In February and March 2023 IRCC ran sector consultations "to outline and seek feedback on departmental priorities for CFP 2024, in addition to asking partners what’s currently working well in the settlement and resettlement sectors, as well as key opportunities for improving services for clients."
Like me, you may not have heard that these consultations occurred. Like me, you may have not seen the report. So here it is (thanks ARAISA for sharing them in your recent newsletter).
It's interesting to compare to the 2018 IRCC consultations leading up to CFP 2019, in terms of breadth and scope as well as regional/local nuances. I managed to get the Ontario reports from back then. Many more meetings, many more participants from Ontario. In fact in 2018 more people attended consultations in Ontario than did from across Canada in the 2024 consultations. You can can find all of those reports here if they're of interest. It is very interesting to read the final report back then and to see what wasn't included in that final presentation from specific local meetings. Things that might seem like outliers, but are important to that community and are therefore important to note.
Those same nuances are missed in this new consultation report. We heard the importance of those nuances and context in recent sector consultations and research on technology, digital transformation, and hybrid service delivery.
The English and French reports are below. You should read them. My focus is on digital stuff, so I'll focus my comments there.
Although I will say that it is completely delusional that the following is considered an area of strength when it is so completely not (all evidence indicates the opposite): "Collaboration between organizations and between organizations and governments, including provincial and territorial governments (PTs);"
The lack of collaboration is a well documented issue. It happens and when it does happen it's fantastic and can be transformational. But those are still the more surprising case studies than the norm.
The findings are completely unsurprising and in-line with existing information. I can say that there are no surprises when it comes to technology recommendations from the sector. Which makes sense since we've consulted the sector extensively over the past 3 (well, 25, actually) years and know what is needed and have in fact told IRCC what is needed and even a roadmap of how to do what is needed leading up to the CFP... This brings my frustration back up to a boiling point when I know that everything related to the conversation around technology, hybrid service delivery, etc., has been asked and answered so completely. It would have been great if, instead of simply asking the same questions over and over again, IRCC sought to consult to get more nuanced insight in more depth.
Lest you think I'm the only one who thinks this way, in the 2019 Settlement 2.0 Situational Analysis report (yes, I wrote it and am clearly biased), one interviewee said: “Tell the funder to read the reports we’ve already sent them. Every report that we do, from professional development results, from conferences, we do needs assessments, we do final reports, they have all the information. Tell them to go back to their existing reports, read our recommendations… provided year after year.”
We see that in this report, in "findings" like "participants in a number of regions identified the need for digital literacy training for both staff and clients... In addition to training, participants also identified the need to build digital infrastructure within organizations to allow for the effective and safe provision of digital services (e.g. cyber security)."
Really? These are revelations to IRCC? They come up, dearest IRCC, because the sector needs to keep telling you they're priorities over and over and over and over again BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT LISTENING OR TAKING ANY RELEVANT ACTION IN THESE AREAS. (/rant)
One outlier from the sector in the report needs to be mentioned: "participants in Prairies and Northwest Territories Region recommended the creation of a centralized app that would include a listing of all service providers (similar to IRCC’s directory of SPOs). Participants note that this would help clients more easily locate settlement services, while also making it easier for SPOs to refer clients to other service providers."
When will folks in our sector understand that 211 already exists and if they would just support it, share their projects and programs in depth and detail, we already have this. Also, all service providers need to encompass more than just IRCC-funded agencies, which is what 211 does.
And, an app??! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO!
I have a list of Newcomer-focused smartphone apps in this article - Smartphone apps for migration and settlement in Canada - the current landscape. I try to keep it updated when I find new apps.
I include install/download stats for the Android versions of apps (which I also try to update from time to time). The Apple App Store doesn't make downloads readily available. It would be useful to have those stats. This is an important metric of an apps success.
And, as you'll see, most apps fail on that metric alone.
My overall opinion, which I provide in the article is to really think about the use case for an app versus another form of information provision. Apps are expensive, need to be kept up to date for smartphone OS upgrades and security fixes, as well as content and information currency. And they are less accessible than mobile-friendly web-based information. There is also the task and challenge of actually getting Newcomers to become not only aware of and trusting of the app, but to download and use it. This is something I know that all owners of these apps struggle with.
I believe that instead of apps we should be creating useful information with interoperable technology, so it can be shared on any platform, channel, and device. For example, any app that curates and maintains its own database of organizational and project/service listings is wasting its time, money, resources, and duplicating efforts. There should be collaboration with 211 service providers to access their open data to incorporate into the app. If an app is being created, it should at least avoid duplicating any information that already exists, instead partner with those organizations.
I find the report lacking in much detail. So I submitted my first Access to Information request from IRCC to get the full reports from each regional meeting, agendas and minutes from each, full presentation slides, full Slido records, the full 50 online form submissions (minus any personally identifiable information, of course) and the final report itself. If I get all that I'll post it publicly for all to see. IRCC has the most access to information requests of any federal government department, so I'm not sure how timely the response will be, but it will still be a useful archive to review and analyze, I think.
Anyway. Read the report. You should know what IRCC thinks it knows.