Blog Post

The IRCC CFP is actually here, are you ready?

By: Marco Campana
November 20, 2023

You probably already know that IRCC has launched their national Call for Proposals.

In brief:

  • This national Call for Proposals 2024 funding process will make funding available to settlement and resettlement service providers via a number of funding opportunities.
  • Funding for this CFP 2024 process starts on April 1, 2025.
  • Projects may be eligible to receive funding for up to five years, ending March 31, 2030.
  • Applicants can apply for more than one funding opportunity by submitting funding applications in the Grants and Contributions System (GCS).
  • The funding application period starts on November 14, 2023 and closes on January 31, 2024 (5 pm EST).

Someone asked me what I thought about how it's organized. And, well, at first glance it feels like a bunch of different people worked on different CFP document components, threw them on the ground and left it up to someone whose first introduction to the CFP was that pile and was then asked to try to organize it within the hour.

It's not the easiest bunch of web pages to navigate, and there's no overarching PDF you can download to have it all in one place or do quick keyword searches on. I have already been asked by someone about a piece that I didn't realize was separate from the main document, making me realize that anyone diving into it needs to click on every single link to ensure they don't miss anything...

My advice is to start diving in now, and to quickly look at the upcoming IRCC information webinar sessions, because they start this week.

There are some significant changes this year, so be sure to read the How to use the funding guidelines page.

I'm still working my way through it to see what the digital lens and perspective is from IRCC. So far, I don't see a particularly coherent vision, certainly nothing the reflects the homework IRCC said they would do in 2021. I'll pull various parts together soon to let you know where I think they're at.

Along those lines, you'll want to review IRCC's recently released 2023 Settlement Outcomes Report. Following the first Settlement Outcomes Highlights Report published in 2021, this report represents the second publication by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that provides a high-level analysis and summary of the newcomer settlement experience for clients of IRCC’s Settlement Program. The report is divided into three parts that can be read as a whole or as stand-alone parts on each priority topic. 

Part 2 focuses entirely on sector digital transformation. IRCC spends a good chunk of time telling us what they're learned from Newcomers on their "Digital Case Study (DCS) research project which explored the contexts in which Settlement Program services could be offered online, which newcomer clients could be best-served through this channel, and whether online services can be offered in a responsive, effective, and efficient way. The project applied a mixed-methods approach by analyzing existing quantitative and qualitative data as well as generating new data. The project primarily focused on domestic and pre-arrival Information and Orientation (I&O) services and Employment-related Services (ErS), but also examined other service types.3 The research compared in-person services (i.e. services offered face to face in a physical location) with remote services (i.e. an umbrella term that captures any service not being offered in-person). Remote services include online services which are a high-tech form of remote service delivery, as well as via telephone, email, or text services which are considered a low-tech form delivery. Hybrid forms of services were also examined, not as a distinct format but rather as a combination of service formats."

This includes 18,777 respondents to their Digital Case Study client survey, which is a significant number, even if it only represents a small fraction of newcomers who landed between 2020 and 2022. It is, however, also important to note their acknowledged limitation (shared in a footnote): "The Digital Case Study Client Survey was an online survey that asked newcomers about their experiences using online, in-person and hybrid forms of service delivery. While the format of the survey is an inherent limitation to the findings, other lines of evidence (i.e. IOM report, focus groups, literature reviews) corroborate these findings. Throughout the report, triangulation is used to increase validity of research findings."

We don't know if they used survey data from recent SDI reports, or what other literature reviews they conducted, since they don't share their literature review sources. It would be useful for IRCC to also share reports from the focus groups they ran and reference in their data sources section, which is made up of "primary data sources used in the report – i.e. data collected directly by IRCC. Many other sources of information were used in the development of this report. Secondary data sources (i.e. data collected or analysis done by other parties) are referenced directly in the report."

I'm still working through the document to provide my take on it. I'm guessing it guided the CFP process significantly, so want to give a thorough assessment. But, a quick review of "secondary data sources" suggests that  they flubbed their references on the sector's work and research done on digital transformation.

They spend a page acknowledging and referencing the work done in 2021 by the The Settlement Sector & Technology Task Group as well as referencing the 2021 report Digital Inclusion of Refugees Resettling to Canada: Opportunities and Barriers. Both of these are useful, but the sector took everything to the next level in the 2022 report The Future is Now: Strengthening High-Quality, Inclusive and Innovative Hybrid Service Delivery, which created the almost immediately abandoned National Steering Committee on Technology and provided a roadmap of recommendations with specific dates for implementation leading up to this Call for Proposals.

Given that incredibly irresponsibly bizarre oversight by IRCC in their document, I shudder to think about what else they missed, ignored, or got wrong.

Lest you think I'm a total downer, I did find their remote service model aligned enough with the hybrid service model we've been discussing for years now. It's referenced here and in the CFP so, whew, I guess.

Access to services and digital are very much intertwined, but access is covered in Part 1 of their Settlement Outcomes report. So you've got to bounce back and forth between PDFs to make connections. Like the CFP I don't understand why they wouldn't make one complete document available to be able to make those references. I'll try to do some of that in an upcoming post (sorry it's not ready today) but if you're diving into digital, you need to dive into the other parts of the Outcomes report as well.

Some useful research and good ideas

The Digital Leisure Divide and the Forcibly Displaced - Part 1: Desk Research (2022) In this report authors document the evidence on digital leisure in the forced displacement context, highlighting issues unique to it. They outline the main uses and potential benefits of digital leisure in refugee contexts.

The Digital Leisure Divide and the Forcibly Displaced - Part 2: Field Research (2023)

In this report authors document the evidence on digital leisure in the forced displacement context, highlighting issues unique to that context. This report is a continuation of the desk review, and provides evidence from fieldwork carried out in two refugee shelters in the city of Boa Vista, Brazil – Rondon III and September 13 – at the end of 2021. The report focuses on the main uses and potential benefits of digital leisure in refugee contexts.

A key learning from this research is "It is also important to note their preference for mainstream platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube, as opposed to approaches to connectivity and digital inclusion that promote the creation of apps especially designed for refugee services and uses."

This finding echoes a 2018 Austrian study that looked at how Syrian refugees use smartphones to cope with everyday challenges: "None of the interviewees mentioned having been informed by either the national or municipal government about apps being helpful in everyday life situations. Considering the potential to boost localized appropriation processes and thus finding a way into a host society, this is a sobering finding... Most often named were Facebook, WhatsApp, qando Wien [Viennese public transport app], Google Maps, and Google Translate. Of all the about 90 different apps and functions mentioned in the data, none had been specifically designed for immigrants or refugees. This is in stark contrast to the heavily mediatized prevalence of apps-for-refugees and apps-for-Syrian-refugees – a Google search in January 2018 provided half-a-million results for both phrases."

Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice (2017)

I realized that I reference these standards a lot in my work but had never posted them on the site as a separate entry! Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice was issued to address the intersections of professional social work practice and technology. While a U.S. document, it is very applicable to the Canadian context, including the work Immigrant and Refugee-serving organizations do.

Shared Digital Guides - nonprofits share how they use digital tools to run their services and operations
Shared Digital Guides is a Catalyst initiative, contributed by CAST in the UK. Organizations share guides to how they use digital tools to run their services and operations. Even better, you can to copy, replicate, and learn from what they've done.

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