Blog Post

Paths Forward for the Future of Settlement and Integration in Atlantic Canada

I participated on a panel at the Atlantic Regional Settlement Conference recently - 2022 Summit: Navigating Disruption and the Future of Settlement. Here is a summary of my presentation (not much new if you already follow my work, a bit of a summary).

The panel was focused on Paths Forward for the Future of Settlement and Integration in Atlantic Canada: "As we prepare for an overall increase in immigration levels, including Ukrainians and the continued arrival of Afghan and other refugees, this panel will be an opportunity to envision how we can work together to strengthen systems of support focused on serving newcomers. Panelists will share ideas related to their work in the areas of Francophone immigration, combatting systemic racism, supporting digital transformation, and engaging in partnerships."

Here is a video of my brief presentation followed by the text with slide images in case it's of interest:

Hi everyone, my name is Marco Campana and I’m a freelance consultant helping Immigrant and Refugee-serving organizations harness technology in client service delivery, focused on our evolving discussion about hybrid service delivery. You can find out more about me in my bio, so let’s just dive in!

Intersecting venn diagram showing sector context related to technology

I want us to start with the complexity of our own sector. The future of settlement work is about much more than technology but I’ll focus on technology since that’s my role here today. This quick glance at our sector encompasses the complexity of our technology context. It provides a sense of the context we're working in as well as the competencies and capabilities we need. We need to be looking at these with both near and long term future views and perspectives in mind. So at the organizational level, we have to have capacity and literacies in leadership and policy, technology infrastructure, info and data literacy, as well as communications and content. Our organizational contexts exist within information, funding, broader communications, and Newcomer contexts. And those all exist within a broader societal context. It’s big, it’s complex, and we need to be aware of that complexity.

Iceberg image showing what is below the surface to make tech service possible

When we’re looking at our current context, we need to think about the components needed to achieve a future sector vision that responsibly, inclusively, equitably, and effectively integrates technology in our work and communities. When we’re looking at the immediate future of settlement work, I like to think about it as a bit of an iceberg. What most people see above the surface are the visible uses of technology in our sector - how we use Zoom, WhatsApp, email, etc. IRCC’s future vision floats beside us, partially submerged because we don’t know everything about their intentions and vision, but we know a bit. Importantly, there is a great deal that happens and has to be in place below the surface before what we see above the surface is effective. While many of us see what’s above the surface, we don’t necessarily know how it’s being created, run, or learned from. This represents our sector’s knowledge sharing gap. What’s below the surface isn’t just about building digital competencies, but is much broader than that. These are the baselines we need to focus on.There are baseline individual Settlement worker competencies that are not tech focused. Community Change focuses on community development and innovation. The digital settlement agency is our morphing and evolving organizational reality. All of this requires a shift in front line worker, manager, leadership, and funder digital skills. For example, like front line workers help Newcomers with system navigation, you are also now Digital Navigators in your work. It’s a shift that has already happened over the past 2 years.

Digital settlement agency components illustration

If we think about digital settlement agencies we start to see what our priorities might be. So at the core, at the centre, is newcomer centric data, creating a seamless newcomer settlement experience journey. We need to be centring Newcomers, whether they access our services, or not, in our plans. When we think about people, we're talking about professional development in our context, building a competencies framework for our work, including knowledge mobilization and transfer. When we're looking at process, we're talking about digital, and data maturity and risk frameworks. Frameworks we can not only build on but learn from, borrow, customize and implement in our sector. Technology, in our case, needs to be tempered with digital inclusion and equity. This needs to align with our sector values of access, anti oppression and inclusion. When we're thinking about readiness, this is where we're talking about those baselines in hybrid service delivery, where we have a common minimum standard or floor of infrastructure and competencies that no agency and no individual should fall below. We can certainly exceed those baselines, and should strive to, but at their core, we all should have access to build those baselines. When it comes to investment, I like to use what Allen Broadbent from the Maytree foundation called the three I’s of immigrant integration: intentionality, instruments and investments. We need to be strategic, we need to be intentional about what we're doing. We need to have the right instruments, tactics, or technologies in order to to address what we’re being intentional about. And we need investments in those instruments and in that strategy in order to make it happen. Data is key to all of that. In this model, I'm putting it at the center, labelled as Newcomer. It's really being newcomer centric, fully understanding newcomers and communities, in order to create that seamless newcomer settlement journey. Understanding newcomers makes the technology and service intervention decisions much easier.

Illustration of the responsible technology ecosystem with various sectors and their contributions outlined

All Tech is Human is an organization with a goal to build a better tech future that is aligned with our values and the public interest. Responsible Tech is a growing space concerned with reducing the harms of technology, diversifying the tech human resources pipeline, and ensuring that technology is aligned with the public interest. You can capture their vision in the simple statement the tech industry is not just for technologists. We all have a role to play, as you see here, bringing our unique and important perspectives and lenses. Some have said that no technology project team is complete without a social worker, because Social work excels at understanding the entire system while also understanding the needs of the individual. In our sector, no technology project should be considered complete without front line workers present. Why?

List of first 6 core values of settlement work

Because everything we do needs to be rooted in our sector’s core values. When it comes to innovation and our future, I like to remind us of where our roots are. Over 20 years ago the sector created 12 core values.  These must ground and guide us as we embrace innovation and reach for technology solutions. Our solutions must be aligned with our values. Accessible, inclusive, Newcomer centric, Newcomer dignity ensured, complexity is acknowledged.

List of last 6 core values of settlement work

Inclusion at the core, community development and welcoming communities, sector collaboration, accountable and transparent services, we’re building prosperous futures for Newcomers and communities, combatting misinformation and disinformation with authoritative and accurate content.

If you haven’t seen these core values before, they’re worth looking at to see how they fit with your and your organization’s approach to service. But also how they clearly intersect with the newcomer-centric approach that should guide how we develop any services, with or without technology. So what I want to leave you with in terms of a technology path forward is that we must drive that path. It must be rooted in our values. And we can and must shape it by being directly involved in the creation, implementation, evaluation, and iteration of technology in our work, sector, and communities and not leave it up to the tech bros to do it for us. Let’s talk about constructive innovation, building on what works and what we’re learning instead of disruption, which tends to harm the most vulnerable individuals and societies. Let’s talk about ways to evolve our sector and platforms in ways that are connected to our values and what we know. 

Thank you.

Slide deck in PDF format in case it's of interest:

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