WTF (What’s the Future) of Settlement Work – everything is connected!

Welcome to the second edition of WTF (What’s the Future) of Settlement Work!

(With more than a doubling of subscribers since the first edition, I’d like to welcome 10 more subscribers to the newsletter! Thanks for joining! As always, I’d love your feedback. All you need to do is hit reply and let me know what you liked, didn’t like, what you’d like to see that’s not here, etc. I hope you find this a useful read! Marco)

What I’m writing or talking about

Again, this section is a bit self-indulgent. And you can tell me to get rid of it (this newsletter is a work in progress). But I write about my work (trying that “working out loud” thing), as well as trying to tease themes together on my site. Here are a few recent posts worth your time.

The frictionless user experience is not yet so frictionless
There will increasingly be a push for immigrant and refugee-serving agencies to provide frictionless (ease of access, less hassle, greater speed, personalization, and wow experiences) service to newcomers. It’s going to come. We should be aware of and planning for it. The problem is, the tech bros pushing it haven’t gotten it right yet. And we’re supposed to follow their lead? I’m sceptical. Not that frictionless is coming. But that we should be following others’ leads instead of learning what we can from them and forging our own path. In this article, I write (rant?) about a couple of recent stories of my experience with “frictionless shopping.” 

Sharing Settlement and Integration Practices that Work
More of a sharing someone else’s work rather than my own writing, but it’s a post on my site so here you go. Pathways to Prosperity Canada recently launched an IRCC-funded project “to design, implement, and evaluate a process for identifying and sharing promising practices in settlement and integration with an empirical basis for their effectiveness. Over a two-year period, P2P will produce 25 videos and accompanying briefs on promising practices in the immigrant settlement and integration sector, targeting a range of service areas and client groups.” 

Deep Dive: the power of feedback

This is a really interesting SSIR series on the power of feedback, including a specific story I thought was amazing, in terms of how listening transformed this agency, and a great presentation providing an overview of the “listening” modelthey used, outlining: “a five-step process from an initiative of Fund for Shared Insight called Listen for Good (L4G) that involves:

  •     designing a way to collect feedback
  •     tailoring data collection to client context
  •     interpreting the data
  •     responding to it
  •     letting those who gave the feedback know what you’ve done” 

So much to read, listen, watch and learn from in this series!

Learn, learn, learn

Imagining Social Work Education into the Future: Skills for Social Justice in a Technology-Mediated World
This isn’t a course, but it does talk about how we need to learn what we need to learn. The focus is on Social Workers. It totally applies to the immigrant and refugee-serving sector and how we continue to educate ourselves to effectively incorporate technology into our work.

“Technology is profoundly shaping the world, especially in the delivery of education. Concurrently, services like telehealth, predictive analytics, and technology aids (i.e. Fitbits, apps and home listening devices) affect service delivery. Given these changes, how do social workers promote social justice and support privacy and equity? And consider needs of the vulnerable while harnessing technology for good?  How does social work redefine the profession in the face of algorithmic solutions to human problems? Our goal was to introduce a dialogue about what’s happening, where are gaps in social work education, and how programs might reinvent in a rapidly-changing environment.”

Just to be clear. The Social Work sector is waaaaaaay ahead of us in this thinking and in terms of creating standards (but, still also struggling with it all). In 2017, new Standards for Technology in Social Work Practice were issued by Social Work governing/regulatory bodies in the U.S. to address the intersections of social work practice and technology.  Oh yeah, you should totally be checking out those standards and how they might apply to your work. Because they totally do. And we can learn together with Social Workers.

So, how do we incorporate learning about technology with our 12 Core Values and ensure we’re harnessing technology for good in our sector? Read what they’re thinking about, and get that conversation going in your agency.

The interview

Understanding information seeking practices of newcomers. It’s useful to understand how your clients look for, find, assess and act on information. In this video, Professor Nadia Caidi from U of T provides an overview of newcomer information seeking behaviour and practice. This video is part of a recent online course, Settlement Information and Referral Online Training Program, which will be available as a self-directed course on the OCASI Learn AtWork site in the near future. Enjoy this informative video teaser

Research Snapshots

When it comes to research, this looks like significant news: Ryerson’s Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration supported by $10 million in funding.

(Wait, what? How much now?!?) 

“She will build and lead a team of researchers who will take what she describes as a 360-degree approach to migration and integration. The work will focus on five research streams. The first focus is on agency – as in migrant, stakeholder network and institutions’ agency. The second is undertaking a comparative analysis of migration and integration policies and their outcomes. The third is examining cities and diversity. The fourth will look forward to migration challenges facing Canada and the world in 2050. The final focus will be setting up a Data and Methods Lab in partnership with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Canada Research Data Centre Network.” 

Seems like a project with a lot of potential. Hopefully, there is a concrete plan (or intention) to work together with the broad immigrant and refugee-serving sector on all five research streams.

Sector research

Settlement Sector National Compensation Survey Report : Where Next?
Late last year, somewhat in preparation for this year’s IRCC CFP, the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance | Alliance canadienne du secteur de l’éstablissement des immigrants (CISSA-ACSEI), in partnership with Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) released this report. The “report provides a snapshot of the current wage and benefit situation within not-for-profit service providers receiving IRCC funding in 2018. The findings reflect significant wage and benefit variations for similar type positions in different size communities and regions funded by IRCC.” 

You may not have seen this yet. It’s an interesting read. The report provides salary averages for Settlement Workers, Employment Counsellors, Volunteer Connections Workers, Language Instructors, and Childcare workers (with ECE or equivalent). There are a lot of ways you could break down the cost of living in a city, but I quite liked this one from 2017: The minimum amount you need to live alone in Toronto in your early 30s

“Total: $3,093.63 per month. That means you need to make a minimum annual salary of $47,500 before taxes in order to bring home a monthly income of $3093 after after taxes, CPP, and EI. In other words, if you’re a single 30-something looking to live in downtown Toronto, anything under $50K a year means you’re pretty much screwed from having any fun… and possibly a place to live.”

The average starting salary for a Settlement Worker in Canada is about $40,000. The top average salary is about $48,000. Toronto has only gotten more expensive since 2017. So, there’s that…

This week, Existential technology thinking is combined with Ethnographic/Community-based research & Tech and innovation research (because it’s all related!

While focused on health apps, this article provides an important message for us in the immigrant and refugee-serving sector as we design and use technology to serve diverse newcomers groups and communities. Insert Token Here”: Moving towards more inclusive app design

“Inclusive design focuses on the diversity of people and how this diversity impacts design decisions. Inclusive design is not synonymous with universal design; it does not suggest that it’s always possible, or appropriate, to address the needs of the entire population with one product. Instead, inclusive design focuses on choosing an appropriate target audience for a product, and making informed decisions to maximize the benefit for that audience. Every design decision has the potential to include or exclude users.

Examples include font choices, which may exclude those with additional learning needs or cognitive dysfunction, or language; an app which uses gendered language excludes anyone who does not identify as that gender, and an app in English excludes those who use another language. There are many ways to be more inclusive in the design process.”

Read three suggestions she has.

That is related to this really interesting new chatbot that

“helps people in Toronto who are experiencing homelessness find much-needed social services, including free meals, drop-ins, overnight shelters, and clothing banks. It uses a chatbot function to allow users to type in questions or needs, and quickly get information about relevant services near them.”

When it comes to inclusive design, this is promising:

“Half of the testers were newcomers to Canada when they were experiencing homelessness or housing precarity. As a result, they were able to provide lots of feedback on challenges newcomers might face when using ChalmersBot. This included barriers like limited English proficiency, unfamiliarity with local geography, or not having a working phone plan in order to call shelters and inquire about the availability of beds. ChalmersBot may not be able to address all of these challenges, but testers noted that providing more buttons and pre-made prompts (or translations into other languages) could improve the experience of users who are less familiar with English.”

Also, totally related: Diversity Alone Will Not Be The Solution To Bias In AI 

“Better diversity in tech is long overdue. However, diversity alone will not be the solution to AI bias, ethics, and irresponsible tech development. We can’t expect people of color and gender minorities to bear the weight of being the moral and ethical center for tech companies.”

Read more about her ideas of what does need to change.

Of course, this isn’t new. There are plenty of industries/sectors, companies, governments and organizations that pay lip service to diversity and aren’t committed fully to inclusion. I remember seeing this as a pretty consistent theme in DiverseCity Counts reports and often wondered if the series continued whether it would eventually put a lens on tech. It was good to see MaRS somewhat take that on last year in their Tech for All report.  

There is still so much more work to be done in all sectors, in spite of the constant stream of research, case studies and “thought leadership” providing evidence that inclusion, true inclusion, builds better organizations, workforces, communities AND value (however that’s defined, such as profit, community engagement, membership, etc.)..

That being said, these are all related to a new project I came across: The Residency: A Change Design practical learning collective. This introduction to the project is a long and comprehensive read, which outlines how innovation and design practice requires investment in building people’s capacity (in this case, yours; workers and leaders in the immigrant and refugee-serving sector), not waiting for it to simply happen. Great stuff, really interesting project, totally worth your time:

“Why would people being asked to alter complex systems not have clear opportunities to learn infinitely, intensively and shoulder-to-shoulder before, during, and after designing critical strategies, policies and programs? Further, are the current training and ongoing learning opportunities for Change Designers – designers by trade, design-minded civil servants and activists – sufficient for the scale of the problems we’re seeking to solve?” 

Which, of course, is also related to this article: Science & new technologies law in the 4th industrial revolution

“Today’s decision-makers, are too often trapped in traditional, linear thinking, or too absorbed by the multiple crises demanding their attention, to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future. The 4th industrial revolution will generate great benefits and big challenges in equal measure.

Exacerbated inequality represents a particular concern.”

All of which, of course, are related to this to-do list from the Public Policy Forum’s “Brave New Work” report:  

“As Canada improves its systems of skill development, training and lifelong learning, it should:

Emphasize foundational skills, without which workers struggle to learn new skills and knowledge;

Improve equity and inclusion of training and skill development opportunities;

Encourage cost-sharing among industry, workers and government;

Encourage information-sharing among educational institutions, industry, unions and other stakeholders, and sound analysis of that information; and

Track program effectiveness.”

It’s all related. So totally related. There’s so much to read. But, hey, it’s a long weekend. You’ve got some time, amiright? 😉

2 thoughts on “WTF (What’s the Future) of Settlement Work – everything is connected!

  • Good info, Marco. If I may make a suggestion ? Given that language acquisition is such an important part of ‘fitting in’, job search, etc. maybe you could do some research on PBLA in the language sector… I wonder if it’s actually effective? and whether it was worth the blood,sweat and tears (and cost) of implementing it.

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