At the 2023 Metropolis Identities conference IRCC presented some findings and promising practices from their 2 funding Service Delivery Improvement (SDI) groups from 2017 and 2020. You can review their conference presentation below.
If you're not familiar with it, SDI funding "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."
The information in the presentation is useful, but nowhere near useful as IRCC committed to providing to the sector as you can see in this 2021 IRCC presentation. However, it is very useful to see some high level findings from 2020 project mid-stream evaluations, as these will impact the next round of SDI funding.
As you know, I'm particularly focused on the technology funding priority. I've been involved with a few SDI projects and consider these findings both weak and narrow in scope, given both the scope of the at least 30 technology projects they funded.
Here's what they said in this presentation:
"Generally, technological and online approaches have shown potential but require more work to fully understand and benefit from the opportunities available through digital service mediums.
The slide also states: "These findings are aligned with and informed by recommendations and insights put forward by the NSIC Technology Task Group (2021) and the National Standing Committee on Technology (2022)."
Having been deeply involved in both of those reports and with knowledge of existing technology-related SDI funded projects, I can say that there are massive gaps in both what IRCC is reporting here and what those reports recommended.
I don't expect that one slide in IRCC's presentation could provide sufficient context for both what findings they wish to share or how they align with significant reports. But it certainly could be more representative of a number of findings some projects have already shared as well as these reports.
You can read the reports to check what I'm saying:
According the final slide the final reports from 2020 SDI projects will inform the next call for SDI funding:
"The Social Innovation Unit will conduct a review and analysis of the Final Reports from the SDI 2020 cohort, with most anticipated to be submitted in Spring 2024. The findings from this review process will inform the policy direction and design of future SDI initiatives and cohorts."
That is both useful and somewhat problematic, given that the IRCC 2024 CFP will occur before then and includes a specialized SDI funding stream: "Funding to 5-year, larger-scale pilot projects that will test promising practices or concepts identified by previous SDI Expression of Interest process."
It is, of course, an excellent opportunity to institutionalize innovation funding in IRCC's overall funding approach, if that is what is occurring. However, it is also important that current SDI projects are not overlooked in the process. In particular, those SDI projects that show promise and could be scaled. I imagine they'll be under consideration, but it's important that IRCC aligns their own internal deadlines with external expectations and communication.
It is also useful and important that IRCC recommends "that SDI recipients will be encouraged to share their findings on the dedicated SDI forum on SettleNet."
But that's not enough. Sharing and knowledge mobilization should be baked into SDI funding. Some organizations included that in their proposals and their project sharing reflects that. But it should be funded and expected of all projects in the next round of funding. And I don't mean the occasional conference presentation, but ongoing sharing of learnings and findings.