Shared Digital Guides is a Catalyst initiative, contributed by CAST in the UK. Catalyst is a network that connects non-profits with services and resources to make digital easier.  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.

Too often organizations feel left alone to figure out their digital transformation. While they're anxious and stressed out, it's likely another organization has figured it out. What if there was a way to share those solutions?

That's what Shared Digital Guides offer.

Illustration of a digital guide with 2 people pointing at a screenshot of the guide.

According to Catalyst Shared Digital Guides "collects practical examples to help charities reuse and learn from one another’s digital services. We have been referring to those as recipes: they show the ingredients and steps needed to deliver a service. By charities, for charities, for inspiration or straightforward implementation. These recipes can be reused as they are, or tweaked as necessary.

We believe that re-using existing tools and code can help charities solve service design and delivery problems more quickly than building a tool from scratch. It can save time and money, and build a team’s confidence along the way."

What can you find there? Guides cover things like:

Here are some specific guide examples:

Organizations are encouraged to share, with the caveat "Most organisations have something worth sharing, but don't realise it!"

I've also found that even when an organization realizes they have something worth sharing, they're not sure how to do it, or find the time to share.

It's in that spirit the Catalyst works with organizations that submit an idea. Through a simple and manageable interview process that doesn't take too much time (2 40-minute interviews), Catalyst pulls together the information and then creates the guide. Organizations get a final review before a guide goes live on the site.

Open working and sharing is key to this approach. There are currently 61 Guides shared by 45 organisations on the site. You are free to use, reuse and adapt Guides to improve your services and operations. You can also republish the text of a Guide, with credit and link back to the Guide.

International Student Connect is a service of COSTI Immigrant Services. It's a rare service from a large Immigrant and Refugee-serving organization that is mainly funded by IRCC. IRCC doesn't allow these organizations to serve international students. This, in spite of the fact that those students need services and are increasingly part of two-step immigration pathways to permanence in Canada.

This is where provincial funders have typically stepped in. In this case International Student Connect is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

According to the site the "International Student Connect project offers information and orientation resources to international students found on the ISC website and in printed format. Resources include A Handbook for International Students in Ontario, Ontario International Students Guide, ISC webinars and fact sheets on various settlement topics."

What is particularly unique is that International Student Connect offers both online/virtual services and information, along with in-person services across Ontario through partner organizations. This includes a mix of educational institutions and settlement agencies.

The online services have expanded in recent times to include the above resources, the Orientation to Ontario chatbot, accessible on the site, as well as the ArriveON app, available on Android, iPhone, and Microsoft store (for PC download).

What makes this a good idea?

International Student Connect provides International Students with an authoritative information source along with connections in their community where they can get needed help and support. That alone makes it useful.

But from a technical perspective, International Student Connect is connected to the broader Orientation to Ontario program, which provides a glimpse of what an emerging omnichannel information system can look like. Whether an International Student accesses information through the chatbot, app, webinar, PDF downloads, or in-person at a service provider, they get access to the same consistent information.

That consistency and no-wrong-door approach to providing information and access to the information increasingly in seamless ways is essential for the future relevancy of the sector.

screen shot of the various ways newcomers can access information through orientation to ontario

You can read more about International Student Connect on their website, or download this brief from the Sharing Settlement and Integration Practices that Work site, as well as watch their video overview.

The YMCA of the National Capital Region’s project, Wired: Evaluating Settlement Online (WESO), is a research-based program that addresses the challenges/barriers that service providers and newcomer clients face in delivering/using remote and hybrid services. The project is uncovering evidence-based practices that Settlement Service Provider Organizations (SPOs) find promising in delivering remote/hybrid services and engaging clients, creating a toolkit/framework and resources for SPOs to evaluate the effectiveness of your service delivery and adapt your models accordingly to improve services, and creating a network of knowledge and promising practice sharing.

The WESO team has created an evaluation tool for SPOs to assess the quality of your hybrid services and increase client intentions to use hybrid services. This toolkit also includes a data collection tool, in the form of a client questionnaire, that SPOs can use to collect client feedback.

WESO toolkit title page

Their Quality Assessment Toolkit for Hybrid Settlement Services provides a methodology and tools you can use immediately to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of your hybrid service delivery. It also highlights tips and best practices to support SPOs to adapt and improve your hybrid service delivery models. 

The WESO project defines hybrid services as:

Hybrid service refers to a service delivery mode where clients have the option to interact with service providers both offline or in-person and through online platforms. It combines the convenience of online access with the personal touch of in-person interactions, empowering clients to choose the mode that suits them best based on their specific needs at any given moment.

Why does it matter?

Like many SPOs, you may be struggling with questions like:

In February 2021 I moderated a panel that asked the question: How do I know my transition to virtual service delivery is effective? There were some great insights, tools, ideas, and discussions. 

But the question has hung over our sector during the pandemic and as we more or less formally shift to a hybrid service delivery model.

The WESO toolkit is helping to answer all of these questions (disclosure: I have a small consulting role on the project). 

Most importantly, the analysis you get from the Toolkit will provide you with specific areas where you need to take action to strengthen your service delivery and improve client performance. It will help you to prioritize your efforts, based on what your clients are telling you is important to them and where you perform or under-perform. 

Feedback from your clients is the most essential information you need to collect and analyze to ensure your services are meeting their needs and creating necessary outcomes.

The Toolkit will tell you where you need to improve. You'll know where you’re doing well. You'll also see where you may be over-focusing (i.e. you perform highly, but they’re not as important to your clients). As well, you'll identify areas that are not particularly important to your clients, where you don’t need to focus.

The WESO Toolkit and approach take the guessing out of your evaluation work. Replace anecdotal perception of what is working with evidence from Newcomer experiences to focus on what is actually working.

What do you need to know?

The WESO toolkit is based on the findings of extensive research and engagement with newcomer clients and staff at SPOs across Canada. 

The survey focused on 5 dimensions that affect hybrid service quality and drive clients’ intention to use hybrid services in the future:

  1. Acceptance of online services
  2. Staff performance
  3. Website content and Accessibility
  4. Web security
  5. Client barriers to accessing online services

A client experiment was created and implemented focused on Newcomers who had not or had not wanted to access online services. The goal was to find out if a small training intervention might help Newcomers. 40 Newcomers received digital literacy training and the WESO team evaluated their experience and feedback. 

Training covered areas related to everyday practical computer skills including:

It turns out even a small intervention makes a big difference.

Two-thirds of participants overall agreed that their knowledge and skills improved by taking our training. 85% of participants have had a positive experience accessing online Settlement services after the training.

A vast majority of Newcomers WESO surveyed and trained think hybrid services should continue (85.8%) and 86.3% of Newcomers surveyed appreciate a multiple service delivery mode.

We know that there is no one-size-fits-all-Newcomers approach to hybrid service delivery. We all know that our Newcomer clients are diverse. It isn’t surprising that this diversity should extend to how Newcomers want to access services.

We need to get the hybrid service mix right.

What you can do right now

Getting it right means knowing you got it right, where you didn’t, and how to learn from what you know and incorporate it into your service planning.

The WESO team has created not only the Toolkit, but training and tools to help you implement it in your work. 

The toolkit and training includes:

In addition to the existing toolkit and training, the WESO team has developed three self-paced learning modules to enhance your ability to evaluate hybrid services. These modules focus on key areas of data collection, research methodology, and statistical analysis skills. By completing these modules, you will gain the necessary knowledge to assess your services effectively and make informed decisions for service planning.

The WESO team is running training sessions now. You can attend one of their upcoming sessions. If you're on, the sector’s Community of Practice, join WESO’s group for info and updates. You can also access their toolkit materials and more on the Y website.

In this project, Norquest College "developed a series of self-assessment tools to streamline access to services in the settlement sector. The resources have also been designed to help measure digital literacy skills among newcomers, settlement service practitioners and LINC instructors."

This webinar recording provides a useful overview of the project, findings, and outcomes:

Resources created by the project include:

You can download a literature review they conducted that synthesizes current and past research on how service delivery modalities impact different types of learners and a final report with their findings.

Highlights from their findings:

Recommendations and Further Research

The Arrival Advisor app, created by PeaceGeeks, provides information and services Newcomers need to settle, such as finding a job, learning English, connecting with local community, and more.

Arrival Advisor in British Columbia is available in: English, French, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Farsi, Korean, Punjabi, Tagalog, and Ukrainian

Arrival advisor in Manitoba is available in: English, French, and Arabic

In 2023 the app will launch nationally, through content collaborations with organizations coast-to-coast. It will rebrand as Welcome to Canada.

PeaceGeeks is a nonprofit organization based in Vancouver, Canada that builds digital tools to empower communities in the pursuit of peace.

Watch the video overview below from the 2021 Sharing Settlement and Integration Practices that Work project and download their full project backgrounder and brief for more information.

Sharing Settlement and Integration Practices that Work is a Pathways to Prosperity project "to share innovative promising practices in immigrant settlement and integration with an empirical basis for their effectiveness."

"The Jane Finch Community Research Partnership was created in 2016 as a result of ongoing engagement between members of the Jane Finch community and York University faculty and librarians. Our goal is to address the historical research relationships that have existed and continue to exist between the Black Creek Jane Finch community, York University and other academic institutions. Our work has been focused on creating a community procedure for reviewing and approving research in the Jane Finch community, establishing a Jane Finch Research Collection which makes research more readily accessible for Community members and developing resources for researchers looking to conduct research in the community.

The principles in this document are intended to be used as a guide to support and strengthen research relationships between academic institutions, researchers, students, community members, residents and organizations in the Jane Finch community.

The principles summarize the Jane Finch Community Research Partnerships expectations regarding respectful and ethical behaviour by researchers who work in the community and helps ensure that all research on or involving members from the Jane Finch community gives respect to the community and to community members’ perspectives, knowledge and values.

This document was developed to:

  • Protect community members from potential harms related to participation in academic research
  • Facilitate accountability in academic research
  • Focus on the community so academic research is respectful, just and beneficial to the community
  • Encourage academic institutions and their members to make research accessible and create opportunities for the community to fully participate, collaborate and engage with research"
Principles for Conducting Research in the Jane Finch Community (2021)Download

Six years in development, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Solferino Academy has launched the Data Playbook v1, "a social learning toolkit to help people along the data journey. There are 10 modules and 120 brief exercises, games, scenarios, slides, and checklists to help teams improve their data skills. We embedded data protection and responsible data use across all the contents.

The Data playbook is like a Swiss knife for any organisation that wants to strengthen its data capacity. It contains versatile and comprehensive building blocks to support your organisation’s data journey."

V1 was created for and by RCRC volunteers and staff. The Playbook cites the Responsible Data Forum, School of Data, Aspiration, Centre for Humanitarian Data, and Fabriders in the credit and on applicable contents.

What you'll find:

List of Data Playbook modules


"The playbook approach uses a ‘pick-and-choose’ model rather than something to be ‘read and used’ from cover to cover in a sequential order. It is for teams to improve their data skills. There is a guiding table of contents for the whole Playbook. Each module also has a ‘cover page’ to give you guidance on how to use the content in the module, and sometimes, across modules. We also created some draft ‘curriculum /workshop templates’ to demonstrate how various teams might use the playbook as part of their planning for individual workshops or even over months at a time.

We have sequenced Data Playbook Modules from 1 to 10. A project team or trainer could follow this sequence if they were on a journey of discovering how to utilise data to strengthen the effectiveness of humanitarian action.

All the exercises, slide decks, and handouts are organised in the Data Playbook by topical modules. They are discreet pieces and each could be used on its own Each exercise and handout has a unique identifier to help you find them. Each item was created and reviewed by RCRC colleagues. Most of the content has been tested throughout the last 5 years."

5 steps to build a learning session with your team/organization

  1. Talk with your team and make a plan
  2. Download, translate and revise the content
  3. Modify and add your own examples
  4. Organize your team meeting or workshop
  5. Give the IFRC team feedback on how you used the Data Playbook and how you modified it

More information:

Watch this overview to learn more:

and this video for information about how to get started: "There are multiple ways to use the playbook. You can use specific exercises or modules or you can review example workshop templates. We highly recommend you modify the content to suit your needs."

Download the entire Playbook (701 pages) (24 MB):

[pdf-embedder url="" title="Red Cross Red Crescent Data Playbook v1"]

Promising Practices in Accessing Virtual Mental Health: Supporting Refugees during COVID-19 is a project that started during the pandemic and is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Ministry of Health.


"The social conditions experienced by recently arrived refugees may expose them to increased stress and subsequently, greater distress, than other Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Refugee newcomers are also typically underserved by mental health services. For most recent refugees, access to health care is through referral by settlement workers, case workers, sponsors, or primary healthcare providers, who often struggle to identify culturally and linguistically appropriate mental healthcare for their clients. With the transition to virtual healthcare, refugees and those referring them may find mental health care even less accessible. As virtual care rapidly expands, service providers are struggling to learn how to identify which services are appropriate and accessible for their clients. By supporting referring service providers, as well as refugee newcomers themselves, we can improve our ability to connect vulnerable newcomers to needed mental health services."

On that page are some useful project backgrounders, along with resources for service providers created by other service providers, and a number of multilingual resources for Newcomers.

Resources for service providers include:

  1. Online counselling agreement from Windsor Counselling Services (PDF)
  2. Tips for Zoom meetings from Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS) (PDF)
  3. Child and youth therapy considerations and decision tree from CCIS (PDF)
  4. CRR guidelines for video therapy from CCIS (PDF)
  5. Interpreter guidelines for video calling from CCIS (PDF)
  6. Interpreter debrief form from CCIS (PDF)
  7. COVID-19 needs assessment from ISSofBC (PDF)
  8. The Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Project (website)

You can also access a webinar recording from March 16, 2021:  Reducing barriers to accessing virtual mental health care for recent refugees and other newcomers: "This webinar featured a panel of experts from Ontario and BC discussing access to virtual mental health care for refugees and other newcomers to Canada, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Topics include barriers to access and the strategies service providers can use to overcome them."

They recently released a report I thought would be of interest:

Assessing Virtual Mental Health Access for Refugees during the COVID-19 Pandemic Using the Levesque Client-Centered Framework: What Have We Learned and How Will We Plan for the Future?

Read a research snapshot of this report to help you determine what you can learn from it.


"During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health services rapidly transitioned to virtual care. Although such services can improve access for underserved populations, they may also present unique challenges, especially for refugee newcomers. This study examined the multidimensional nature of access to virtual mental health (VMH) care for refugee newcomers during the COVID-19 pandemic, using Levesque et al.’s Client-Centered Framework for Assessing Access to Health Care. One hundred and eight structured and semi structured interviews were conducted in four Canadian provinces (8 community leaders, 37 newcomer clients, 63 mental health or service providers or managers). Deductive qualitative analysis, based on the Client-Centered Framework, identified several overarching themes: challenges due to the cost and complexity of using technology; comfort for VMH outside clinical settings; sustainability post-COVID-19; and communication and the therapeutic alliance. Mental health organizations, community organizations, and service providers can improve access to (virtual) mental health care for refugee newcomers by addressing cultural and structural barriers, tailoring services, and offering choice and flexibility to newcomers."


I've written about Digital Navigators as a Good Idea previously. A similar initiative out of the UK is Digital Champions.

Digital Champions help people to do things online like:

Core Digital Champion training includes:

The aim is that, with support from Digital Champions, learners will be able to use the internet safely, confidently and effectively.

As part of the ACS-Metropolis Institute's Envisioning the Future of the Immigrant Serving Sector project the Digital Champions pilot will bring this Digital Inclusion and Equity initiative to the Canadian Settlement Sector.

The ACS’ Metropolis Institute, funded by WES Mariam Assefa, is piloting a Digital Champions program for the purpose of promoting digital equity for newcomers and immigrants starting in Nova Scotia, with the intention to be scaled across Canada’s settlement sector. They are working closely with GEO Nova Scotia, which provides those in need with internet services and devices whenever and wherever possible, and the Mhor Collective based out of Scotland. The provide Digital Champion training through Connecting Scotland. These are a group of experts in the field of digital equity and inclusion for many types of social purpose organisations, and primary delivery practitioners and pioneers of the widespread Digital Champions model across the United Kingdom.

Watch an introduction and overview to the project:

The pilot program is co-designed with the Mhor Collective and representatives from the Canadian Settlement sector to ensure that client needs are being met and the material is relevant in the Canadian settlement context. It applies the evidence-based Digital Champions approach towards digital equity using a Train-the-Trainer approach, enabling service provider organisation (SPO) frontline staff and others working closely with newcomers, to deliver simple yet powerful training to their clients. They are also pooling together many crucial tools and resources. As per the Mhor Collective’s promise, Champions “don’t need to be digital experts, just patient communicators with a commitment to helping the people they stand alongside”.

The kinds of things that Digital Champions might help learners to do include:


The beauty of the idea lies in its simplicity and ability to be scaled. Participants are trained to become Digital Champions over the course of a 2.5-hour long core training session which covers topics related to safety, security and confidentiality, first steps for those new to the internet, overcoming fears and exploring new ideas, and the idea of digital inequality as a social justice issue. They then delivered  tailored learnings to clients in need and/or who may still have questions about internet usage. In some cases, clients receiving Digital Champions learnings from staff may be empowered to become trainers themselves, widening this network. In addition to learning core digital skills, modules tailored to the settlement sector include digital skills related to settlement sector priorities, sharing key, localized resources related to employment search, housing, access to health, education and more.

As they scale out to the rest of Canada, ACS-Metropolis welcomes as many enthusiastic partners as possible to begin growing their network of Digital Champions!

To contact ACS-Metropolis staff, please email Lisa, Sarah or Erika.

Some Digital Champion resources:

Digital Champions Network
Launched in 2013 and managed by Digital Unite, the network provides essential tools and accessible support to help Digital Champions wherever they are based promote confident and continued use of the internet across society.

400 technology guides you can use today with Newcomers
Looking for a specific technology guide to help a client or co-worker learn the basics? Don't reinvent, borrow! UK-based Digital Unite has over 400 technology how-to guides that cover a whole host of digital topics. Written by subject matter experts and updated regularly, the guides are perfect for supporting others with digital skills or improving your own knowledge.

Remote Digital Championing
Guides covering some tips and techniques for providing remote support to learners, an increasingly important service in times of social isolation.

Digital Champions Scotland
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) resources and information for Digital Champions.



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