TiHS Episode 24: How do I know my transition to virtual service delivery is effective?

Recently I moderated a panel focused on measuring virtual service delivery for the Peel Newcomer Strategy Group, and then we had a short focus group after with participants.


Manjeet Dhiman from ACCES Employment was on the panel along with Jason Shim from Pathways to Education Canada, and Lawrence Murphy from Worldwide Therapy Online. The PNSG audience was interested in perspectives from outside the sector, so I brought Jason and Lawrence together, but also thought Manjeet could provide some grounding from an org in the sector that is well ahead of most.

It was a great discussion and they all provided great insights that I think are useful for all our work.

Questions the panelists addressed:

  • How do I know that my transition to virtual service delivery is effective? What did I get right? What didn’t I get right?
  • What non-settlement sectors are delivering services virtually or in a hybrid service delivery model and are delivering these services at a high level of quality?
  • By what standards or guidelines can I compare how my transition to virtual service delivery compares to what is considered best practice?
  • Does a checklist for improving my virtual service delivery exist? What are the elements comprising this list through a short- and longer-term lens?
  • How can I monitor and improve my service delivery mix moving forward?

Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript using Otter.ai. The transcript has not been edited. It may contain errors and odd sentence breaks and is not a substitute for listening to the audio.

Welcome to Episode 24 of the technology and Human Services podcast. This episode is recording of a panel I moderated recently focused on measuring virtual service delivery for the newcomer Strategy Group. In this podcast your host panelists man gt mon from access employment along with Jason shim from pathways to education Canada, and Lawrence Murphy from worldwide therapy online, you recognize Jason and Lawrence from previous episodes. And as usual, they provide amazing insights in this discussion. All of our panelists did a great job in helping the audience understand this complex topic. They address questions like how do I know my transition to virtual service delivery is effective? What standards or guidelines can I find are compared to help my transition to virtual service delivery? Are there checklists? or other tools that exists that I can use to improve my virtual service delivery? And how can I monitor and improve my service delivery mix moving forward? It was a really good conversation and meandering conversation that hit a lot of different pieces for people in the audience. And I think you’ll find it a really useful resource for you here. I am really excited to to bring this panel to you folks today. This is a topic I think that is, is a conversation that’s really only just beginning, in our sector in terms of measuring the experience of going digital over the last year, more or less, and what that looks like in the future. So we have three folks on the panel. Jason and Majeed, who I’ll introduce in a moment are going to be here for the entire hour. And then Lawrence Murphy will be joining us at about 130 and we’ll bring him into the conversation. So I want to introduce our first two panelists said Jason Shem.

loves to consider the question how can we harness technology to make a difference in the world. He’s the director of digital strategy and transformation at pathways to education, where he leads their technology and innovation strategy. For those of you who don’t know categories is an organization dedicated to helping youth in low income communities graduate from high school and reach their full potential.

Jason is an innovator with an insatiable curiosity I followed his work and have appreciated his guidance for years. And he is known across North America as a nonprofit technology Rockstar. He’s consistently helped organizations to be stay ahead of the curve. And to just give you a sense of that curve in 2013, he led pathway to become one of the first charities to issue tax receipts for Bitcoin donations. And he just most recently co authored the book, Bitcoin and the future of fundraising. So Jason is ahead of the curve in so many ways, and I look to him for for so much information and guidance and he is very,

very sharing of

information and knowledge. So we’re gonna, we’re gonna get a lot of great input from him. Representing the sector is man Jeevan, who is the SVP of services and strategic initiatives at access employment. In her role that access management provides leadership in areas of collaborative service delivery, community engagement, program development, digital services, as well as marketing and communications. For those of you who are who don’t know access is very much a leader in our sector when it comes to technology innovation, and most recently has launched Veera the virtual employment and resource attendant, which is an AI powered chatbot, offering employment services online 24 seven, and job search support to job seekers in the GTA and around the world. Majeed is the past president of the board of directors for O’Casey, the Ontario Council of agencies serving immigrants. And we’re very happy to have her as well on the settlement sector and technology task group where she’s providing advice and insight to our work there. So, and then Lawrence Murphy, who will join us at about 130.

Outside the sector as as Jason does, he’s the founder of worldwide therapy online. So if you think that this whole technology thing is new and online counseling and online service delivery, well, Lawrence has been doing it since 1994. He is a pioneer in cyber counseling in in in Canada and an authority in that space he has he authored the first ethical code for online counseling for the national board for certified counselors. He is very committed to sharing his knowledge and helping service professionals incorporate online counseling into their practice. So for example, early on in the pandemic, in March 2020, he started offering online training to mental health professionals who were suddenly like the rest of us pivoting online. And he delivered over 42 sessions on just over two months training about 7000 mental health professionals in the techniques and and challenges and opportunities of online counseling. So we’ll get to him when he arrives. But But I wanted to start and let folks know that some you know, we’re gonna be talking the panel with the panel for about an hour. We want to leave your questions in and outs of our conversation. So please use the chat. And we’ll be monitoring that post questions. If it’s relevant to the moment we’re speaking up, I’ll bring it into the conversation, or we’ll make sure we try to get to those questions as we’re moving along. We have our own first set of questions that I’ve provided with with Manju from Angie and Jason. And we’ll kind of start with that and then we’ll we’ll go where the conversation takes us. So men

Dude, I want to start with you in terms of positioning us in the conversation, so you know your organization’s experiences during the pandemic, but also pre COVID as well, because as I mentioned, you’re an innovator in this space. But how have you and your organization been pivoting, innovating upskilling supporting staff during the shift to remote in digital work? And how’s it going?

Thank you so much, Marco. That’s a great question. And I know that a lot of work is happening across the sector. As you mentioned, I think one of the things that

we’re I’m very thankful of accesses that we did have, and I’m sure many others did, digital services was on the horizon before the pandemic. So I think one of the things that we were doing was, we were kind of using a very phased approach, you really looking at change management, how we were going to introduce slowly the different elements of online services, and so on into into our services. And where we had started and is really important is, first of all, just with a database, where we’re switching from having, you know, paper files, and notes and things like that, and then transitioning to something that’s, that’s digital, that’s really important. And that was really important during this pandemic, because one of the first things that we needed was to make sure we have access to client files, and that we’re able to pace manage, and track the activities that we’re doing, and to be able to do that online without the paper files, and to be doing it remotely as well. So I think, you know, that’s something that again, probably many organizations were already in on that path. But it’s a it was a long process. And I think one where we were probably around, I’d seen 70% there, but there were still, you know, some staff that prefer writing, taking their notes and typing them in later and so on. And I think, again, the pandemic really pushed us forward to say, that’s kind of like, there’s none of that you don’t have your files, you got to do everything online, so, so even some of those things like those were new for some of our staff, because they weren’t, you know, fully transitioned to that other people were more comfortable doing that. But that’s kind of a core of our services. Maybe we don’t think of that as online services. But it’s it’s definitely

a very, very important kind of foundational piece. And I think that, you know, we we had some experience in delivering online services from about 2016, when we first started to develop and launch our pre arrival services. And, of course, it being pre arrival and supporting immigrants before they arrived. Naturally, it’s all online, because the clients aren’t here yet. But I think as an organization, we were really kind of struggling through the, you know, how do you use technology? And do we use technology for the clients that we serve through our community? In our sites, we have seven sites in the GTA, and we’re very community based. And you know, we draw people from the local neighborhoods and so on. So so there was this kind of like a push and pull of, you know, do we do we start to move our online services to these other programs? And we had started to do that very slowly. There was different opinions about you know, if you offer it online, they won’t come in person.

Does it? Does it replace your services? Does it enhance your services, all of these kinds of debates that we were having. But still, regardless of the debates moving in that direction, and slowly moving programs,

not completely online, but giving them access to the different tools and systems that we have the biggest, I guess, edition or online feature that we had created before the pandemic was having our elearning sort of Portal and library. And this is where clients would have access, they would go in and they could do self directed learning, through different modules, and so on. So again, we had kind of slowly phased that into some projects.

And then the pandemic really pushed us into using

some more some of some other tools actually, that we needed to implement more immediately. And those are things like our phone systems being again, the fact that we can remotely call clients and access our extensions and so on. That was a really important feature that

for access, we have the capacity, but we hadn’t sort of enabled those features. We still answered

Got our, sorry, answered the phone at our desk. But but with the system that we have the voice system, we can now answer our phones right on our computers and extensions and so on. So we have set up a call center, so that we, you know, clients are still calling the same numbers that we have, and then they can get transferred to staff and so on.

teleconferencing is, of course, a big addition. You know, a lot of meetings and workshops and things that were happening in person now had to transition to online. So just some, some of our staff were very comfortable. And already using those tools and others, it was very new, I think the main thing that we have learned is that online services is not just like a one channel,

you know, we talk about it as online, it’s not just one channel, it’s, it’s, it’s a multiple different channels that need to be available. And again, much like in person services, it’s not just a workshop or one on one. It’s there’s all these different channels of communication with, with our clients and amongst our teams. And we need to translate each one of those components into into the digital realm. So really, it’s a combination again, of our phone system, course emails, but our database for case management, the teleconferencing for workshops, and webinars and meetings, but then also our E learning, where people can sort of navigate through resources and tools on their own as well.

Okay, thank you for start. That’s awesome. Um, Jason, I want to I want to bring the same question to you, but with the perspective that I know, just like access, you’ve been working on this for some time at pathways, and and you also had a very ambitious start to 2020. Before before the pandemic hit, but that you were able to maintain some of that momentum. And so I wonder if you can speak a little bit to the pre and during the pandemic kind of work that you’ve been doing, not just around technology, but also around processes, because some of the things that you’ve been doing that I find really innovative and interesting include, you know, having a sounding board within your clients, for example, to make sure that the choices you’re making are the right choices when it comes to technology and communication. Yeah, for sure. So I can I can speak to some of the the context in which I entered 2020 was that part of the measurement for performance among staff, you know, already pre COVID was around innovation. And so there was a very specific mandate to come up with the ways that we can, you know, further

our service delivery and impact through through innovation. And so, we were really already looking at various initiatives around scaling and extending, you know, the, what we were providing, and also looking at digital services.

So some of the things that we were already exploring in the background, were some of the ideas around how do we create virtual spaces, because one of the things that we often heard in our research is that students would find it challenging to find a quiet places to study or focused kind of spaces. And this is often in reference to physical places, pre COVID, like a, you know, if, if they’re able to make it out to a library or find a quiet place in the school, you know, what other spaces can be provided. So we’d already done some prototyping around some online kind of video spaces where we would spin up

some servers that students could use. And what we were doing as part of the, the testing was, you know, what if we scheduled, you know, specific times where folks could hang out and just designate You know, this is a dedicated focus time, you know, you can study, you know, whatever you like. But this is

a time that you can set aside each day or each week to do. So.

In the background, we had already, there were a few staff that were set up for remote work, as well, so that just to give context around some of the infrastructure. And coincidentally, we were in the midst of transitioning

video conferencing platforms to zoom as well, the week before, we all went fully remote. So all these things converge in in March 2020. And

one thing that has been very helpful is that over the years, we have


full time

technical positions within pathways, recognizing that I am an integral part of service delivery as well as meaning you

Making sure that we can supply like the the infrastructure that is really critical to all the other work that we do. So with relatively quickly, we were able to get set up

to continue, you know, connecting with our service providers, or partners across the country as well as students. So one of the very immediate things that came up was, how do we ensure that that folks can stay connected. So what we did was we spun up

a video server, so that, you know, folks didn’t necessarily have to use of zoom or anything else that they had just, you could just drop in a link and have like an immediate video server that was ready to go. And so we had that up within about a couple of days. And we sent that out to all of our program partners across the country, to let them know, it’s okay, if you,

if you want something to use, you don’t have to worry about licensing, like, here’s something that you can run with.


we we quickly, accelerate work on a couple other initiatives as well. And what this has kind of evolved into is kind of building a suite of services, that one of the things we heard, and that we

have, that has really

informed our approach is meeting people where they are. So while we recognize that, you know, there was still availability to send out things via email, in such that one thing we were hearing was that a lot of students interact with,

with our program via text messages. But one of the challenges that arose was the amount of time that it would take to send text messages and radio, we’re hearing stories of, you know, individually messaging, you know, many, many students every week. And so,

one, one thing that we’re able to do was that we were able to build

a bulk

text message sender. So, you know, we’re able to do, you know, check ins and nudges and reminders of you know, events, and you just have them scheduled and automated and to send them all out. And part of the benefit is that by by rolling it in house as well, that we’re able to save on the long term costs that would otherwise be

incurred there.

And then the the feedback loops, that you mentioned earlier, those have been really critical for ensuring that we are being very aware of what what it is that people need. So along with sending out bulk text messages, one thing that we were hearing from folks was,

you know, sometimes not being sure if a number is a landline or a mobile number. And you know, that’s pretty important. There are some folks that are still using, you know, landline numbers as well, or, you know, or to get a phone number or potentially, you know, get disconnected. So, we actually worked on a phone number verification system that will actually validate a phone number to verify, you know, whether or not it’s, it’s working. So all these kinds of things they have,

we were able to do these things, because of

pretty much a long term view of building the internal kind of digital team. And so this wasn’t something that grew overnight, it was very much a team that has grown steadily, you know, I think over the last, you know, 10 years or so,

and but it has required a very intentional focus on recognizing that technology plays a very large role in what we do. And that is a very much an impact multiplier in that regard. And I think, you know, while reflecting on the technology piece, I think that

it’s it’s also had me consider over the past year that, you know, while technology does play a large role, it really is, you know, more of a tool, and some of them, the things that we’ve been doing are really more process oriented, and how process can inform our interactions with technology. So, you know, some of the, you know, very kind of even non technical things are things like, you know, shifting from maybe a weekly team meeting to daily daily stand ups. So I think that that’s a convention that me is more frequent, frequently found in,

in my familiarity in working in the tech sector, is something that, you know, having daily check ins for like 15 minutes with with the team every morning, just to make sure that everything’s on track, but also to make sure that everyone’s doing okay.

I’m hopping on a quick zoom call to do that.

And I think also just making sure those feedback loops are there. So again, going back to process that, you know, if

if folks are can identify ways to make

ways of working better that, you know, we can act very quickly upon them. So, you know, I think feedback around, you know, if if people are indicating that they are

experiencing Xoom fatigue, you know that, that is something, you know, definitely to listen to, and, you know, what that has translated into is, you know, experiments with internal policies around the, you know, hard stops for meetings and an emphasis on like, no meeting blocks, where, you know, there are certain days of the week for afternoons where it’s like, it’s understood there to be no internal meetings, just to, to to try and

do something different, and you’re continuing iterating on those feedback loops.


the one thing that’s been super important around that is just around communication, as well. So, you know, things around, you know, we had implemented slack A number of years ago, internally, and that has been really important for ensuring you know, clear lines of communication and setting up notification systems and such. But I’ll pause here for now, I could go on

the list of, you know, various technological kind of implementation pieces, but the ones I outlined earlier have been kind of a major focus areas and making sure that people can continue to really connect with students and keep keep those important relationships going because that really, under and underlies, you know, the, the work that we do. I want to I want to stick with you for a minute on the next question, because I think when you’re talking about the the process orientation, the change management, and being intentional about the way you’re using technology, for a lot of folks in the audience, they haven’t had the luxury of being intentional, it just happened. And they’ve been making technology choices, or they’ve been going along, but they want to be able to build in the ability to to measure and I think a lot of what you’ve said, speaks to that. So communication loops, feedback loops with staff, making sure you’re in constant communication with your clients as well. And using tools that work for the team, have there been other processes or, or approaches that you’ve been able to

create to help measure? Whether you’re making the right choices? And when do you need to shift and move to say, a new approach a new technology, those kinds of things? Absolutely. I think any, anytime, there is a chance to get feedback, that that is something that we are actively looking out for. And you know, not not to the point where it becomes onerous, where every time you send us an email, you’re gonna get like a feedback from like, you know, what, what did you think of the interaction, but, you know, we, part of it is trying to strike that balance between getting feedback, but not making it, you know, just either intrusive or too time consuming. So, you know, even after we have like, internal meetings, you know, one thing that we started doing for some of our internal committees was, after every meeting, evaluating how effective was that meeting, like was that was that meeting worth having, or no, or what needs to be changed, and one of the internal kind of culture, things that we’ve done is, we were piloting kind of an internal program called tiny gains. And that’s where the operating off the principle of 1% gains. So that even, you know, if, if you take, you know, one to the power of one point, or one, one multiplied by 1.1, so 1% gain, you know, accrued over the course of a year, I think, the multiplier or something like that, that’s a 37 x improvement, and really trying to communicate that to all staff.

And indicating, like, no matter what it is that we’re doing internally, whether it’s, you know, technology or process or whichever, like, take a step back and think, could we even make this 1% better? And if so, you know, there’s a process for documenting that internally. And that enters into our tiny gains, tracking. So over the course of a year, that, you know, it’s it’s also a source of pride for staff to be able to look at it and be like, yeah, look at all these, like, amazing, tiny gains that we’ve made over the course of a year that have, you know, are taking us towards that, you know, 37 x, you know, improvement, assuming one is made every day.

The other, it should get into more specificity is having standing meetings, for feedback sessions. So one thing that in our development of

some of the tools that we’re building is having a standing weekly meeting with staff members, and as well as students across the country.

to just get a sense of the key, what do you think of our latest feature that was just pushed out, or the latest thing that we did, and just really sitting back and listening, and, you know, trying to nudge things a little bit forward every week. So it’s sometimes you know, the, the feedback that comes back

is very direct. Sometimes it’s a little bit more

ambiguous, but underlying it, there’s always a little seed in there that, you know, has resulted in some really cool insights.

Is that is that the same group of students each week like you have kind of a sounding board? Or do you kind of mix it up? When you’re getting that input? For some of the groups, it is the same group. And for others, it does change up. So it depends on availability. But one of the groups I’m thinking of in particular, that we work with in St. JOHN has been the same students. And that has been helpful because as, as they’ve been building that comfort level, and such that they also feel more comfortable, you know, sharing the work, critical feedback that is ultimately helpful. So these are the outwards kind of pieces, the tiny gains, having a data approach to do that for incremental change having these standing meetings with with clients and the students. Under the below the iceberg, there’s the making that actually impact the work that you’re doing. And what is that take as an organization around around internal processes and internal trust and relationships, and even power issues within an organization to be able to say, okay, we’re going to listen, and but we’re also going to use that in some meaningful way to make change within the organization. That’s much more than just asking and doing there’s, there’s there’s process and relationship and power issues within within that framework that imagine that you’re dealing with as well. Definitely, for sure. And I think one of the things that, you know, it’s been an evolution on on my own team has been the implementation of things, a process,

blameless post mortems. So, you know, after, you know, something, you know, a project that goes on, or if there’s a, you know, a technical incident or something, that it’s really, you know, just reminding everyone of the fundamental principles where,

when, when debriefing on it, that we need to be as critical as we can about it. But we also need to manage that emotional layer of like, you know, there is no blame to be assigned to you. We’re all in it as a team. But we do need to make sure that, you know, we are constantly improving as well. So, you know, that those are processes that we’re actively kind of, we’re we’re borrowing a lot from the tech side of things. In part, we have had some staff that have

drawn experiences from that. And so we’re kind of cross pollinating the worlds. Yeah. Right, Lawrence, I see you there. We’ll call upon you soon. But I want to I want to direct the same question to around how you’re finding, as you’re making these these pivots, and these changes, pre COVID enduring, how are you trying to measure? You’re a large organization like like, like Jason’s, you’re in multiple locations? What kind of approaches have you been taking to try to measure the impact in the choices you’re making?

So I think one of the important things is, again, technology is a tool, and a lot of our core measures remain the same, right? So we’re really looking at, you know, our intake numbers, the number of participants, are they logging on? What are like, how long do they stay? Do they complete the program?

Those kinds of things we were looking at before, and we need to continue to look at that now is that changing because of the technology. And in some ways, in some ways, we are noticing that with technology, that there for some people, it’s it’s, it’s improved their access to our services. And so you know, we don’t get the same when once people if they have the technology, and I’ll speak to that if they have the technology, they have the digital skills, then you know, what, we’re actually seeing better attendance, we’re seeing strong participation, because the barrier of getting to our office and you know, childcare, and travel costs, and all of those things are being eliminated. So, so we can measure those things as well. So we can see where there is advantage and participation. We also know where there has been drop offs in in the number of clients who can participate. And and we’re asking those questions very directly through the phone and through the intake process, and trying to get a sense of how many people can’t participate because of some of the same reasons because because of childcare, that they have children at home, they they’re finding it difficult, or maybe they don’t have the technology and so on. So we’re really looking at ways of gathering both quantitative as well as qualitative

data. So so that’s really an important piece. And I think, you know, even to the earlier discussion about, you know, key learnings. I think before, there was a choice not only for us as an organization about the extent to which we adopt the technology, but even for our clients, there was always the choice. So you know, if they weren’t comfortable with the online if they didn’t even sometimes they don’t even want to work on by email or phone. They want to come and talk to them.

counselor in person. So and that’s fine, we have those choices. Unfortunately, under these circumstances, that lack of choice means that there’s there’s many people who are, you know, are not able to access our services.

So so that’s a really important piece for us to look at in that. And I think it goes again, speaks again to that mix of services, what can they participate in. And Margo, as we’ve talked about, before about some of the things that we’ve done to offset those challenges with like loaning devices, you know, how helping people like advocate for resources around internet access, and so on. So those those all those things are really important. But in terms of measuring, again, as I said, some of the core measures stay the same. It’s participation, numbers, completion numbers. But I also do find that, you know, in some ways, having using digital services makes

metrics and feedback actually much easier. So it’s not just again, conversation, it’s things are getting documented, they can be tracked, they can be, you know, data can be compiled and looked at.

And then decisions can be made about what’s working, what’s not working. And that’s, that is a really important piece. And for us online services has not just been the the direct services, but we have things like for example, our EA access, which is on our website, and it’s different pieces of information, resources, videos, all of those things. And we have a lot of metrics behind that we can see which of those resources are people looking at? How long are they looking at it all of those things? And then that really gives us a sense of, Okay, what more should we create? What should we eliminate? What are people liking and not so it does in that way, we’re using a lot of the metrics, from those

have to say also, even around outreach, is a really big piece, if we think about how we were engaging clients into our services, there was a lot of in person promotion and collaboration, people were seeing flyers and brochures and going to libraries and things like that. And, and we’ve lost a lot of that, or almost all of that. So we’re really relying on digital

and online marketing, but also word of mouth again, so even just on the phone talking to our clients saying like, if you have anybody if you know of anybody who’s looking so that kind of encouragement of, of getting the referrals and working in collaboration is really important. Yeah, we did notice, in some of our programs, again, just looking at intake numbers were their strength. And, you know, we’re still seeing strong intake in other programs where there’s been declines and and then we have to look at ways of, of improving that.

I think the key message is that the core measures remain the same is something that’s really important. You know, your your your outcomes are the choices you make are about client outcomes, or client support. And I like in our preliminary report for the task group, we got a really interesting quote from an IT director about choosing technology solutions and evaluating them. And he was very frank, he said, the only Wrong answer technologically is the one that doesn’t work. So if what you’re doing is working, and you finding out that it’s working, because you’re you’re getting that feedback from clients, you already have measures in place, or you should have, you’re going to find out very quickly whether the specific intervention, whether it’s, you know, technology or not, is actually working. And I and we’ve had this conversation on the task group as well, I think part of the challenges, we don’t always have those core capacities in place in our organizations. So we have a three legged table that isn’t totally built up yet. And we’re layering digital on top of that, and then it just kind of collapses, because we haven’t built the structures and capacities in place in order to sort of do that. So I think that’s a really important message about about core service delivery. And Laurence welcomed. I already introduced you, I promised I said nice things. And I want to better when

I bring you into the conversation to to further this conversation that this piece about about measuring. One of the questions from folks, three, three workshop was, you know, what are some of the standards and guidelines that that that our sector can compare with other sectors. And I know because you’ve done a lot of work in assessing this in what’s considered best or promising practices, what you might be able to share with those kinds of standards and accepted protocols and things like that around digital or online service delivery. Right. So the first thing is, is that most people have a professional association they belong to, it’s definitely worth checking in with them. And if they don’t have something, tell them they have to have something. It’s not acceptable a year.

for them not to. Anyway.

So the the CRP o has some pretty good materials. The ccpa has some pretty good materials. Oh, s w has good materials bcaas W. I’ve been doing webinars, you probably told people all across the country. And I did 97 today.

Oh, wow, I only told them that you’re done 42 in the first two months of 2020, so well, 97 I’ve trained 11,000 mental health professionals across the country in the last 11 months. So one of the big themes you’re hearing from those, those those folks about what they don’t know, what they’re wondering about in terms of

I mean, a lot of it is, uh, you know, what platform should I use? And how do I know what the keys are for, for you know, to use for using a platform. Another thing is around clients getting to choose what they want to do. I think most people thought that this was what everybody was going to want. It turns out that a lot of young people have no interest in being on video. A lot of young people want to be on the phone, they would rather text instant message. So, so that that’s that’s one of the issues. And then the third, I mean, I’m dealing with all sorts of different kinds of agencies and populations, and so on. So there are some, you know, smaller minor themes, but the third one is around risk.

People who are at risk populations who are at more risk, you know, how do we deal with that? And what do we do? And,

yeah, I mean, people, you know, who are, you know, maybe they’re working with a population who, you know, a year ago, sure, there would be some yelling in the family, and there’d be storming out, and that’s not good. But that would be the extent of it. And now it’s now it’s physical violence. Now, it’s elder abuse, and you know, which, which there was yelling and insults and things. And that’s not good. But it wasn’t physical. And now it is. So it’s,

yeah, and then I guess the one other thing is compassion, fatigue and burnout. So, you know, the the initial training that I was doing was around, you know, how to use video to communicate with clients, and what are, you know, how do you compensate for the absence of non verbals on the phone and things? I did one last week for the Ontario Association of Social Workers on burnout and compassion, fatigue, and there were 380 people on the call.

So, so it’s an issue, obviously, it’s a huge issue. And it’s across the board. And, and yeah, so we’re a sector that’s full of acronyms soup as well. And you went really quickly through some of those associations. I’m wondering, because those are sectors that we perhaps could look at for some of these standards and promising practices. Can you just expand out the the names of those associations? Yeah, so the ccpa is the Canadian counseling and psychotherapy associations. That’s That’s mine. There’s the Ontario Association of Social Workers. There’s the British Columbia Association of Social Workers. The bc ACC, which is the British Columbia association of clinical counselors, they’re also doing some great work, Social Work associations across the country. Most of them not all, but most of them have excellent materials.

And then the CRP O is the College of registered psychotherapists in Ontario. So it’s a legislative overarching body rather than, you know, a sort of a volunteer group that came together. But they also have some good information, I sent you a checklist, that it’s just a nice little checklist, nice little tool to be able to run through. Yeah. And we’ll be sharing all of that plus, in previous conversations, you’ve provided me with those links to everything you just mentioned. But we’ll make sure those go out fabulous. And what I think is useful to speak to a little bit is that those are those are professions associations that, that do this work in a regulatory framework and in the settlement sector, unless it’s very specific, like someone who is a social worker doing social work, we don’t exist in that same kind of regulatory framework. So I think it’s useful to know about where there’s interesting and replicable models that that that that sort of already hit a high standard that we can then incorporate into our work, because then we know, we’re we’re hitting that high standard, we don’t have to wonder, Is this an acceptable level of standard practice? Because someone else who’s going to get sued if they don’t meet it has established those those parameters? That’s that’s always a good bar. If the person is going to get sued, and they’re doing this, do that.

Absolutely. And so you’ve mentioned there’s some checklists

what what are some of the elements for people’s individual capacity to think through, I’m doing this work as a frontline worker, you know, what’s the mental checklist they need to be going through in order to

To to ensure that their interventions are effective and safe. And and and that they’re measuring the outcomes of those in this space. Again, when you’re not having the body language, perhaps maybe you’re not even on video with someone, how does that change the way that you actually figure out? Whether your interventions are effective? Yes, that’s that’s a huge question. I mean, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 10 months,

at three and a half hours a time. So it’s the five minute version, yeah, give us the five minute version. So to distill it,

so that the first thing is to, to be consciously aware and to reflect on and think about the absence of tone of voice and nonverbals. And so you know, thinking about on the phone, when you’re talking to somebody, what would you be aware of, if they were with you, all sorts of stuff. So maybe check in with them, you know, and see how they’re doing, I might be crying, you don’t know unless I tell you. And, and, and here’s one of the funny things about these environments is, people don’t actually reflect on that they don’t think to themselves, typically, oh, wait a minute, I’m on the phone, they can’t see me, this is not a thing that happens in our brain, we just pick up the phone and go Yo, what’s up. So, so being being, you know, conscious of those things, the absence of tone of voice, the nonverbals, and the degree to which they, they, they both give you information as the professional, and also allow you to communicate, to your, to your clients, to your customers.

And then, in terms of that, one of the things I’d say about video, you know, I do this illustration, when I do the training, is, as soon as we get on video, we think, hey, I’ve got it, all of it. It’s all available to me here, right? Because I can see the person, our brain kind of tricks us. But you know, what am I doing with my hands?

I’m wringing my hands. I’m actually quite uncomfortable with these questions. You’re asking me Marco, what am I doing with my legs? I have my legs up off the ground, I’m rubbing my ankles together, I really wish you’d stop Actually, it’s really freaking me out. But you don’t know if I can control my tone of voice. If I can control my facial expressions, you have no idea what’s happening to me. So one of the big keys in online work is to slow down, slow things down. And the second thing is check in more regularly. You know, how’s this going for you? I want to stop asking you questions if for a moment just to see how, how it’s how it’s working for you how you’re feeling here, you know, check in more regularly, because you can see me from here up and you know, I do this too, in the training. If I’m on the phone, I’m not going to do this. Hey, Marco, how’s it going? Man, I’m going to be like this. You see me from here up, everything else is absent. There’s a lot of information that comes out from the way I carry my body, the way I move my hands. It’s all absence. So. So being conscious of that when you go into the environment, reflecting on the implications of that for the work that you’re doing. And then you want to decide how much of this Do I need to question my client about how much of what I’m going through? Do I want to share? But basically, the two big things are one, slow things down. And to check in more often. What’s up? How’s it going?

Thank you, Lauren. So I, I feel like the RF sector can learn a lot from other sectors around the again, the standards, but also the practices and the conversations they’re having. So I’m wondering man, Jude, and Jason as well. Have you been looking outside of your own spaces, your own networks to see how you can bring different practices in and test them and evaluate them in terms of how they might be able to impact the work that you’re doing? Jason? Why don’t we Why don’t we start with you?

Yeah, I think, you know, I mentioned earlier was moving to things like a daily check in which you know, more familiar like,

kind of scrum team type approach. I would say that, the,

what, what Lauren’s just mentioned earlier, really resonated, because that that is one thing that we’re seeing reflected in our data as well that when students are are hopping on calls, that video video tends to be turned off and, and what what we’re kind of borrowing from other

organizations or more in the kind of marketing or tech side is we have made increased use of

video, but asynchronous video, so using tools like video to like pre recorded messages, to kind of convey like, you know, those like, Hey,

this is a message you know, we just want to send or get across that, you know, goes beyond you know, that that text message or a voice message, but you know, just to try and build a little more of a connection there as well.

Those are the immediate

Things that,

that come to mind in terms of borrowing from from others. And then like setting setting up ticketing systems, because I think that that’s one thing that in terms of the level of expectations that people are bringing for, like service delivery, that, you know, we were actually competing more with Uber and McDonald’s and that, you know, you literally can click something and something will show up at your door within, you know, 1015 minutes, it’s that

even something as simple as building a ticketing system, so people can get more rapid responses. So it’s not, you know, waiting for it to be triage by like a single person that, you know, you can have a higher visibility so that those are kind of practices that were

or and tools that we’ve kind of brought in and emphasized more, I think that’s a really important point to look at the experiences that people are having in other places like businesses, right, the expectations of instant communication of instant gratification of getting what you need right away from from Uber or something like that. But I also really liked that you speaking about the asynchronous and I’ll come back to you, but I want to pick on Lawrence for a second because you’ve pioneered an asynchronous approach to conversational therapy that is asynchronous. So we’re all very, I think, fixated on the real time to synchronous and being in the same place in time with video or even, you know, texting in the moment. But But what Jason’s brought up reminds me of, of the approach that you’ve really worked on, which is incorporating a technique that can help within asynchronous communication within email communication, or, you know, just over time. Yeah, that’s where we started. I’ve been doing online counseling for 27 years. I started doing online counseling in 1994. So, so all we had them was email. And yeah, you know, using using some techniques to compensate for the absence of tone of voice and non verbals? That that’s been really critical. The, the, I will say that the most surprising thing about the, the the text based work, you know, we call it therapy, male therapy male Haha, is that is that it works. And not only that, but clients feel connected and engaged with us, we, we we went into it assuming that it was going to be the poor cousin. And we started doing research, you know, assuming that, you know, things would take longer, and people will feel less connected. And and it turned out not to be true, that clients actually feel deeply connected and engaged in the text based work we do, you know, research, Matt measuring, I don’t know, if people are familiar with this idea. But the therapeutic alliance, you know, the connection between the client and the and the and the provider? Do they feel safe? Do they feel taken care of, do they feel looked at looked after.

And the the numbers in the text based work are just as high as the in person. So that, I mean, I think the bottom line is that we are social beings. And we, we want to be connected. And even people who say they don’t feel that struggle inside themselves, and there’s something wrong with them, you know, we want to be connected. And so people do they feel connection and engagement. There are lots of so yeah, it doesn’t have to be live real time, you know, avatars in video or whatever, you know, Star Trek.

People feel connected and looked after, as long as we go into it, with that attitude, and that approach, desiring to provide that connection and engagement. It works. Absolutely. And at the risk of blatant self promotion, Lawrence, and I’ve spent some time in my podcast talking about some of this. So I’ll send those links wrote out to you, but one of the things that I remember you saying that was really vivid for me is that you’re serving clients at three o’clock in the morning when you’re asleep. Because those email exchanges and the emotions that you’re you know, your your, the technique that you’re using, clients have told you that they’ll wake up in a sweat of anxiety, and they’ll open their their email, and they’ll reread the session, that your your the interactions that you’ve had. And that’s something that is exceptionally valuable, that’s technology mediated that you, you know, again, you think about someone who leaves the session and retains 15% of what the conversation was with a therapist because there’s still so stressed out. Whereas in this case, every single piece of that is there for them to review to get the advice, again, to get the insight to feel cared for and understood. And I found that that was something that is incredibly powerful in something that is the simplest of technologies that we sort of take for granted. Absolutely. Yeah. So yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. Like, that’s exactly what I say, you know, I’m in bed asleep at three o’clock in the morning, I’m asleep. My client is up wandering around in their apartment in a panic and they could either be saying to themselves, come on, man, settle down. You got an appointment on Friday with Lawrence or they could open the laptop, go to the website, open up the conversation we’ve been having and review for themselves. Those five hours

affirmations I gave them the three things they identified for themselves that are the ways that they overcome anxiety, that website that they still haven’t looked at that I suggested they go to,

I spend 15 minutes a clinical hour replying to them, they can spend one to 510 15 hours with me as much time as they want. And because we use these specific techniques to enhance the presence, the sense of presence and engagement, I mean, the clients say to us, it was like, you’re in the room with me, like their lived experiences of being connected. And again, I’m in bed asleep, I have nothing to do with it at that point. But their lived experience as a social being as we are, is that they’re connected. And and the other thing I’ll say, just as one last thing is they’re working on their stuff. They’re actually working to try to make their life better, that impacts their self reflection and their self awareness and their self concept. What kind of a person are you, Bob, I am the kind of person who when I wake up in a panic at three in the morning, I strive to make my life better. That’s a very powerful self reflection and awareness to have.

That’s great. And I think that speaks in some ways to what Jason and Majeed have been speaking about previously about this, those processes, there’s under the under below the iceberg of the technology and how we interact with each other. Sometimes you don’t want to come back to you and ask Where are you looking for inspiration in other places, as you’re developing your work and strategies at access, and is that factor into to how you might take an idea and try to run with it or implemented or replicated in your work.

So just to just to take a step back from that, I just wanted to mention that

a lot of the work that we’ve done in developing our systems. And going back to I think I spoke about 2016 2017, when we started on what we called our end to end digital services sort of development process. We worked closely with one of our corporate sponsors Accenture. So they’re a big corporation, and they specialize in technology. So I think we’ve gotten a lot of inspiration support from them, and guidance, of course, and so a couple of things that I wanted to speak to related to, to your point around best practices.

One is something that I alluded to earlier, which is really like, what’s your foundational technology, and a lot of it has to do with your database and your tracking. Because everything, technology is like building blocks. And so you need to start with where all your client data is, and then go from there. Because if you’re going to build an elearning platform, or if you’re going to have you know, webinars or anything else, you want to be able to very easily send that information out to your clients without as we talked about earlier, even with text messaging, you can’t like, you know, email each client one at a time, you need to be able to use your database as as that foundational piece. And so that was a really important learning is start start with that foundation and pick a pick a product or a package that you can grow with. And that’s really important, because sometimes you’ll pick a tool that maybe is, you know, just good enough for now. But then you’ll be you’ll be stumped in the future when you try to start adding adding pieces on there. So although it’s impossible to build a whole system, overnight, it’s really important that you start with those foundational pieces, and then you start adding on things because it’s amazing, like all the different apps and plug and play and development tools that they can be integrated or not. So it’s really important that you have that good foundation. And again, that’s coming from, you know, from our expertise, you know, from Accenture, and so on. So that was a really important part of our development. The other piece that was really important, and I think it’s a best practice of works across sectors is really looking at the client journey, and mapping that out. And I think that’s really important, I think, you know, when we’re doing in person, and over so many years, things kind of happen in a very, almost unconscious, like you’re not even aware of like how our clients hearing, how are they walking in? Who are they talking to first, you know, what’s the role of the receptionist versus the counselor and all, you know, all these things that happen fairly organically. And when you have to start to translate that into online services. You You have to start mapping out that process because otherwise you you miss a part. And then you’ll notice that when you start doing things online, it’s like, Oh, we don’t have this information, or how do we get these clients into the webinars or whatever. So it’s really I think that

mapping a client journey is about as a best practice, I think across sectors, I know that they’re doing that in retail, in in any any sort of industry. So if you know, you can do it in a very formal way, or you can do it in a very informal way, just with your teams, but to really map that out, right from the point of where clients are just learning about your service. So that’s that outreach piece, to how are they coming into your service intake registration than the actual service, but then the continuing From there, the follow up, and ongoing support. So that’s those are some best practices, I think, early on, when we were creating our E learning,

sort of library of materials. You know, we look, we kind of naturally looked at education, you know, because we know education, there’s online courses and things that people can do. So we kind of look to that. But we also are really aware that it’s quite different that people in our services are not just learning like students they are, it has to be way more interactive. So if you were taking like a university course, you might have a module that’s like, you know, an hour or two, and you’ll sit there and you’ll go through it all. But I think, you know, when you need counseling and support, you know, you you need that kind of a hybrid, again, of approach, you may spend an hour but probably only as Lauren said, You’ll only spend that time if you’ve already spoken to somebody first.

Or after, right, so it’s it, there has to be a mix of things, because otherwise people will just simply sit through, you know, modules and videos, it has to be interactive, and has to be a combination of different channels.

Excellent. Thank you Majeed. Unfortunately, we’re coming close to the very end of our time. But I want to summarize parts that I have here that I think are really important. These are the below the iceberg things that you saw above the iceberg is the client data tool. But below the iceberg are the processes and the desire and the commitment to understanding your client, which I think Jason, you’ve also spoken to quite a bit that, you know, what are they not just their technology, but their needs, their preferences, their interests? Who are these people, and what do they need from you, and the data can help collect that and tease it out and collect trends and things like that. But also the notion of taking the time to do that. And as Lawrence is talking about taking the time to recognize that the way you’re doing service online will take more time in order for it to be effective. And then having the space and time for reflection to learn from what you’re doing. So Jason, you’ve spoken a lot about the evaluation pieces that you have the the stand up with staff, the the weekly meetings with, with students, for example, to continue constantly learning and then evaluate evaluating and learning even I love the tiny gains approach. So even micro learning right little iterative steps towards building something based on what you’re learning from what you’re already doing. Before I let you go, any final tweets of a thoughts that you want to leave the audience with, in terms of this conversation about measuring their their their practices. Yeah, Lawrence. So the the one thing I’ll say and this actually comes more from my work as an instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University with undergrads then then the the clinical training.

It is this. People think they’re on the internet. They’re not on the internet. We right now we’re not on the internet. This is a training. We’re all in a virtual space, and we’re doing a training. This is not YouTube, this is not Facebook, this is not Instagram, my experience. And the many of the challenges I had with students, and they were awful. Was my son came up with this actually was you know what, dad? They think they’re on Instagram. Yes, that’s what it is. They think they’re on Instagram. So I think this is a really key thing to be conscious of. And when something weird happens, and you think that was really mean, or nasty, that’s the internet, people are mean and nasty on the internet, they try to destroy each other and crush each other. They don’t try to find solutions. So when that happens, just take a moment to think does this person think we’re on the internet? Because we’re not we’re in a counseling office. We’re in a university classroom. I think that’s a that’s a key insight that my son, the 19 year old had,

the youth shall lead us.


any final thoughts? Final thoughts. I think, in developing technology, just like a lot of other things that we do in our businesses, it’s not going to going to be perfect. So just going back to another best practice and that’s to be able to develop and utilize your technology and what they call sprints. So it’s really putting it out there testing it, trying it out, and then come up with your second iteration. But if you wait to have it perfect,

it will just take way too much.

Time and you won’t know, it’s perfect, because really getting that feedback. And being able to measure, as we’ve talked about is really important. So get it out there, measure the effectiveness, you know, get the feedback, and then keep on improving. So continuous improvement is really important. Right?

Jason no pressure, but the final thought and kernel of inspiration comes from you,

in my reflection of, you know, working with, with youth in local communities, like the, what comes to mind is just a reflection that education is not a place. And I think that applies for many different things is that, you know, the the conceptualization of what we’re doing, you know, right now, all online, it’s that, you know,

it’s not that we’re trying to replicate, you know, a school or a tutoring place online, it’s that, you know, focusing on the process, so like, education is

fundamentally about, you know, the, the the relationship and focusing on that, I think will, will serve everyone well.

That’s, that’s a great note to end on, that underlies everything in the work that we’re doing. And if you take that into account, you’ll make the right choices around technology, because you’re listening to your clients, for example. So I want to say, thank you so much to Jason Majeed and Lawrence. I’ve learned a lot and I found this has been valuable. I’m hoping that everyone else has and we’re going to continue the conversation for folks who are from the sector. If you’re you’re welcome to stick around. But, but if not, thank you for your time.

We appreciate you being here and sharing your experiences and knowledge with everybody.

Yeah, my pleasure. You’re welcome. And Jason’s right. It is always about relationship. Brilliant. Brilliant comment. succinct. That’s it. Always everything some see you did it. Jason. I knew you could eat. Yeah, you got over that bar, dude.

Thank you all so much. This has been so valuable. I appreciate it. And I will, you know, again, not to blatantly self promote. But Jason was my first interview on my podcast and shared this is from years ago, his approach that I would suggest hasn’t really changed because it’s fundamentally based in in what he just described. But there’s a lot that we can learn from from these early adopters. And so there’ll be more depth in from what they’ve presented to you today, and in some of what you can read and listen to in the future as well.

Thanks so much for listening. I hope you found this episode interesting and useful for you and your work. You can find more podcast episodes, wherever you listen to your podcasts or also on my site@markopoulos.org I appreciate you listening and if you have any tips, suggestions, ideas or want to be interviewed or know someone who wants to be interviewed, please drop me a line through my website, or Marco at Markopolos org. Thanks again.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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