The Community Knowledge Program began as an initiative to build capacity for research and knowledge mobilization within immigrant and refugee-serving agencies in the GTA, in order to improve settlement services for newcomers to Canada. To this end, Wellesley Institute has conducted a needs assessment to understand current capacity and skills, as well as existing initiatives and any gaps in knowledge, in community-based research and knowledge mobilization in the sector.
The past few years have been a time of great change in migration research and for the immigrant and refugee-serving sector in the GTA. This needs assessment was conducted in an attempt to understand the impact of the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS), the effects of COVID-19 on research and knowledge mobilization, and to see how research in the field at Toronto’s largest universities is influencing policy and front-line settlement programs and services.
This report is the result of collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing qualitative and quantitative data from over 80 people in the sector. Methods for data collection included key informant interviews, an online survey, and a focus group. Respondents were policymakers and public servants, academic and community researchers, sectoral leaders, and agency management and front-line staff in the immigrant and refugee-serving sector.
Timely research and knowledge mobilization are critical
Researchers are at work studying migration, settlement, and integration at all three major universities in Toronto, and at community organizations and umbrella groups as well. However, findings often do not influence practice in a timely manner, if at all. The rapid changes to the sector due to COVID-19 have led to shifts in best practices for delivering settlement services, and practitioners need clear, curated information that is relevant to their work.
Numerous challenges exist
Structural issues were revealed in how research and knowledge mobilization are conducted in the sector. These included funding models; lack of centralized resources for information and discussion about current research; and lack of institutionalized, long-term, mutually respectful relationships between researchers and service providers.
There are ways to close the gaps
Analysis of the data revealed several ways to improve coordination of research, practice, and policy in migration, settlement, and integration. These included creating opportunities to foster collaboration and co-creation for research across the sector, such as by holding events for learning and networking. Developing a centralized online portal or hub for discussion and sharing of resources was suggested as well, along with training front-line workers in research skills, and curating and sharing lists of research reports.
The first part of the video focuses on these research findings, and what they show about the current state of research in the sector. The rest of the video explores research partnerships, particularly those between academic researchers and community groups, and consider how such partnerships can address issues of racism and other forms of oppression through equitable sharing of power.
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