Blog Post

We should be solving problems (newsletter summary post)

By: Marco Campana
June 27, 2023

I write a (mostly) weekly enewsletter. Maybe you're subscribed. If not, take care of that over here.

I realized that while many of the articles, research reports, and Good Ideas I share in the newsletter lead back here, not all do. And, maybe having weekly summary of posts on this site might make sense. Granted, it only took me 92 editions of my newsletter to realize that, but such is life.

From now on I'm going to post my newsletters here. If you're a regular reader that might mean you'll have to come back less often to the site as there will be a more-or-less weekly summary post of previous articles and such.

I hope you find it useful. Here's the newsletter I sent out today:

The last few newsletters were a bit over-focused on AI. Sorry about jumping on the bandwagon like everyone else. 🙂 I promise a more balanced perspective of technology stories and research from now on. AI will continue to factor in, but our technology focus needs to be much broader than that.

Take, for example, this interesting and probably provocative article:

Digital is not a thing
The author writes mainly about the Canadian government's digital perspectives, which are very relevant to our own. It's important to stay on top of what the government is doing and saying when it comes to digital because that will have a very direct impact on our work. The question he asks "What if we focus more on specific approaches, or even, problems to be solved, instead?" is essential.

And it leads into one of my recent posts. Synergies being what they are, I wrote my post based on another source focusing on solving problems, so it's nice to see disconnected things connect!

What problem can technology solve in Newcomer settlement?
I watched a video about Apple’s new Vision Pro, their Virtual Reality headset. The video talked about questions you might typically ask when creating a new product or technology. Specifically, what problem is this product trying to solve? Combined with tech stewardship questions such as can we build the solution, should we build it, how do we do it responsibly, I thought it would be useful to go through these questions when it comes to technology and the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector.

Along those lines, we need to be asking ourselves many questions. Assessing many assets and needs in our work. Previously I've shared digital maturity assessments and a hybrid work readiness assessment.

Today I want to share two more useful and important assessment tools.

Evaluating your hybrid services, there's a toolkit for that
The YMCA of the National Capital Region’s project, Wired: Evaluating Settlement Online (WESO), is a research-based program that addresses the challenges/barriers that service providers and newcomer clients face in delivering/using remote and hybrid services. The project is uncovering evidence-based practices that Settlement Service Provider Organizations (SPOs) find promising in delivering remote/hybrid services and engaging clients, creating a toolkit/framework and resources for SPOs to evaluate the effectiveness of your service delivery and adapt your models accordingly to improve services, and creating a network of knowledge and promising practice sharing.

How data mature is your organization? Find out with this assessment
Being ready for digital maturity, hybrid services, service evaluation, and the growth of AI tools and processes means understanding your organization's state of data maturity. The UK-based Data Maturity Framework by DataKind and Data Orchard is a self-assessment tool to help charities better understand and alleviate the challenges of incorporating data into their efforts.

The WESO project, in particular, is currently running training sessions. You can and should register to attend one of their upcoming sessions. It's an IRCC SDI-funded project, which means by this time next year, the toolkit will still be around, but you likely won't be able to access the project team for support and help. Connect with them soon.

Relevant research

On the AI side of things, there are two important studies I think our sector should be aware of:

GPT detectors are biased against non-native English writers (2023)
In this study, the authos evaluate the performance of several widely-used GPT detectors using writing samples from native and non-native English writers. Their findings reveal that these detectors consistently misclassify non-native English writing samples as AI-generated, whereas native writing samples are accurately identified.

Lost in Translation: Large Language Models in Non-English Content Analysis (2023)
This report outlines that, while multilingual language models show promise as a tool for content analysis, they also face key limitations. Language models in general, and multilingual language models in particular, may allow for the creation of exciting new technologies. An effort to increase access to online services in multiple languages will certainly be a step in the right direction. They may even help to open up different opportunities and access to information for people who speak one of the many languages that are currently rarely supported by online services.

Immigration-related

If you're like me, you may not have time to stay on top of all the news, information, reports, and interesting stories coming out about Canadian immigration every day.

Thankfully, with World Education Services' support, you don't have to search. Their weekly roundup includes research, stories, and events of interest to the Canadian immigration and settlement community. They share it internally and let me repost it on my site.

It's a valuable resource that gives me focused insight every week. I just posted this week's roundup. You need to read it.

While each roundup provides a summary of important stories, sometimes themes and patterns emerge.

This week the theme that emerged for me is that as we plan to increase immigration numbers, and continue to let temporary resident visas expand exponentially with no clearly visible plan, we're simply not ensuring Newcomers can succeed in Canada. We're setting the system, and therefore people, up for pain and failure. It's not OK.

Read on. This week's roundup includes:

  • Canada wastes the skills of its immigrants, and the economy suffers as a result
  • Women International Students: The Invisible Workforce
  • Safe Third Country Agreement is constitutional, Supreme Court rules
  • Immigration: End the bait and switch. Keep Canada’s promise to migrants of a better life
  • Minister Fraser provides update on 700 international students facing deportation from Canada
  • Immigration detention continues in Canada despite the end of provincial agreements
  • Ontario needs to better protect international students

A few more related articles popped into my feed after this round up was created, thought I'd share them in case you haven't seen them:

International students face tougher job prospects than domestic peers, B.C. research suggests
"A survey of more than a thousand international students in British Columbia has found the vast majority see their student visas as a pathway to Canadian residency and citizenship, but instead, find limited employment opportunities and little government support to reach their dream."

Download the full report "The Education‑Immigration Nexus: Situating Canadian Higher Education as Institutions of Immigrant Recruitment" here (PDF).

I think this is an importantly infuriating read. Important because it continues to provide proof of racism, bias, and discrimination in hiring practices. These students have "Canadian experience" when they come out of studies. So, that can't be used as an excuse by employers, right?

Infuriating because of exactly that. I've said it before and will continue to say it. We have barely moved the needle when it comes to Newcomer employment and economic inclusion. Over decades the situation remains as shitty as it always was. And now that we're moving towards more permanent pathways from temporary to permanent immigration status, we continue to ensure, as I wrote above, that Newcomers are set up for failure.

It's not OK. FFS, we should be solving problems, not creating new ones...

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