Blog Post

Sampada Kukade – what digital transformation can look like if you have support

By: Marco Campana
August 30, 2023

In this episode of the Technology and Human Services podcast I’m speaking with Sampada Kukade from Skills for Change, a Toronto based settlement and employment organization that is no stranger to technology innovation.

Technology in human services podcast episode image with stick person sitting at computer

However, what you’ll find in this conversation, and what I find infinitely useful is that even organizations who are large and growing such as Skills for Change still need support in their digital transformation. And as part of their support, Skills for Change joined a pilot project called Charity Growth Academy run by CanadaHelps, which has been providing organizations, nonprofits, specifically, and charities with support around their digital transformation.

So I wanted to talk to her about what that looked like how it was useful for Skills for Change, and what the impact has been, and how it’s something that could scale beyond the small group of pilot organizations? Because the reality is, we all know that this is something that all organizations need. Whether you’re in a big, small, growing new, older, legacy organizations, digital transformation is a challenge.

And so one of the things we talked about was how do you shift internally to build this kind of a long term vision and infrastructure for digital transformation? What’s the impact been of getting this kind of support from outside in doing that, and baking that into the organization? What does that look like? And what has the Academy and what have these kinds of supports meant. What can Skills for Change do now that they might not have been able to do on their own?

And then ultimately, what advice she has to share not just with the sector, but with the sector’s major funders around how they can support organizations who are at very different stages of the digital transformation journey. I think this is a really important and interesting conversation, and I hope you find it quite useful in your work.

Some of the questions we discussed:

  • What is the Charity Growth Academy and how did Skills for Change get involved?
  • You’re one of the pilot project organizations for the Academy? What has the process been like? For example, the site indicates that they’re building an assessment that will lead to an action plan, then ongoing support.
  • How has being part of the pilot project impacted your digital transformation journey?
  • We know that digital transformation is not a “one and done” exercise. It also requires internal change management, new ways of doing and looking at things, and additional human resources. How have you shifted internally to build a long-term vision and infrastructure for your digital transformation journey?
  • What has the Academy provided you with that you might not have gotten on your own?
  • What advice and learning would you share with other Immigrant and Refugee-serving organizations who are are different stages of their digital transformation journey?What advice would you give to funders?

(original image credit: Photo by CIRA/.CA)

Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation using The transcript has been edited slightly edited (name error fixes). It may contain errors and odd sentence breaks and is not a substitute for listening to the audio.

Marco Campana 0:00
Welcome to Episode 43 of the technology and human services podcast. In this episode, I’m speaking with somebody who they have the skills for change, a Toronto based settlement and employment organization that is no stranger to technology innovation. However, what we’ll find in this conversation, and what I find infinitely useful is that even organizations who are large and growing play skills for changes still need support in their digital transformation. And as part of their support, skills for change joined a pilot project called Charity growth Academy run by CanadaHelps, which has been providing organizations nonprofit, specifically, and charities with support around their digital transformation. So I wanted to talk to her about what that looked like how it was useful for skills for change, and what the impact has been, and how it’s something like that could scale beyond the small group of pilot organizations? Because the reality is, we all know that this is something that all organizations need big, small, growing new, older, Legacy organizations. And so one of the things we talked about that was really important was, how do you shift internally to build this kind of a long term vision and infrastructure for digital transformation? What’s the impact been of getting this kind of support from outside in doing that, and baking that into the organization? What does that look like? And what has the academy and what has these, what have these kinds of supports meant that they could do that they might not have been able to do on their own? And then ultimately, what advice she has to share not just with the sector, but with the sectors, major funders around how they can support organizations who are at very different stages of the immigrant at the digital transformation journey, I think this is a really important and interesting conversation, and I hope you find it quite useful in your work.

Marco Campana 1:43
Welcome to the technology and human services podcast, Sampada, thank you so much for joining me, why don’t we start by maybe introducing yourself and tell me a bit about your work at skills for change?

Sampada Kukade 1:53
Yeah, thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here today and talk about this important topic. My name is Sampada Kukade today, and I’m the Vice President of Corporate Communications, and stakeholder engagement at skills for change been here for just over eight years. And it’s been a fantastic journey. For me. My portfolio includes many different facets, including the program marketing of all of our 25 Plus programs, across the agency, all of our communications and communication channels. In addition to that, a huge part of my responsibility is around stakeholder engagement, which really is working with employer partners and corporate partners to see the value in the clients that we serve, which are newcomer clients, of course, and allow employers to have access to a global talent, talent pool. So that’s, that’s what I do. And yeah, really excited to talk about the charity growth Academy and digital transformation today.

Marco Campana 2:57
excellent segue. No, I mean, skills for change has been around for quite a long time, but also has been a tech innovator in the past. I know. I mean, I’ve been in the sector for a while. So I know that you were one of the first organizations to sort of start doing some online community with internationally educated professionals and things like that many, many years ago, very, very ahead of the times kind of experimenting. So but we know, especially in the last three years, that digital transformation, and in our sector, this sort of shift to hybrid services, is it’s kind of an inevitability. So So yeah, you mentioned the charity growth Academy. So I wonder, that’s really why we kind of came together, because I saw that your organization was part of that. And I thought, great. This is a good example of one program that is focused on helping nonprofits and charities to, to become digitally transformed and digitally literate. So can you tell me a little bit about what the charity growth Academy is and how you got involved?

Sampada Kukade 3:48
Yeah, absolutely. So if I can just take a step back, and as you mentioned, yeah, skills for change has, you know, kind of been one organization that has offered, you know, the online supports and things like that. But it really wasn’t until 2020. Of course, everybody had to shift immediately. And it was definitely, you know, a challenge for us from the perspective of, at that time, only offering pretty much online, sorry, in person courses, with some supports online through, you know, various tools, but really shifting that focus to full virtual delivery. And so what we kind of saw and identified, as you know, just the change management process, and how quick everyone had to adapt, which was fantastic. Everyone, of course, did that. But really, how do we now become more prepared for any of those situations in the future, but just also just the evolving world and how digitally connected and digitally, you know, we’re so reliant on digital technology, so to ensure that we’re continuously ahead of the game and so, last year, I had content At Shari Austin, who is sits on a board with our CEO, cerana, Sandy. And she had connected us with CanadaHelps, who then discuss this new pilot project called Charity growth Academy, which is a partnership with MasterCard Chang works and Canada helps to help nonprofit organizations to become more digitally transformative, and really to support that whole process. And so after having some conversations with CanadaHelps, initially, they had wanted to really focus on really small organizations and skills for changes. Now, you know, kind of, we’re at the 9 million mark. So we’re getting to that bigger stage. And so but they did see a lot of value in having an organization like skills for change, participate, from the perspective that you are in this growth stage, you know, we’re growing quite big, we’ve expanded in terms of our program delivery and the number of programs that we have. And so how are we keeping up digitally and with our digital transformation, and it’s been a challenge that’s calls for change. And so we really, you know, identified that, and that was really the precursor to us getting involved with this program. And this particular program, what it was, was brought together a group of nonprofit organizations that could meet with, you know, CanadaHelps, and a few consultants that they had that specialized in digital transformation. And we work together to really understand what does that mean, you know, it’s not just about one aspect of like, do we are we on a CRM or like, what system do we use? But really, it’s that broader picture of like, how were we you know, showcasing our impact? How is our data managed across our organization? Even everything from how are our fundraising efforts? How can we strengthen our fundraising efforts through tools and technology? So we had a bunch of workshops, and then what that led to was a full analysis of, you know, where we are in certain points of our digital transformation. And from that, we were given a huge document with like, number of recommendations on how to get started on certain things. So for example, and this is just one kind of example is like, you know, we’re off if we’re off of the Google Suite, then how does you know, where are we in terms of, you know, streamlining processes with Google Drive. So it gave recommendations as kind of like granular as that and and that was really useful. Yeah, for us to kind of move forward and say, Okay, what do we what are we able to implement?

Marco Campana 7:53
It’s interesting, because you mentioned that they had originally focused on small organizations. But we know and we’ve certainly learned over the last few years that nobody is sort of in digital fully digitally mature in the nonprofit sector. I mean, very few, I would say some probably are but but, but it’s great that they were able to see the potential that that even a larger organization could benefit from something like this. So I was among the things that they worked on for you. You mentioned sort of fundraising and internal systems. So they also did they also look at your, your sort of front facing client service technologies and things like that, like how you’re, how you’re incorporating those into your service delivery?

Sampada Kukade 8:31
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s the critical piece is that how do we, what it got us to start thinking about is that of course, with 25 different programs, were funded by multiple funders, what are the funders asking for insurance and reporting? How are we interfacing with the client as they first enter our organization to really understand what program is suited for them. And so that’s what got us really starting to think about streamlining those processes, and strengthening them so that the technology can do a lot of the work that we’re currently doing in terms of assessing and understanding where our clients, you know, should be situated in terms of the right program for them. So it definitely did help support that. And the client journey. Incredibly,

Marco Campana 9:20
did it look at things like competencies amongst your staff in terms of what their digital strengths and needs might be in terms of kind of almost creating a baseline across the organization?

Sampada Kukade 9:32
Yeah, I think what it did and where we’re kind of at right now, because one of the things that I think a lot of the organizations identified and it’s just natural that you would around the change management process, right. So it’s one thing about adopting technologies and you know, all of that, but it’s another thing around the change management. So what it allowed us to do is exactly that. At the front forefront. It allowed us to look at the leadership team and see who has Is the capabilities, the understanding and maybe some background to really support this project? And then you know, really look at those that are more kind of technologically savvy and are able to, you know, we have some champions just say in our organization that tend to do the trainings and things like that. So, really looking at okay, who can we kind of continue to engage as the champions as we go through this transformation?

Marco Campana 10:27
Yeah, I mean, that’s a really interesting, because digital transformation we know is not like a one and done exercise and change management, you’ve mentioned it a few times is, it’s a huge journey to be on. So I guess the first question I’m curious about you were already on that journey, obviously, in some ways already. And in other ways, no choice because of the pandemic, but but certainly on the pathway. What what did what did a process or a program like this bring in terms of how it impacted? Your journey? did? Did it? You know, were you able to move more quickly? Did you feel more comfortable was it you know, if you felt like you were treading water less through the process,

Sampada Kukade 11:04
I mean, a little, right, because, you know, when you get the document, you’re like, oh, my gosh, like, you know, there’s so much to do, and you want to get it all done. And of course, we know that and like you said, whether you’re a small organization, or a large one in the nonprofit sector, or charitable sector, rarely do we get funds to actually, you know, go towards digital transformation, there are, you know, like more unique grants that are have come up over the last, you know, little while that are really tailored to that digital transformation, which is fantastic. But it does become a challenge, because you don’t have the internal capacity. And as it is, you know, by seeing my title, you can see I own three departments, you know, I’m strapped, right and stretched already. Yeah, and I’m the lead for this digital transformation project. But what it allowed us to do is a through CanadaHelps, and MasterCard change works. And they it didn’t just stop, as you said, like, it doesn’t stop, you know, at that point. And the recommendations was actually this the launch point to so much more, both internally, as well as with the supports we have been getting through CanadaHelps and MasterCard. And so you know, MasterCard, giving us volunteers, to work with us on a continual basis based on our needs. And then CanadaHelps, continuing to give us workshops and building the, you know, the knowledge and expertise and best practices of what the organization’s in the first pilot have been have been doing. But what it allowed us to do internally is, we’ve formed a team of about four of us that we just kind of accidentally got into technology, you know, one of my staff, one of my colleagues, who is just a whiz at Salesforce, and another one who just had a passion for Google Suite. So it brought us together to just talk about at least have the discussion, sit down and have the discussion and reinforced by our CEO who has the vision of digital transformation. So I think that’s really critical in that journey is that even if you don’t have the funds earmarked, or you know, you don’t have the capacity, if the vision is there for that digital transformation from the top, then you know, it’s going to it’s going to, we’re going to figure out a way to do it. And so it started those conversations. And now what it’s done is we’re about eight months later, we’ve hired a Chief Chief Strategy operations. And as in growth officer, who is now going to own our digital transformation and build out, you know, we’ve got this vision now of building out that department and really moving the dial on some of these areas. And that’s what it’s really done is and we’ve been really lucky skills for changes going through a strategic strategic planning refresh right now, our previous strategic plan was from 2018 to 2023. So as we’re going through that process, it also kept the digital transformation top of mind as part of that strategic plan. So everything that we talk about in our strategic planning process really embeds that digital mindset in terms of that, that’s something that we’re going to need to embed as we you know, move forward in our new strategic plan.

Marco Campana 14:25
There’s so much I feel like I want to unpack there something specific because there’s, there’s a lot of really important kind of threads that we are discussing. And one of them is I want to I want to talk about because you came up in another conversation with them with Agnes Thomas, who’s the IDI of Catholic cross cultural services. And she echoed some of what you said, which is there are people who have individuals in the organization who have certain interests and certain strengths and so bringing them together to create sort of committees but also building off of their strengths and giving them that space. And it kind of it kind of goes into that that notion of well are people are some people Jobs kind of changing and shifting. So for those people who so for that, first, that first question that you talked about these, you know, your staff who did the Google Drive expert and someone else who had an interest in something else, does that become kind of part of their permanent position now that they’re, they’re also working in those areas.

Sampada Kukade 15:18
So not necessarily, because, you know, again, you know, my colleague who has that interest in Salesforce, she has a very specific job, She’s the manager of marketing and employer engagement. But what it allows us to do on the senior leadership level on the EN, is to really embed those pieces in the professional development. And I think that’s really important, because if you have a passion for something, you know, we can still tie it back to the work that they’re doing. And so, with this particular individuals portfolio, part of it is working to get our employment, you know, our clients employed. And so, you know, we need that data, and how do we use that data, we need to really expand the use and use Salesforce more meaningfully. So while there, there’s your connection, so it’s really about creating those connections in terms of you know, you still you have this, you know, portfolio you have to manage, but how can you embed those pieces into those portfolios?

Marco Campana 16:22
It’s interesting, so becoming a deeper or a power user of the tools that they might have already been using, but didn’t necessarily have the capacity before to be as as to use it as deeply, I guess.

Sampada Kukade 16:33
Yeah. And I think, again, one thing that I was saying we had a session with some of the folks from the pilot a couple of weeks ago, and one of the things that I was saying was around, when you tie it back to your strategic plan, then you can, you know, embed that into those, those individuals portfolios, right, because now it’s about, you know, we’re really wanting to ensure we have a solid data, it’s about data gathering, every everybody is everybody is talking about data data. And so, yeah, so we tie that back to this is the direction we want to go, this is the vision we see for it, and then that’s going to be embedded into the portfolio. But then you get to utilize those tools that you’re so passionate about.

Marco Campana 17:25
Yeah, that’s another really important point that again, this sort of one and done the strategic is that this is this is not just something that kind of happens over here, but it’s directly tied into your strategic plan. It’s part of how you’re going to be doing business moving forward. I imagine it’s, it impacts sort of the kinds of skills you might look for in in new hires, or how you onboard them differently in the training that you give them and things like that. So, so So yeah, I mean, I’m curious about how it sounds like it has had an impact in terms of impacting your long term vision and the infrastructure, I mean, the hiring of a person in that position, that’s another thing we’ve seen in some of the research is new and emerging roles are somewhat inevitable, to be able to do that, because like you said, you’re already stretched, you know, this was basically the fourth project that you would have been sort of, you know, working on in your portfolio. So to having a staff person come on to be that transformation, that digital operations person, I assume is something that has come out of this process.

Sampada Kukade 18:24
Yeah, absolutely. And again, you know, we can’t really create a rosy picture of it just being so smooth sailing, and, you know, we’re able to implement and everything. It’s exactly that right. Charities are, you know, resource strapped all the time. And, you know, there are, you know, when we have 25 programs, there’s just so much going on every day. And then what ends up happening is you have this like, you know, session, we had this working session, and everybody was ALL Yay, let’s get this moving. And then five weeks go by and you’re like, oh, my gosh, we need to meet again. And, you know, now things are getting busy. And it’s just your day to day routine. And it just, you know, gets in the way of like, these bigger conversations that we need to keep at the forefront. But I think what, what, with this project, because of the ongoing support that enabled us to continuously keep it top of mind, so even if we can’t move the dial on a particular area, at least it’s still continuously top of mine. So I would say like, even if, worst case scenario, we weren’t able to do anything about this, any of our digital transformation for the next two years. It’s continuously embedded into conversations now.

Marco Campana 19:43
And are those external resources those have come through the charity growth Academy pilot, so those are, I guess, are they pro bono consultants, or how does that work?

Sampada Kukade 19:52
Yeah. So the, the recommendations that we got, a lot of them are just, we can and kind of figure out how to like, obviously, the organization would have to figure out how to implement. But through the volunteers that MasterCard provides, they, you know, really are very keen on meeting with us on a regular basis to talk about, Okay, what’s next? What can we help you with? What can we help you and then so they’re able to build out processes or give us ideas in terms of how to, you know, better our CRM system, you know, how to better utilize it. So it’s around that, but a lot of it is it can actually be embedded into the organization. So if there were specific things that we talked about integration of tools, for example, between Salesforce and another, and another tool, that’s something that we can likely do internally with just some of the, you know, the, because the recommendations didn’t only include like us to do this, like it’s it goes far beyond this is how you would do it. These are the resources you could utilize for it. And then there’s ongoing courses as well, that they provide us with both internally where we can meet as a group, but also online courses that they recommend us to take as well.

Marco Campana 21:12
Oh, interesting. I mean, it sounds like there’s sort of, you know, it’s almost like a wraparound services we would call it in the system is that you’ve got these these pro bono these volunteers support. But you also have, and you have the learning pathways. But it sounds like you also have regular meetings with with other recipients or other members of the academy. And I wonder if how impact and it sounds like you’ve mentioned what you’ve been able to share? Has it been valuable to hear other people’s stories and learn from them? Absolutely.

Sampada Kukade 21:36
Yeah, we just had a session a couple of weeks ago, where we talked about, you know, a quick way and we each organization gave a presentation on their quick win. And it was really amazing to hear. Yeah, and I think that there are a lot of takeaways, I think there are some organizations that completely revamped their websites, that, you know, and then also to hear some of the challenges that they faced and and what we faced and be able to share that. So yeah, it’s an ongoing, I feel like there’s, you know, always a learning, there’s always something you can take and bring at the same time.

Marco Campana 22:16
Yeah, I mean, it sounds it sounds like it’s unnecessary level of different kinds of supports, from the assessment to providing you with recommendations, but also then helping you work through those providing you with professional development opportunities, and that community of practice, I guess, as a pilot,

Sampada Kukade 22:31
because I think, yeah, I think overall, you know, eventually, they’re gonna go on to the next pilot, you know, the next group, they’re going to offer this hopefully to another group of individuals. But what it allows, like you said, it allows us to create the community. And so I would assume that a number of us who are part of the first pilot would want to continue to connect, you know, after our pilot is officially done, and just keep those conversations going.

Marco Campana 23:00
Yeah, no, it makes perfect sense. And then those new that next cohort could join the community. And it just kind of grows and builds and, and you develop your expertise and sharing. It’s interesting, because it sounds like a really impactful and really well designed approach to helping Nonprofits and Charities on their digital transformation. But I always like to look at how can it scale? Right. So CanadaHelps and MasterCard, are creating, I would say, and we see a lot of experimentation in different different nonprofit sectors, including ours with different ideas that are being tried out. And I’m always looking for the well, what’s the one that are? What are the number of them because there’s gonna be different approaches to different parts of the journey. If something sticks and if something makes sense, how can we make it scale? I mean, so I guess the question is, how do we what advice would we give to an IRCC or a provincial funder to say, you know, this pilot project is like the approach that you should invest in to help the organizations that you’re that you’re providing grants or contribution agreements to in order to move forward effectively?

Sampada Kukade 24:05
Yeah, I think I think it’s, it’s opportunities like this or you know, back in the fall, we got invited to do a panel at the AFP conference, the sociation of Fundraising Professionals conference, where it was myself CanadaHelps, Liz Bryce, and then Jen Sloan, who runs the MasterCard change works and so the three of us coming together and having that conversation, so I think it’s around the note knowledge mobilization, and really having the organization’s having, you know, folks like Canada helps the Canadian Center for Digital Trends, resiliency, resilience. You know, it’s it’s organizations like that really, just continuing to mobilize in the community. Keep it top of mind having conversations like this, you know, you Use talking to me, we’re going to share it out and have our organization share it and just have people really, really keep it top of mind, in terms of this is this is definitely a need that we have to embed into future projects, as you said, you know, IRCC is going to have a call next year again. So really ensuring that we having this voice around how important and critical it is for them to include, you know, in parts of their funding proposals and calls as we move forward.

Marco Campana 25:35
Absolutely, yeah. I mean, it feels inevitable. But it also feels like a bit of a black hole at this point, because we’re not sure where their priorities are. So I feel like projects like this and your experiences. And so I’m so grateful that you’re sharing are what funders need to hear about what’s working, and what they could do to scale it up. Because if you can, I mean, you know, a MasterCard Foundation can’t nearly go as wide in terms of the nation or as deeply in terms of the different kinds of organizations as the numbers of organizations that government can. So I’m hoping that, you know, foundations like these, you know, even large foundations like the Trillium Foundation who are funding, or even this huge pot of money, that’s $400 million, that’s going for community efforts in response to COVID, which will certainly include digital transformation projects. Yeah. And we need to feed that sort of, as you say, we need to mobilize that knowledge up to to the levels that can actually scale it in a meaningful way.

Sampada Kukade 26:32
Yeah, I agree. And I’m hopeful that also, you know, due to the pandemic, it, you know, I’m hopeful that a lot of funders really see that it has to happen, right? Like we kind of stumbled upon it as a result of the pandemic. And so I really think that, you know, funders going forward are going to think more innovatively and creatively and, and also, just, in general, how to best serve our clients. So because for example, you know, it’s one thing about skills for changes digital transformation. And it’s another when we talk about our clients access and digital equity, which has now become

Marco Campana 27:14

Sampada Kukade 27:17
yeah, a huge, you know, topic, we just did a Spotlight Series, which is, you know, an event we have once a month, where we call in experts, and we did something around digital transformation and equity. And it’s about that, it’s about the fact that as a result of going to the pandemic, you either had, we either had clients who were benefiting from that, because, you know, they, they had familial responsibilities and other things, you know, their kids were home. So they had no choice, they had to go virtual. And so that helped and supported a lot of our clients. But on the flip side, it was a challenge for a lot of our clients who had don’t have access to digital technologies, who are working off of, you know, one tablet, or one phone, in their entire household. So we did have clients and client examples, like specific client examples where, you know, client would talk to one of our counselors and say, I can’t apply for a job because my kid has to use our one device that we have, from nine to three and during school. And so it limits my time to now try to find a job, Career Centers were all closed, everything was all closed. So it’s about, you know, meeting the middle of that, that gap where, now that we’re back in the office, I’m in the office today, and we’re offering a suite of virtual and in person services. So it’s really being able to support and offer that flexibility, acknowledging that our clients have vast needs, and really being able to support that because at the end of the day, our job is to the best integration of newcomers to Canada. It’s about sustainable employment, it’s about furthering the sustainable development goals on the more blunt, broader global scale. You can’t do that. If you’re not innovating. You can’t do that. If you don’t change with what the you know, the landscape is looking like.

Marco Campana 29:14
Yeah, no, thank you so much for bringing the digital equity piece from the client perspective, because it is, is such an important part of the continuum, if we’re digitizing if we’re building hybrid. Now, hybrid allows for in person, which is great, but what about people who maybe they would like to go digital, but they don’t have the device, the internet, fast internet, or the digital literacies? Or the fluency sufficient to do that, but they would like to do that. So I feel like it’s a question of whose responsibility is it as we and I’m thinking beyond our sector, right? We have digital government, expanding employment, digital banking, I mean, every facet of our lives has increasingly digital components. So whose responsibility is it to help those folks meet that meet that goal and and I know as service providers, that’s a big big weights in some ways,

Sampada Kukade 30:02
it’s a huge way. And I just what I wish and hope is that when you know, policy makers, governments and corporate are meeting that they really take into account what the service providers experiences on the ground with our clients. Because oftentimes, I do find that those conversations happen outside of the service provider. But I think, as you mentioned, like who’s responsible, we’re all responsible, but we all have to have that conversation to look at it from various perspectives. So I don’t think you’re gonna get that client perspective, in terms of, you know, what that client might be facing, for example, unrelated to our organization, but even if the client is going for an employment opportunity lives in, you know, a low income neighborhood where the access to transportation is far less, then you got to think about those things is that person going to be able to take the transit, they need to get to that job? And so how is that employer going to then create a more flexible environment for that person so that they can thrive and their, you know, their work, and they can fulfill that, you know, passion and goal working, while supporting that, that person’s needs so that they don’t have to turn down the job? Or they’re not able to? You know, it take that opportunity?

Marco Campana 31:26
Right? Yeah, no, that’s so important. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it is such a continuum of actors that have to kind of get together and have this conversation and agree, and then scale up the solutions that work. It’s, it feels really complex, but it also feels inevitable.

Sampada Kukade 31:41
Yeah, we

Marco Campana 31:42
have to do this work. Right.

Sampada Kukade 31:44
Yeah, definitely, we have to do it. And, you know, especially with, as we know, in terms of the labor market shortages that we’re facing right now, plus, you know, the 1.5 million new immigrants that are expected, you know, it’s these are the challenges that we foresee happening, right, it’s like we, you know, you can have the funding available for skills, development programs, and all of these kinds of things. But it’s really about looking at it more holistically, as you said, and providing those wraparound supports to ensure that the client, you know, any, any person that comes any person can, you know, fulfill their passion and their dream and get meaningfully employed, and, you know, further their education or whatever they want to do, but, you know, allowing that space to, you know, for those individuals,

Marco Campana 32:36
for sure. I mean, in some ways, I It feels like a conversation. That’s, that that is isn’t a part of what settlement organizations might be working on. But as you described earlier, if if, if the goal is full integration of newcomers, then it becomes part of of not just the responsibility, but the the focal point in the efforts for settlement organizations to actually work on this digital equity and digital inclusion question.

Sampada Kukade 33:02
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, yeah, and then bringing it back to the organization and the organization’s digital transformation again, you know, if we’re expecting this large group of individuals coming in, it’s like, how are we going to service them best, and as quickly as possible, you know, many of them are going to need the full settlement supports, but many of them are going to come with the global experience that they have that are there ready to work? And so how do we, how do we ensure that we’re as quickly as possible, you know, getting them to live their best life in Canada, essentially, that’s the, that’s the goal is that, you know, allow them the opportunity to, you know, create community create, you know, space for them to, you know, support their family, and all that kind of stuff. So, it’s really about that we can’t do that we can’t do that work as effectively until we’re able to, you know, move a dial on our digital transformation. And that’s going to require the support of every single player in the field,

Marco Campana 34:08
for sure. And I mean, it raises an interesting question about the self serve kind of newcomer as you’re describing highly motivated, highly skilled, excellent English. What kind of self serve? You know, what, what can technology do to help you serve them? 24/7 Whether it’s chatbots AI tools, I mean, we just this is manic explosion of the conversation of the day. Yes. And what I what I find interesting is people are sharing Well, there’s all these other interesting tools as well. So there’s this incredible explosion of emerging technology that we need to figure out how to use responsibly first of all, which is a challenge in our sector, because, you know, it’s not something we look at, but we but but it is on the agenda. So I’m curious if you’re having that conversation about well, how can we serve people while we’re sleeping? Right, the idea of that 24/7 concierge in some way.

Sampada Kukade 34:58
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think You know, the AI conversation like, we’re just starting to have that as well, you know, as you said, chat GTP GPT has exploded, and it’s like, you know, a lot of technologically savvy folks are just going to be able to, you know, create their resumes on on AI tools like that. So it’s really about for us for skills for change, and where our growth really has been over the last couple of years is around the wraparound supports. And I think that’s where, you know, in terms of what you’re seeing around, like, you know, those red job ready clients, or those individuals who come new into the country that are just ready to go, is really about providing those wraparound supports, at the end of the day, no one can replace mentorship, no one can replace mental health services, right? All of those pieces that we don’t often, you know, you think that a person is ready for employment. But if they are coming from as a refugee from a conflict area, we’re not taking into account some of the trauma that they could be experiencing. And so even though they may have a global expertise in, you know, technology, or data analytics, or whatever it is, and they’re able to get a job the next day, it’s around, you know, how are they part of that sustainability of that job is going to be ensuring that we support them in their family life, and anything that they may be dealing with as a result of a new immigrant, whether it’s isolation, or it’s, you know, again, somebody’s coming from a war torn country where they’re dealing with that trauma that goes hand in hand. So that’s where I see, you know, us changing with the times, it’s about, you know, if the technologies can take care of certain things, where are we going to provide those wraparound supports that you know, that that will then allow them to be their best selves?

Marco Campana 36:53
I love that I think that’s such an important perspective to see that yes, we can we can, we can use technology as a tool to help take the load off of some of our work. And also for those who, you know, for those who are self serve, if you will, but there’s still such a meaningful and important role that agencies can play. And perhaps you can even play more of that role with those kinds of clients who are able to kind of work on their own through those settlement processes. But you can provide those other kinds of support for them that they that they aren’t certainly not going to get from technology at this point.

Sampada Kukade 37:22
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, maybe one day. Yeah, but but

Marco Campana 37:25
I think it’s a really good perspective on on how you’re evaluating where the tools can fit, and where where you are on that continuum, and then communicating that to someone to say, Yeah, you know, maybe you’ll have a job tomorrow, in part because of our AI tool, or our, you know, job search and resume Creator tool. But don’t forget, you may have other questions. You know, maybe you’re going through some issues, maybe, you know, as you’re, as you’re working in that job, things might come up triggers or mental health issues, we’re here, you know, and making sure they understand. Yeah, so access.

Sampada Kukade 37:56
Exactly. And we have a new project that we’re launching, actually, that was just announced this week, we got a million dollars from TD revenue. So I congratulate very exciting, and that’s a climate change project. And, to your point, you know, we’re we have tools, as part of this project, we’re going to have a youth led website and newsletters and a lot of online engagement. But at the end of the day, in terms of creating that sustainable change in your community, specifically low income areas that have are more exposed to the dangers of climate action and climate change, you still have to plant trees, right, like that human touch that human involvement is, it still has to be there, you still have to advocate, you still have to advocate for your communities, you have to part of the project is really going to be having the community understand how they can impact climate change in their areas. And so that still has to happen in person, you still need an organization like skills for change to facilitate those conversations facilitate those activities and initiatives.

Marco Campana 39:01
Absolutely. And I mean, I feel like a lot of what you’re referring to, as well as the the the need and the the essential. Sorry, the essential need to fully understand the people and communities that you’re serving. So that you know when a right an intervention makes sense with technology versus in person and you understand the whole person so that even though that intervention work, and we know employment is one of the key factors leading to settlement. But then there’s below the iceberg, all that stuff that you were talking about earlier. So understanding them, I assume you’re you’ve probably been doing that. But you may be deepening that effort to try to sort of really understand the people you’re serving, as well as the people you’re not serving, right. We know there are people who don’t access services. And once again, technology provides an opportunity to reach them.

Sampada Kukade 39:45
Yes, yeah, definitely. And I think that’s one thing around the pandemic that a lot of organizations I’m sure similar to skills for change really found is that it did allow us to expand our reach in terms of you know, who we’re able to serve and And, you know, a wider audience from that perspective. So I think that that, you know, can never be a bad thing, right? Because if we can serve somebody, even outside of the Greater Toronto area that needs supports, where there may be less supports available or something of that nature than our job is still done.

Marco Campana 40:20
Absolutely. He’s still Yeah, why not? Right? I mean, if it if you can reach someone who can’t be reached, I talked to a number of francophone organizations during the pandemic, and one of the things they talked about was being able to reach into exactly as you describe communities that that had a francophone presence, but not large enough to fund service providers. So they could now reach those people and in ways they never had before or didn’t think they could before. And it’s transformative for some of those folks who are now getting service in their language, as we know is so important and newcomer for newcomers and settlements. So it was really interesting to hear, and to hear UFO that here. So this is this has been such a great share. Thank you so much. I’m curious if there’s any advice that you would share with other immigrant and refugee serving organizations based on your experience, who maybe at very different stages of this of the digital transformation journey? And I mean, I can tease out a number of lessons from everything, you’ve talked about it, but if there are a few sort of points that come top of mind for you, I’m curious.

Sampada Kukade 41:13
Yeah, absolutely, I would say that from the senior management level, just to just start having those conversations and really understand your role in it in terms of your organization’s digital transformation. And that, if you’re not keeping it front of mind that you know that that’s the example you need to set in order for the organization to follow. So I would definitely recommend senior leaders really getting a better understanding, really looking at sources like the Canadian Center, as a potential resource, reading up on it, listening to everything, you know, podcasts and things like that, to really understand it. And then just in general, for organizations, I would say, it know that it’s going to be an ongoing journey, this is never gonna end. It’s just about what are even some of those small things, those small wins that we can make in order to move the dial. Because once you see the impact of that small win, and how you’re able to move the dial, it will allow you to kind of, you know, feel feel excited and know that it’s there’s the possibility that this could happen. I would also say to any organization just continuously look out externally to see what grants are available in the space, because that was one thing we talked about a couple of weeks ago in our cohort is, you know, some folks know about them, and some folks don’t. So really just get an understanding of when those funding opportunities, try to be abreast of all of that get on newsletters and everything you can, because there are always opportunities that are coming up and more so nowadays, around that digital technology and digital transformation space. So really keep abreast of that so that you can apply and actually have some, you know, funds to be able to do that and make those you know, changes.

Marco Campana 43:07
No, that’s great. It reminds me of sorry, I have a final question, which is that community of practice with those other organizations seems really valuable. Yeah. And I’m curious if you’re seeing any emergence of that in our sector, in the immigrant refugee serving sector, where we’re having these conversations with each other in a meaningful way, and if you’re part of that,

Sampada Kukade 43:24
yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think just, you know, due to employment transformation, and all of those big pieces that have been, you know, already implemented and are being implemented in in Toronto soon, I think those conversations are just naturally happening, I think groups are coming together and really talking about it and, and seeing how we can coordinate services better and how we can learn from each other. So I think that again, in terms of best practices for other organizations, you know, get yourself involved in all of those sector groups, right? All of those thought leader groups, really get yourself involved in them become a member of those groups, because that’s your opportunity to really exchange those ideas. And, you know, talk about how we can serve the community more holistically. And and have kind of similar messaging, you know, you know, whether it’s advocacy through an organization like O’Casey or whatever, having that consistent voice on these issues, because we know that we’re, you know, no matter how we deliver the service, at the end of the day, the challenges that we’re facing with newcomers are all the same. And so what we want to advocate for, you know, whether it’s digital equity or technologies and things like that, that’s not going to change across the board. So those are the conversations that we could be can, you know, ensure we have a common voice for? Yeah, that

Marco Campana 44:51
makes sense. Yeah, common voice a common position that makes a lot of sense. Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you want to share or advice you’d like to leave with?

Sampada Kukade 44:59
Oh, I think I think, yeah, we

Marco Campana 45:02
covered a lot.

Sampada Kukade 45:03
We did cover a lot. And I know when it comes to like digital equity and all of those things we could probably have like, even, you know, a second podcast absolutely around that. So, no, I just appreciate that you also, you know, have this vehicle that you’re using to really talk about these issues and bring it to the forefront. It is, again, as I said, podcasts, and you know, that knowledge mobilization, that’s all part of it in terms of just getting the word out and how critical this piece of work is in ensuring the growth and sustainability of organizations, but also to be able to best serve our clients. So I really appreciate that you asked me to come today and speak on this.

Marco Campana 45:48
Well, and I really appreciate you joining me. So yeah, gratitude fest. But thank you so much for taking the time to come and share your experience. There’s so much value and insight in an experience in what you’ve been doing that I think it’d be great for people to hear about it. And for again, funders who might listen to this, to hear what needs to scale up what what is working on the ground, that they could actually help continue to support widely and deeply in the sector. So exactly very much for your time. I appreciate it.

Sampada Kukade 46:14
Thank you so much.

Marco Campana 46:16
Thanks so much for listening. I hope you found this episode interesting and useful for you and your work. You can find more podcast episodes, wherever you listen to your podcasts are also on my I appreciate you listening and if you have any tips, suggestions, ideas or want to be interviewed or know someone who wants to be interviewed, please drop me a line through my website, or Thanks again

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