Blog Post

The leadership we need for digital transformation has to come from within the sector

By: Marco Campana
August 29, 2022

Recently the National Steering Committee on Technology (NCST) was created and launched a report - The Future is Now: Strengthening High-Quality, Inclusive and Innovative Hybrid Service Delivery (2022). The Committee was set up. The report provides a sector digital transformation roadmap for the next 2 years.

Why the next 2 years?

Because in 2024-25 the next IRCC national Call for Proposals will take place.

Aspects of digital transformation will start to be built into organizational budgets for the following 5 years. It may also be a post-pandemic belt tightening situation. We don't know for sure. Which is why it is so important for the sector to be planning, identifying priorities, and advocating for them with IRCC.

The NSCT was set up, with IRCC funding, allegedly to be that national planning body. They even met once. And then it was the end of the fiscal year. April 2022. And since then, for the past 5 months, radio silence from IRCC. Will the fund the Committee's work? Will they not? We don't know. And, in this environment, when we've created the momentum, created the Committee, created a report with a roadmap, created expectations, that is completely unacceptable.

We know what some of IRCC's priorities are, but these are more than 2 years old. Surely they've been refined since they were created? But we just don't know. And that's not OK. Here's what I've seen. Maybe you've seen more?

IRCC's digital settlement services vision

IRCC's digital settlement services vision

So, what can we do while we wait? We can definitely not wait. So, we'll do what we always do, which is to be resilient and innovative in the face of uncertainty and adversity and lack of leadership when it comes to digital. I hope to play a small role in working with the sector on all of that, but it's up to all of us to share, learn, work, and build together.

This week, some articles and thoughts for you to consider related to the leadership we need when it comes to the sector's digital transformation.

Why IRCC needs a hybrid service delivery lead
Establishing a hybrid service delivery lead at IRCC represents an important shift in mindset. Currently in the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector we're talking a lot about our inevitable shift to hybrid service delivery. It makes sense to talk about it differently because it is different right now. We're learning and adjusting, and new and different investments, job descriptions, hiring & onboarding practices, staff competencies, organizational capacities, etc., have to be studied, evaluated, and implemented. But in the not too distant future we'll be talking about Settlement Services and it will mean everything we do. Not a focus on how we do it (i.e. tech-mediated vs in-person, synchronous vs asynchronous, etc.).

We’re moving in the wrong direction when it comes to professional development, communities of practice, and knowledge sharing
I'm a big believer in the idea that information wants to be free. This site exists based on that idea. To reveal and share useful and interesting information. Unfortunately, I think as we emerge from the pandemic our sector is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to professional development, communities of practice, and knowledge sharing, restricted to members or folks with certain access. We're moving back to siloed, in-person-only events that are not recorded or shared widely (and, no, sharing a PowerPoint deck has never been a replacement for the presentation IMO). Password protected community sites where information is hidden unless you're a member. There is a place for password-protected sites, to have private conversations, to plan, to discuss without fear. But the information shared, resources, webinar recordings, research, progress reports, projects funded, and more, should be in a common public place accessible for all. Not just those who are funded, but all who are interested in creating welcoming and inclusive communities for Newcomers.

2022 IRCC SDI funded projects - Leveraging Technologies to Support Remote Service Delivery
IRCC recently funded a number of projects under their Service Delivery Improvements (SDI) funding which "is a dedicated stream within the Settlement Program that invests strategically in projects that offer insights on program design and sector improvements in order to build evidence to support future settlement programming." While the recent projects appear to have all started or been funded, we're still waiting for a list of projects. Why is it useful to have that list? For the sector to know what's been funded. For projects to connect with each other particularly when there are similar goals. Simply because it's public funding and we should know. So here's what I've found.

Valuing equity first - digital exclusion, inclusion, and literacy
Digital Inclusion is something that has really been highlighted in the past almost 2 years during our work on digital transformation. Inclusion and equity have become important challenges. These are not separate from other challenges of equity & inclusion and must be seen in that broader context. Not surprisingly, digital equity is an issue for those dealing with other equity challenges. And in our work, these are the kinds of things that have come up. It's a complex social challenge. And it requires well planned interventions in order to deal with. We've come to a better understanding of what multi dimensional digital inequality is, as well as the fact that we cannot do this alone, as individual agencies. There are systemic issues that exist in our sector, not just with clients, but also within our organizations and for settlement workers. Building inclusion and equity has always required system and organizational change. This is no different when it comes to technology. In most cases, our conversation shouldn't actually start with technology tools, but how technology might help address and create inclusion and equity.

Settlement services need to improve their online offerings for tech-savvy newcomers (republished from The Conversation)
Canadian municipalities like Toronto, London, Winnipeg and Halton Region open their doors to a large number of newcomers. These communities recognize the importance of digital initiatives like welcome portals, pre-arrival services, web/mobile phone applications and online newcomer guides in creating a welcoming environment. The mobility restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for these online services and has even spurred digital adoption among migrants themselves. Settlement agencies, however, still have work to do to ensure they’re offering enough online services to newcomers, including using online channels to communicate with them before they arrive in Canada.

Digital transformation in Ontario's Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) sector
Looking into digital transformation, hybrid and blended service delivery, digital literacy, digital inclusion, and more is something many nonprofit sectors are looking into. As discussed in the Good Idea Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience, the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector has much to learn from as well as contribute to other sectors. In Ontario, AlphaPlus is one organization that is doing, and has been doing, important and interesting work in this area for many years. Recently, AlphPlus has gone through a similar process of looking into the future of hybrid and digital service delivery in Ontario's Literacy and Basic Skills sector. It is worth highlighting their consultation and final reports. What aligns as well as differs with findings in our sector should be of interest to review.

Most Digital Transformations Fail – Make Yours Succeed (webinar recording)
Are you a nonprofit leaders that on a digital transformation journey with a SaaS/Cloud provider? Take 37 minutes of your day to learn from Kevin Christopher-George of GreenMerits Consulting Inc. Kevin helps organizations of any size, identify, quantify and realize the value of their investments in technology. You should definitely connect with him on LinkedIn, he's knowledgeable, approachable, and helpful in person too! In this webinar recording you'll learn how to establish a relationship that will make your digital transformation successful. Kevin talks about things that strain relationships and what can be done to help get things on the right track.

5 Good Ideas for building your services online
This presentation is from 2008. However, I still use these core principles in my own work, and in my consulting work with social service non-profits and charities. Christopher Wulff and I decided to build on Jason Mogus’ Five Good Ideas presentation, Reaching Out in a Web 2.0 World. In our presentation, we further demystified online communication, looking at the next steps in making practical, daily use of the web in community engagement, client service and public campaigns.

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