The AoF Project is a national initiative being developed collaboratively by the Pathways to Prosperity research consortium, settlement service providers and settlement umbrella associations. The goals of the AoF Project are:
Agency of the Future aims to do three things:
The integration of these three processes into a coordinated and recurrent cycle would power innovation within the national settlement sector.
Two types of themes emerged from the analysis of the stories and postings from the meetings, the wiki, and the case study reports.
The first was about the current use of ICTs. There were numerous ICTs being used by the settlement organizations involved in the case studies. While it can be appealing and valuable to catalogue the types of ICTs in use (e.g. social media, phone apps), it is far more important to understand how and why they are used. A large body of research in other fields (e.g. education, health) suggests that the drivers for deciding ICT use should be organizational and client needs, not the novelty or affordances of the ICTs themselves. The purpose and function of using ICTs are more important because ICTs may require large investments and substantial organizational change;and ICT options can change quickly. So in this report, the typology of ICT use focuses on functions and possibilities.
A look at the Typology of ICT in Settlement Services is categorized by:
The second theme was about the issues and questions that Committee members had concerning ICT use in settlement agencies - noted as capacity issues in relation to the introduction of ICT by the settlement sector. In some cases, agencies had planned and implemented specific projects using ICTs; in others, ICTs were being used experimentally to see if they could help address particular client needs. In both instances, issues - not unexpectedly - emerged as agencies thought about continuing to expand their use of ICTs for delivering existing services and for addressing new opportunities. Issues were also raised by Committee members who were not part of projects, but were trying to understand them. These issues are important for the agencies concerned and for the sector as a whole.
The data collected revealed extensive use of ICTs by service providers. Agencies are using social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), mobile phone functions (e.g. texting and apps), blogs, videoconferencing and webinar tools (e.g. WebEx, Collaborate), Learning Management Systems (e.g. Desire to Learn, Canvas), file sharing programs (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive), videosharing (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo), group collaboration (e.g. Google Docs) and data management tools (e.g. cloud computing, Correlate)
More important than the tools are the functions that the ICTs are being used for. The report identified four broad categories of current ICT use and investment:
The data also indicated important issues associated with the expanded use of ICTs. These involve:
Agencies want a clearer sense of how ICTs could be used to serve clients in the most appropriate manner.
The authors make two overarching recommendations.
The first is that the settlement sector -meaning the provincial, regional, and national umbrella associations –as a matter of priority, implement a national ICT review aimed at creating an action plan to guide agencies in the use of ICT and to encourage collaboration within the sector on all aspects of ICT development and implementation.
The second is that CIC act as a leader and catalyst for technological advancement using a mix of fiscal incentives and accommodative changes in the Department’s interface with settlement agencies.
Six specific recommendations are provided: