I’m going to bring you ideas, initiatives and individuals doing interesting and unique things with technology in their human service work. There are thousands of human and community service non profits that want and need to use technology, especially social media, in their service work. That’s what I’m interested in and am going to explore in this podcast.
TiHS Episode 44: Lucia Harrison – getting hybrid services and work right is a whole organization effort
Welcome to episode 44 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode I chat with Lucia Harrison, CEO of the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre about her experiences transitioning to hybrid services and a hybrid workplace that includes a 4-day work week. The effort, and it took a great effort, resulted in a 95% satisfaction rate from staff, particularly when it came to improved work-life balance. All organizations are going through this change, trying to figure it out, trying to find the right mix. Lucia has many lessons to share. Lessons you can implement in your organization.
In OCASI’s January 2023 newsletter a number of sector leaders were asked to share their insights. Lucia’s caught my eye and I knew that we needed to dive in more deeply. At the core, her advice is to talk with your staff. Involve them in this whole process. Trust them. Make it something that you envision that you’re going to be working on probably forever. You’ll be tweaking this. You’ll always be piloting something. You’ll be trying new things. You’ll be learning as you go.
I think you’ll find this an important and useful conversation for you. I hope you enjoy it.
In January Lucia wrote: “Our agency has moved to a 4-day work week, with 2 groups on a rotation so each group gets a 4-day weekend every second week. We increased our workday to 8:45 hours. Everyone still works 35 hours. The centre is still open 5 days a week, and we have actually increased the number of hours our centre is open to serve clients. We implemented this in June and a survey conducted in Oct had a 95% satisfaction rate from staff. The most common comment in the survey was “improved work / life balance”.
We also have most staff working on a hybrid model, except our LSP staff because of the nature of our agreement with the library. Our board approved this as a pilot in June and they have agreed to approve permanent changes to our personnel policy to reflect these changes. The board’s major considerations were 1) that our clients were being served, 2) staff well-being and 3) that we were meeting our funded commitments.
We have seen increased productivity and based on our staff survey, we have boosted morale. It is working for us.”
She expands on this and more in our conversation.
Some of the questions we discussed:
* You’ve created an interesting and innovative approach to hybrid work at KWMC. Can you tell me how that evolved and where things are at now?
* What lessons have you learned that others in the sector could benefit from?
* What advice would you give other sector leaders who aren’t sure how to approach hybrid work models in their organization?
* What does client service look like in the new model?
* How have your clients reacted to this new approach?
What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation using Otter.ai. The transcript has been edited slightly edited (name error fixes). It may contain errors and odd sentence breaks a...
TiHS Episode 43: Sampada Kukade – what can digital transformation look like if you have support
Welcome to Episode 43 of the technology and human services podcast. In this episode, I’m speaking with Sampada Kukade from Skills for Change, a Toronto based settlement and employment organization that is no stranger to technology innovation.
However, what you’ll find in this conversation, and what I find infinitely useful is that even organizations who are large and growing such as Skills for Change still need support in their digital transformation. And as part of their support, Skills for Change joined a pilot project called Charity Growth Academy run by CanadaHelps, which has been providing organizations, nonprofits, specifically, and charities with support around their digital transformation.
So I wanted to talk to her about what that looked like how it was useful for Skills for Change, and what the impact has been, and how it’s something that could scale beyond the small group of pilot organizations? Because the reality is, we all know that this is something that all organizations need. Whether you’re in a big, small, growing new, older, legacy organizations, digital transformation is a challenge.
And so one of the things we talked about was how do you shift internally to build this kind of a long term vision and infrastructure for digital transformation? What’s the impact been of getting this kind of support from outside in doing that, and baking that into the organization? What does that look like? And what has the Academy and what have these kinds of supports meant. What can Skills for Change do now that they might not have been able to do on their own?
And then ultimately, what advice she has to share not just with the sector, but with the sector’s major funders around how they can support organizations who are at very different stages of the digital transformation journey. I think this is a really important and interesting conversation, and I hope you find it quite useful in your work.
Some of the questions we discussed:
* What is the Charity Growth Academy and how did Skills for Change get involved?
* You’re one of the pilot project organizations for the Academy? What has the process been like? For example, the site indicates that they’re building an assessment that will lead to an action plan, then ongoing support.
* How has being part of the pilot project impacted your digital transformation journey?
* We know that digital transformation is not a “one and done” exercise. It also requires internal change management, new ways of doing and looking at things, and additional human resources. How have you shifted internally to build a long-term vision and infrastructure for your digital transformation journey?
* What has the Academy provided you with that you might not have gotten on your own?
* What advice and learning would you share with other Immigrant and Refugee-serving organizations who are are different stages of their digital transformation journey?What advice would you give to funders?
TiHS Episode 42: Lisa DeGara – a much needed Newcomer rural perspective on digital inclusion
Welcome to episode 42 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode, I chat with Lisa DeGara, Manager, Small Centres at Action for Healthy Communities in Alberta.
I came across Lisa’s work in rural Alberta in a conference presentation and wanted to chat with her about the challenges and opportunities of digital in and between rural small centres, with a focus on how to provide services in that challenge/opportunity context. She’s able to effectively put a face to what we know about stats and information about rural internet access, what the acceleration of hybrid/digital service delivery means in that context, and the additional nuances of Newcomer-related digital literacy, digital divide challenges.
We explore what she learned from her Summer 2021 Digital Literacy training, including how she was able to replicate another nonprofit’s curriculum for Newcomers, and how important the device (Chromebook) was in that process. We also explore that post-COVID context, and how we can harness what we learned during a time of purely remote service delivery and what means for how Immigrant and Refugee-serving organizations serve Newcomers in rural small centres.
The work she and her colleagues are doing in rural communities and how our sector’s shift to hybrid services is important for us to discuss and ensure is taken into account in digital inclusion work in our sector. As you’ll hear, those that rural perspective is not heard or included often enough in our national conversation. And it needs to be. Hybrid means very different things, has many nuances, and is approached very differently in different settings.
Lisa says that technology is merely a means of enhancing the in-person experience. You can do a lot online. But it’s best if you use technology to enhance that in-person interaction. And she outlines how dangerous an urban, bureaucratized, middle class, Southern Ontario perspective that permeates our sector’s thinking can be when it comes to digital inclusion. As she describes, many people can’t just walk down to their local library to access devices, high speed internet, and support. We also talk a bit about the cult of efficiency. It’s OK to be less efficient if your impact is high. That’s a strong balance and tension that needs to be addressed.
Lest you think she might be a Luddite, Lisa recently completed a Master of Science in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I really enjoyed our conversation, the needed perspective she brings that I found myself realizing I don’t have enough of, and what it means for our sector.
Some of the questions we discussed:
* Rural and small centre internet access is less stable, slower, and more expensive than in most urban centres. The internet is a necessity, not a luxury, can you tell us a bit more about your experiences with internet connectivity as a challenge in rural small centres?
* Can you give us a bit of a sense of the Newcomer context in super small centres (eg. isolation, limited local services, discrimination, other challenges), in particular when it comes to the role digital/virtual services can play?
* Can you tell me a bit about your Summer 2021 Digital Literacy training, including how you were able to replicate the Boys and Girls Club curriculum for Newcomers?
TiHS Episode 41: David Phipps – on Knowledge Mobilization
Welcome to episode 41 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode, I speak about Knowledge Mobilization with David Phipps, Assistant Vice President of Research Strategy & Impact at York University and director of Research Impact Canada (RIC).
David has been a Knowledge Mobilization pioneer in Canada and I was excited to chat with him about how KM has evolved and continues to evolve in Canada and beyond. As a past alum of MobilizeU, a course designed by York University for folks interested in learning more about Knowledge Mobilization, I’ve long been a fan of the work York U, through David, has done, including in the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector.
You know that Knowledge Mobilization is near and dear to my heart, and is really the point of the work that I do. In our conversation, we talk about some of the foundations of Knowledge Mobilization, how community organizations can connect and work with academics, as well as what KM can mean in our community work. I think you’ll find it an educational and interesting conversation.
Some questions we discussed:
* Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and what brought you to the work you’re doing in Knowledge Mobilization?
* Someone once said to me that the art of Knowledge Mobilization is answering 3 simple questions What? So what? Now what? The goal is to move knowledge to action, or as your work suggests, from research to impact. Can you tell me a bit about your experience and some examples where you’ve seen success in the research to impact continuum? I work in the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector so any specific examples of where Knowledge Mobilization has had an impact would be great.
* Knowledge Mobilization takes time. For many nonprofit front line workers, having time to read, reflect, analyze, and potentially apply research to their practice is a challenge. What advice would you give them?
* What advice would you give researchers to create more impact from their work?
* I find Research Snapshots particularly useful in distilling research into something that helps answer the What? So what? Now what? questions. Can you tell me a bit more about what Research Snapshots are, how they came to be, how they have worked, and how widely they’re being used. How can we encourage more researchers and academics to create Snapshots?
Here are links to documents David mentioned during our conversation:
* Jonathan Grant analyzed 6679 impact case studies
* Barwick, M., Phipps, D., Myers, G., Johnny, M. and Coriandoli, R. (2014) Knowledge Translation and Strategic Communications: Unpacking Differences and Similarities for Scholarly and Research Communications.
TiHS Episode 40: Agnes Thomas – focus on the humanity behind digital transformation
Welcome to episode 40 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode, I speak with Agnes Thomas, Executive Director of Catholic Crosscultural Services. Agnes has led Catholic Crosscultural through a digital transformation that started before, but certainly accelerated during the pandemic.
That isn’t a new story. But her democratic approach as a leader and insights about how the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector can and should be working collaboratively to serve all Newcomers are refreshing.
And for some, it will seem new. It shouldn’t be that way. We should be following Agnes’ lead to move our sector towards an ecosystem mindset and approach that puts the humans we’re serving first in our minds. And to be fearless and intentional in our community work. In our advocacy work. In the work we do to ensure that our sector has the resources and leadership needed to move forward.
As I start this year with a bit of cautious optimism, this is a great conversation to reflect on and energize me, to be boldly, but not blindly optimistic, about what we can do and achieve as a sector. Hybrid service delivery is here. That doesn’t mean making a choice of either digital or in-person, but as Agnes so eloquently puts it, looking at how to build tech capacity to serve people while recognizing the equal need to serve Newcomers in person. It’s all about making service accessible for all, whether their preference is to be served remotely or if they want to walk in through your doors, or both.
I really enjoyed this conversation, and I hope it sparks some optimism and energy in you as well.
Some questions we discussed:
* Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and the digital transformation work you’re doing at Catholic Crosscultural Services?
* In your presentation last year at the Digital Literacy in the Immigrant Refugee Serving Sector – Increasing Collaboration event you spoke about CCS’ approach to digital transformation. Can you give us a high-level overview of that work?
* Your plan included several steps that started with cyber security. Can you tell me about the guidelines you established and the steps you took to assess your organization’s cyber security and staff training?
* How did you go about assessing your technology capacity and the staff’s digital capacity? What was that process like?
* How did you address your client’s needs and capacity to access digital and hybrid services? How have you worked to help address the digital divide among your Newcomer clients and communities?
* Where are you now on your digital transformation journey? What have you learned and what are your plans?
* What good ideas and promising practices can you share with the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector?
* What leadership do you think is needed in the sector, from funders, and within organizations to ensure that the future of hybrid service delivery moves in the right direction?
Agnes presented at an event last year that you might find of interest: Digital Literacy in the Immigrant Refugee Serving Sector – Increasing Collaboration...
TiHS Episode 39: Ross McCulloch – on Open Working
Welcome to episode 39 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode I speak with Ross McCulloch, Director of the Third Sector Lab in the UK, about Open Working.
Ross and his colleagues have created the Open Working Toolkit to help charities, funders and other organizations share their work openly. As their toolkit states “Great things can happen when something is made open… more people can reuse it, often cheaply. People can learn from it, even if they don’t use it. And there are almost always wonderful unintended consequences.” I love this project, and even just the idea of it. The toolkit provides a simple, practical, and replicable model for anyone to use. And it focuses on both organizations as well as funders. It starts with the idea of sharing what you’re working on, in the open. Just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The format doesn’t matter. But share a bit and share often.
Ross provides a great overview of the Open Working approach, where it came from and how it’s going now. We talk about the kind of effort it takes, what you should do if you’re interested in exploring Open Working, and why so many great ideas and initiatives focused on non-profit collaboration seem to be coming out of Scotland! If you’re wondering how to build awareness of your work, connect with others, and learn from your efforts, I think you’ll find this introduction to Open Working of interest.
Some questions we discussed:
* What is Open Working?
* How is Open Working significant from an organization perspective, from a funder perspective?
* How have charities and funders reacted to the idea of Open Working?
* What type of effort does it take? For example, according to a Catalyst article, Open Working Lineup folks coached grantees through six months of open working?
* An outcome of that coaching work was the creation of the Open Working Toolkit. What has the uptake been?
* What advice or suggestions would you have for folks who want to embrace and encourage Open Working in other places, such as Canada?
Some useful resources:
* Open working toolkit – This toolkit gives charities and funders the best resources for learning why and how to work in the open, share work and reuse work from others.
* Open working at Catalyst – Re-use other organisations’ work: assets and other useful resources created by charities, groups and agencies working in the open.
* Funding open working – Funders around the world are starting to be more transparent and ask that their fundees be open about their work so that the benefits of the funds are felt more widely across the sector.
* a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="https://learningforfunders.candid.org/content/guides/opening-up/?