar: Evaluation of virtual care in response to COVID-19 (2020-10-28)
Evaluation of virtual care in response to COVID-19: What's working, what's not and where do we go from here

Data Literacy Webinar: Introductory Concepts and Problem Identification
This webinar focuses on two broad questions: How do I know if I have a problem? Why is data literacy important, and how can it help to solve the problem?

The Virtual Client Experience Survey - A Validated Tool to Measure Quality of Care
The Virtual Client Experience Survey (VCES) takes a person-centered approach to considering all dimensions of health care quality, including safety, timeliness, effectiveness, efficiency and equity.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have shifted to providing a range of virtual health care services. It is important to evaluate the virtual care experience to ensure it:

  • facilitates access to care
  • meets client/patient expectations of high quality care
  • meets the needs of clients/patients.

The VCES offers organizations a tool to do this.

Webinar: Finding Digital Mental Health Tools During the Pandemic
The mental health of many Canadians is suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us to learn about research on digital mental health tools that can support the mental wellbeing of Canadians.

This webinar will:

  • identify impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of Canadians
  • describe a study that identified digital mental health tools that might help people during the pandemic
  • outline the preliminary results of the study and where you can find out more about the research
  • describe a resource that can help you locate digital mental health tools.

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