Blog Post

Digital in the IRCC CFP - a summary and some recommendations

What's in the CFP related to digital that should be acted on?They'll fund your tech. But what should you ask for? I don't have a crystal ball or insider view of IRCC, and they're being vague in some areas. But there are a few areas that seem fairly clear to me where I want to make recommendations. I'm also pointing out areas of the CFP that you need to make sure you actually find and read.

Specifics

Digital support services = Digital Navigators + Digital Lending Libraries.

Digital Supports in the 2024 IRCC CFP - what you should be looking for
IRCC appears to be funding two basic digital supports that you need to apply for in your proposal - Digital Navigators and Device Lending. I'm going to outline why these are going to be crucial for you to ask for and operationalize. And where in the CFP documentation IRCC outlines what you can ask for.

What you'll find:

  • Digital Navigators: Some useful articles, reports, interviews, and resources related to what a Digital Navigator can look like in the Settlement context. Resources include exploring the Digital Navigator model that has its home in the digital inclusion community in the United States, how some Settlement organizations have brought this role into their work, and additional research and evidence showing the positive impact of Digital Navigators on communities.
  • Digital Lending Libraries: A replicable device lending library program approach and template. During the pandemic, like many orgs, 2Life Communities built an accessible, community-supported, user-friendly Digital Device Lending Library (DDLL) for low-income elders who have little to no experience with technology. They created a replicable model for effectively connecting linguistically diverse, low-income older adults to services, programs, and each other through technology. And they shared all the documents you need to figure it all out in your org.
  • Links directly into the relevant sections of the IRCC CFP so you can read exactly what they're looking for.

Digital literacy

IRCC considers broad digital literacy supports an ineligible cost. As they write: "Digital literacy is its own distinct term, pertaining to the ability to use technology or the internet in the most appropriate way for personal or professional purposes.” Some aspects of digital literacy will be covered under Digital support services, but not all. And not as broadly as the evidence in our sector suggests is necessary. Or even matches what IRCC has itself funded in the past. For example, you won't be able to run sessions on basic online safety, such as online safety for online shopping or banking. But you will run online safety training in the context of accessing your services. For example, orienting Newcomers to what is safe to do or share in your password-protected encrypted online service portal vs what they should limit sharing to over email.

They're misguided in this, of course, and the link they provide in the CFP to "other Government of Canada programs" is severely lacking.

UPDATE: IRCC provided additional information in their CFP FAQ section, which you may missed since it's not in the main application:

"Are digital literacy workshops still eligible under other streams such as Information and Orientation or Employment-related Services?

For CFP 2024, digital literacy is defined as the ability to use technology or the internet in the most appropriate way for personal or professional purposes (e.g. using social media).

Information and Orientation (I&O) services provide clients with settlement-related information through products such as fact sheets, brochures, the website or through services like orientation sessions. The "information" portion refers to sharing information on topics relevant to a newcomer’s journey. The "orientation" portion includes providing information and raising awareness about topics relevant to a newcomer’s journey.

Under these definitions, I&O doesn’t provide clients with training to achieve a specific goal unrelated to settlement. As such, digital literacy workshops/training as a standalone topic are not eligible under I&O.

However, activities such as sharing general information on how to safely access and navigate the online environment to support the newcomer journey (e.g. banking, transportation, job-seeking, etc.) falls under “sharing/providing information” and would therefore be eligible.

Under Employment-relates Services (ErS), digital literacy may be a funded activity if it’s proposed as part of a settlement service that aims to help newcomers develop the skills and knowledge necessary to prepare for the Canadian labour market and connect with employers. Employment-related services support non-technical, non-academic skills training based on the Skills for Success framework, including Digital Literacy.

IRCC defines digital supports as activities assisting eligible clients in accessing IRCC-funded settlement services being delivered remotely. If you’re interested in offering digital supports, make sure you review the Digital Supports activity under Support Services."

What's in the sector, what's in the community, how can SPOs work together on digital literacy supports? Thankfully, there are already many resources you can access. Much has been created in the sector already. Other sectors have created very useful clear language, as well as multilingual resources that can be re-used in our sector. Most SPOs have created some resources related to digital literacy for Newcomers and staff. YOU have probably created digital literacy materials for your clients over the past few years. Collaborating here makes sense to avoid duplication of efforts.

In this article, I provide links to existing sector and outside of sector created materials, both self-directed and materials you can use to facilitate learning. The general digital literacy self-directed materials are what you want to focus on, not in the CFP, but in your work overall. You should be able to use these materials by giving them to clients, you just won't be able to provide direct supports to them if they need them. That's where your community connections and referrals will be needed.

As you'll also see in the article, 211 captures "Computer literacy training programs" in your community. Find out who provides these services and start connecting with them. These lists will far surpass the paltry list of "other Government of Canada programs" that IRCC provides a link to in the CFP.

Digital literacy training and opportunities for Newcomers
When it comes to digital literacy resources there seems to be a tendency to try to create new materials. There are so many excellent resources out there, many created during the pandemic. Let's build on each other's work, share openly, and complement, translate, edit for clear language resources instead of creating the same thing over and over again. Here are some useful starting points.

Connecting Families & other low cost internet options

Part of the typical, or traditional, work that a Digital Navigator might do in a community is to help clients access low-cost internet options. While you won't be explicitly funded to provide that service by IRCC, it is useful to know what supports exist for your clients and communities.

Connecting Families & other low cost internet options
The Connecting Families Initiative (CFI) is a Government of Canada program that provides more affordable Internet services to eligible Canadians. Those eligible for Connecting Families will be contacted directly.

However, a number of the participating Internet Service Providers also offer other targeted programs for low-income Canadians to access low cost internet and mobile services. In some cases this includes Government Assisted Refugees.

You can apply directly to many of these programs, or support clients to apply. Some offer programs specifically for Government Assisted Refugees. If you are a RAP provider, contact those companies with related programs to partner and get support for your GAR clients.

Cybersecurity

It's unclear, but I recommend you ask for a comprehensive service in your budget. After one of their CFP information session I emailed IRCC to try to get some clarity.

I asked:

What funding is available for SPOs to access and pay for comprehensive cybersecurity services? Where would this fit in the proposal budget? From the CFP glossary, I'm talking about "The body of technologies, processes, practices and response and mitigation measures designed to protect electronic information and information infrastructure from mischief, unauthorized use, or disruption."

They answered:

"Regarding the funding availability for SPOs to access and pay for comprehensive cybersecurity services; as per the Budget Submission Guidance, IT supports such as the cost for cyber security insurance is considered administrative. In certain situations, some costs can be split between Administrative and Program Delivery cost categories. For more details, refer to the Budget Submission Guidance. Applicants that are approved to proceed to the negotiation phase can discuss further details around the eligibility of costs and the appropriate cost category with their program officers."

The Budget Submission Guidance document is not at all helpful. This is the only mention of cybersecurity-related eligible costs: 

"Standard insurance costs (for example, property, board of directors’ liability, cyber security)."

I found a Canadian nonprofit-focused Cybersecurity service that meets and exceeds IRCC’s Privacy and Security Requirements for Funding Recipients. Learn more, connect with them to learn more and get some numbers you can add to your proposal. Even better, sign up with them ASAP so you, your org, your clients, and your communities are protected.

I should add that in their Settlement and Integration vision "priorities" IRCC wrote: "Developing digital services and infrastructure that allow for the effective and safe provision of services in relation to protecting clients’ privacy and cybersecurity;"

I asked what they meant by "infrastructure."

Their answer indicates a very narrow definition of cybersecurity:

"For the question on 'infrastructure', in the given context, 'digital infrastructure' refers to hardware and software assets that protect clients’ personal information and against threats to cybersecurity."

It's interesting to me that they ignore their own Privacy and Security Requirements for Funding Recipients. Part V and VI outline requirements for staff and organizational security policies and training.

I'm curious if any SPO staff have ever been asked by their organization to complete the "iCARE User Reliability Assessment Form" outlined in that document.

CRM (Client Management Solutions)

CRMs are also not explicitly mentioned in the CFP. But you need one. And you should ask for funding for one. IRCC already appears to fund this for SPOs who ask for the funding. You should not ask for and IRCC is unlikely to fund the creation of a new CRM (or even heavy customization of a platform like Salesforce), but there are already a number of sector-specific CRMs that you can access today. This report outlines them and where you can find out more information.

Client Management Solutions For IRCC-Funded Settlement Agencies (2022)
In this report researchers looked at the landscape of technology solutions available to immigrant and refugee-serving agencies, focusing on Customer Relationships Management (CRM), Case Management, Non-profit Software, Database Information Management Systems (DIMS), and Digital Business Platforms.

Usefully, the report provides a "Next Steps" section which outlines how important the role of non-techie agency staff are in the creation/selection, customization, and roll out of CRM systems in the agency setting. Researchers provide high level recommendations as well as typical selection and implementation steps and considerations. If you are embarking on a CRM selection or creation process, this report is essential reading to help you in that process.

General CFP tech info

Here are some quotes and sections directly from the CFP where digital is mentioned. I likely haven't captured them all. Comment below if I missed something you know is important.

Digital and hybrid delivery of services

  • Reducing barriers to access through remote service delivery where appropriate and necessary;”

How IRCC will assess applications for funding

“Applicants should be maximizing current and emerging technological solutions so that programming is more effective, flexible, and accessible.

For example:

  • Expansion of remote and hybrid (a combination of in-person and remote offerings) options for services to increase the ease of access; improving access to and the use of technology and mobile platforms to make settlement services more readily accessible regardless of the client’s location. Remote services can be delivered through high-tech (online/digital) or low-tech (telephone/email/text) means.
  • Coordinated, collaborative promotional activities that leverage the use of social media to improve outreach to newcomers to increase awareness of services offered.
  • Promotion of remote and hybrid settlement services.

Applicants are to indicate any cost associated with staff training directly linked to the delivery of the specific project in their budget.”

IRCC’s approach to modes of service delivery for CFP 2024

Image of IRCC's definitions of modes of delivery for the CFP

“To continue reaping the shared benefits of digital service delivery, our vision and approach to it prioritizes the following elements:

  • Ensuring that all newcomers have access to a full suite of settlement services in their preferred mode, location, time and point in their immigration journey;
  • Using digital services to address gaps or shortcomings, or both, in traditional in-person services to ensure that digital services are complementing rather than replacing them;
  • Increasing the availability of digital services across the Settlement program in areas where it is the most appropriate, while being mindful of existing digital tools or platforms, or both, to avoid duplication;
  • Supporting service provider organizations who choose to build up their digital expertise as well as those who continue to focus on in-person delivery in order to foster diverse modes of service delivery across the Settlement program;
  • Encouraging on-demand services and technology (e.g. interactive online training modules or courses that enables clients to access a service independently at any time that they need) that can be easily scaled by others across the country;
  • Stronger cooperation and collaboration among service provider organizations through the sharing of promising digital tools or practices or both, usage of effective interoperable systems, co-creation of digital content and platforms, and making content and information freely available and accessible online without login or credential requirements;
  • Developing digital services and infrastructure that allow for the effective and safe provision of services in relation to protecting clients’ privacy and cybersecurity;
  • Increasing digital skills (i.e. support for those who do not have the ability to use digital technologies to access digital settlement services) for both service providers and clients to work towards equitable service access across the Program.”

The eligible modes of delivery for each activity type are listed in each base service section to ensure that services are delivered in the most appropriate and effective format for clients and the organizations delivering them.

It's important to note that they vary and are nuanced from service to service section. Read carefully. Understand fully. Email IRCC if you're not sure about anything - CFP-ADP@cic.gc.ca

It's fair to say that they're basing some of their decisions on the 2023 Settlement Outcomes report Part 2: Digital Transformation. Become familiar with that.

Here are direct links to the modes of delivery in each service section:

From the IRCC CFP Glossary:

Hybrid service delivery
Hybrid (or blended) services can be any combination of in-person, high-tech remote and low-tech remote formats. For the purposes of tracking and reporting, hybrid is not treated as a distinct format but rather as a combination of these service formats.

Remote service delivery
Any service that is not being offered in-person (an umbrella term).

In-person service delivery
Any service that is being offered face to face in a physical location.

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