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Marco Campana: Communications & Digital Strategy Consulting for Immigrant and Refugee-serving Organizations

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TiHS Episode 33: Miyuki Fukuma – digital services must be accessible

Welcome to episode 33 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode I speak with Miyuki Fukuma of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI). Miyuki has worked for over 20 years as a web User Interface (UI)/User Experience (UX) Designer, focused on Human Centred Design, Digital Accessibility, and open source projects. Since 2018 Miyuki has brought her expertise to the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector at OCASI. In this conversation we cover a lot of interesting ground related to sector technology development, the need for tech human resources in our sector and how we can actually afford those positions, technology sustainability that impacts how technology is funded, digital communication, and a good chunk of time on accessibility. The discussion about accessibility is an important one for us in the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector. In part because there are provincial and emerging federal laws related to digital accessibility. In part because making our services more accessible, more broadly defined, should be something we’re all committed to, but may not know as much or be doing as much as we should be in this area. For example, we understand language and cultural accessibility, but don’t seem to apply that lens to other types of accessibility. We can do more work there. And, as Miyuki outlines, much accessibility testing needs to happen manually. The online and digital accessibility testing and assessment tools can only get us about 25% of the way there. That’s a huge revelation to me. I admittedly have much to learn here as well. Here are some of the initial questions we used to guide our conversation: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and what brought you to the sector?You’re a UI/UX designer who practices principles of human-centred design and you wrote that ” I find that the sector often talks too much about a very limited and sometimes outdated list of specific technologies, without talking first about the specific problem that needs to be solved and exploring what currently exists in terms of possible solutions. First, not every problem needs a technical solution, and I myself am always more than willing to suggest such solutions if necessary. Second, if the problem does need a technical solution, we are actually long past the days where one needs to be locked into one specific technology, build a tool from scratch, etc. In my experience, part of the issue is that those writing the funding proposals for projects with potential technical implications know very little about the current global technical and digital landscape, so they aren’t always proposing the most effective solutions nor asking for the most realistic amounts of funds. It would be great to see more people in the sector consulting technical or digital experts from outside the sector when putting together such funding proposals, instead of trying to do everything internally.”What’s your sense of the state of tech in the sector?What should be be thinking about as foundation technology in our sector?What tech are we not talking about that we should?What’s happening in the sector that is interesting and we can learn from?Who can we learn from outside the sector?What does tech leadership in the sector need to look like, across the country? Some useful resources Accessibility Accessibility is not a checklist18F Accessibility Guide: Tools: Automated testing (Scroll down to the bottom of the page)OCASI’s Accessibility Initiative The Accessibility Initiative (AI) is a national bilingual project that aims to enhance the knowledge and skills of settlement sector professionals so that they are better equipped to serve newcomers with in/visible disabilities. A range of online professional development activities, tools, and resources will be created to assist organizations serving newcomers in creating accessible and inclusive spaces for all newcomers. Also addressed is the need for agencies to comply with national, regional laws and legislations related to accessibility, while providing effective settlement services to newcomers with disabilities.Accessibility in OntarioLearn about the laws and framework for making Ontario more accessible. Find out how to comply with accessibility requirements and when you need to report on compliance.Summary of the Accessible Canada ActThe purpose of the Accessible Canada Act is to make Canada barrier-free by January 1, 2040. This involves identifying, removing and preventing barriers in federal jurisdiction.The Canadian Digital Service accessibility handbook“We have drafted these guiding principles for creating accessible and inclusive services within the Canadian Digital Service and with our partners. These are a consistent set of guidelines for making content accessible for people with disabilities.” Digital Projects vs Products Software Lasts Half A Year: Why Software Development Is A Never-Ending Process Video: How to effectively plan your next digital project User/Human-Centred Design being used in various non-technical contexts Designing a Better BallotUsing Behavioral Science to Improve Criminal Justice OutcomesHuman-centred design: the challenge of putting people back into policyDesign Sprints for Kids: Unlocking the next generation’s creativity Machine-Generated Transcript What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation 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. Marco Campana 0:00Welcome to Episode 33 of the technology and human services podcast. In this episode I speak with Miyuki Fukuma of the Ontario Council of agency serving immigrants, OCASI, Miyuki has worked for over 20 years as a web user interface or UI user experience or UX designer focused on human centered design, digital accessibility and open source projects. Since 2018, Miyuki has brought her expertise to the immigrant and refugee serving sector at OCASI. In this conversation, we cover a lot of interesting ground related to Sector technology development, the need for tech human resources in our sector, and how we can actually afford those positions. Technology sustainability that impacts how technology is funded and rolled out in our agencies, and a good chunk of time on accessibility. The discussion about accessibility is an important one for us and the immigrant and refugee serving sector, in part because there are provincial and emerging federal laws related to digital accessibility that we need to be adhering to, in part because making our services more accessible, broadly defined should be something we’re all committed to, but may not know as much or be doing as much as we should be in this area. For example, we understand language and cultural accessibility, but don’t seem to apply that lens to other types of accessibility. We can do more work there. And as Miyuki outlines more accessibility testing needs to happen manually. The online and digital accessibility testing and assessment tools can only get us about 25% of the way there. That was a huge revelation for me. And I admittedly have much to learn here as well. So I think you’ll find this a useful, insightful and important conversation very relevant to your work. I hope you find it interesting. Marco Campana 1:35Welcome, Miyuki to the technology Human Services podcast. Thank you so much for joining me. Please take a few minutes to tell us a little bit about yourself your professional background, and including what brought you to the immigrant and refugee serving sector. Miyuki Fukuma 1:48Sure. Thanks for inviting me Marco. Um, yeah, so my name is Miyuki Fukuma. I’m a second generation Japanese Canadian. I live in Toronto, Canada, born and bred in Toronto, Canada. So my background is I’m a web UI UX designer. So but UI means user interface UX means user experience. And so I specialize in doing that kind of design for the web. Mostly. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. Now it turns out, which is kind of scary. But Marco Campana 2:23yes, anniversary. Yay. So I Miyuki Fukuma 2:27have been doing this for quite a long time, mostly working with either academic institutions or nonprofits. Yeah, so that’s, that’s my background. And as a designer, so I mean, web designers, there’s different types, right? So my area of specialty is using principles of human centered design. And also, I also tend to specialize more in things like digital accessibility and open source type projects. So that’s my background. So what brought me to the sector, so I’m very new to the sector, I came to this sector. And 2018, I joined Kazi, to help out with their project, which eventually became settled net.org. I came on as a web designer for that project. And I was on that project until last September, so that’s tember 2021. And then I’m now UX design and web development cord coordinator in the ITN digital services team at okezie. So, yes, I’m still very new to the sector. I’m still learning. Marco Campana 3:42Yeah. So you’ve got your hands on all of OCASI’s digital products now, basically, in terms of from a design and usability perspective. Um, Miyuki Fukuma 3:52I can see all the projects now. I don’t know if I have all my hands on them. But I got my headphones on. But yes, but I can better overview now of all the projects I had, because he has at least Yes, Marco Campana 4:03yeah, cuz I can imagine they could all they’ll benefit from a good Human Centered Design Overview and just sort of bringing your expertise and your perspective to them. Because a lot of them are serving the sector or newcomers directly, right. Yes. Yeah. Exactly. So want to dive in, starting with a quote, you and I had a bit of an exchange on settlement thought or basis of practice. And I thought it was really I mean, well, we’ve talked for a while about a lot of different things in terms of here. And there. We talked about different pieces of technology in the sector, and things that we’re missing things that we’re doing well, but I thought this was a really fun back back, back and forth that kind of led to this conversation because I wanted to explore it some more. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna start with that. And, and then we’ll kind of dive in from there. So basically, you wrote that, you find that the sector often talks too much about a very limited and sometimes outdated list of specific technologies without talking first about the specific problem that needs to be solved. And it’s exploring what currently exists in terms of possible solutions. And first, not every problem needs a technical solution. And I myself, am always more than willing to suggest such solutions if necessary. Second, if the problem does need a technical solution, we’re actually long past the days where one needs to be locked into one specific technology, build a tool from scratch, etc. In my experience, part of the issue is that those writing the funding proposals for projects with potential technical implications know very little about the current global technical and digital landscape. So they aren’t always proposing the most effective solutions, nor asking for the most realistic amounts of funds, it would be great to see more people in the sector consulting technical or digital experts from outside the sector, when putting together such funding proposals instead of trying to do everything internally. And I feel like you, you packed a lot in there. That’s all true in my experience, and what the research is showing us in particular over the last few years, where we’ve done a lot of research on the sector and technology innovation. But I want to start by unpacking just by forgetting, you know, the, the, the the external expertise, but what are some of the things that leaders and organizations need to start learning? What do they need to know when they’re moving forward, because we’re not going away from technology. So what are some of the things they should know more about in terms of figuring out how to bring it into their organizations, Miyuki Fukuma 6:20and manage it. Um, so like I said, I’m new to the sector. And also, my experience probably is mostly limited to my organization okezie. So I don’t know if this applies to all organizations. But I find at least in our organization, like technology, or digital things are still kind of, they’re more of a service, they’re not really a part of the work. So it’s sort of like leaders or staff come to the ITN digital services team and lokasi, for example, when they run into not problems. So maybe moving away from that, but bringing, like even the leader of the ITN digital services in earlier on, when thinking about projects, I think would really change things because that at least helps the other leaders from having to know everything about what’s happening in the technical, what’s happening technically, like just around the world or digitally around the world. You know, there’s already expertise there that can be leveraged. So I think, yeah, I think maybe leaders changing their approach Marco Campana 7:27to the notion of embedding. Yes, embedding Miyuki Fukuma 7:29more leaders, I think, also need to realize that I mean, this might be it might be a bit extreme, but at least thinking Digital First, for any of their projects. Because the other thing, so I that’s it’s kind of mentioned in the post that you mentioned, but the other thing was like technology and digital these days, it’s not just one piece of technology, or, or one digital channel that needs to be used, it’s usually a combination now. So if like, you have projects where it says, well, in use of a website, and a website needs to do this, but actually you do, if you have a website, you also have XYZ you have to think about, and also the people writing the content for your website also need to know that communicating digitally is different from communicating versus via other more traditional channels that are probably been used in the sector for a long time. So I think leaders need to realize that more of the projects probably need to be thought, like conceptualized Digital First, when you’re staffing these projects, like you need to think more about, like what are the digital skills that your staff need? Especially not just about how to use technology, but also about, well, no, not about like the practical parts of technology, but also like digital communication type skills that’s slightly different from I think, communication skills that have been expected until now. So I think leaders need to realize, realize how, in general, I think the way people consume information and things like that has really changed. So, yeah, yeah, no, I Marco Campana 8:59mean, that’s sort of the digital softer skills in some ways, because like you’re saying, I mean, the the hard skills like the tech itself, if I need to use Zoom, or WhatsApp or telegram or a CRM, as a staff person, I mean, I can get trained on that I can learn those those sorts of hard skills. It’s, you don’t need to have it innately but but the soft skills come a little bit differently. I feel like it’s well. So I mean, I guess, to the, for leaders to appreciate that. Do they also have to start developing those those skills? Like I guess what is a digital first mentality mean from a leadership perspective, when when they’re looking at the organization? Miyuki Fukuma 9:39I think I think I guess that would start with if you have technical or digital leaders already in your organization, to bring them more into the conversations instead of having them be like to the service team, or service department in your organization. Yeah, I think I think it could probably start there because I do know from from being part of a kasi that a lot of the times the projects are conceptualized without consulting the 18, digital services team leader, and then they come to the team saying, oh, we need this. And from our point of view, it’s a little bit too late by that point to do things well. So, you know, we can do things for you like we can help you achieve what you’re trying to achieve. But it would have been things would have probably gone more efficiently if that we had been consulted earlier. So I think definitely bringing them in not seeing them as just a service department. But so that might help other digital first. Yeah, I can’t think of like, definitely, when you’re putting in a proposal, I think definitely bringing in the digital leaders and asking their opinion. On what could be different there. Yeah, for sure. Marco Campana 10:54Yeah, I mean, I am curious, I mean, even an organization like Ocasio, where you do have a good like it and immediate department. And I know, there aren’t that many that do. But there are some that that why we still have this sort of sense of separation of it not being needed at the table initially, to help kind of form the idea, instead of just responding to an idea that that could have been morphed differently. Or, or like you say, for example, someone may say, oh, we need Salesforce, because we’ve decided on a CRM, but what they need is something that’s more of a, you know, for lack of a better word, more federated, or like more more different moving pieces, because as you said earlier, like creating a website has other implications for other parts of your work and things like that. And if you don’t understand the technology fully, you might not necessarily know how you’re limiting yourself, or what else is possible. So bringing, bringing that perspective in earlier makes sense from from a logic perspective, I wonder, Is it Is it fear that the it is going to take over? Is it you know, is it because we just treat them as a service, and don’t see them as needed at the ground level kind of thing. I mean, I used to deal with this. And in communications when I was on a communications team, and we eventually got to the point where we would we would be there at the beginning at the very beginning of the conversation, because communications was going to be a part of we weren’t forming the project for them. But we were we were figuring out what they wanted to do so that we could, you know, earlier in the process, say, well, here’s how we can communicate that are here are your stakeholders, do you understand them fully, like, you know, go through that process? And, and I felt it made a huge difference, because we weren’t just responding at the end, did you think about these 20 things? And then of course, the answer is no. And so you’re back to the drawing board in some ways, whereas if it had been there from the beginning, and so these days, it’s it’s comps and it that need to be kind of at that table. Yes, Miyuki Fukuma 12:39yes. And I mean, traditionally, comps and it I think, have been service, you know, it’s just that’s the way it wasn’t, it worked for a while, I think, but now, now things have changed that it doesn’t quite work that way anymore. So I think leaders may be realizing, realizing that and now things have changed. Like even when I was saying that, you know, when you have to when you want a website, it’s not just the website now that you need, having just a website used to work. I mean, it’s just it doesn’t work anymore. Unfortunately, things have changed. Things have gotten more complicated, really. So I think maybe leaders realizing that would also help. So let’s Marco Campana 13:18unpack that a little bit. So when you say just a website, because you’re right. I mean, a lot of places are brochure websites, here’s information about our programs. And you can contact us to this form or this email address. When you say a website is more than that. Now, there needs to be what do you what are you referring to what do you what, what more does it need to be? Miyuki Fukuma 13:35Well, this comes up a lot when we talk about promoting the website. So it’s not. It’s not like, you build it and they will come they won’t come if you just because you build it right, you have to promote it. And then so it comes down to how are you going to promote this website. And now you have to go to various digital channels to promote it, for example, if you’re targeting. So some of our some of Kathy’s websites, anyhow, their information and referral type what what information and information referral, I think type websites for newcomers. So in order for. So up until now, they’ve been I think, handing out flyers to newcomers that arrive at Pearson Airport, for example. And I went to some other totally unrelated meetup. And there was a newcomer there. She was from India, she was relatively young. And so we were talking about other things. And I just casually said, Have you heard of she was talking about how she was she didn’t realize it would take her so long to get quote, unquote, settled into life in Toronto. And so I turned her and he said, Have you ever heard of settlement.org? And she said, she said she received a bunch of paper when she first arrived. So I think she was referring to the brochures that she see, but she didn’t formation overwhelmed, right? Yeah, she tossed all of it. And she was trying to Google everything. So you’re not Reaching your audience that way. So you need. So like, you need to think about how are you they’re going to come to your website. And it’s unfortunately, much more complicated because there’s so many channels that people use to get their information. And then it’s also the language issue with newcomers. Right? Because I think I think refugee 613 They did. Is that the right name? Yeah. out of Ottawa. Yeah. Yes. Right. Yeah. So they just said, they’ve been doing research around how new how newcomers are getting the information. And so it’s been, it’s been interesting how they do tend to go to their cultural, you know, more language specific channels to get their information. So those are, those are things it’s like, it’s not just the website, you need to think about how you’re going to promote. And sometimes promoting has to go nowadays, it has to go beyond Oh, we have this website, like, because especially on the web, well, there’s a lot of digital things, there’s a trust factor. So you have to think about how you’re going to build trust and get them to actually, like, there’s so much information out there. People need to be able to make the decision of is this a source of information I can trust? Or why would I go here versus this other place? So it’s not you can’t just say we have a website, come here. It’s like, we have a web, we have a website, it will answer these needs that you have. You know, this is why we’re better than the competition kind of thing. So there’s, there’s more there involved already to do. And I know like, especially after the pandemic started, I think, visits to some of our websites has dropped. Marco Campana 16:43That’s interesting. So digital ended and it visits went down. That’s fascinating. Miyuki Fukuma 16:48Yeah, well, I think the other thing is because people started going maybe more digital, they started finding other places. And maybe so that’s the other thing. We’ve noticed this, but we haven’t been able to like sit down and analyze why this is happening. So that’s, yeah. But But yeah, like, we’re, it’s kind of strange to think about competition when we’re in like a nonprofit sector, right? Where it’s very community driven. But unfortunately, competition is an issue, especially when you’re on digital, because there’s just informations coming from everywhere. And to the average person, it just seems like, you know, the same level of information. So you have to really, you have to, you have to really make it obvious that you are a trusted source and you you are meeting their needs. So, Marco Campana 17:36yeah, I’m curious with your with your sort of human centered design and UI and UX hats on? How can how, what’s your approach to try to kind of rise above the fray, like from a design perspective, or from understanding the for lack of a better word, the end user, the visitor of the website? What? What are some of those cues? What are some of the nudges that you can build into a site or into communications, to help kind of convey those messages really quickly? Because I mean, attention spans are at an all time low, they say, Miyuki Fukuma 18:08well, one thing is, um, how do I put this one thing is look at what the, your quote unquote, competition is doing. So first of all, don’t be too smug about your website, you are probably not the only one doing what you’re doing. There’s someone else out there doing something similar. And so go look for them and see what they’re doing. And if they’re doing something, well, then definitely copy it, you know, don’t reinvent the wheel. Also, being aware of where your audience is online, at least, that’s really important. So like, for example, settlement.org, is targeted at people that are working in the settlement sector across Canada. So one place where work related conversations or professional level related conversations happen is on LinkedIn. So in a way, going on LinkedIn, LinkedIn, where people are, and like being involved in the conversations there, that really helps to, like that can help to promote the site more. But just going in and saying, Hey, we have this site is not enough. You need to take the time to get involved in these conversations and show that show that you’re one of them in a way, I guess. So. Marco Campana 19:27Become part of the community. And yes, yeah. Yeah. So it’s, yeah, I mean, it’s interesting. It’s not just about your own property, but it’s going to the properties of others, or even third parties, like you say, like LinkedIn, and finding the people and then helping them see how you might help them over here on your property kind of thing, or if not how you can help them in their space, I guess. Yeah, exactly. Interesting. Um, I want to shift gears a little bit. I know that you’re newer to the sector, but we’ve had some conversations about kind of the state of the of tech in the sector, and some of the things that we should be thinking about. And you mentioned In digital accessibility, we talk a lot about interoperability and things like that. Digital Accessibility isn’t, I would say getting much sort of, I made a list recently of tech we’re not talking about, and that was certainly one of them. And I know that it’s, it’s something you’ve talked about, and you have both expertise and, and interest in. So can you tell me a little bit about what we what service organizations service nonprofits, like immigrant and refugee serving organizations need to be thinking about when it comes to digital accessibility? Not just websites, but just the entire approach for how they do digital? Miyuki Fukuma 20:36So just just digital accessibility, or just accessibility in general, Marco Campana 20:40I guess accessibility in general, with with with, you know, an edge on digital, since that’s kind of a focus. Yeah, um, but if it’s, if it’s, but yeah, maybe it needs to start with an accessibility perspective. And then how that impacts digital. Miyuki Fukuma 20:56Yeah, so. So one thing, so I’m in Ontario and Ontario, we do have some legislation around that call the EO, da. I think it’s accessibility for Ontario’s Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It’s not being enforced very much. So I think that’s also the reason why it’s not getting a lot of traction, even in organizations in Ontario, but, um, like organization, sins in the sector in Ontario. But I think, I think, I think organization like so there’s also the accessibility accessible Canada Act coming soon as well. And I think some provinces also have similar legislation, like the ODA and the provinces. So so there are legal requirements coming down the pipe eventually. So I think getting into legal issues is one thing that settlement agencies definitely want to avoid. I mean, they have other things to concentrate on. So I think, I think there’s some urgency there. Um, accessibility, at least from my point of view, like this is, this is a really broad way of putting it is, but it’s just making sure that the information you’re putting out, anybody everywhere can expect access it and make use of it. So like, we talked about various methodologies for making information accessible on the web, at least in the digital accessibility realm. But really, what it boils down to is say you do have content, like, say, on your website, that’s not accessible to somebody, you know, if someone emails you and says, Hey, I’m really interested in this information that you have, but I can’t read it, or I can’t download or whatever, like, how quickly can you respond to that request. So but so when you really boil it down, it means having the staffing to be able to figure out why this person is having this problem. And then try and make change that, however, that information is packaged into a way that this person can access it, it could be just one person. But I mean, I think at the end of the day, that’s what accessibility is. I mean, we tend to talk more about people with disabilities when it comes to accessibility. But it’s, it’s not just people with like, you know, really clear cut disabilities. A really good example is a mother, who, you know, a mother who works during the day, who has two kids, she has to look care, take care of and cook for when she gets back. When she finishes the workday like she’s really busy. Nine and a 10 is really distracted because the kids are, you know, yelling in the background and whatever. Like we’re dealing with a person here, for example, whose attention span is very short, but they need certain types of information, how do we make sure that they get this information? So it’s just being aware that it starts with awareness? Really? I don’t know. Does that answer your question? Marco Campana 23:52Yeah, no, I think I think in terms of broad strokes, that’s essential, right? It’s understanding the accessing, because you’re right. I think when people talk about accessibility, they think of screen readers like from a digital perspective, I think of screen readers and magnifiers. And things that are for people who, who might have challenges accessing, you know, in the same way that they might think of a ramp at an office as an accessibility tool. But but not how someone’s greeted as making something feel accessible, for example, or for someone who’s working outside of who can’t access your app, your office hours, how can you make information accessible to them in the right way in the right channel in a meaningful context kind of thing. So, so yeah, I mean, it’s I think broadening that perspective maybe helps people think about it from an information and referral perspective, from a service perspective that you’ve tried to meet somebody where they are. Yeah, and they may have certain barriers, whether they’re physical or unseen, or, you know, different informational, for example. So I think that’s a really interesting way to look at it. Are there any things around digital accessibility that AODA or other things so When we’re talking about like, how can I make my website or my communications more accessible, for example, you know, all text and images or text on social media images, they’re little things that can make something much more accessible, but they require intention, you have to understand how to do it, why you do it, and then you have to actually do it. Right. Miyuki Fukuma 25:19I guess, I guess the challenging thing. So um, yeah, the challenging thing is that accessibility isn’t really the responsibility of one department, for example, for example, Cassie has the IT and Digital Services Department, accessibility is not just departments responsibility, like, like, even just digital accessibility, it’s the entire organization’s responsibility, getting staff to realize that, and then unfortunately, it is a little bit more work to have digital accessibility or just being aware of more accessible communications, there’s training involved, there’s retraining, and you have to continue doing the training. So, um, and I think, I think this is going to be a challenge for the entire sector, if this is, if this is the case, because like, a lot of agencies already don’t have a lot of time, or, you know, people working in a sector are trying to get training just in their area of work as it is, and now they have this on top of it. So there’s a huge challenge about how, how this is going to fit in into the current, like people’s work right now. But like, it even boils down to how you write or how you write your emails, for example, like, Are you writing in a clear fashion? There are a lot of people in the sector where English isn’t their first language. So that’s, that poses another barrier to so I, I’ve thought about I’ve thought about this because we’re trying to figure out how to how to make the communications more accessible just O’Casey. And, yeah, there are a lot of challenges. And I don’t have all the answers. I mean, we have a working group to try and figure out these things. So we are sort of slowly working our way through trying to figure out how to do this. But yeah, it’s like, unfortunate. Yeah, it’s there. Yeah, there’s a lot of challenges. In the way right now, I mean, there are simple things that you can do like the alt text and color contrast and things you’re talking about. But a lot of accessibility digital accessibility checks are, you actually have to test them manually, you can’t just get a machine to test something, the accessibility is something like, I think you can only get about 25% of the accessibility issues can be picked up by a machine. So they’re like checklist items, everything else, you kind of have to go through your content, for example. And like, ideally, you would test it on someone with certain various disabilities or whatnot. But, um, and that’s the thing that people don’t realize, like, we’ve had people out organization asked for checklists. And it’s like, yes, we can give you a checklist, but it’s only going to pick up about 25% of the issues you might have. So how are you going to test the other 75%? Marco Campana 28:05Yeah, I mean, it sounds like there’s a huge piece around education, but also resources. So if 75% of it requires having people who are affected by that you need to have the right people to do the right tests. And that might mean different people, like you might have to do 10 different tests with 10 different people. Because if it’s a font issue or a color issue, different people will be impacted by that difference. You’re not going to have like the one person who’s going to do all your tests for you kind of thing. So yes, exactly. And then And yeah, so I mean, there’s resources, there’s times there’s just under that there’s literacy and understanding how to do all of that. So on the one hand, you can kind of see why people haven’t done it. But on the other hand, if it’s if it’s legislated at some point, someone’s going to take that legislation seriously. And then we’ll all be scrambling to kind of do it. So it comes kind of back to some of the the funding proposal stuff you mentioned, as well, like, you know, there’s there’s a myriad of issues there. But at what point is that a pan sectoral responsibility that needs to be driven by a funder who can kind of say, for our fight, like I’m thinking IRCC funds, 500 agencies, they could impose a standard that is paid for with with with the right kind of resourcing, or else you’re going to have this kind, especially I guess, if there’s a Canadian Accessibility Act that’s coming up, because right now they are provincial. So they, they might be different enough that an argument can be made that you can’t have a pan Canadian, but if there is a national standard, at the very least, someone could say, Okay, you must meet this minimum standard, and we are going to fold it the next year, we will budget you will resource you in a way to accomplish that. And in that process, you’ll learn how to do it yourself after and have staff who are either competent or will fund partial staff budgets to have people come in and do that on a regular basis or whatever the case might be. So it’s not like there’s on the one hand, it’s here it exists. We should be doing it. But there are a lot of other resource and related allocation issues that seem to kind of just stop it in its tracks really? Miyuki Fukuma 30:08Yeah. And I mean, the other thing is, I guess the other challenge is, when you come into the sector, there’s no one like academic channel to come into the sector. So if, for example, so I design websites by but I have a degree in Nutritional Sciences. So political science right here, yeah. Okay, there you go. But yeah, that’s another story for another day. But um, but I remember when I was like, one of my courses was about how to, like, for example, create brochures for community and nutrition kind of things. So, you know, it’s a BSC, but they’re trying to give you communication skills as well. I mean, it’s not a huge, it wasn’t really in depth course. But at least it gives you a fundamental background, at least get you started, if you want to go further into that kind of area. Um, so yeah, so we talked a little bit about design and also a little bit about, you know, how you should write your content. So it’s easy to understand, like, if there was, I know, there are some programs that are for people that want to come into this sector. So if even those would include a little bit about accessibility, like just about accessible communications, and digital community, it’s going back a little bit to what we were talking about earlier, about the digital communication skill as well. I think even that would go a long way. For sure. Marco Campana 31:30Yeah, I mean, I think it just increasingly makes sense that, you know, people need to come in with a certain a changing skill set, yes, into the work. But something that’s also consistent. Because all the people come into the sector from with a lived experience background, not necessarily going through the education. They may have been volunteers, they have the language skills, they have the natural aptitude. So that’s, that’s one method. And other is for sure, formal education, I kinda get Seneca College that has as part of their social service worker, program and immigrant and refugee serving worker stream. So you could formally put something in there, but then it’ll still be up to organizations to either figure out that they have those skills, and then to train the people who come in from the other streams, that non formal education streams. Yeah. And so I think, if there’s like a dualla live duality, because then you’ve got people coming in with a certain expertise. And ideally, we’d kind of fused them together, right? The person with the lived experience can help the person who maybe doesn’t have it, but can through a formal experience. And that person can help the person with the lived experience, learn more about accessibility and how to do that. Yeah, that would help. And that will be interesting. But again, it’ll be inconsistent, because you won’t always have that mix at an organization. So figuring out those, those baselines would be really interesting. This is great. There’s so much in this in this part that I don’t think our sector talks a lot about when it comes to accessible communications and accessible information. And I mean, digital, again, we kind of, we tend to kind of look at the tip of the iceberg and are like, Okay, well, our colors are, aren’t that contrast, and our font is large enough or changeable. So you can make it large. And, you know, a screen reader doesn’t have any problems. So we’ve got the checklist. And then there’s the 75%, below the below the surface that they haven’t necessarily thought about plus the other things that you described that aren’t digital related, that are still related to accessibility. Miyuki Fukuma 33:17Yeah. And really, I think the settlement sector is maybe more equipped, or more ready to do things to think about accessibility, I think a lot of them are already a lot of people are already thinking about accessibility without realizing they’re thinking about it. Because I mean, even during the, especially during the pandemic, when things started going digital, people were talking about how some people don’t have access to computers, or, you know, they’re stuck at home, like, a lady might be a lady newcomer might be stuck at home, looking after kids, and there’s one shared computer or a tablet or something between all of them. Like that’s an accessibility issue right there. And people have had to think about how they’re going to do the work that they’ve done until now. With with clients that I guess they’re referred to as clients, right, I guess, yeah. Yeah. So we’re working with clients in those kinds of circumstances. So, um, and the other thing is, so language barrier can also be accessibility issue. And like, we’ve been saying a lot of people in the sector, English is not their first language, and they’re coming with lived experience as newcomers to Canada. So, um, people are probably already including accessibility tactics in their work, they just don’t realize it. So I think I would think that the sector in general has a pretty good foundation actually for doing more of this kind of stuff. So Marco Campana 34:40yeah, I mean, it feels like it’s also very ad hoc, then if it’s the individual worker trying to kind of figure out how to resolve those accessibility issues. The question, I guess, then is how does that get formalized in an organization? Right? Do they talk to their colleagues who talk to their manager and they all realize they’ve got the same accessibility challenges, but they’re going on them? They’re, they’re addressing them individually? Could there be something You know, organizationally, at the very least, can they stuck? And is there the time for that? You know, I always find that in the life of a settlement worker, it’s it’s a lot of band aids, a lot of fixes, but not a lot of time to reflect and to kind of systematize things, which would be interesting as well. And so useful, but, but typically, they don’t have that time. Miyuki Fukuma 35:22Yeah, that is that that seems to be the major challenge in Yeah, especially when I was worth doing work on settlement.org. Like, so I got to talk to some people in the sector, or talk to people who used to work in the sector, and comment constantly coming up the time, and you don’t have time for that don’t have time for this, it’s and that’s, that’s concerning, because it means like, being busy is good, it means that your, your work is required in society, that’s great. But also, if you don’t have the time to even sit down and process some of the things that are happening in the sector or even at your organization. Like there’s, there’s having not enough time, and then there’s not having definitely not having enough time, if that makes Marco Campana 36:04sense. It does. They’re like qualitatively different enough. Yeah, Miyuki Fukuma 36:08yeah. Like, um, and like we talked about, also, like we need, this is also certain that you need to be innovative, and because things are constantly changing, but if people don’t have time to even process their day to day work, then you don’t have time, you don’t have the bandwidth to you don’t have the mental capacity, I think, to even innovate. So it’s kind of counterproductive to the nature of the work in a way. Marco Campana 36:31Yeah. And I mean, it comes back in some ways, like doing human centered design work, you have to build reflection into that process as you’re learning things. Right. So I guess, that you’re right in the research has been telling us this with frontline workers, and particularly, they don’t have that cycle. It’s like do do figure it out, apply it to your situation, but can just continue doing. And so there is kind of like a small cycle of evaluation in the sense that, oh, that worked. So maybe it’ll work with the rest of my clients. But they’re not given the opportunity to, to check that to work with other people in their organization to figure out maybe they came up with a different solution, or someone in another organization has come up with an interesting solution to a similar problem. And they can learn from that kind of thing. So but their their natural kind of innovative skill. And, you know, the jack of all trades for settlement workers in particular is, keeps them moving along. But that it’s that that little bit of reflection that might give them some extra time to to actually improve and create things like more accessible information services and things like that really interesting. Really interesting. So I guess, I don’t have a ton more questions, because I thought, This isn’t how I necessarily saw this would go. But this is a really interesting conversation, okay, focused on focused on accessibility, because I think what you’re raising is something that is, is not an is one of those areas that’s not been fully addressed. In our sector, it’s not been a fulsome conversation. And in a digital first mentality, what we’re trying to build in things like human centered design, where we’re trying to build a space for reflection, accessibility seems like increasingly important. And again, very broadly, right, like you’ve included physical accessibility, the digital divide in that all of those things have an impact on someone’s ability to access services. And I think, even beyond the scope of AODA, thinking about a sector accessibility kind of mandate should encompass all of those kinds of pieces. And if we make it our own, it includes the the physical stuff, the AODA, the legislative stuff, but we also can kind of go beyond and as you describe, recognize that there’s a natural accessibility mentality in the sector already. So how do we harness that? Right? How can we build off of that? So I assume you’re working group is an internal one right now? Miyuki Fukuma 38:43Yes, it is internal? Yeah. Marco Campana 38:44Do you know if this conversation is happening, even on subtle net.org, or in other spaces in the sector, when we’re looking at accessibility? Is it mean I see pockets of it, but they’re very small, they’re usually project based. They’re not like, just overall conversation that someone got some money to do work on accessibility. And then a year later, it’s done. I wonder if this is a conversation that should be happening. Miyuki Fukuma 39:07Um, I personally agree that it, it should be a conversation that’s happening at a broader level. So yeah, our the working group is internal. And we can only make recommendations. So if people don’t have time to take on those recommendations, and they don’t, because it’s not, you know, it’s not in their IRCC agreement, for example, right for a project. I mean, because he does have the Accessibility Initiative Project, which is also national. So I think, I think that’s a more formalized channel of trying to bring this as an accessibility question to the entire sector, for sure. But, um, yeah, for example, so there is a sort of Kathy’s done because he has these annual events, right for sector. They are I think it’s at once every year, like I know, once every two years like there’s Leaders Forum, and then there’s the PD conference. So the last two times they’ve been done online because of the pandemic. And so we were using an online platform, third party platform. And one problem with one issue with the platform is they’re just not accessible. And so there’s a Slack group for access to digital accessibility, which is like, there’s people from all over the world. And so this is a conversation about accessible event platforms has been a converse ongoing conversation on there, which I will not get into. It’s quite complicated. But anyhow, yeah, so we were using this, we’re using this inaccessible platform. Of course, the question is, well, what are the ones that are accessible? And that’s, that’s a very good question, which everyone’s trying to figure out. Um, but we were we noticed that other people in the sector, like, not just in Ontario, but in other provinces, were also using this platform. Prop maybe because because he started using it, or maybe just because everyone keeps ending up with the same same ending up with the same vendor. I don’t know. But so we were saying, well, maybe we could get together with some of these other organizations who have used them. And like, I don’t know, lobby, the lobby, the third party vendor. You know, saying, Look, your products not accessible would be great if you guys could work on this kind of thing. But unfortunately, there are other priorities. So that really didn’t go anywhere. So it was an idea that came up within the working group. But yeah, it didn’t really gain traction outside of the working group, unfortunately. But it’s definitely think, unfortunately, accessibility in a way these days is sort of a buzzword as well. So a lot of for profit services and whatnot, are also getting on the accessibility bandwagon, as you might want to call it. Um, and if there, when you get profit, profit, kind of for like, for profit companies getting involved in this stuff, I think it becomes more difficult as nonprofit advocacy or, you know, service community service related organizations to influence these companies to, you know, do things a quote unquote, right way, because a lot of these are not, companies are not doing things the right way. They’re just getting on a bandwagon and pretending like, I really shouldn’t be saying this, but it they’re trying to be doing, they’re trying to be accessible, but they’re actually there are other ways to do it when but they’re not doing that way. So, yeah, so I like it does become more difficult for community service related type sectors to influence these companies? Because I don’t know. We don’t have the money to influence Marco Campana 42:48for sure. You know, we don’t have the cloud, right. But it also it also raises an interesting point about if so, if settlement organizations are going to some of these for profit companies to get consulting, are they getting what they need? Right? Or, you know, they might have a finite amount of money, and then they start going down the path of an accessibility initiative. But in fact, it’s not it doesn’t get them where they where they need to go if they’re sort of, you know, not for lack of a better word that you know, the greenwashing, the accessibility washing, and that’s a that’s a concern too. So the literacy of the average organization and its leadership around this, so I’m just looking at the O’Casey accessibility program, the initiative and there’s like toolkits, handouts for managers and for employees and stuff. It does seem to focus on on people with disabilities and not just making things accessible for anyone. But it’s a good starting point in particular to to. So would you recommend I can share this in the show notes after the blog posted? Are there resources here, something that had been useful for people in the sector to at least start their learning from? Miyuki Fukuma 43:47Um, I’ve heard Yes. That they like their the toolkit, the book, I think that yeah, that book apparently has been downloaded a lot. And a lot of people. Yeah, have said that they refer to it a lot. The Accessibility Initiative, also, I think, has won awards in the past for its work. Okay. And one of them. Yeah, and one of them is, is an reputable rule. Award, at least in Ontario with respect to accessibility. Marco Campana 44:17That’s important. And it doesn’t say anything on the site. Actually, that might be useful there. That’s a good interesting thing about about accessible information, right? For someone like me, that would be useful because you talked about it earlier around trust, and how to rise above the fray. You know, this project one exe award, and if that award is reputable and well respected, seems like it seems like something you’d want to have there, for example, to help encourage people to access these resources, but I will share them. I hadn’t I hadn’t flipped through this, this project before. So this is a great starting point, at least for Ontario organizations and again, probably beyond. But certainly when it comes to legislation, it’ll refer to Ontario legislation, but I imagined the principles of creating it adjustability, you’re going to be fairly universal in this. Miyuki Fukuma 45:02Yeah. So that project from what I understand was previously just for Ontario, and then it went national. Okay, I think maybe two years ago. So I think they’re in the middle of developing things for them. We’re not on the national scale now. But Marco Campana 45:16how is an accessibility across Canada? I see that there now. Yeah. And it’s English, French as well. And it looks like there’s some online self directed courses, which I assume are on the learning worksite. So a bunch of resources, but again, time and a learning curve, but at least people can go to one place instead of googling. And start with a reputable place like O’Casey, that’s done the work. And I mean, there’s there’s even staff contacts here. So I imagined they would be helpful for for any kind of thoughts and recommendations. So yeah, awesome. Okay. This has been really, really a really slightly unexpected, but really interesting conversation. When I talked about accessibility, I thought we would focus more on digital, but this is, this is for me, like the foundational stuff before you get to the digital, you need to have all this other stuff in place. And these perspectives and these attitudes, and these approaches, and the digital should just flow naturally, the digital accessibility, I mean, should just flow naturally, because you have an accessibility kind of approach. And so therefore, everything you do, should theoretically become accessible. I mean, that’s obviously more of a dream than a reality. But it’s a starting point of like, you know, it’s a, it’s an idea that if you infuse this in all of your work, then it shouldn’t, you know, be part of all your work. So you’re choosing a new technology, or how to use social media? Well, accessibility needs to be part of that conversation in the same way that that it does, or comms does, for example, yes. And as you say, it’s increasingly just like it and comms, it’s a cross organizational responsibility to be aware of, and how to operationalize these things in your daily work. So really useful. So I will definitely share this stuff out. Any other thoughts? I mean, this thank you so much, again, for joining we’re, we’re almost an hour in Do you have any other thoughts that maybe things I haven’t asked you about related to the work you’re doing, in particular around UI UX and human centered design, that would be useful for people to know in the sector, about how you approach the work, that might be a good lesson for how they approach their work, when it comes to designing and evaluating and, and, and just kind of, you know, Miyuki Fukuma 47:18innovating. Um, but you sort of already mentioned this at the very beginning, but because, because of a way, so, most of our projects, my biggest all the projects are government funded. And there’s this CFP process which I get by God to be part of the last time because I joined right before it started. But um, that process doesn’t allow for, for exam, like, you’re right, the work that I do, a lot of it is you build you reiterate, you reiterate, that reiterating part isn’t built in, or there’s no, not a lot of thought around that. Marco Campana 48:00I’m doing this funding structure and the Miyuki Fukuma 48:03funding structure, like you always start with, Oh, we’re going to build a website. And it’s going to be finished by this date. Right. And so one thing is like, like I already said, it’s not clear, at least from what I saw, it wasn’t clear why you needed that website, for example. It’s like, what is what like I said, What is the project problem you’re trying to solve? And like, what are the various ways that problem can be solved? Again, technology might not be the solution, there could be something more simple. And this is important, because technology is expensive, right? Marco Campana 48:36Unfortunately, yeah. So over a long term as well, it’s not just a one time investment. Miyuki Fukuma 48:40That’s the other thing. So I mean, it’s, it’s possible that there is a non technical solution that might be lower cost, and, you know, might even be more sustainable. But so that thought process is I find it a little bit intriguing that that thought process needs to be missing. The other organization that I was I worked for before I came to Kasi was they did they were involved in cancer research. So in the research world, a lot of research doesn’t start from scratch, right? Usually someone else has done some other research related and you kind of build on that. And it keeps building so it’s not I mean, it’s not just one person who finds a solute, Sue scientific solution to something it’s, it’s over the accumulation of different research projects. Marco Campana 49:25Right. On each other’s work. Yeah. Miyuki Fukuma 49:29So there doesn’t seem to be a lot of that happening. And I found that interesting. It’s like, we want to build this website. But, um, like, part of me was going well, where’s your research to backup the fact that you need this website? Um, so it just seemed odd to me because I came from a scientific kind of area previously. Like I said, I’m new to the sector. So the sector has its own way of doing things I realized that so Um, and yeah, you just brought it up. A little bit earlier, but the fact that technical solutions you can’t, they’re not sustainable with a one time cost anymore. Um, let’s see, there’s some articles out there about. So essentially a lot of technical projects, their software. And if you there are articles out there about how software development never ends. So if you’re taking on a technical project, you’re actually taking on a project that unless you kill it, it’s never going to end like there will be there will be costs like people and, you know, other costs involved in keeping it going. And really the longest I think what they said in one of the article was that the longest you can wait without doing any maintenance on quote unquote, software’s about half a year. So like, so that hasn’t been taken into account, either. Marco Campana 50:51That’s just maintenance. That’s not just that’s not like new user requests or features or things like that. But that’s just kind of keeping it stable, secure, and up to date, right? Miyuki Fukuma 51:00Yes. And that’s the other thing, your users change your users change rapidly. Like, that’s, that’s the thing with the digital age, right? Like things change really quickly. And yeah, being able to keep up with how people change and how, how people’s environments change and stuff. That’s, that’s, that’s something that needs to maybe be more considered when, when putting together these proposals for. Yeah, so in general, I’m not as a you a UX professional, I find I’m not able to do my work fully. Because we don’t the resources aren’t in place for that to happen. That’s okay. I have worked in other environments where I can’t do my work fully. And, you know, part of a designer is making things work somehow. So. But it, it also means that I see certain opportunities go by not being explored, for example. So it can be kind of frustrating seeing that. Marco Campana 51:59Yeah, no, I bet. Well, I’ll say this, as you see those opportunities float by I would love to connect with you about CCOs, again, so that we as a sector can understand what a missed opportunity might look like. And then maybe there’s a place where someone can harness it, right. If we share the idea of a missed opportunity in one space, someone else might be working on that. And contribute to it because I think that that, like I said earlier, that whole conversation that’s sharing that building on each other’s work is also just building on each other’s ideas and frustrations. In some cases, oh, I wish I had this. And someone over in Vancouver is like, well, I have that. So maybe we can figure out how to help you build it as well. Yeah. I think I think that would be useful. I think that’s what some of these communities of practice and these networks are meant to, and to try to do. A little more informed a little more formally than just kind of a shout out to social media. Right. But yeah, no great reflection that I think I think you’re right about the funding as well, and that we need to see it and the next funding call for proposals and beyond something that operationalizes some of what you’re describing the the iteration, the innovation, the experimentation, but also the long term vision of a technology infrastructure that is maintained over time and not just maintained, but it’s, you know, allowed to morph and grow and change, and pivots along with, with the people that’s working with, for example, which takes us back to human centered design, because we keep going back to them to find out what it is that they need and how they their needs. So it is constant cycles. Listen, thank you for spending the time I really appreciate it. This was a this was a fun conversation and big education for me. So I appreciate you being here. Miyuki Fukuma 53:33Okay. I feel like we didn’t stay on topic. But I’m glad you bet is a useful conversation. Marco Campana 53:38Absolutely. Hey, the topic is what it becomes in my experience in these conversations. So that was great and really useful. And I may come back to you with some more questions about some of the other topics in the future Miyuki Fukuma 53:48as well. Anytime anytime. Let’s talk again. Marco Campana 53:51Awesome. Thanks. 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 are also on my site@markopolos.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@marcopolis.org Thanks again.


2 Sep 2022

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TiHS Episode 32: Marium Vahed – bringing service design into a nonprofit setting

Welcome to episode 32 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode I chat with Marium Vahed about how service design and innovation thinking can be brought into a nonprofit service setting. When I saw that Marium had started an MSc in Digital Management, I wanted to learn more about how she had been able to incorporate design thinking into her work. I think it’s an approach that more of us in the sector could benefit learning more about, and she agreed to chat. I’ve been open about how I consider design thinking more or less a rebrand of popular education and community engagement techniques our sector used to focus a lot on. The language has changed, but the idea of co-creation, or creating with our communities, is something in our sector’s core values. I think there is much to learn from what has become a formalized and professionalized practice in the design thinking world, but also a lot we contribute and bring to the conversation. Here are some of the initial questions we used to guide our conversation: How would you define design thinking?How can it be used in a community service setting?How have you been able to introduce it into your work?How have your colleagues and peers reacted?What’s been useful, what hasn’t worked as well?When we we look at design thinking and community engagement approaches typical in the nonprofit sector, do you see a lot of overlap in the ideas, models, and approaches?If someone in a nonprofit was interested in learning more about incorporating design thinking into their work, what would you suggest they do to get started? Marium’s bio Marium Vahed believes in a green movement that prioritizes collaboration across diverse communities and sectors to build a robust, equitable and sustainable future. In 2019, Marium co-founded Green Ummah, a non-profit that raises awareness amongst Canadian Muslims of the Islamic environmental teachings and empowers them to become leaders in the green movement. For her work, she was awarded Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25. Marium graduated from the University of Toronto with an HBA in Anthropology and Diaspora and Transnational Studies. She brings this passion to North York Community House where she works on the Journeys to Active Citizenship team to co-design civic engagement curriculum for immigrants and refugees. Marium is currently a candidate for a Master of Science in Digital Management at Ivey Business School where she is the VP Partnerships at the Ivey MSc Entrepreneurship Club. She envisions bringing best practices of innovation and entrepreneurship to her community. Machine-Generated Transcript What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation 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. Marco Campana 0:00Welcome to Episode 32 of the technology and human services podcast. In this episode, I chat with Marium Vahed about how service design and innovation thinking can be brought into a nonprofit service setting. When I saw that Marian had started an MSc in digital management, I wanted to learn more about how she’d been able to incorporate design thinking into her work. I think it’s an approach that more of us in the sector could benefit learning more about, and she agreed to chat, I think you’ll find this a really interesting and productive conversation that has plenty for everyone to learn from. Welcome to the podcast technology and human services, Marian barrhead. And please go ahead and introduce yourself. Marium Vahed 0:38Hi, thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be here. My name is Marium. I’m currently a student at the ivy business school at Western University, studying a Masters of Science in digital management, which basically is focusing on business fundamentals as well as entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. I’m someone who’s been in the nonprofit space and in multiple different ways over the years, starting out the Canadian Muslim vote, which is focused on civically engaging the Canadian Muslims. And currently I’m actually I’m working in the nonprofit in two different ways. I’m working at North York community house to civically engage immigrants and refugees through the journey stack of citizenship project. And I also am the chair and founder of a nonprofit called Green Ummah, whose focus is to get Muslims, Canadian Muslims involved in the environmental movement and provide them with the tools and the knowledge to to be able to take action on that, on that front, so So that’s me, I’m really excited to be here. Marco Campana 1:40Welcome. Yeah, thank you for joining us, I had no idea but the second nonprofit you’re involved with, and I feel like we can have a whole conversation about about diversity and inclusion in the environmental movement in Canada, for sure. So that’s, that’s super exciting. Because I think that’s been a huge issue for that sector for a long, long time. So kudos to you for working on that. It’s a bit of an uphill battle, I imagine. Marium Vahed 2:00Yes, it is. But I find that there’s a lot of reception for it. And you know, it’s it’s one of those things, it’s trendy now, people want to talk about diversity. And it’s the moment to moment to make use of that, I think, Marco Campana 2:11no, that’s great. Yeah. So maybe one day, we will have a conversation about that. But Congrats on getting that off and running, I hope you have a lot of success with it. And so that’s super exciting. But today, yes, we’re gonna focus on the design thinking side of of your of your work, and how that fits into the nonprofit. So you and I kind of connected on LinkedIn. And I’ve been doing some work with North York community house for a while. And and when I saw that you were doing this, this, this, this, this master’s, I thought, Okay, this is super interesting. This is someone who’s in the sector, because I’ve, I’ve talked to a few people who are designers or service innovators, and that’s their consulting gig. And that’s kind of what they do. But I haven’t come across as many people who are kind of trying to bring one into the other world and sort of, you know, expand their horizons while they’re working in a nonprofit. And so I thought this was a really, really fun and unique opportunity to kind of, you know, bring your voice as that person into this conversation. So, I mean, I guess, you know, when we think about design, thinking, service, design, innovation, things like that, why don’t we even just start with how you envision or, or define the idea of design thinking? Yeah, for Marium Vahed 3:14sure. So you know, full disclosure, it’s my first semester of school doing this master’s, and I’ve only recently been exposed to design thinking myself. But it’s something that I think, you know, people will be surprised, they’re probably doing design thinking without realizing they’re doing it. And so in, in my degree, one of the classes we’re taking is called design driven innovation. And the focus there is, is talking about different ways to innovate and design thinking is basically a process that supports that. So the process itself follows a couple of steps, which is to empathize, to define to ideate, to prototype to test and implement. But the underlying approach that sort of that sort of Mary’s those steps is really just to really understand the environment, you’re in the people, you’re talking to the people who are going to be impacted by whatever your project or idea is to sort of explore that idea, which is where the prototyping and brainstorming would come in, and then to materialize it. So ultimately, that’s the underlying approach. And if you’re doing it right, you’re probably going to do it multiple times. It’s an iterative process. And so you might start at that first step and sort of cycle around if you feel like you know, maybe you haven’t sufficiently empathize with your with your population. Yeah. I Marco Campana 4:34want to explore you you mentioned that people may be doing it but may not either be thinking or knowing they’re doing it or even naming it. I mean, what’s your experience been when that in a nonprofit setting when you’re looking at working with people who are perhaps you know, doing iterative design or who are doing needs assessment or who are very kind of community focus that you mentioned, the first step is is empathy. So you know, working very closely with the people you’re working with to design with them, not just for them or on them kind of thing I assume. So I’m curious a little bit about what it’s like for you to sort of, because I assume you’re introducing what you’re learning into your work and with your colleagues. And and do they see what you see that there are these similarities that there is this foundation that they may already have, but we’re maybe using different language? Absolutely. Marium Vahed 5:17I think one of the things about design thinking is that it’s it’s human centered. It’s putting people at the middle of whatever it is you’re designing. And I think that aligns really well in community service spaces or the nonprofit sector, because that’s usually what nonprofits are focused on as well. So as I’ve been learning this degree, it’s been really interesting to see, both at North York Community House and also in my nonprofit green OMA does that we’ve already been implementing some of the steps of design thinking maybe it wasn’t necessarily on purpose, we hadn’t sat down and plotted out the steps and said, Okay, we’re gonna empathize first and define next. But there are those elements that that crop up quite often. And I think the most useful part about learning design thinking has been to see the gaps. So for example, for green Ummah, for my organization, we have done a really great job of empathizing, defining ideating, but we hadn’t really done any prototyping, we had done some, some testing, for sure. But we had missed that set, we hadn’t done any, like low fidelity prototypes, which means, you know, sitting down with people and maybe doing like a prototype on paper, or a sketch or something like that. We just sort of dove right into developing our our flagship project, which is a curriculum. And so you know, that’s been really interesting to sort of watch how that happens. And I think my colleagues in all settings that have introduced Design Thinking have been very open to it. And I think I’ve been lucky to be in workspaces that are filled with curious people who, you know, when they hear an idea, they want to learn more about it. And that’s really been to the benefit of both my team at North, your community house and my team at crema. And so that curiosity is sort of enabled to have those conversations about, are we actually doing design thinking? And given there’s so many similarities is that is it worth it to actually look at that, that structure? Marco Campana 7:15I like that you bring up curiosity, because when I think about design thinking I think more about process and skills in order to do that the work, but it sounds like there’s also attitudes, and just sort of, you know, a way of way of approaching the work that also is important to get into the mindset, can you can you speak a little bit to like, beyond curiosity, what is it? What have you explored or found even for yourself? Or for the people you’re working with that? Like, what’s the right attitude to move into that kind of space? If you will? Marium Vahed 7:41Yeah, for sure. I will, Curiosity is definitely a big one. But beyond that, I think people need to be sort of open to, to flexibility. And I think in the nonprofit space, people often have to be because we’re always, you know, adapting to different resource needs and things like that. So yes, having an openness to sort of seeing things in different ways. And, of course, like people who, who have empathy are going to align really well with design thinking, because the whole process really centers on on people, you know, thinking, very thinking about the people that the design is going to impact. And so I think that needs to be at the heart of anyone who’s interested in design thinking they have to care about people. Marco Campana 8:29So I’m curious if, if that’s what helped draw, like, What drew you to actually like exploring this formally? Because clearly, you were doing this work? Intuitively, it sounds like you were attracted to something about the masters or just the idea of design thinking. But what made you take the leap into kind of like a, you know, let’s let me learn this. Let me ground myself and actually get get the academic side of this while I’m exploring it, was there, was there an impetus? Or was it sort of just you were naturally drawn and looking for something like that? Oh, Marium Vahed 8:55it was quite a struggle. Actually, I don’t want to go through the entire story. Because it’s a it’s quite a bit. But originally, I actually wanted to go to law school. So I was studying for the LSAT over the summer. And actually, a couple like weeks before the test, I realized this is really not for me. And so I cancelled my LSAT and started looking at at degrees. And the process that I took was actually I wanted to think about what are the skills that I’m lacking and the things that I want to learn about. So I wasn’t looking for, you know, a specific subject that I wanted to become a knowledge expert on, but I was looking for those skills. And so for me, there was there was quite a few of them that I felt that was lacking in one of them was I really wanted to understand, of course, like finances, budgeting, accounting, some of those basic, basic things because of course, if you’re working in the nonprofit space, you need to know how to write a grant. You need to know how to manage your books, all those all those things. But also, I think the larger driver for me was I really wanted to understand how to innovate. And I was I’m a creative person, naturally and I think In all of the work that I’ve done, I’ve brought that creativity forward. But it’s been, you know, a marine version of creativity, it’s been me sort of meandering around and trying to find the right way and doing trial and error, which of course, is is valuable, but I knew there were best practices out there. So that’s what pulled me to this degree, ultimately, is I wanted to, I wanted to know, you know, things like design thinking, and I’ve learned, design thinking and so much more in that process. Yeah, and I, one more thing I want to say on that is, I think people often see like business and nonprofits as antithetical to each other. And it’s been really interesting to sort of see how they actually align quite well. Of course, you know, sometimes the drivers might be different, like, businesses are definitely a little bit more profit driven for sure, than the nonprofit space. But I find that the skills that you learn to run a business are very similar to the ones that you you implement when you’re actually running a non profit. So there was also that alignment that I anticipated, and I actually have been been seeing for the past couple months. Marco Campana 11:05Well, that’s great. I love the meandering career path. I have one like that, too. If I look back, there’s these sudden left turns in the path. And I think, I think that we’re seeing that increasingly, especially with people who work in nonprofits where it’s contract, and it’s Lifelong Learning focused, and we’re always sort of trying to explore. So I think that’s, that’s a fascinating turn for you. So thank you for sharing that. It’s interesting. And so. So let’s speak a little bit, I guess, to that, that notion of Okay, so you’ve you’re learning about design thinking, it isn’t a business kind of environment. And there are some people in the nonprofit space who react you Oh, yeah, another MBA coming to tell us how to do our work better kind of had those conversations a lot in our sector. Right. So I’m curious, as you’ve been, you know, again, like you said, you’re just getting started in the Masters. But you’ve, you’ve obviously already been bringing some of that thinking into your work. How is that? How have your peers and your colleagues reacted to, to this body of knowledge that you’re basically a conduit to for them? In some ways? Marium Vahed 12:03Yeah, for sure. I mean, there’s definitely been a lot of excitement actually. Because you know, it’s always great when you have someone who is so excited about their degree and really wants to bring it into the workplace, I think we need more of that not to toot my own horn or anything like that. But definitely, they’ve been excited about it and willing to try new things. Like for example, in design thinking, when we’re brainstorming, at the defining or ideating stage, you’re always encouraged to do very visual brainstorm. So putting sticky notes up on a wall or something like that. And I find that you know, at North your community house, we we’ve been doing that already. But I’ve been encouraging using tools like that online as well. And so I think that, yeah, there’s been that excitement and the willingness to try something new. And on my end, of course, I’m also learning what works and doesn’t work in the workplace. Like, we know that there are a lot of people who are not familiar with all of the online tools, they might not have used Miro before, or mural before. And so when you’re working with certain populations, maybe they don’t really have the space or the time to learn how to use those tools. And so it’s also be about being flexible about what’s what’s not going to work on my end as well. And I think our team has been pretty good at that. Marco Campana 13:16But you raise a really important point, because, yeah, the design thinking I see the whiteboard behind you, for example. So you know, in a typical space, you’re in a physical space together, you’ve got paper, you’ve got the post it notes, you’ve got the Sharpies and things like that. But in a virtual environment. Yeah, that would be completely different. And there are these tools. You mentioned Miro and mural. I’m familiar with those. Well, even I guess Google jam board has a very low tech version of that. But the idea of putting up post it notes virtually and things like that, how has that impact? And you mentioned a bit that there are some challenges, but I guess how has the digital side of things impacted? Your ability to do the design thinking that you may have done more fluidly in person? Is it just more time? Or is it more of that pre work to get people comfortable with the tools themselves? Because I mean, you know, paper and pen, you don’t have to teach somebody typically how to use that you just have to teach them the process of what we’re going to do with those stickies once they write on them. But but when you introduce the digital, there’s another layer of of learning that goes into that. So how have you been able to deal with that to get them I guess, to the point of being comfortable with, with the process or the technology falls away that technology isn’t a challenge or a barrier? Marium Vahed 14:20So I think my answer is somewhat contradictory in that I think that there is an importance in building in some in person meeting time for your teams, if possible, do it in a way that’s safe and outdoors. We’ve had to do that in moments where we’ve been making really big decisions together that require a lot of creativity. We’ve just met in an outdoor space, and of course, all the safety precautions were there. But that’s so important to actually build trust with your team and see that they’re their real life people and you can be open with them and to get into that state of floatiness. I feel like it’s really important to be to have some sort of touch points in there. But of course, I know that that’s not always possible with COVID. And so when We are doing online work, of course, it depends on that report that we’ve built over time. But it is also useful to like, you know, to build in those conversations, the beginning of your meeting where you’re having a little bit of fun together and get yourself in that stage of a feeling sort of a flow in the conversation. And then tools are also very useful. And so I find that once you overcome that initial learning curve of how do I use jam board, or how do I use neuro, it makes it quite easy, because you can just, you know, get people in that state of flow through having them brainstorm on their own. And then I think it takes a skilled facilitator to say, oh, who wrote the sticky note? That’s a really great idea. Why don’t you touch on that or asking people to engage with those visual cues? So I think that there are ways of doing it successfully, for sure. Marco Campana 15:49Oh, that sounds great. I’m curious, just from a practical perspective, what have you done to get people ready for the tool? So I because I know that when one of the one of the things that we’re seeing in the sector is, is still people are comfortable with, they become comfortable with the tools, they become comfortable with digital, but they’re still finding some difficulty in onboarding clients, as well as the engagement side of the of the digital. So I think you’re mentioning this notion of a hybrid approach, if you can do some in person do it. But then, like, how have you practically prepared people who may have never used mural before, for example, to use it in a comfortable way? So it doesn’t again, become you know, an impediment? Marium Vahed 16:24Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think that’s clients is a whole other conversation, because you don’t really time to properly train clients, and how to use technologies. Whereas when you’re working with a team, and most people are working full time, you do have that time and to send over and say, Hey, here’s a tool, why don’t you explore it on your own beforehand? I’ve personally benefited from the use of Coursera. But, of course, I have the luxury to do that through school. And also, because I’m being paid to work. And so I think, I think that’s, that’s one great way, if you have the time to do it, is just to explore those online resources that support you and how to use the tool, give some time for people to get familiar on their own and just like play with it, there’s always a great value in playing with things and that trial and error if you have the time to do so, if you don’t have the time to do so. I mean, that’s a question that I think we’re trying to answer right now. And we’re trying to figure out how do we actually figure out like the extent to which people can actually learn technologies? And we don’t have an answer to that yet, but we’re always thinking about it. Marco Campana 17:30That’s, that’s super, you’re absolutely right. I mean, I think our whole sector is exploring that that question about how do we, how do we figure this out, but you’ve got some really good practical tips, like, there are free resources out there that you can use, whether it’s Coursera, or LinkedIn learning or YouTube tutorials, you know, you’ve got to, you’ve got to take some time. I mean, time is, in essence, essential for that, not just to learn, but to play. And then there’s the play and experiment with, right. But all of that requires, like you said some time, and that’s much more difficult to get a client to do versus, versus doing it with with staff who are paid and maybe are expected to take a portion of their time to learn, hopefully, at least within an organization. But that’s really, that’s really helpful. The other thing I want to touch on is that that hybridity, kind of thing that you mentioned, like the importance of it, because I think our sector is also trying to figure out what lends itself easier to online and what do we still need to do, you know, in person. And what I hear you sort of talking about is that notion of like, the beginning of the relationship, the rapport building, and the sort of the team building, there’s a lot that that around the in person that’s important to be able to do that. And again, like you said, informally go outside, go into a park, you know, make it a make it a safe space, but still, it sounds like that’s contributed to the online success is having that in person initially, and then kind of moving into the online space. Is that right? Absolutely. Absolutely. Okay, yeah. So I think that’s something we’re still sort of grappling within our own work as a sector for sure. So I guess based on that, what’s what’s worked well, so far, and again, I know you’re an early days with this, but it sounds like you’ve already been learning a lot about the process and how to bring it into an organization in a COVID. environment. So some in person is essential. You know, you’re giving people the time and space to figure this out and play with the tool before they use the tool. But once you’re in the thick of it, I guess once you’re in the process of it, you know, empathizing ideation and prototyping and the process of, of design thinking, what’s worked well. And what’s been more challenging with staff? Like what if they reacted to really positively and what have they kind of like, what what do you mean, we’re gonna try this? Marium Vahed 19:32Yeah, absolutely. I mean, so in my green on my team, I’ve been introducing things in bite sized chunks. I don’t overwhelm people by sort of bringing up design thinking as an entire process. And I think maybe I would do that sort of later down the line. But as it’s so new to this to the space into our organization, I’ve been thinking about, okay, what are the specific steps that that we haven’t actually been touching on? So for example, I’ve been thinking about the empathy Step a lot for our new project. And we’ve done a great job at engaging with some of our audiences, but not so great a job with engaging with another one of our key audiences. And so, for me, I’ve sort of brought that up. And I’m like, Hey, have you noticed and sort of guide people to coming to that realization? Like, have you noticed that this is maybe not the case, and just providing a little bit of that scaffolding? There’s a great quote that we learned in class, which is, anytime you’re trying to change people’s behavior, you need to start them off with a lot of structures, they don’t think. And that’s a quote by Karen Hanson, who is a design leader. And that’s sort of the approach that I’ve been taking. In my organization. I provide scaffolding for one step at a time, I get people to think about, okay, how can we improve in this area? And then slowly, slowly, I’ll sort of bring it out and say, Okay, so this is actually design thinking what you’ve been just doing, and it makes it easier for people because they’re like, oh, like design thinking is not something that I should be scared of. But we’ve been doing it all along. Marco Campana 20:59That’s really interesting. Because as you were talking, I was thinking, do you introduce, hey, we’re doing design thinking? Or do you kind of do some activities, and then start talking about, by the way, what we’ve been doing, and it sounds like it’s that it’s the ladder is like, you give them some structure, you do some activities? They don’t they don’t seem like anything other than activities they might do. They maybe they’re different than things they’ve done before. But it’s like, yeah, we do this kind of thing in the past when we’re doing X, Y, and Zed, but then it sounds like you do kind of give them an introduction, say, by the way, what we’re doing here is is a school of thoughts. And at that point, I imagine they’re more receptive to the idea of, okay, tell me more, because what you’ve done with them, as you’ve the scaffolding has been successful up until that point. Marium Vahed 21:38Yep, yep, that’s exactly what I what I’ve done. Like as of as of now, I think that the other way that works just as well, I think you can start with design thinking and, and give a little little explanation of what that might be and talk about the process and then talk about implementing it. But I think for us for our organization, because we are already midway through our process. That’s why I’ve sort of taken that ladder approach, because we’re not like designing a process. From the start, we’re sort of trying to find ways of inserting design thinking into a process that is already well underway. And so that’s sort of why why that approach of like, providing small stats or small activities works for me, because it doesn’t seem as daunting to change a process all over again, when you’re when you’re midway through. Marco Campana 22:24But that’s also really interesting learning for folks to understand is that you don’t have to, you don’t have to start at the beginning of design thinking and work your way through the process, you can bring Design Thinking elements into the work you’re already doing. So it’s almost like this, this exercise comes from design thinking, but I’m going to use it in our process, because I think it fits with this moment kind of thing. So it’s, it’s almost like, like a little bit of a Lego approach kind of thing, right? It’s like I’m gonna, I’m going to break apart the ship, and I’m going to build something that’s my own. But I’ll still use pieces from the original ship in in this. And it may be design thinking one day, and it may be a different school of thought another day. So I think that’s also something that is really interesting is that you can go through that entire process. But you can also bring in elements from what, what might be a strength in design thinking in that moment, Marium Vahed 23:10for sure. And design thinking is not perfect, by any means, of course, there are going to be flaws and things that we can improve upon for Design Thinking itself. And so I think that it’s actually helpful to think about how you can adapt design thinking to your specific circumstance, because it also gives you some room to sort of prod and poke at the holes that exists in design thinking and see, okay, where could we actually improve on that, looking at the context of our organization, or our project? Marco Campana 23:35Do you think that also helps with if you’re bringing that the notion of design thinking into an organization where people have lots of their own experience and ways of doing things, and that perhaps becomes less threatening, and that you’re bringing new ideas, but you’re not saying this is the new way we’re doing things, we’re going to see how we can incorporate and fuse and create a fusion between new ideas and the way you’ve always done things and maybe figure out some new new methods and new approaches. But it’s going to be done respecting the fact that you already do some of this yourself, you just don’t call it these things, Marium Vahed 24:04for sure. And people have so many different backgrounds and different trainings on processes. Like maybe someone has learned a lot about Lean thinking, or someone’s learn Six Sigma, or someone has learned agile, and I won’t get into what all those means. They’re just different different processes, or different approaches that you can sort of take to management or to your operations. But people have different backgrounds. And I think it’s okay to create that space for people to bring that that into like a design thinking conversation. Marco Campana 24:33No, I think that’s great. I think it’s a great way to introduce something new to an organization, because so often we bring in a consultant, and they’re like, Oh, here’s the model we’re working on. And there’s some rigidity to that. But it sounds like because you’re part of the team, you’re part of the organization. There’s a different fluidity, and a different, it’s less formal, in a sense, but you’re bringing ideas in but it’s not that you know, here is the way to do things. But here are some different ways to do things that we’re doing now that can be incorporated into other elements that so it’s like everything But he brings their their elements and their ideas from their different backgrounds and trying to figure out a new, a new way of doing things that might incorporate, as you mentioned, Lean thinking, agile design thinking, you know, popular education, all those kinds of pieces. Yeah, for sure. No, that’s great. This is really interesting. And I find it so valuable to speak to someone who’s actually in the trenches kind of doing this in in two unique sort of organizations as well for different purposes, which is really interesting. One sounds like more advocacy, and one is more service delivery. And I think that’s also really important for people to hear is that this is this is the kind of thinking that can go into all of those elements. It’s not just service design, for direct service, but you can do it in other kinds of nonprofit approaches as well. So I guess you’ve mentioned a little bit about some, I mean, obviously, I want to talk a little bit about where people could learn if someone was interested in a nonprofit that wanted to learn more about how they could incorporate design thinking into their work. Now, they could take the tack, you’ve the path you’ve taken, which is to go into the masters. And you’ve also already mentioned a couple of other places. So is Coursera online courses? Where would you suggest people sort of get started to test the water? Or to understand how this might be useful for them? Marium Vahed 26:08Yeah, I mean, there’s, there’s so many places you could start. What I’ve done is I actually I took a course in IDEO, which is really useful, which is also an online learning platform, I’ve done a Coursera course, which was more about design thinking and how it meets agile. I’ve, of course, then my degree, but you know, there’s also lots of ways to to learn about design thinking without paying, you know, an arm and a leg for it, you can literally just Google Design Thinking and like I do, for example, has pre resources, it has an article on what is design thinking, and what are the steps, there’s lots of those resources. And because I haven’t been taking a rigid approach design thinking, and I’ve taken a more fluid approach of seeing where it might fit. I think that would work really well, for people who who think in that way, you can just sort of get inspiration from reading these articles and see, okay, maybe this aspect of it might fit. Or maybe this inspires me to try out this new approach. And so I sort of encourage people to take that sort of open, flexible mindset, especially if you’re not getting formal training. And then, of course, I’m sure there’s lots of books out there on design thinking, I don’t have any off the top of my head. I’m still pretty new to the field. And usually I have a list of books for you. But this time, I don’t. Unknown Speaker 27:21But soon, we’ll come back to you. And you’ll have a year or so. Yeah, exactly. Marium Vahed 27:26But Harvard Business Review also has a ton of great articles. And you can probably read one Harvard Business Review article and work on implementing it in your organization for like two years, because they’re pretty impactful. So I’m just exploring online resources is a great, great place to start. Marco Campana 27:43No, that’s great. And have you have you seen any in particular related to design thinking in nonprofits that you’ve come across, whether it’s a course or even a website, or some people who are doing that thinking more and more aligned to nonprofit side? Marium Vahed 27:54No, I’m sure that exists. But because I’ve met a business environment at school, I’ve given business related resources. But what I’ve done, which has been really helpful is just as I’m doing the course, I’m keeping my nonprofit in mind front of mind at all times and asking questions saying, in the nonprofit space, how would this work? One thing that I did was actually, as I as I started doing this degree, I realized, it’s really useful to be self aware about the processes that you’re taking and your nonprofit already. And so I sat down, I wrote it out, I’m like, Okay, this is the process we’ve taken, these are the resources we’ve used, etc, etc. And just made sure that I had all of those documents that really explained our structure, our process and things like that. And that way, I can sort of refer back to it. And honestly, there’s, there’s so much alignment, that it isn’t hard to draw that connection at Marco Campana 28:46all. It’s interesting, but it sounds like being intentional has been really useful is kind of like it’s giving you the mindset of I need to think about how I’m doing this, and how it fits into the work that I’m doing and how I can kind of bridge the business thinking to the nonprofit, and it revealed. Here’s how we’re already doing some things. And here’s where design thinking can fit into that, which is really interesting. So it’s almost like, we kind of go day to day with just the way we do things. This is how we’ve done it, and it works. But when you become intentional and more strategic in a sense, you start to actually reveal Oh, okay, I can see where this fits there. And this might fit over here. And this, we’re already doing that really well. So there’s no need to even touch that. Because it is essentially Design Thinking in this case, is I’ve been you it sounds like that’s been your experience a little Marium Vahed 29:26Yes, it has been. And because design thinking is iterative, it makes it even easier because say you haven’t done the steps Well, or there are big things that you’ve missed, you can sort of go back to the beginning and think, Okay, how do we how do we improve this for the next round or the next release of the project or whatever it might be? So yeah, I’ve taken that approach. I think the hardest part is implementing it. Actually, the fun part is been doing all of that, that thinking and that comparing and the strategizing but yeah, the implementing is the next step. And that’s the hard one. Marco Campana 29:58You can get good you mentioned you mentioned iterating a few times is that a process you’ve gone through yet within either nonprofit where you’ve gone through in the Design Thinking iterating, and then shifting or pivoting or relearning? Because I think that’s something that comes up a lot in conversations right now around technology in particular is that as we’re learning, we don’t have the space to iterate we don’t we’re expected to innovate. But we’re, you know, we just create something completely new. But iteration can either sometimes get us there or even be more important, where we tweak something that we realize isn’t working as well. And then we need to go back and you know, re prototype and go through that process. But so often, nonprofits aren’t given that time and space, they’re expected No, just you got funded to do X. So keep doing X, even if x is no longer working kind of thing. So I’m curious where iteration has been in your processes? And if that’s something that, that you’ve been able to actually do? Marium Vahed 30:48Yeah, I mean, it, it shifts based on either nonprofit like in one through North or community house, we have much more funding, we have a ton of hire staff, we had the project duration is five years. So we have the luxury of time. And so iteration has been much more useful. It’s been if we have a question, or if something comes up that we feel, needs to push us back to think about, how do we implement this from the outset, we’ve had some of that time to sort of go through it again. Whereas for green a month, you know, we’re a much smaller nonprofit, it’s volunteer based. And you know, we have a very, very small grant. And so, because of that iteration has been more difficult. And in some ways we’ve had to sort of push through. But I think the approach that I take with that is when you have limited resources, and you have deliverables you have to need from your your funder. I think, in that first, you know, two years, when we’re first implementing the project, we’re going to really focus on hitting those deliverables and seeing how that the pressure of that environment, hopefully will propel some creativity. And then afterwards, I think that’s when I’m going to go back and say, Okay, now we have a lot of great content to start with. And now we can sort of think about, Okay, where can we pull it apart? Where can we be creative with it, and give ourselves some of that room? So, you know, not everyone will always have all the time in the world. And you have to sort of figure out, what are your priorities now? And do you have time either an hour later down the road to sort of circle back. Unknown Speaker 32:16But really, Marco Campana 32:17that’s really insightful because I think that there is that pressure with within organizations again, especially as things like Design Thinking started becoming more mainstream in the sector, funders start hearing about it, they want to see this, you know, iteration. But but that that practicality within a nonprofit setting, it’s you know, what, where you have a longer timeline, you know, more more resources, you have the space to do that iteration. And then in the smaller space, it’s not that it’s not like you’re, you’re not doing it, but you have to wait until you reach the end of one cycle, and then hopefully bring the iteration into the next cycle. So show either that funder or another funder, here’s what we’ve learned. And here’s how we want to continue the project, but in different ways, basically, right? So it’s kind of like you’ve got to get to the end of one life life cycle, and then move on to the next life cycle. Whereas the other one, you’ve got a longer life cycle. So within that, you can be sort of turning and spinning and pivoting and shifting as you go kind of thing. The danger, of course, in the nonprofit sector is once you get to the end of the first cycle and a short term one, sometimes you don’t get to do the next one, right. But but the iteration, it sounds like it can happen. I mean, there’s different. There’s different nuances and different pressures, but it’s okay, it will happen differently based on the structure of the project itself, even the funding and the resources and things like that. So I think that’s also really interesting to hear about, and that you’re living both those realities as fascinating as well. Marium Vahed 33:35Yeah, and both the projects or Curriculum project. So I’m really getting to see how a very similar project works in different ways based on the resources that you’re given or the time that you’re given. That has been really interesting. And the real real learning point for me, I think, Marco Campana 33:50yeah, so I guess I’m curious, some last couple questions is are you are you sharing? Are you looking to share some of how you’ve been learning? Are you building that into your course? Because I mean, one of the things that we don’t do enough of as a sector is workout loud and sort of say, like, this is what we’re doing. This is how we’ve done it. And again, that’s dependent in some ways on time, space, as well as confidence and, and, you know, turf, right? We’re worried someone will steal our ideas and things like that, that still exists. But I’m curious, because it sounds like there’s, there’s a rich case study here, because of the two different things that you’re working on. If you’re if you’re going to be able to share how taking design thinking into two different environments with two very different approaches to different funding situations to different nonprofits, what that’s looked like, and how people can learn from your experiences, or maybe we’ll just interview you in another year from now. Marium Vahed 34:37Yeah, no, for sure. I mean, you know, there there has been space given to me to talk about that one of my tasks for the new years to develop a lunch and learn where I can actually talk about exactly that and share it internally. And so yes, like we have been thinking about how can we actually put this knowledge to use and, and I’m really excited to actually have the time to think about that because it’s really exciting for me to, you know, see all those connections forming between different parts of my life. And I really strongly believe in Sherlock, I definitely am not the sort of person who’s gonna hoard knowledge. I think that it should belong to all and your team’s benefit, the more you share with them, I think. Marco Campana 35:15Yeah, no, I mean, obviously, you being here having this conversation is showing that that that that sharing mentality, so I really appreciate it, because I think just having these conversations is so useful for people to understand here. So it’s someone who’s doing something that we’ve all been kind of hearing about and talking about, but hearing the practical side of actually implementing it is so incredibly useful. So it’s great to hear that you’ll be able to do some of that along the way with lunch and learns, and hopefully other other approaches as well. So I guess the final question I have is, is there anything I haven’t asked you about in the work that you’re doing around design thinking and how it incorporates into nonprofits that you want to share? Or mentioned for people that you think would be useful for them to hear? I know the big question, right? Marium Vahed 35:56Yeah, it’s a big question. I mean, I actually took some notes before this, and you sort of had hit on every single point that I, that I thought of, and so I think I’m, I’m good right now, but I’m always willing to have more conversations, because I’m sure my learning and will grow. The longer that I do this degree, and the longer that I work to implement design thinking into these spaces. Marco Campana 36:17Yeah, no, and I would love to be on that journey with you. I think this, I appreciate you taking the time to do this. I think this has been a really valuable conversation for other people to learn from. So I would love to come back again, maybe in a year or you know, when there’s been some milestones, you just kind of check in and go, Okay, so how’s it been going? And what more have you been learning? That would be really interesting, because I, this is something that I think will be, you know, we part of the work that we do in our sector for a long time. And in part because it’s, it’s it, I think, it aligns with our sector values when it comes to empathy and working with clients and you know, community driven and things like that. So I think as a model and approach it, it uses different language than then I may have been brought into the sector with but it aligns with the stuff that I’ve learned in different ways. So I find it really interesting. There to Marium Vahed 37:03say one more thing I’d sort of I’d tell people began with the structure, take a look at design thinking and what it offers to right now and then be creative with it. Because design thinking is fundamentally about how do we sort of encourage that creativity and that brainstorming that Kuma, human centered design while you’re thinking about an idea or a project, and I think that that also needs to extend to design thinking itself, you need to have that willingness to sort of play with the structures that you’ve been given. Because, of course, I think that every single person comes to design thinking or comes to a project with all the assets they’re bringing along with them. And we need people to implement that. When we’re thinking about, you know, what’s the process that’s going to best support an idea that works for this specific population. So that’s, that’s sort of my my parting words, I think is be creative. And don’t feel boxed in by a structure. Just use it as a way to inspire yourself. Unknown Speaker 37:55I love that. So start with Marco Campana 37:55the structure, but then work in play with that structure and make it your own, and continue to bring elements in. I love it. That’s a great way to end. So thank you again, so much for for sharing your experience so far. And I think we will definitely check in again in the future. Marium Vahed 38:08Yeah, thank you for having me and for facilitating this conversation. I’m so glad that you know, we’re actually talking about design thinking and how we can use it. Yeah, Marco Campana 38:17absolutely. Awesome. Thank you. Thanks so much for listening. I hope you found this episode interesting and useful for you in your work. You can find more podcast episodes, wherever you listen to your podcasts are also on my site marcopolis.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@marcopolis.org Thanks again.


16 Jan 2022

Rank #2

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TiHS Episode 31: Aletheia Délivré – service and human centred design

Welcome to episode 31 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode I chat with Aletheia Délivré about service and human centred design. She is currently a Design Manager with the Government of Canada and an Organizational Development consultant doing service design at AlphaPlus, an Ontario nonprofit that helps adult literacy education professionals to incorporate digital technology in their work. I came across Aletheia’s work in a converation with AlphaPlus about digital literacy during a recent project. She works out loud, sharing, musing, connecting with other service designers on Twitter, which I love and think is both incredibly helpful, and brave. I’ve been meaning to connect with a service designer for some time on the podcast. As I read about and how she shared her work, approach, struggles, and successes, I knew she was the right person to reach out to. I’m grateful that she agreed to chat, and I think you’ll find our conversation insightful, fun, and useful for your nonprofit work. Resources: Where you can find and learn from Aletheia: WebsiteTwitterArticles on MediumHer reflections on bringing service design into AlphaPlus Some core questions we started with: What is service design and user experience, and what should nonprofits know about it? How can it help them? How can implementing a design and user experience process help nonprofits create better services? How are service design principles and approaches different from other approaches to creating services in nonprofits? How are they the same? You’ve worked in agency and consulting firms, government, and nonprofits. What are the unique challenges or differences in service design work in these different cultures and contexts? For the non-professional service designer, what are some core skills, attitudes, and beliefs that any nonprofit staff should develop to build into their work creating services for their clients and communities? Can you tell me a bit about your experience at AlphaPlus? You’ve written about using a design approach to find the why of your job there as well as to help re-envision the organization’s why? How has service design impacted AlphaPlus? You’re also working as a Design Manager with the Canadian Government. In many departments, entire service design units and labs have been set up to bring service design into the public service. How have you found the ability to do service design and impact service delivery in a better resourced environment? Machine-Generated Transcript What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation 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. Marco Campana 0:00Welcome to Episode 31 of the technology and Human Services podcast. In this episode, I chat with a lithia delivery about service and Human Centered Design. She’s currently a design manager with the Government of Canada and our organizational development consultants doing service design at alphaplus, and Ontario nonprofit that helps adult literacy education professionals to incorporate digital technology in their work. I came across a lithium work in a conversation with alphaplus, about digital literacy during a recent project. She works out loud sharing music and connecting with other service designers on Twitter, which I love, and I think is both incredibly helpful and brave. I’ve been meaning to connect with a service designer for some time on the podcast. As I read about how she shared her work, approach struggles and successes, I knew she was the right person to reach out to. I’m grateful that she agreed to chat. And I think you’ll find our conversation insightful, fun and useful for your nonprofit work. Marco Campana 0:51Welcome to the technology and Human Services podcast. Thank you so much for joining me, I wonder if you can give me a little bit of background about yourself how you came into the work in service design and user experience and what that’s meant for your, for your work in nonprofits and in government now? Aletheia Delivre 1:06Sure, so thanks, first of all, Marco for inviting me to the to the podcast, and obviously very fascinated by the world of Human Centered Design and how it pertains to tech and social impact for myself, but in terms of my own journey, I’m a bit of a late bloomer. So I spent most of my 20s actually trying new things, learning new things, experiencing new cultures like traveling before stumbling upon Aletheia Delivre 1:32a field that finally seemed where I finally felt like I belonged. And I could grow in. And so that is, that is design. But formally, I have a background in biology in French, and then two masters in international affairs. So that led me this is kind of a weird, eclectic combination that led me to work abroad for four years. So in Brussels, and in Strasbourg, in Paris. And then during that period, I was mostly working for international institution. So like UNESCO, and then there’s the European Commission, and then the French government, before finally transitioning to a consulting firm that specializes in public sector innovation. And so I guess, like, eventually, that’s how I discovered service design through that consulting firm, because there was a lot of design thinking going going on. user experience was starting to become a thing in, in the public sector in in France. And so looking at it through the lens of public sector innovation, I really think like, the public sector is a prime candidate like public sector, and basically any service that, that interfaces with humans is like a prime candidate for exploring the benefits of true service design. So when we talk about improving the users experience, it’s like akin to improve improving the experience of every single person who needs to use public service, or any, you know, customer facing experience. So that’s just about everybody. Marco Campana 3:04Right? Absolutely. I love it. I love the background. I love listening to people come to this through the way they come to their work through very different means. I was interviewing someone the other day, who’s a cybersecurity expert and a cybersecurity interpreter. And you know her about her background with social work before she kind of came into it. So I think it’s wonderful to hear kind of how people meander and the the experiences they bring into into different professions and things like that. So when we talk about improving the user experience, is that essentially the foundation of service design? Or what is service design, if you would sort of broadly define it? And what should nonprofits in particular know about it? Aletheia Delivre 3:39So, I mean, service design is quite a broad field. And there are a lot of different definitions that are out there. And I mean, I could probably, like, quote you from Nielsen Norman’s group, but I think the one that I really I guess I could, that I really like or that sticks to, for me, at least in service design is one that’s that was kind of put forward by 31 volts. So they have I think fjord did this like really cool video that shows like The Tale of Two coffee shops. And so like, I simply put, it’s like, so I’ll read it. Here’s like when you have two coffee shops right next to each other, and each sells the exact same coffee at the exact same price. service design is what makes you walk into one and not the other. So there’s like a lot of it, you know, most great services don’t just happen like miraculously they’re designed for and the service design piece is it for me the the big thing is taking into account all these different components of the different people that are involved the processes, the tools. And when we I think one differentiating aspect of service design is that it takes into account not just the end user, so not just like let’s say the person who’s going to be ordering food on an Uber app, but it’s also thinking about the person who’s delivering that food and who needs to get paid from that, you know, from that experience with that app application, the drivers and the delivers, etc. So it’s like thinking about both the target user or the customer, but also the employee and linking service outcomes to the experience of the employee and all the channels that need to support the backstage sort of experience that that then translates into a better front stage experience. Marco Campana 5:33Okay, and yeah, I mean, I find that’s really useful, because I hear a lot of people talk about service design and the customer experience, but not so much the provider experience. And so I think creating that that holistic picture is really useful. And I wonder is that is that a common approach to service design is looking at it from that entire perspective, because a lot of times, when, when I, when I hear from nonprofits or organizations, and they hear things like service design, or customer experience, they feel like, oh, they’re going to come and tell us, we were doing it all wrong. And they’re not going to take into account our perspective and things like that. And I know that recently, and currently, you’re having an experience with alphaplus, for example, which is an organization that supports digital infrastructure for literacy organizations in Ontario. And I’m curious, you’ve written about it, and I’ll share some of the the writing in the show notes. But how, how has that sort of holistic vision? How have you used the holistic vision you just described, like the the end user, the customer, the client, as well as the provider, in re envisioning their their approach to the work that they do? Aletheia Delivre 6:33That’s a great, a great question. In terms of the application, I think of service design in an actual real world context. So first, I mean, should preface that a lot of the services I work, usually, we don’t see immediate outcomes, and they usually the horizon, they say, on average is about one to two years before you actually start seeing the fruit of your work. So in a way, it always feels like it’s a work in progress, you know. And so we have over the last, I’ve been at alpha plus for about about a year now a little less than a year, and have started a few initiatives. And those are the ones that I’ve kind of written about, and I’ve dabbled in. And it’s still very much, you know, a work in progress, too. But I’d say that, for in terms of how it’s been key to improving or kind of key to bridging the employee experience and the impact on the customer. There has been, for example. So I’ll give just a concrete example, one thing that we experimented with is mapping out a blueprint of one of our core services. So one of the core services that alphaplus provides is a coaching, so direct coaching service with these literacy organizations in Ontario. And so they’re paired with a coach from alpha plus, that then works them through digital, like integrating digital technologies into their teaching strategy. And so at the time, when I joined, there were many people who were had like different documents about this coaching service. And because they had been at the organization for so long, like I’m talking about, like maybe a decade or more, then it’s kind of like second nature to them. And so I was a new hire. And there was no formal like documentation that streamline in a kind of, like consistent way like this, these are the steps that need to be, you know, carried out x y Zed. And so you can imagine that if I’m, for example, you know, if I’m unclear in this case, it was I was provided with the opportunity to kind of like, you know, I guess, like, settle in, so there was like, time provided and shadowing, but imagine, you know, that the timeline was shorter. And then, you know, if I’m unclear about a process, or I’m using a different document than someone else is using or all the data is kind of gathered in, like a discordant way like the you know, in different areas, then get imagine that that would have an impact on the customer, because then I’m not exactly sure like what documents I’m sending them, I’m not exactly sure what’s next in the process. And so and then it has, it translates to maybe an overload on other team members, because I’m maybe I’m, like, unclear, and I’m asking them for or I’m like, believing them, like asking them for help, which then translates into them having less time with their customers, you know, so it kind of has this like cascade effect. And so the service blueprint that we, that we did for the coaching service really helped to identify all the phases along this entire experience from the moment the customer hears about us or potential customer hears about our service to like the part where they are initiated, and then on boarded, and then the whole engagement like service part itself, and then the follow up afterwards, like the feedback and evaluation, and then what we do with that feedback, and so it connects like what we’re doing as an employee with all the channel panels as well like, like, let’s say we’re using Google Docs, or let’s say we’re using a particular customer management system or CRM. So customer relationship management system. And all those things would be built into that blueprint to like, identify, these are the exact documents, these are the channels, this is the next step. And then this is how you interface with the customer. These are the back end support, touch points. So it kind of streamlines that whole experience that is very useful for for any, you know, any organization, any new hire that would potentially join, and just for, you know, posterity and clarity as well. Marco Campana 10:37Good thing, and I noticed that in in the work that you did there, you actually brought in at one point, an external person to help do some training, even though you were kind of like the resident expert in some ways. I wonder what why did you do that? And what does what does that help to create in the organization as you’re trying to kind of do the work as someone who’s new is a new approach a new kind of staff position? Aletheia Delivre 10:58Hmm, yeah, no, it’s, it’s a good point. So at some point we had. So this was in the early, I think it was like one or two months into when I joined alphaplus. And we had started working with a researcher from OCAD. So it was like a graduate school researcher, and she was doing work on service design, in organization. So basically, can surface design, impact or have an influence on organizational change. And that was like a very interesting interface for us to explore, because, because that was basically what I was trying to impulse at the organization. But it’s true that when you’re internal, sometimes, especially because I was new. So it wasn’t like, you know, I’d been there for 15 years. So it’s kind of like, it also, I think, provides support. And in some ways, I think legitimacy is too strong of a word, but in a way, like, you know, they don’t have they don’t yet trust, you know, like who you are as an internal person, or they don’t know, you know, yet that much. And so having, I guess the external person, even though they don’t know them, there’s not that like level of kind of that sensitive part of like that bias, where it’s like, okay, but this person is external. So whatever she provides, it’ll be more neutral, or, you know, so I think that was a great support at the beginning to kind of get buy in. For them the kind of built the foundation for other subsequent initiatives. Marco Campana 12:27It’s interesting, because I mean, I think a lot of organizations don’t have someone like you in in their organization to kind of drive it forward. So they’d get those two days, and then it’d be expected to kind of do the rest of it on the side of their desk kind of thing. So it gave you some momentum then, but the importance of having you embedded, I guess, in the organization, in some ways, I mean, you’re a staff person, but you’re also kind of moving them in, in potentially different directions. So you’re asking questions they might not have been considering recently, how important was it to have you as a resource? Or has it been? I guess, because, as you say, it’s still a work in progress. So how important has it been for you to be able to kind of continue being a presence continue learning but also providing input and providing ideas and, and providing I know that you think out loud a lot, and I love that in your Twitter feed, for example, you’re always thinking about how can I rethink this and revision, that kind of thing? What kind of an impact does that have as, as a resource in the organization where people can can have a colleague who is not just in the, in the in the trees or the weeds on a daily basis, but is also always looking at that sort of forest view? Aletheia Delivre 13:28I think that if you ask some of them, they might think it just depends on the, the, I guess, the design literacy, and like the stage at which people are able to appreciate the work of design, some, some of them might be like, you know, yeah, Lisa is just doing her design. And then I do sometimes I involve them in in ways that I think it’s really important to co design. And so this is the point of where I feel like it’s really important to have people who people who are doing service design, I think the ideal scenarios is when they’re embedded in an organization. So you have a lot of consulting firms out there who are doing some kind of like, you know, business service, customer experience design, and they’re able to provide recommendations, etc. But, but really the because and this is related to the point of the long term labor of service design and seeing the fruits oftentimes, like two years out or, you know, even more, it really requires someone who’s on the ground, like always, like listening, not just to not just doing like customer research, but also listening to the employees experience. And you can really have the best shot at that when you’re embedded in the like in the team itself. And then doing that work. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but I think someone embedded but I think that it is very much something that we are I’m great. I’m very, I think very thankful that our director, our executive director, so Alan supports this kind of like exploration and parent Along with the services that we have to carry out to maintain our funding, but then, in parallel having this kind of strategic oversight or or rethinking kind of exploration of, I guess, at a high level, you know, what is the impact of the service that we’re having? And how can we design a better service more intentionally with service design and all these kind of principles and approaches? Marco Campana 15:23Yeah, no, I mean, it makes sense to me when you say that having the resources embedded Is it because again, if it’s a long term, like you said, you might not see the fruits of your labor for a year or two, but having someone there who is constant presence and, and building an almost, I guess, sort of modeling the approach of like learning and iterating and pivoting and changing as you’re learning and, you know, being able to work with that bird’s eye view, in some ways, could be really useful for for some, and I same time, I could see how it could be a little threatening, as well as like, well, constant change. I’m just trying to do my work here. And you’re laying in my face all the time. But at the same time, and we we started talking a little bit about this before, before I hit record, but when I look at service design principles in the way you’re talking about service design, I hear other approaches that I think are approaches that are common to some of the foundations of work that that that exists in the nonprofit sector. So I mentioned to you that when I started in the in the sector, you know, we were, we were really brought in under like the the Paolo Paolo frary kind of model of like popular education, community engagement, and you know, nothing for the client without the client involved kind of thing, which you hear, in some ways, I hear that in service design approaches, but not necessarily the service time design language. Like in our sector, there’s a big push now, for example, about refugee services that no services for us without so refugee led services, refugees must be involved from the very beginning of the creation by co design, as you’re, as you’re describing, even if it’s a mainstream organization, they shouldn’t be creating programs without refugees, right, they’re at the table from step one, designing along with some kind of thing. And then leading those programs and those kinds of things. So I’m curious if, if you hear that or you see those parallels between the language of service design or Human Centered Design, and some of these kind of older models that, that that lifers like me may have been brought up in, and people you may be working with, who have been involved in the sector for 2030 years, who maybe feel like they’ve kind of almost internalized these approaches in this language, but it may not always come out in the, in the expression of the way that they do their work. Aletheia Delivre 17:28Yeah, no, totally, I think working with I mean, being part of alpha plus that work. So it’s a nonprofit itself and, you know, receives funding from the the Government of Ontario, but then itself, like, has a mandate to support the almost 300 some organizations, the literacy organizations, nonprofits in, in Ontario as well, like getting to see what goes on in there in the inner workings and then meeting to support them as well, I think there’s definitely the exposure to seeing like, that a lot of the work they do, I’m like, you know, there’s so much potential for service design here. And, and some that sometimes they’re already doing part of it, but it’s like, I think the the thing with having a kind of, like, you know, with we were talking about the professionalization of service design, and people developing sort of like processes or frameworks or tools, like I think the thing that that is beneficial from that is that it structures things into like this, it kind of connects the dots, you know, and so I feel like these nonprofits, a lot of times they are working with dots, and they have like, amazing dots, like they’re really shiny dots are really like, you know, meaningful dots, but it’s like, then they’ll work on another dot, maybe at some point, but they don’t connect, you know, the two necessarily. And so I feel like the service design piece, or having that support, or perspective, to really look at how the dots Connect is like really, you know, really beneficial. And one example that I’m working with right now is a is a program that’s out in Hamilton, and literacy, network and Council, and they, they are just, they’ve just received funding, I think, last year to build a seniors program, so a seniors digital literacy program, and they, they their whole thing, so during these advisor meetings, their whole thing is like, we want to design this program for seniors, with seniors, so we want them to be involved with the feedback from the beginning, we want them to like let us know, you know, like, give us feedback on the tools and their experiences and how they might like to appropriate digital literacy and what are their objectives, those kinds of things. And to me, that is like, you know, a prime example of service design in application where you’re trying to design things with the like the members that you’re, I guess the target end user, so in this case, seniors but also involving the Advisory Council? And like figuring out what’s best for the staff? Like how can we get staffs to support this these initiatives? Like, what’s their schedule? Like? What is their digital literacy? levels? Like? So do they need training? Like, do we need to bring external people in like alphaplus, for example, and, you know, so thinking about that holistic experience. So I hope to be able to infuse some of that the service design principles or approaches to better support that, you know, that work, for example, with this, like literacy and seniors, seniors program in Hamilton. Marco Campana 20:33Yeah, I mean, that sounds like a really perfect example of where you could come in and help connect some of those dots, if you see that they’re missing. So in some ways, being external at this point, the organization but understanding them being part of your network, gives you that opportunity to kind of guide them even and sort of help them see what might be blind spots, if they don’t necessarily have that kind of holistic perspective around service design. Because I imagine it sounds like they’ve got a bunch of pieces built in already that you can kind of see, okay, and they may not be calling it a framework, but you will be able to come and sort of say, okay, in the framework, you got an eight out of 10. So I can bring in the other two pieces, and then help make sure you connect some of the dots is that some of the strengths that like service designed to bring? Yeah, Aletheia Delivre 21:13yeah, exactly. And yeah, I think you make a good point about the benefits of having someone because we’ve talked about having service designers embedded, and then the ones who are kind of external. And so, for example, in the case where I had just joined, and there was that OCAD researcher who was an external person that was super beneficial to kind of take things off the ground. And then to have someone embedded and kind of like, you know, taking carrying on or building on that work is like something that’s really good, I think, for the long term. And so in this scenario, it’s kind of like the flipped scenario, I’m the external person, but but bringing in that approach, and then hoping that and then working with them, hoping that the approach will take and that they will be able to experience the long term benefits of integrating that into their initiative, but also any other organizational projects that they may have. Because they think, for example, this initiative, it might run for a couple of years. So it’s, it’s like finite in time. But I feel like once people have understood, like a different way of looking at things like for example, that framework that you’re alluding to, like, you know, having an approach that helps them I think organize the dots, and then, like more familiar with the ways or the tools or different perspectives to how to connect them, I think that is something that they would be able to carry forward in any other, you know, organizational project that they they tackle beyond the seniors digital literacy program. Marco Campana 22:40Yeah, I mean, I like exploring this idea, because now in this case, you’re coming in as the external, and you’re trying to leave something as some knowledge transfer with them behind it, like, okay, here’s services on you’re already almost there. And then the question is, how can you apply this to other all of your work, and who’s going to be responsible for that. So in this case, they don’t have a lithia coming in and staying, they have her kind of as a guide, as a person who can help bring them up to speed kind of thing. So I guess that’ll be the case for a lot of organizations where they wouldn’t get the resources or funding to have a service design person, but it could become part of somebody’s job, too. And hopefully, they see the value of doing it. So I’m curious what you think. For the non professional service designer, what are some of the skills, the attitudes, the beliefs that let’s say someone who, you know, we talked about the accidental techie at an organization, and it’s just the person who happens to have those skills and start leading an organization through with the benefits sometimes of an external, either consultant or network or something like that. So I see, this is a parallel kind of thing. So you have the accidental service designer, the person who’s clearly already there, who’s helping them figure this out, you’re going to give them some additional support and skills by just being present? What, but but maybe they want to take it further beyond the one project, as we mentioned, so what what do they need to be building into their own skill sets? What needs to happen even within the structure of the organization to allow that to kind of happen to move forward and be better at creating services for their clients and communities? Big question, so we can get out. But I’m excited to talk about the notion of like, what can you bring something in? And then there’s like, Okay, how can how can I, let’s say I’m that person? How can I What do I need to know that I don’t know, to move this forward to move my own professional skills forward to bring this into my work and to influence the organization? Aletheia Delivre 24:27Yeah, I mean, this is a great I think this really touches on the, like the whole actually the ethos of service design, like many times when you’ll speak with service designers or even service design consulting firms, like there’s an ethos there that is actually that we’re not so it is not the typical kind of like consulting situation where they kind of parachute in and they want to kind of take over or like provide record. I mean, I say this because I’ve put, I’ve worked in consulting firms, so I’m not like, you know, trying to be biased here. But it’s like literally, you know, you have a project you have a limited timeline and Most of the times, it’s like it is very profit driven, you know, kind of situation so, but that I find with the ethos of like service design, consulting firms and even service designers as a whole is like they want to, it’s almost like there’s a real, like serious threat about democratizing design. And so empowering people who are non like, you know, like, these non professional quote, unquote, like, designer with a capital D, you know, to be able to, like, carry out service design in their organization. So this is really like the heart I think of, of what like, you know, the, the haze on that or like these people. And so and then what we do and the work and so I think, like the fact of being able to work with someone in a nonprofits provide that support. I mean, I just wish there were like, more, there were more resources in the I wish, like the government provided more support for these nonprofits to receive the support, even if it’s just like initial, like, you know, like something like this where, you know, you walk them through different things that they can try or practice or start embedding today into their work, and then have them you know, like, you could have checkpoints like for I think one benefit with an organization like alphaplus, is that, because we work with these organizations, like on a, I mean, we ourselves are nonprofit, so then we work with them on a year long engagement that can be renewed. So in a way, like you could have quite a long extra relationship with these organizations. And so it’s kind of the perfect kind of, right, you know, situation where you could start integrating like service design, because you have that kind of hand hand holding, or mentorship or support in a kind of long term way. But that not all nonprofits have access to that kind of, you know, long term support. And so, I think that I think like having this kind of initial exposure, I don’t know, like through, you know, through where this is why I hope like service design will really explode or take off or get more visibility, and especially in the nonprofit world where I think it just stands to benefit, like so much from service design. And and have that implemented in a long term way, even if it’s just like small things and growing. I think that would be Yeah, I think that there’s so much potential there. So Marco Campana 27:20yeah, no, I mean, I totally agree. And it sounds like one of the things resources is always an issue. But it’s also the pitch to the to the funder. And having funders understand the value of this. I mean, we our sector, for example, has for a long time been mired in and outputs versus outcomes kind of service delivery model. And probably for I mean, forever, but formally for the last decade, I would say, and definitely since the last sort of huge national call for proposals, the funder, the funder itself, the main funder, the Federal funders, talking about outcomes, right, and clients interested in its using the right language and things like that. So that you have to show that you’re going to be able to do those kinds of things. But, but we’re still curious about where their their funding support for that will exist, because you need resources. And you need, we talked a lot about baseline competencies, and some of the organizations and it sounds like service design is it needs to be one of those, someone needs to have the formal time, resources and permission, if you will, but also the mandate within an organization in order to, to actually do design. And, and so I know that you’re also doing some work with the Canadian government as a design manager. And so I’ve seen more and more infrastructure being built up in particular, I guess, at all levels of government, but I’ve seen like, our big funders, ircc, immigration, refugee citizenship, Canada, and I sort of accidentally discovered that they had an innovation lab with about 65 people in it, right, like anthropologists, journalists, you know, web developers, you name it. And I was like, Okay, this is matching kind of private sector models of innovation labs. But there’s, there’s been no sort of osmosis over to the funding side of, you know, we want you to innovate, but we’re not going to fund any kind of similar sort of infrastructure. So I’m curious what you’re starting to see within within government within the body that could fund some of those resources, but also needs to have sort of an appreciation for service design, like what what are you seeing within their within that environment around understanding the the power and potential of service design, in funding, not just in their own service delivery? Aletheia Delivre 29:26Yeah, I mean, I wish I was at my pay grade to actually decide about this, I think things would be a bit different. But, um, but for sure, I mean, being working now with in parallel Effie, kind of in a government environment where there is more there, there are more resources to to have, you know, service design teams, but also the stakes, you know, because it’s it’s like, you know, anyways, I think the the fact of having such a complex user base where you you’re basically responsible for every single citizen An entire country, but also every single resident, and every single person who might be a family member of a person in Canada, or in that country, and also anybody who wants to migrate to Canada or everybody who is clean, like who is asking for, for asylum? How do you say this in English? I’m thinking, ask seeking asylum. Is that the same thing in English? Okay, so, so yeah, so these kinds of situations where it’s a quite a large, you know, Target, target base, and, and the, the needs are very varied, you know, whereas, in a nonprofit could be, like, specialized on helping, you know, like, for the women’s shelter, it could be like helping, you know, specific, a particular demographic and same for indigenous, same for deafblind, etc, etc. And so I think there’s this realization, okay, like, we better start looking at our services, because the stakes are too high to like, screw up, basically. But then, you know, in terms of, I feel like, it’s like, it doesn’t, at least, like from my experience working at a nonprofit as well, it doesn’t translate into, okay, but the people that were asking, so this kind of third sector, which is that nonprofits, many times, they’re actually plugging in gaps that the government themselves are not able to, like cover in their service model, you know, so these people, these organizations are often actually doing the government a tremendous service by existing and carrying out their work. But at the same time, I think there’s not the trickling over yet into the realization of that, well, then these people also need to be supported in the same way to deliver their services in a, in a, in a holistic, meaningful way, and taking care of the training of their employees, the development of their employee, like professional development, the well being of their employees, because all of that also translates into the service outcomes for the end, you know, the target users. So yeah, I don’t know if that I kind of like, Marco Campana 31:58went around about Okay, it’s a meandering question to begin with. But you said something in there that I want to I want to touch on, because I think it’s really important, and in some ways, for me almost sort of provides the pitch to both aid organizations as well as funders. And, and, and it, it’s interesting, because you said something along the lines of basically we have we better get this right, because there’s too much at stake, we get it wrong. And so often, and and to do that requires creating some change, you might talk about creating some efficiencies, more effective services. And for some people, that’s a bit of a threat, because again, there’s the line, well, we’ve always done it this way. And we’re already super busy, right? Like we’ve got waiting lists, and we’ve got, you know, too many clients that we can’t even serve and things like that. And so I but at the same time is can service design help? I guess get past that, that blockage? I’m sorry, I’m thinking out loud. So I’m not really formulating the question. Well, but but if the pitches, you know, we need to take the time and have the resources to do service design, because the outcomes will be better for clients, and there’ll be less risk of getting it wrong. Versus it’s already Okay, the way we’re doing it, not everybody’s happy. And to switch would be too hard kind of thing. is, I wonder if that’s part of the resistance to bringing in a service design approach, because it will create change, it will ask questions about is this actually effective? Should we even be providing this service anymore? Or should we be doing it entirely differently or creating a different kind of service? So I guess part of the question is, how do you help people make that shift? By asking the right question, in some ways and working through what is kind of, I guess, just the way we do things over time. Aletheia Delivre 33:43Right. So it is an interesting follow up to the previous so you know, the previous point was, okay, you know, there’s I think there’s not enough resources in this nonprofit thing. The nonprofit is always on Hill always under understaffed, under resourced, you know. And so in some sense, it’s like, Okay, well, we wish the funding could trickle over this realization, the recognition that there needs to be this kind of design practice or design literacy, and therefore the support and resources. And then on the flip side, so the second thing is that, well, are the nonprofits ready to absorb, you know, a service design practice, which would imply change management or organizational development or change, you know, this kind of thing. And so, that’s a very important point that I think should is also worthwhile to mention, and it is a big, you know, a big, I would say, today in my, you know, experience of maybe, you know, there’s other people out there who have amazing success stories, but I think that the, the narrative that I’ve heard is very much the thing well, you know, we are we’re getting by like our, our solutions are scrappy, and we do like just in time solutions, and, you know, we were able to like it was a big Challenge, but we were able to pivot through COVID. And like being able to support like these learners in this kind of way, through remote sessions. But but then it’s like, but how many learners? For example, did you lose? Like what percentage? You know? And? And how do your employees feel about transitioning now to these employees in, in my particular sector, at least for literacy, we’re very, very comfortable doing in person teaching, a lot of them are, were did not sign up for this profession to teach, like through zoom, and online and figuring out how to how to handle that. And so it’s like, well, you know, and if they’re uncomfortable with the technology themselves, then you can imagine how that translates into if they’re trying to teach the learner there’s obviously, like, a, an impact on the learner experience, you know, and so, like, I think it’s like, we’re, it’s exactly that it’s like, okay, we we’ve somehow made it work, and were able to maintain, you know, in a way, like, I guess, the services, and they did do incredible things like, you know, pivot like, I don’t want to be little like what they did. It’s just that like, if there was this appetite, or kind of not, I think like the the visibility or the awareness of what service design could do to make that approach or that pivot, even more intentional and make much more sense, even not just as like a band aid solution, but something that could be like an overarching strategy for their organization. Now, for example, if they want to maintain a hybrid work, you know, we’re thinking about the future of work or thinking about the future of learning for these literacy. Participants, it’s like that reflection requires a much more I think, strategic consideration. And so would benefit from these kinds of principles, or these kinds of frameworks or tools that are embedded in the service design practice, you know, so Marco Campana 37:00that’s really, you got me thinking about, like, I guess, if they’re, if all of the agencies had already built service design, practice and, and frameworks into their work, what that pivot could have how that pivot could have looked differently during COVID. And also, as we come out of it kind of thing. And I’m curious if, if you’ve seen organizations that had any element of service design in place before and how they’ve reacted differently, perhaps to COVID, then those who were just being scrappy, for example, they did have to do give them an opportunity to really kind of not just pivot, but learn and change and iterate or even innovate along the way, because they had a process in place that said, we’re always looking at what the right service might be, or the right experience. And so they may, might have been able to actually even take advantage of what happened and a not just serve clients, but also figure out how to serve the ones that they might have lost in the process. Aletheia Delivre 37:52Yeah, I, I wish I could say that I’ve come across a few. But I, I think like, it’s very, like hard for me Actually, really to think of anybody who has been doing that there’s maybe like, I think many organizations have definitely tried to implement something where, for example, they would maybe try to collect feedback from some like from the learners, and they’ve been trying to adapt their, their outreach to meet, like to try to meet them where they’re at. And so that is definitely something that is, I think, that is part of you no thinking about the whole service experience. But from like, what I’ve heard, it’s been very difficult to reach out to the learners that they’ve lost, it’s like, just like, you know, they don’t have access to devices, connected internet connectivity, especially in rural areas, and Canada or Ontario, not very strong. So it’s like, don’t have devices don’t have connectivity, like financial situation may not allow them to have like this data plan or access, you know, to connectivity. So then it’s like, Okay, well, we just hope that they come back, you know, when COVID is over, and things aren’t, we’re able to meet in person again, you know, so I think like, that’s a prime opportunity, for example to like, I don’t have the answers on the spot, we would have to, like, you know, do the actual work to look at service design and how it integrates and all these different channels and, and creative solutions, but I feel like that is a prime problem space to look at where it’s like, well, how could we were How could we have shaved off at least part of that percentage of the learners that were lost, even if it was just, you know, like, half of them like 50% of them, we could have still found a way to bridge them into you know, a program and then coordinate like it could have been I don’t know, I’m just think of any they could have been like a tech like refurbishing program and then like thinking about how we’re going to get those devices to that to that particular you know, learner out there. And then like maybe there’s some partnerships involved. Like we need to partner with or maybe some funding requests or something, but it’s like, I think it’s really a concerted effort to really think about how we can plug those those gaps in and and unless there’s the resources and the reflection, like the intentional consideration for that, and it’s just Well, you know, we resigned ourselves to like, this is really unfortunate situation, we try our best with what we have. But I think that the service design could really kick it up a notch by by by optimizing the resources and the reflection that may be available and that they’re not availing themselves of. Marco Campana 40:32Yeah, no, I think that’s a really kind of fun, in some ways, thought exercise to think about if if an agency had been already doing service design, what how could they have reacted differently? How would they have been equipped to have reacted differently? And you’ve alluded to a couple of things there, like the reflection, and the thinking outside of the box, and things like that, and sort of not not being as reactive, but saying, okay, something’s changing, but we’re always changing, because we’re always trying to meet the needs of clients. So this is just another example of that. And so it’s almost like less of a freakout and more of Okay, we’ll roll with this, because that’s how we roll basically. So. Yeah, I mean, it’s an interesting kind of just high level thinking for me to think about, like, what could that have meant, I have the same reflections in our sector on technology, because we’ve had this conversation with our Thunder for decades. And if we had gotten the conversation sort of moved ahead, further, two years ago, let’s say, it would have been a very different experience during COVID. In particular, as you describe around the digital divide, and digital equity issues and things like that we’ve been would have been much more prepared for some of those things, as well as the staffing, skill sets and those types of things. So it’s like, if you’re always thinking about the what ifs and what’s possible, and paying attention to where your clients are at the newer, you’re kind of already thinking ahead a few more steps in some way. Yeah. And a shock isn’t as big a shock, necessarily, because you’re just like, Okay, we’ve got frameworks and processes in place to literally deal with this right now. Aletheia Delivre 41:49Right, exactly. There’s, um, one one of the programs I’m working with is, is literacy, Ontario central Sawzall locks, and they are. And I think it they, they were interviewed. So their executive director was interviewed by nonprofits Ontario, I don’t know the exact name, but there were, it’s like a network. And they have this Pope published this blog, and she talked about organizational resilience. And I thought that was very interesting in light of, I mean, all the kind of programs in our sector, I feel like, and I think that if I were, I guess, to think of one example of like, someone who might be thinking at that level, but maybe not, doesn’t have the resources to carry out or to execute, it would be, you know, locks, for example, and, and thinking about, like, what does it take for an organization to be resilient through the this kind of change, like what we’ve seen in the pandemic, and all the challenges that, that it’s imposed, or implied, you know, and I think to your point that of like, rolling with the punches, I feel like that’s kind of the specialty of when you think about when I think about all the ones that we’re working with in the nonprofit sector in Ontario, there are so like, I just want to emphasize again, I don’t want it to sound like I’ve been like, you know, Pooh poohing what they think it’s like, it’s actually the contrary where they’ve been doing, like, they’re so skilled at like, adapting to different changes because of funding requests, like, okay, now this criteria, like is asking you to do like, X amount, or x y Zed, and so they would shift their services or shift the way that they model things to meet those requests. And so when this kind of change comes, they’re like, almost like, Okay, another change, right? Well, like adapt. But then it’s true that like, having this kind of overarching strategy about being intentional with like, how can, like, are we thinking about the future of work at this organization? Are we thinking about how organizations can almost have this, like, emergency planning in place, so that it’s not like, you know, we’ll just catch kind of what we can from like a like, I don’t know, like thinking about a filter example, you can kind of like, catch sort of what you what you can with a sieve or with you know, the the filter, but if you have a kind of more intentional reflection, those that save like, the filter might be finer, so you might be able to catch like, more, like retain more of your customers or preserve more of your services or be better equipped to evolve, like, you know, because of that kind of planning or reflection that took place kind of, you know, in advance Marco Campana 44:18so, yeah, no, I mean, I what I hear from you is definitely not Pooh poohing. I think you’re, you’re describing what I see in our sector as well as that. Organizations have always done more with less they’ve been resilient, they’ve been they’ve been creative. they’ve they’ve had efficiencies and effectiveness, but then it’s, but we can still think about the idea about well, what if they were intentional about change management? What if they were intentional about some of this design stuff? What more could they do? And so it’s not it’s not trying to layer something more on them or assigning any blame. It’s more like, if you had different resources, if you had, you know, a service design approach, a framework that was that was resourced and supported. Imagine what else could have happened kind of, so it’s really kind of thinking about you did amazing work. And you know, your clients were supported. But if we had gotten this stuff in place before, what could happen? So why not look ahead and say, Well, what if we get this stuff in place ahead of time? For the next kind of moment when we need to be resilient? Yeah, what could that look like? And I think that’s, that’s a useful thing to be thinking about. Because I think anything that can help be, make us intentional about change, and be able to react to it better, because that’s all we’re going to be seeing over the next decades for sure, when it comes to some of this stuff. So so something you mentioned a little while ago, I think, for me relates to this is the below the iceberg of everything, because you talked about Okay, so service design, but then there’s change management and operational change and skill development and things like that. And I wonder if that’s some of what kind of makes people stop in their tracks. It’s like, okay, we can talk about service design. But we don’t have that the rest of the below, there’s all this stuff that has to happen below the iceberg. And, you know, we either don’t feel like we have the skills, or we don’t have the time to do that kind of change management to do that skills development and other pieces. What does it look like below the surface of sort of, of service design, that that does require sort of making changes or shifts, whether it’s actually like, organizational or attitudinal and things like that, that you see, during a service design kind of process? Aletheia Delivre 46:16Well, there’s Honestly, it is a, I feel like there’s no easy shortcut to, to that, because it does anytime you kind of touch the eyeball of an organization. So the way that it works, or the you know, the kind of executive direction, it kind of it does, you know, does like ruffle something, you know, and I think it’s almost like if you, if you’re not ruffling anything, I wonder if you’re actually making change, you know, like, moving some, some the needle and so there is kind of that aspect, but it can be, I think, it can be done in a way that’s there are different ways to carry it out. And one is like, you know, the extreme would be to like it, which is not what I’d recommend is to, like, you know, come in, and then kind of, like, dictate, like, this is how you should like, Hey, this is what we need to do. And then like, this is what I believe now and, and we need to go this x direction, it’s more like, I think it’s really a, it’s almost like I think people who are embedded in non professional, non quote unquote, professional designers, and kind of in these nonprofit situations with lower resources. It almost like you have to be like a, like a, a soldier, like a, you’re like a champion or embedded in your organization. And you might see a little more in terms of like, of the service design piece, then other colleagues at the time. And, and then sometimes you I think you might lose people by using jargon by being like, okay, like, they might not know what, like a service blueprint, or like a customer experience, journey map is or like, what the, like Double Diamond is, or whatever, you know, and so it’s finding ways I think, to do like to do the work. So just like almost like, don’t always ask for permission, like Unless, of course, it’s like, going to jeopardize, like, some kind of, you know, legal or policy or some kind of structural aspect of the organization, like, don’t do anything illegal, but like, but sometimes I think that was good advice. But like, sometimes these experiments like can be in a way like permissionless, you can, like, nobody’s going to be like, Oh, don’t think about like making the service better for our customers don’t think about optimizing what that experience looks like, you know, I mean, hopefully, nobody, nobody would. But I think like there’s a place where you can start small and, and use something that can, that is relatable to the team. So like if the team is like if there’s a core service, or if there’s like an experience that is kind of shared, or that is that is known to be, you know, quite important or significant to the organization, you can look at ways of like improving that thing. And then showing like, showing the work, you know, involving people in the process, and I think that’s where co design is important. Because when you involve people who may not be familiar with design or what have you, but you tear down the barriers to your, you’re telling them okay, you can do design to I’m, I’m also just experimenting, and I want to bring you into the work. And so let’s do this together, right. And so that’s also kind of like the the buy in piece, which is so essential in the end to finally kind of move the move the mountain. Marco Campana 49:32No, it’s great. I mean, I hear a bunch of threads that kind of go back to sort of what you were talking about, about the division of the ethos of service design, which is basically you’re going to be in this for the long haul. So you’re you’re you’re making changes that you might not see the fruits of for some time. You’re being intentional about that change, which is I think where that sort of below the iceberg stuff happens. You need the organization to be intentional, like you described it alphaplus with Alan being intentional as leadership’s we’re going to go down this path, right, we’re going to we’re going to do this together. And the other thing That I really thought was important as like, as we’re talking about the the end user experience, you’re constantly keeping in mind the service providers as well and their experience. So those threads, I mean, I think you’ve kind of put it all into a really nice nutshell about what the approach is, and why it’s beneficial. And I think that’s a really nice way to kind of tie it together. And I also want to be mindful of your time. So I want to ask one last question, which is, is there anything I mean, this has been I find this, I found this really, really interesting, and I’m getting more enthusiastic to read some more of the stuff that you share. And some of your writings, for example, I think this is really beneficial for folks in our sector to think about. And for funders, as well, to be aware of what you know, what is what is intentional mean, for them, not just for the organization, when you’re looking at service design and outcomes and clients interested in things like that? Is there anything about human centered design, or the service design experience that I haven’t asked you about that you think people should know, before we kind of tie it up? Aletheia Delivre 50:54I think there’s one thing that I that I’ve been thinking of as we’re talking about connecting the way of design in a way design is a conduit, right? It’s not like the end in me, it’s an in and of itself. It’s, it’s a conduit, or like a set of either processes or tools or frameworks or it’s like the means through which we hope to, to create change in at least, you know, the way that I’d like to think about design, you know, and I think we are, we’re thinking about it in our sectors, like really the social impact of of design. And so, when we talk about like the, we’ve talked kind of about the customer, the end experience, and as you mentioned, like the experience of the stakeholders, and the service providers, and those kinds of things, and I think that especially in the nonprofit sector, I keep I like I always hear about, like, okay, there’s, obviously there’s like the, the issues related to being understaffed or under resourced. And then there’s also broader, like, usually people who are in the sector are also in it for because they have a conviction about a particular field. So whether that’s digital literacy, whether that’s like homelessness, whether that’s the immigration piece, or refugee piece. And so there’s an there’s a connection between the work that they’re doing, and the change that they hope to see at the higher level in terms of public the policies, fears and kind of that ivory tower that, you know, that they they imagine. And I feel like when we talk about, we talked a little bit about the disconnect between like the the funder, like the federal funding and realizing Okay, we need service design, but then that realization not trickling over to the support for the ones being funded, in some sense. And I think like, a bridge almost like, to me, I mean, this is a vision that I see that I don’t know if it’ll ever be implemented. But I feel like the currency of communication between those two is doing the design piece. Because in if like, let’s say in a nonprofits were to start like, you know, doing some kind of intentional thinking or strategic thinking around, okay, like our services like, this is the blueprint, this is the objective or the outcomes we hope to meet. And we’re really like speaking with our stakeholders, with our with mapping things out or like doing, you know, journeys and, and some of it is visuals, some of it is like really related to the holistic reflection around. But I feel like that whole train is really something that gets you a seat at the table, when you are advocating or when you are talking about making, you know, improving your services and why you need more funding, like you can demonstrate it through these visuals or through the research that you’ve done. The user base research or these kind of experience maps, you can clearly identify the pain points in that experience map where you’re asking for, you know, more support or for funding. And so I feel like and yeah, just kind of like wrap it up. There’s these, there’s the practice of you know, service sign and, and the importance of it in terms of improving the services, and the overall experience. But there’s also like, let’s not forget that service design is a powerful tool that gives that has the potential to give people a seat around the table when we’re actually asking for change to be made, you know, at these kind of higher, higher levels. Marco Campana 54:16Right, thank you so much. Now, I think that’s a great note to end on. In particular for our sector, when it comes to inclusion, and diversity. That’s a really important message, the seat at the table, the CO design, the being included, is always it’s always important and useful to come back to that. So thank you for taking the time, I find this a really useful kind of foundational conversation for me, and also aspirational around service design and what’s possible, and what we could be thinking about so and you really brought in for me, again, a different aspect about not just focusing on the end user or the customer, the client, but also making sure those stakeholders those service providers are taken into account. And I think that will really resonate with people. I don’t think they hear that enough that they’re part of this process. They’re not just being handed on as well. So thank you for bringing that that that aspect to it as well. And thanks for taking the time today. Aletheia Delivre 55:01Thank you so much for having me in all of your insightful questions and I really had a really like, it’s great you discover things as you’re speaking as you’re articulating them, so it’s Yeah, thank you very much, Marco. Marco Campana 55:13Thanks 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 are also on my site@markopolos.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@marcopolis.org Thanks again. Transcribed by https://otter.ai


9 Sep 2021

Rank #3

Podcast cover

TiHS Episode 30: Kassia Clifford – on personal and organizational cybersecurity

Welcome to episode 30 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode I chat with Cybersecurity professional Kassia Clifford. LinkedIn has become a great place to learn from others and make new connections. Kassia and I recently connected, after I’d been following her excellent sharing for some time. She shares practical, useful, and urgently important tips about cybersecurity. She calls herself a “Cybersecurity Interpreter,” an important skill set and attitude that she uses to share what she’s learning about cybersecurity risk, in an accessible way. I’ve learned a lot from her and when she shared a particular post about free and easy ways to improve security, I knew I wanted to chat with her on the podcast. I think you’ll find it useful and you’ll leave with some practical next steps to make sure your online activity is secure. Here’s that post and what she wrote: #MFA : block #hackers who gain access to email creds ??#Passwordmanager : store complex pswds in a safe place?Auto-updates : keep the latest #security patches on your OS??#Antivirus scanner : detect threats proactively??Full-disk encryption : #reducetherisk if a device is lost/stolen ??#Awarenesstraining : make #cybersecurity a part of the convoAccess mgt: MFA, limit admins, team drive If some of those hashtags make you scratch your head, don’t worry. All is explained in this episode! Some core questions we started with: In spite of moving services online over the past year during the pandemic, and even before, many nonprofits have low literacy when it comes to online privacy, security, confidentiality, and knowledge of encryption. On your site you describe yourself as a “cybersecurity interpreter.” I think many nonprofits could use someone with a title like that! Can you describe what that means? You share great tips and what you’re learning on LinkedIn. Recently you shared practical and easy ways to improve individual digital security. Can you go over those tips and explain why they’re important? What would your advice be to nonprofit leaders about steps they need take when it comes to risk assessment and security in their agencies. In particular, I’m thinking about social service agencies that interact with clients and lots of their personal information. How should nonprofit organizations and workers go about learning about cybersecurity? What baseline skills, attitudes, and approaches should they be taking to ensure they work safely online and with client data? Resources: Kassia was nice enough to provide a list of useful and important resources that will be useful for you as your explore and learn about cybersecurity: General Cyber Awareness Training: SecuricyWizerUdemy RBC Kidsplanation Videos: (Easy, light 1 minute videos, could have a Lunch and Learn with an entire team, watch and discuss together)Email PhishingMalicious Software Password HackingSocial Engineering Compliance and Governance: Industry best practice for Managing CybersecurityNIST Processing PaymentsPCI Handling Health Care InfoHIPAA Service Organization Controls Framework (reviews security, availability, confidentiality, processing integrity, privacy)SOC2 Personal Information Handling in OntarioPIPEDA Standard web application awareness (Top 10 web app vulnerabilities that hackers could use to exploit your app and how to remediate)OWASP Top 10 Machine-Generated Transcript What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation 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. Marco Campana 0:00Welcome to Episode 30 of the technology and Human Services podcast. In this episode, I chat with cybersecurity professional Kassia Clifford, LinkedIn has become a great place to learn from others and make new connections, Cassie and I recently connected after I’ve been following her excellent sharing for some time, she shares practical, useful and urgently important tips about cybersecurity. She calls herself a cybersecurity interpreter, an important skill set an attitude that she uses to share what she’s learning about cybersecurity risk in an accessible way. I’ve learned a lot from her. And when she shared a particular post about free and easy ways to improve security. I knew I want to chat with her on the podcast, I think you’ll find it a useful conversation and you’ll leave with some practical next steps to make sure your online activity is secure. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining me Kassia, can you maybe give a little bit of an introduction in the background about you, and how you came to work in cybersecurity? Kassia Clifford 0:55Sure, happy to thanks for having me, Marco. So my my background is a bit eclectic. Coming into cybersecurity. I started my career in social services work actually working with women and children who were in domestic violence situations and then military families. At base petawawa. I was doing crisis intervention with families while their members were overseas serving in Afghanistan. So I started doing quite a bit of risk assessment and safety planning. However, it was more with people and less with information. And then I moved around in my career to the private sector back to public sector work to the family business. And how I ended up getting my intro into cyber was actually through a social enterprise startup, I helped build a chapter in New Brunswick called venture for Canada. And they place entrepreneurial new graduates with startup companies with a goal of making a positive impact on the local economy. And I ended up meeting David Shipley, who’s the CEO of both run security. And there are a Cybersecurity Awareness firm. They do phishing simulations, risk management, and it’s all math, the NIST framework. So he had hit me up later, whenever our team was growing. And I joined them as a director of marketing and really got my first taste. They’re both the problems in cybersecurity, which I had an inkling about from an IP and a business course I took at the University of New Brunswick, however, he really helped to drive at home, whenever you’re working with folks who’ve been in the business and are trying to solve problems, and see a lot of business leaders struggle, you know, there’s, they often have the weight of the world on them. So I remember thinking, this seems like a big problem. And, and all the people I speak to, are really technical, and they have a lot of subject matter expertise. And it’s challenging for me to really understand that. So I saw that as being an opportunity for me to come and support the industry as well as learn more about something that was really relevant today. Marco Campana 2:57I love that you came at it from a very different background than then like those it those technical folks that you described, because I think so many people get intimidated with the notion of online privacy and encryption and security. And even though it’s gotten easier and easier than ever before, I mean, they’re they’re baked into some of the apps that we use. Now, there’s still a lot of hesitation, a lot of sense that, oh, I couldn’t possibly understand this. And because of that, there’s a lot of vulnerability in the way people use the technology. So in my sector, I work mainly immigrant and refugee serving sector. And over the last year, I mean, everybody shifted online during the pandemic. And what we found is that there is there’s a hesitancy in a very low literacy or when it comes to all of those things online privacy, security, confidentiality and knowledge of encryption. And, and I know that you describe yourself in one way as a cybersecurity interpreter. And I really liked that. Because I think that that takes some of the stigma away. And it’s like, there are people who can help you understand this. Because you need to do it, not just in your professional life, but in your daily life. So So can you tell me a little bit about how that that that’s evolved for you? And I mean, you know, you and I have interacted on LinkedIn, I find what you post extremely useful and practical, because you’re saying, Oh, I learned about this. Now let me share what I’ve learned about this, and how you can implement it in your work or your life or whatever it means. So cyber sir, cybersecurity interpreter. What is that? What does that mean to you? Kassia Clifford 4:17For sure, thanks. And I’m so grateful to connect with you on LinkedIn macro. And for that to lead to this opportunity for us to put something together, create something and share it with more people. That certainly has been one of my biggest motivations. You know, I used to I used to lifeguard as a teenager. And so I have this civic duty kind of built in me that those of us who have a skill set right if you have a skill set to be able to perform first date and someone’s in distress. Well, you have a civic duty to say, Hey, I can help you can I help you? And I see the same, you know, the same parallel here in cybersecurity once I started learning, and I realized for myself, the deeper somebody is in the industry, the more challenging, more challenging it can be for them to explain that in humans. terms for someone who has a low cybersecurity or technical literacy as you mentioned. So in my mind, though, it means I really needed to push myself to be very vulnerable to share with my network, I just like this, this thing about access management or whatever it ends up being, um, I know that that’s providing the most value to people who are interested in also learning. So cybersecurity interpreter to me that term means I have currently have that ability to understand both the business side and the information security side of strategies that we can put in place to help reduce or mitigate cyber security risk. And, and it’s interesting when I first started out in the field, I read a quote from Daniel miser who’s pretty well known in the space, I’ll share it with you if that’s cool, because I’ve had it out of posted for several years on my wall, wherever I’ve lived. Marco Campana 5:54I saw you reach back. That’s awesome. I love that you’ve got it right there. Kassia Clifford 5:58Yeah, easy access, because it’s a good reminder for me, anytime I feel like I’m getting out of my depth, to bring it back to what’s the what’s the, you know, what’s the value prop that I offer this community and this industry. And so what he said was, the bigger problem is we don’t have a common language that bridges infosec. And business. Since security, people can’t quantify their risk as money. And business people ultimately see everything in those terms. This is why people who can translate between the two are in such demand. Now, I know for you, you’re serving nonprofits. So when we look at the nonprofit space where I spent a ton of my career, oftentimes, it’s not necessarily the revenue we’re looking at, but it’s, you know, the clientele serve, how many people have we supported aligned with this mission statements, right, or what we’re here for? And so, yeah, I certainly try to continue to, to be that voice and break it down into practical stuff that we can we can just action and make happen. Marco Campana 6:53Yeah. And I mean, like you said, the LinkedIn brought us together here. And part of that was because of a very practical post that you put together, which I found, again, just resonated for me professionally, but also personally talking about easy ways to improve your digital security. And I think you had maybe six or seven particular tips that, again, you sort of you see in different places, there’s lots of articles written about it. But even then people are still unsure of how to even get started, it feels overwhelming, even though, you know, I find I’ve done most of them. And I find that it’s helpful to have done that. And at the end of the day, it wasn’t that difficult. It did take some time to do it. But I’m wondering if you can, if you can kind of go over like, let’s think about it as a baseline for individual online security and privacy. What are some of those tips? And why are they important for people to start using? Kassia Clifford 7:43For sure, thanks. Thanks for that, Marco. So that one, I’ll say those tips are certainly things that I’ve put in place in my in my personal devices, and they make me feel more secure. Because when we’re talking about the digital threat landscape, and even you’d mentioned earlier, with everyone working from home since COVID, it has really changed how we engage with work, the number of attacks or cyber, the number of cyber attacks has increased by 400%. And so that’s significant, right? Like it’s a it’s a field day right now, because there are more devices, like home devices being used for work purposes, and vice versa, you’re on home Wi Fi, the kids are around, you know, it’s just um, yeah, opens up the opportunities. So I’ll say, these are seven free things that you can do. The first one is getting multi factor authentication. And what that means is most most software products these days, you can set up MFA, there are very few that don’t have it. And it basically means you would enter a password. Whenever you create an account somewhere you enter a password. And as a second layer of verification, you would either get a text message sent to your phone where you enter the code into the software platform, or perhaps there’s an authenticator app that you download on your phone, and then you just click Yes, that was me. And what that means is, if a hacker were able to expose your credentials and get access to your password and your login information, they still can’t go further without having your device in their hands. So right away, it’s a super easy way that really is just administrative in the back end of the application whenever you’re signing up, usually, for something simple, or something that many of us have. If you have a Gmail account, and you just click on the Security tab, you can see there’s a place there to set up MFA and it’s added a nice pop up comes up that says stop the bad guys from getting in. You’re like, yeah, I want to do that. Perfect. So So that’s number one. And I asked, Marco Campana 9:43actually, if would you recommend if the if there are options between texting and authenticator apps would is there one that’s more preferential because I’ve heard different things about getting a text being less secure than using an authenticator app and I’m not what what are your thoughts on that? Kassia Clifford 10:00Well, I think I’m having anything as a second layer of verification. It’s better than nothing at all. I try not to get too much into the weeds. I did some addictions counseling at one point in my life. So I’m all about harm reduction. And if we’re talking about what are the basics, I try and just stick with let’s get a second layer a verification to put it out there. You know, there’s, it’s interesting, I went for a late night kayak a couple nights ago, and I thought, Hey, you know, like, I’d like a new phone soon. This one’s pretty old. But if I lost it, I basically would be screwed getting into any of my applications right now. Not only because even if I don’t have it being an SMS coming to my phone, the the authenticator app is downloaded on my phone. Right? So I still need that second device. Yeah, so I haven’t really worked my noodle around that one yet. I figured that future kaseya can solve that problem. But I’m happy to come back for a second because it’s, Marco Campana 10:54the message is one of those is better than none of those, right? Kassia Clifford 10:58Yeah. And, and try not to get wrapped around the axle. That’s easy to happen when you’re doing anything technical, but just to know you have something in place. Yeah, um, another one. So the second suggestion I had here was a password manager. Now, this is something I’m working on getting my mom on, she’s not quite ready for it. But she does have a lot of inner security inside her. She’s been burning things with her address on its side as a kid. So I know that God instilled in me at a minimal online footprint, right? through online banking, she’s like, accurate, right? All cash. So it’s, it’s funny, when I look back to see that I’m in this space. Now, it makes a ton of sense. But a password manager is basically one home, it’s like, imagine it’s a safety deposit box online, where you would put all of the passwords that you have for your account. So safety deposit box, put all your monies and your jewels in there, you don’t want anyone to touch it. And then there’s a key, and perhaps a second key that the bank has, right. So something like LastPass or one password, there are a few out there that are pretty well known and that are doing quite well. And what’s great about this, it’s interesting, it took me a while Marco when I first started in security, and I thought this just seems like a lot of work. Like no one is really explaining why I should do this, you know, like, I think I’m fine. Who’s gonna get me, right? Those are all the normal human reactions that we have, whenever we think we have to do something that seems like work. But that’s it. And so, what I realized, well, it helped I later worked with a pentesting team. So ethical hackers, and, you know, I got I got real up close and personal with what it’s like that we were doing there, you know, looking at finding vulnerabilities and applications for fast growing startups in in Canada during COVID whenever these companies were really growing, because there was just more business going online. And that was what really motivated me to adopt this. And really, it’s so easy. You can set up one password. So you basically choose a long phrase, something that no one would guess. So it can’t be something you say. So if I say things like, yes, this, they’re amazing, you know, this is a year for all my dreams to come true. Hashtag money, well, then don’t use those things in your password, right? So it needs to be something unique, that somebody wouldn’t be able to scroll through your social media accounts. And guess that that’s the phrase you use. And then that’s the only password you ever have to remember. And everything else you can auto generate really complex passwords, you can set how many characters they are, how many numbers there are. And that way, you’re not doing something like saying hummus, five, or 106 exclamation points, or hummus, seven exclamation point smiley face star, which is also lots of people thinking that they’re gaming the system, and you can find them, you know, you can find a place where you can actually just type in like how hard is it to crack your password. And you’ll see passwords like that they can get hackers can get in them instantaneously. Right? And and and they’re not just looking for your information. They’re looking for your company’s information, maybe your wife’s information, your wife’s company’s information, whatever they can get soon. Marco Campana 14:09Nice. Yeah, I have I use LastPass. And I found out something recently that I hadn’t even remembered. When I did all the setup, one of the things I think you can do is restrict the geography so that if you put in the password, but you’re not in the place you usually are, it’ll give it yet another layer of checking with you basically. So I was at my parents place. And I just kept I kept trying to sign in and it kept saying, We’ve sent you an email, and I was like, why that’s the right password. And then I went and I realized, oh, it recognizes I’m not in Toronto. So it’s saying, Here’s another layer of authentication. I thought brilliant just again, it does some of the thinking for you. If you set it up the right way, right, which is really Yes. Kassia Clifford 14:50Oh, that’s awesome. I love hearing that I found out LastPass will also do a security check with you. So they’ll if you’ve ever You know, if one of the things you’re doing is importing all of your passwords, say from Google Chrome, if that’s where you store them, and you want to get them out of there, and then be able to autofill using LastPass, it will flag if you reuse the password or if some of your passwords aren’t that complex. So you can still do that harm reduction model, right? Get the password manager and get maybe your most at risk accounts secured, like your bank account, or into your work device or anything like that. And then still work through continuously improving your security, which makes it more manageable as well. And it’s bite sized. Right, right. Yeah, the third thing I suggest is auto updates on your device. So on your laptop and your phone every time, you know, a pop up comes up and says oh, we’re going to install, you know, the latest operating system and you’re like, nevermind, you click out of that, right, like, that’s what we want to avoid. Because what that’s doing is saying that Microsoft or Apple has found a vulnerability in in, you know, their code, and they found a patch for it. And so then this new operating system is going to help get that patch out to you and your device. And And oftentimes, some of your other applications won’t end up working as well, if you don’t update your operating system. So there’s a super easy way that you can just enable auto updates on your computer, and then you don’t have to think about it. And with that, I will also say it’s a great habit to shut down your computer every once in a while or restart it something that a lot of people don’t like doing. What I’ve deciphered is they do not like losing all their tabs. Marco Campana 16:35Oh, yes, you know, Kassia Clifford 16:37that good old bookmark feature can really help, then you avoid your computer just crashing in the middle of a meeting because they can’t take it anymore, right are becoming really slow and you maybe being paranoid that something’s wrong, or there’s a virus on it, when really you just need to restart your computer. It’s like imagine you never go to sleep, and you just keep working and and being active with your family. You never never sleep at some point, you’re gonna fall down. Computers doing the same thing. That’s great analogy. I’m glad you like that one. So the fourth one I added here was the antivirus scanner. So this is going to detect if there are any threats proactively, you know, there can be some is a good thing to do. It’s not a standalone, I remember being young, you know, my mom like really getting intense on Norton Antivirus. And I thought like, What is she talking about? But again, she gave me some of that security training at a fairly early age. And so this is one part of the puzzle that’s important, it’s easy to do, you can find a ton of free reliable enough software’s to do this as well, where you’re not necessarily needing to pay for licenses for seats if you’re looking at nonprofits that maybe have 50 employees and no budget for security or a minimal tech budget, right. So that’s something that can be helpful. And that will just continuously run in the back of your device or your laptops, and full disk encryption as well. That’s something you can easily enable well, easily except if you’re on Microsoft home, which we put the link. Marco Campana 18:05Right. That was that was our conversation on LinkedIn. It’s killing me I have to do it still. But it’s so many extra steps now. Oh, Microsoft. I know. Kassia Clifford 18:14And and believe you me, I’ve put all of these strategies in place at the company that I’m with now and anyone who was on a home iPod come now I have a lot going on on my plate and sort of these people, we do not need five more steps to take. However, what what’s so fascinating about the human brain, I studied sociology in university for my undergrad, and that’s a great fit with this kind of work, isn’t it? That’s awesome. Yeah, it is because there’s a ton about human behavior when you’re looking at not only what are hackers looking for in us, which is usually curiosity, sense of urgency, excitement, fear, that’s what they’re playing on to get us to click right like that phishing email that comes through that says, This is urgent. Your boss needs you to call them right now or whatever it ends up being, um, you know, we we make decisions that way. Like we’re emotional beings, humans, right. And then the other flip side of it when you’re looking at training people and educating people or interpreting a dense topic like cybersecurity, really intelligent people don’t necessarily know everything about every discipline, however, we often don’t like feeling like we don’t and that fear can come up and the brain turns off or when we see something where it’s like 10 more steps to get my disk encryption. Oh, future Mirko is gonna deal with that. So good news, you’re human. And that is a normal thing. However, for many other so for regular for other Windows users, it’s really easy. To enable for Mac, it’s super easy to enable. And this, again reduces your risk. If a device is lost or stolen, that any of that confidential information, it’s less likely that whoever has access to your device is going to be able to access the information on it, which is something that your nonprofits and even for yourself, you’re going to want to know. You know that you’re protecting your own information. The sixth thing I had on here was awareness training. So making cybersecurity part of the conversation and part of the regular conversation. Now, this is one area where I think organizations families can make the biggest difference is, it’s not like, okay, we’re gonna do all these things. kaseya we’re gonna take it off the list, and then it’s done. And I never have to think about again, so that was hard lesson, I understand why I did it. Right. Um, well, you know, again, that’s a great first step. However, what helps us change behavior? Well, when we want to become healthier, we if we go for a five kilometer walk on Monday, but then we stay on the couch every single day, for the rest of the week, you know, we’re probably not going to get see a lot of that one five kilometer walk, it was good that we did that. So cybersecurity training and making it part of the ongoing conversation. You know, there are ways of doing that at our company. I’m, you know, I’m talking about security in our weekly team, since we did a full big lunch and learn whatever to share with everyone, hey, we’ve got some massive changes that we’re going to be rolling out, it’s going to be a fast turnaround time, that’s going to be a lot, but this is why we’re doing it. And it’s important to us to protect our clients information as well as our own. And this is kind of the nature of business today, right? And then, whenever other individuals have questions about something, if they get a phishing email, or if they’re asking about setup for any new software we have, or why are we doing it, sharing that information with the rest of the team, so that somebody who may have been afraid to ask or just too tired to ask but doesn’t understand gets the information another way. And then lastly, access management. So this one is is a project I’ll say that. And what it really means is, whenever you have software, a variety of different software that you’re using, you want to reduce the number of people who have administrative access, which would be higher quality leads for a hacker to go after. And also put the company at more risk because they have access to more confidential information if you’re worried about insider threat, or just reducing, improving privacy and improving your data security. Marco Campana 22:29Yeah, that one’s actually super important. And I find in the nonprofit’s I work with because so often, they’ve got volunteers who come in, who do kind of tech work for them, because they don’t have the budgets or funding to do it. And those people get tremendous access to things to the point that I’ve worked with people who can’t update their website, because the only person who has the password is to volunteer, and they’ve gone off somewhere, and they’re not responding to their emails or phone calls anymore. And that’s, like, comical on the one hand, but there are huge privacy potential implications for that. If it’s, you know, their their client database, for example. Kassia Clifford 23:02100% Yeah, and it’s, um, it’s, it’s interesting, because most organizations, you want to have some level of redundancy where you can prepare if that one person has administrative access, and then they’re going on holidays. You know, what do you do around that? Well, you can provide temporary access to their backup for the person that comes in and shifts to cover. Now how, how normal is it for us to be thinking that way? Well, unless you’re building a security program, and it’s part of your everyday conversation, it’s not normal to think about that, right? The person before they go on vacation is thinking about all the stuff they have to check off their list before they go and ride off into the sunset. And when you’re looking at nonprofit organizations, relying on volunteers, I’ve worked with several nonprofit institutions where I’ve done big access cleanup. And this was this was before I really even knew that I was doing some level of cybersecurity, or information security management, I just thought, Well, those people shouldn’t have access to this anymore. So you see that in a lot of organizations that have high turnover, too, right? And if there’s part time positions, where there, there’s high turnover, and all of those accounts, so why Access Management matters. All of those accounts are open doors, it’s basically like you leave a window open with just a screen and and the hacker could just kick that over and come right on in and use that to get to other places that have more confidential information within the organization of that volunteer also had access to other you know, a CRM with client information that may have health records or or perhaps baking information or that kind of chocolate. Marco Campana 24:39Yeah, I mean, a lot of our agencies are serving clients that are collecting tremendous amounts of personal identifiable information, not health, but like, you know, sometimes social insurance numbers, definitely permanent resident numbers for their immigration process, you know, names addresses, birthday, it’s all stuff that accumulate into you know, stuff that that someone could use maliciously. And I did the seven tips. But it feels like the first five are like the visible tip of the iceberg, where, you know, everyone should be doing this. And it’s clearly a baseline, that is not only important, but also very doable. It requires a bit of time going into the settings. But But as you said, with Gmail, for example, they’re increasingly making it easier to do that. And the last to the awareness training and the Access Management feel like they’re almost a little bit more in depth a little bit below the surface that I think you use the word security planning. And and I wonder for like a nonprofit manager or leader who’s looking at this, what we’ve been hearing in the sector, we did some, some research recently, where we were asking people about the future of what we’re calling hybrid service delivery, and everyone’s calling it that we’re partly online, partly in person, you know, that kind of stuff. And security and risk assessment came up with something, they’re still feeling really unsure about really vulnerable. So when we talk about security planning below the iceberg, I would say, you know, what kind of suggestions would you have for an organization who feels like they’re, they’re still getting started with this, they can probably do the tip of the iceberg, the stuff that’s visible, but they’re not sure where to start with planning, they’re not sure to start with their access management or their awareness training even. Kassia Clifford 26:13So, yeah, great question, I would say, it’s important to do a bit of a risk assessment or analysis of where the current status of the organization is. And so if possible, you know, having a consultant that has some of that experience, and there are some who will do pro bono work. There are other templates that you can find online as well, if you’re kind of Jimmy rigging something together, which, you know, that’s that’s how things start, right? And he goes, Yeah, yeah, that’s why when we’re working without a budget, and when it’s something new, you find the person within the organization who has the most technical savvy and the willingness to do that. So ideally, you find your security champions within an organization, I’d suggest put a committee together. So you’re looking at it from all angles, which means it’s not just your IT person, or perhaps the office administrator, who also seems to be savvy, you’re going to have someone from finance in there, someone from human resources, someone from part of your programming, get involved. So get a little committee stuck together, and then do a risk assessment and of where, you know, and some of that could could simply be how do we do business today? What information are we gathering? Where are where are the people that were gathering that information from? Because there are regulations based on geography for how information is stored and processed. So so so even just starting there, like, what information are we gathering? And then what are the processes for sharing that information that can be a baseline to figure out what are you doing? And then certainly, I’ll say educating your entire team is a super place to start as well. Because the earlier you can get the conversation going. And the more you can change the mindset within an organization that it’s not like, Oh, that’s something the IT person does over there. It’s something that we all carry a level of responsibility for, because we have an email address and access to our accounts under a work domain. So therefore, that’s a shared responsibility, right? That’s, it’s not something that we can just put in the corner anymore. And those are two things and there’s a ton of free cybersecurity training stuff. I will say like I can write off a bunch of stuff here. I don’t know how helpful that is, but I know that I’d love your tips. Yeah. Okay, cool. So, so you Debbie, which is has a bunch of free stuff on cybersecurity law, Introduction to cybersecurity. So I’ve I’ve purchased like behavioral, cognitive behavioral therapy stuff and like I’m like the changes in behaviors and and you know, I can get like an $11 course that’s usually a couple 100 bucks, but they do a bunch of free stuff for cybersecurity as well. RBC put out a bunch of kids explanation videos on cybersecurity A few years ago, those are excellent for adults also, because it breaks it down their three minute videos. So you can find that on YouTube very easily. Just Google RBC kids planation cyber security and it talks about passwords. It talks about phishing simulations, it talks about some basic stuff that you can do that’s educational, and it makes it fun and cute to other institutions like sans. We’ll put out some other information sans scns is a well known organization for Cybersecurity Awareness and training for different designations that you can get into future learn interested cybersecurity. That’s another course that’s free as well. I can provide a list to you if that’s helpful for anybody who reaches out afterwards. Marco Campana 29:42Great. I can include it in the in the episode post as well and so people can can get the link directly from there. That would be super helpful for sure. Okay. I think that’s that’s, that’s some of the things we hear about is like, yeah, there is increasingly actually a lot of information, but because people don’t feel they have the knowledge. They don’t know where to Where to even start. So even those first few links that you just gave, like coming from someone who, you know, we know, as a cybersecurity interpreter, you’ve got your finger on the pulse, you’re looking at these, you’re evaluating them in a way that I would do very differently than that how I might, because I’m not sure. So that’s a huge, a huge starting point for a lot of organizations right out of the gate to say, okay, of course on Udemy, the RBC stuff, the sand stuff, maybe a couple of other links, they’re good starting points for people to say, Okay, I can get what I need, at least to start there. And then, yeah, ideally, I think, you know, having someone like you as a consultant coming in to help them do that initial plan, and then give it life. But I really liked that your that that you talked about is everybody’s responsibility, because it’s not a one time thing. We don’t implement security, and we’re done with it. Right? It’s a constant constant. Kassia Clifford 30:49You got it. Yeah, there’s a nice saying that security isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Right. And, and so and that’s, that can be challenging, even for me, right? Like I love, I love hitting goals and crossing stuff off a list. And I am definitely aware that it’s just ongoing and security, which is also very exciting, because it means that you can always improve, if anybody is working on releasing attachment to outcome, and enjoying the journey. While security is a super place to do that. You’re never gonna get to the end. So there’s always a place to continue growing. And I will say I appreciate the the words of affirmation there, I will say, whenever you’re looking at any topic that’s really dense, and then you go online, it can be even more overwhelming to know how to sift through what’s going to give me good advice and what isn’t. So I’m happy to share some of those resources for you to know I appreciate Marco Campana 31:38that. Because again, you do this already on LinkedIn. And I find that so valuable. And it’s one of the reasons why I was excited to have this conversation. Because you I mean, I went on to your, your your consulting side, and it was exciting to see that you’ve worked in nonprofits as well, you’ve got kind of this, this very rare kind of experience of not coming into it as a techie of coming out of a nonprofit experience of having that that notion of I want to help people understand this. And you know, with the admission that you’re still learning, and like you say it’s a marathon and in so many ways that some that’s a parallel to the work we do in our sector, because many people come into the services and immigrant and refugee sector, because of lived experience. Some of them come out of social services, Social Work backgrounds, and specific educational backgrounds. Some people just kind of meander in and out, and they bring stuff with them. But there’s a constant learning, there’s a constant, it is a marathon as well, like settlement is a lifelong thing for most immigrants. So there’s a nice parallel there to the way you’re describing security, that I think I hope will resonate with some people, because it’s very similar to the work we do. You’re, you’re constantly improving how you provide employment information to somebody, you’re constantly improving how you help navigate how you help people navigate the resources in a new community, for example. And so security, just adding, adding to that as part of that kind of ongoing marathon, I think would make a lot of sense to people. I think it’s removing some of that intimidation, which which I feel like you’re you’ve been doing a lot of even just in this conversation, but certainly in the way that you share stuff. So that you know, at the at the leadership level, as well as the frontline level, they can get their heads around that. Yeah, it’s not only a responsibility that I now have in a way that maybe I never thought I did before. But it’s also something that’s not insurmountable. It’s something that I can I can I can do, I can set things up, but I need to be constantly vigilant as well. So that’s super helpful. Kassia Clifford 33:28Thank you. Awesome. I’m glad to hear that. Marco Campana 33:31Yeah. So I mean, I think I think with those links, that would be great for if you can send those. Is there anything? I’m wondering because again, I’m you know, I don’t know what I don’t know, around this space, either. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you about that you think would be important for people to know about when it comes to ensuring security in the work that they do with their clients information and with their own? Kassia Clifford 33:52Um, well, I guess, I think that something this might seem very basic, but whatever you do, I would encourage you to document that. Because Marco Campana 34:03that’s, that’s great. That’s Kassia Clifford 34:05Yeah, documentation and tracking that these are things that you’ve put in place to build the security program not only helps remind you, and all of your stakeholders what what you’re doing it ideally, if you attach it to a why, like anything, that’s hard, why are we doing that? So, you know, if we’re entrusted with new arrivals, sin numbers and personal information to support them as they’re getting used to this community and building a life here? Well, we want to demonstrate that we’re respecting that trust they’re giving us and, and protecting their information. And that’s a commitment that we’re making. So that’s, that might be a why that drives the behavior change you’re asking for. And then whatever you’re doing, I would say find a way of tracking that. So that can be very simple. People do stuff where they’re building it in Google Docs or sheets or Microsoft Excel. your PC guy, no shade, but you know. And you build that out and you put your dates for whenever that’s done tracking information, like an asset inventory, we haven’t really talked about that. But that’s important too. So basically, you know, this is kaseya, she has a, this version of a Mac, this operating system, here’s her serial number. And then she’s done her Cybersecurity Awareness training. She’s got MFA on, she has a password manager, she’s done auto updates, antivirus disk encryption, and has unlimited access, you know, so that so you’re managing that, that really helps. Because at some point of growth with any organization, nonprofits included, you may have a funder, who asks, How are you managing data privacy or security? And and when you get that, you know, it could be overwhelming to think, how do I even respond to that, where if you’re documenting, and keeping track of the program that you’re building, you have something to prove to show that, and I’m all about getting the biggest ROI for the investments of time and energy in this life, right. Those are, those are finite resources. So you know, being able to share that with your stakeholders is really important. And that, again, helps keep the conversation going with all of your organization, like the leadership, the folks on the ground, everybody in between. So that security is part of the everyday conversation. I think that’s super important. And that helps us remember that we can keep improving as well. Right? Marco Campana 36:35Yeah, I mean, as you’re, as you’re talking about that, too, what comes to mind, for me is also the onboarding process for new hires, if you’re documenting, it just becomes naturally part of how you orient them to the systems, because there’s a system in place, and therefore they need to be taught about the security, that below the iceberg that feeds that system, or even that checklist. I mean, let’s make it less intimidating. It’s a checklist of all the assets and stuff like that. But that that means in our sector, like a lot of nonprofit sectors, there’s a lot of turnover. So you can’t, you can’t assume that someone’s coming in with security literacy. And so what the what the expectation is, if you’ve got these, this, this very simple system that you just outline, you will bring him up to speed because you have to, because that’s your system. So I love that it’s like a default thing that just occurs naturally, after you’ve implemented it. Kassia Clifford 37:22Yeah. And then what’s what’s lovely about that is that you would also have a mirrored offboarding list. So if you’re going to Marco Campana 37:29Oh, yeah, I love that. It’s so important. Kassia Clifford 37:31So that pulls us back to the access management piece. And and so this is something where every new employee can do part of your security training. And if you have a designet, that walks them through that, so for me, at knack where I work, when we’re serving big enterprise, we’re really fast growing startup. And so I have about an hour meeting with every new employee, as we scale, I’m probably gonna have to make a video and get that video out there. So I don’t know if I’ll be able to meet with everybody for that long, I hope I will be able to. But I always asked what’s your what’s your, you know, have you done cyber security training before Have you used some things just to get a baseline of what we’re working with. And then I have a ton of resources that we kind of jam through and go through. And then we have an onboarding procedure as well, where it’s automatic. So whoever owns that software, then makes sure that that account is closed, and that we’re closing that gap. And then the devices returned, you know, any passwords or keys for your physical security are also returned. Yeah, so I think onboarding, onboarding is a big piece and documentation, those are two that we just covered. Now, that can make a big difference for any of these organizations to get their program in place. Marco Campana 38:37I love that. I think that’s huge. And as we’re talking, I have one more one last question comes to mind, because it came up earlier, and then I forgot, but you mentioned regulation. So a lot of what we’re talking about, feels like it’s the carrot that will lead you these are all the things you should do. And they’re the right things to do. But what about the stick when it comes to like the law? And one of the things that I talk about with my clients is let’s aspire to the highest levels of everything. Right? So for example, we’re we’re not in a field that has a regulatory body, right? Whereas social workers do we have some people who are social workers, but the the sector as a whole there isn’t an expectation or the you know, the health sector. So I say like, look at the regulatory mandate of you know, the the Ontario Council of social workers, they have certain ethical regulations that you need to adhere to. So why not just adhere to those and some they have some around digital, for example. And then we’ll always be covered will always be exceeding the expectations of our own sector, our own funders, and we’ll be following someone who is setting those expectations and changing them. So, you know, we don’t even have to think about it their role will just learn as as they’re doing things. So I know that we have Pepita in Canada and fippa in Ontario, for example, around health information, you know, is that something that agency should become aware of around like their their, the regulatory expectations around privacy of personal information Kassia Clifford 40:00For sure, yeah, and excellent question. And and it’s interesting, after my first couple of roles in security, I realized, you know, I was I was working really hard to sell the value of security. And that is challenging to make that case to an organization that’s very busy with minimal budget that’s moving quick, that’s focusing on, you know, excellent customer service, and building a product or a company or an organization. So that that sparked my interest in compliance, which you know, focuses more on your frameworks and regulation, because I thought, it’s more tangible, you can touch that you can touch the Privacy Act, and it’s a piece of paper, it might be really dense and hard to read, but it exists, and it’s real. And you can see it, right. And so anytime we can bring something into our physical reality, when we’re talking about what seems abstract or bigger picture or complex or far out there, that makes it easier to buy into, I think, and also does help ensure that we are like it is a way of getting your ROI, in a sense, because you’re going to be aligning to a well known framework. And so something that I’m working on right now with our company is becoming sock to compliance. This is a really well known highly regarded security framework that has a ton of different controls on how you’re looking at your confidentiality, security, availability, integrity, all that good stuff. And it also helps us be able to say to our clients while we’re doing this to this standard, so there’s less questions for them, there’s more trust that way. And it also whenever you’re looking at stuff like HIPAA, for health information, or PCI for credit card information, or financial information, you know, there is or you’re legally bound, if you’re doing business, that way, you’re operating that way to follow those frameworks. So good to consult with either, again, a lawyer or a privacy consultants in those spaces. Totally, we’re doing that. And, you know, I don’t have all the answers here. But I have a really good network of information security professionals, but I’m happy to refer people to for anybody who is looking for that kind of support. And, yeah, so I would say compliance is a it’s a great thing. And I think we’re gonna keep seeing more and more growth in that part of the sector. Marco Campana 42:19That’s great. So compliance, for sure. And if you don’t mind sending that talk to a link for that kind of information, when you send all those other links, that would be great. Because, again, I think for in some cases, you know that the carrot will work for some organizations, but it may need to be the compliance side for other organizations to say, you know, we don’t have a choice, we’re doing this because, yeah, it’s the right thing to do. But we also have, you know, responsibility that’s legal around doing some of this. And let’s again, because there were in that gray area, as a sector that were not covered by one of those necessarily, like financial or health, you know, we can look to those frameworks as guides for us and then say, Okay, this is what we’re going to comply with. And as that if those regulations change in any meaningful way, we will continue to change with them. And then at least we’re, we’re following a framework that that others are following and are keeping up to date with with changes in security as well. Kassia Clifford 43:11Yeah, it’s a great way to point your compass, that’s for sure. Right? Even if even if the requirements are not on your shoulders, because it’s a big effort to get there. Or if you’re not, you know, creating an application, if you if it’s more of a, like, I’ve looked at them, you know, that that may apply more for an organization that’s building an application building an app or software themselves. However, even just understanding some bits and pieces of that I’ve used that to support another consulting agency, just to know, hey, these are best practices under this framework, and that feels good to them to know Okay, well, it’s not just coming out from Casio, she’s pulling out a vertical drunk, you know, she’s she’s getting this from a framework that’s well known, perfect, let’s align here, even if we don’t do all the other things that are really outside of our business model, or organizations, you know, service model. Marco Campana 43:59But again, it’s aspirational and interesting, as you bring up applications, increasingly, agencies are moving into this digital space. And some of them are creating, you know, mobile apps, and other you know, online portals even but also digital system, increasingly, we’re gonna have more digital systems. And so that, you know, this becomes something that we need to look out for compliance as well, then, Kassia Clifford 44:20for sure, yeah. And I hope that there will be more and more pockets of funding made available for nonprofits and smaller organizations to tap into so they can. So it can be affordable for them to reach out to the consultants and to get that support and build these programs. But again, like everything else, it is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and security and change does take time. And, yeah, I’ll be happy if this information serves some of the organizations that you work with. Marco Campana 44:48Absolutely. I have no doubt and that’s a great, that’s a great note to end on that this is something you’ve got to at least start but then it’s something that you’ll be continuing to evolve and improve on. So thank you so much for The time this has been such a great education for me. And I know that people that I work with and connect with are going to find this really valuable as well. So it really appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience with us today. Kassia Clifford 45:11My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Marco, it’s great. Marco Campana 45:15Thanks 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 are also on my site marcopolis.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@marcopolis.org Thanks again. Transcribed by https://otter.ai


20 Aug 2021

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TiHS Episode 29: David Phu – it’s time to start making videos

Welcome to episode 29 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode, I talk with David Phu from Nonprofit Video Comms, a nonprofit video and communications consultancy. Years ago I used to tell nonprofit peers that the emergence of YouTube had both raised and lowered people’s expectations of nonprofit video. Raised them because YouTube was so easy and ubiquitous you were expected to create and share videos. Lowered them because people were not expecting hyper produced video production, just good stories, useful and practical content in video format. As you’ll hear in this episode, David’s approach exemplifies this notion of nonprofit video use. He sees video as a key communication and information sharing tool for nonprofits. And while he can give you the hyper produced video product, he’s more interested in getting you to see how you can and should start creating videos now, today, with the tools and content you already have, without focusing on perfection. I think you’ll find this an interesting and inspiring conversation. Useful resources: David has created an awesome Should we make a video? resource you should definitely check out and learn from. In it, he outlines a 3-step process to help you decide on what type of videos you should be making. There’s a 20-minute walk-through video and a PDF you can download to help guide you through the process. It’s practical, simple, and I highly recommend it to you. David and I have a favourite informational video that I’m embedding here. It’s a great example of how to use video to provide practical information to you clients. In this case, CultureLink is an organization with offices deep within a mall/apartment building complex. Not easy to find. But super simple with this video! Machine-Generated Transcript What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation 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. Marco Campana 0:00Welcome to Episode 29 of the technology and Human Services podcast. In this episode, I talk with David Fuu from nonprofit video comms, a nonprofit video and communications consultancy. years ago, I used to tell nonprofit peers that the emergence of YouTube had both raised and lowered people’s expectations but nonprofit video raised them because YouTube was so easy and ubiquitous, you were expected to create and share videos lower than because people were not expecting hyper produced video production, just good stories, useful and practical content in video format. As you’ll hear in this episode, David’s approach exemplifies this notion of nonprofit video use, he sees video as a key communication and information sharing tool for nonprofits. And while he can give you the hyper produced video product, he’s more interested in getting you to see how you can and should start creating videos now today, with the tools and content you already have without focusing on perfection. I think you’ll find this an interesting and inspiring conversation. So thank you so much for joining me on on the podcast today. Can you just give me a bit of a background about you and how you came to work in video? Yeah. David Phu 1:07Well, first of all, thank you for having me how I got into this, I have been in nonprofits for maybe 20 ish years. And in different roles, it started with childcare, then it got into administration and communications. And I was always an artist, as well. So outside of work, that I was a musician and making videos. And basically, I never wanted to be a videographer. David Phu 1:41But when when I started studying and getting more into the topic of Communications and Media, I sort of became kind of fascinated with the idea of the trying to take trying to offer a way and take back control of of how a nonprofit or us like a social impact business can take back control of a conversation. I think there’s a lot of the old world of advertising that was controlled by sort of big outlets and big media and big advertising. But now now with access to a lot of digital communication tools, it’s a really fun and really powerful kind of work for me to be in. And, and you know, it’s actually not even for a love of video. It’s actually for a love of that the power of really effective, really helpful, really useful and practical communication. That’s where I’m at today. Marco Campana 2:45It’s a great segue into my next question, because you and I connected on LinkedIn. And one of the first things I noticed immediately is that you’re really focused on sharing very practical, very useful video tips and you know, communication tips broadly on your posts, which, which I found really, really helpful and, and incredibly timely for where people are at, especially with, you know, again, we’ve got a smartphone, it’s very powerful as a video and audio tool. But we don’t always realize that and I’m a big fan of that kind of posting and you’re posting in particular so. So when it comes to working in video and our audience for this podcast is mainly immigrant and refugee serving organizations focused on service delivery, more so than say fundraising or volunteer recruitment and things like that. So I’m wondering what some of your, your main tips are when it comes to using video as a tool for nonprofits if they’re considering video projects, or how they why they should consider video projects, David Phu 3:41specifically for immigrant and refugee serving Marco Campana 3:45in general, but I you know, if there’s particular tips that you have for that audience, that would be great. But I think even even more, again, just more focused on service delivery tips using video like informational tips, how to instructional versus kind of the branding tips, the you know, attracting money tips and things like that. Okay. David Phu 4:04I’ll start with General for all nonprofits. So now, there’s all types of videos you could make, which I don’t think I’ll have time to get into which so on the on one side of the spectrum, you have the branding, promotion advertising, and this is for cold audiences. And then on the other side of the spectrum, you have sort of functional informational, operational videos, these help you operate these help you multiply your efforts in some way this helps you save time or something like that, like training, for example. But the thing that I think for sure, small and medium nonprofits need to know in general, is the very first thing is to let go of perfection. Let go of the, I’m just going to make this word up now. But the entertainment model of video, there seems to be this runoff from maybe as late, maybe the 90s, where we we still kind of think video means high production, it means cinematic, it means storytelling. And of course, the it still does, and it has its time in place. But video is also just a communication tool at the end of the day, you have to let go of all the cinematics let go of the perfection. That’s the very first tip. Once that, once you’ve sort of shed that, that. That obsession, you can now sort of march forward and go, yeah, let’s save money and just ask a videographer to use smartphones, instead of renting expensive cameras, or let’s try it ourselves. We all have a smartphone in our pockets. Let’s let’s look up on YouTube for over over a few days to see if how to do it. And maybe we could give it a try ourselves. Once we let go of this obsession of over perfection, we can start to just kind of lean in and and really use the power of video for communication. Marco Campana 6:30Yeah, I think that that, that that idea of just of just trying something out, right, because I remember working in nonprofits, and it was exactly that a video project? Well, we need about $10,000 in funding, we’ve got to put out an RFP and it just became something that wasn’t going to be possible in the end. And a completely overwhelming because people didn’t even know how to manage those types of projects, let alone create them. So are we spending the money? Well, versus as you say, nowadays, everyone’s used to doing selfies and self videos and vacation videos and videos of their children and things like that. And, and so the tools are so much more accessible. And I think for me, I think there’s almost a sigh of relief to hear from a person who’s a videographer or video experts to say Don’t worry about perfection. Because I remember conversations half the conversation is less about the video and more about the intro slides and the outro. And do we have good music and things like that? And it just completely takes away from the conversation about what you’re trying to accomplish? David Phu 7:26Yeah, those those kinds of comments and feedback, oh, the music This and that it makes total sense in a different context. But yeah, the sigh of relief, the having the courage to just just do the thing. It’s funny, people are so good at filming at home, they’ve all become filmmakers. And as soon as it becomes about the organization, that’s like good suddenly, where we have to be like we were acting like producers and directors. I can’t pinpoint where that came from. But I think it’s really funny. And actually to lend myself a little bit more credibility here. Yeah, I’ve, I’ve done the bigger budget videos with a crew, with a lighting team and this and that. And then and it was it. When I finally got into studying what exactly is working and not working between me and my clients. I found that there was kind of No Return on high production. At the end of the day, it was always about the context, it was where it was placed on the website, it was what were the first 10 words, it was the call to action, it was whether something was believable or credible. Those were the things that moved a viewer forward. It wasn’t, though the work just didn’t seem to add up to that final impact or the return. But that’s just me. Marco Campana 8:55No, I think I mean, I think that’s an important perspective to talk about. Because I think that that and it kind of brings us to the video decision making handbook or tips that you’ve just recently created, which I find really useful. The step by step guide about choosing how to make the video and which type of video to make and why and for whom, for example, to help people with that sigh of relief, that sense, I wonder if you can kind of go through some of those types and why you were the tips and why you kind of came up with that as a model. David Phu 9:25Yeah, so I came up with this guide. It’s my first one from my company. And it’s, it’s it’s about how to decide on which video to make. And now the reason I came up with it is because there’s sort of this one running theme or this thing that every single potential new collaboration or client goes through and the same thing I hear over and over is same thing my peers here is that there seems to be a lot of I hope and effort and money and labor and resources going into video projects. But they’re always kind of based on just a loose idea. Somebody somewhere, maybe it was a board member, maybe it was a manager said, We need x y Zed video. And then you can just bank on the next six months being a massive production or a headache with the high likeliness that the video got hidden in the closet or collecting dust on YouTube or did nothing. And so I, I came up with this guide, it’s three steps to help avoid all of that. And so, it in my work, you know, there’s a lot more steps, but I kind of distilled it down to three foundational steps that you have to do an order. The first one is figure out what your communications problem is not your organizational problem or business problem and your communications specifically, how are people getting or not getting? The desired effect from your communications? Is it whether it’s your website, whether it’s your social media, whether it’s your newsletters, your internal portals, there’s always weaknesses and strengths. There’s always opportunities and threats out there. So let go of video and just figure out your your comp communications needs or successes that you might want to repeat. The second step is to understand the user or the audience and their behavior. And their context where they’re at. I find this part tends to be missing too in a lot of communications projects where people go well, well, the reports I’ll say everyone’s on Instagram, all the kids and the teens role on Instagram, or whatever it is. But nobody’s really at like, like pretend you’re a refugee serving. nonprofit, nobody’s really asking, you know, well, how much time is a newcomer? refugee, young adult or teenager spending on Instagram? What exactly are they following? What exactly are they’re looking at? Our clients, specifically single parents, or our clients specifically, traveling with family like these are deep, deep, deep personal behavioral insights that you need to know you can’t just jump on Instagram. So the second step is, is a series of questions to understand the the needs in the context of your audience. And then the third step is include a list of categories of videos, that would be that you can pick and choose from, depending on what you’ve determined to be your problem and your audience. And then you can choose the appropriate video and have a sort of a quick, cursory look at how much work is involved. So you can decide yourself, well, is this actually doable? Is this actually within our capacity? Is it sustainable? And what’s the likeliness of success? So yeah, the three steps should help you kind of decide more, more sustainably, which video might be worthwhile doing? Marco Campana 13:31Yeah, I mean, I was one of the things I liked about it in particular, I mean, I liked all the steps, but always the reminder of trying to understand your audience because I think with video in particular, like you said, people pick a medium first like Instagram and say, Okay, let’s just, we got Instagrams cool. So we’ve got to start putting some videos out on Instagram, without realizing whether that’s where the audience is even going to be looking for things. And, and knowing your audience is key for any kind of communication strategy. But obviously, micro strategies like a video, you have to take it even a step further, because then you’re talking about and in the guide, for example, you talked about, is your audience mobile first? And if they are, what are the implications of the videos that you make them? And what are the channels are the digital tools that they might be using? So again, in our case, with with newcomers, immigrant and refugee serving organizations, it’s quite a wide range, right? If you’re working with with folks from from Mainland China, it’s going to be a WeChat possibly, but you got to figure that out. It could be Facebook or WhatsApp, or Viber with people from from a lot of other parts of of the world. And so how do you make sure that video is potentially either optimized for those channels or put into a place like YouTube, where it just becomes optimized on a on a on a mobile device automatically, for example. So I found you know, again, the that notion, the reminder because in a lot of cases, in small and medium sized nonprofits in particular, they don’t have the communications staff for example. So every Everybody becomes a comms person, but they don’t have the foundational things they, they leap to the, to the technology before they do that pre work. So I found that really useful to tell a settlement worker, for example, at a settlement organization, you’ve got to figure out who your clients are and what they need, and what they’re using before you even start to create something for them. David Phu 15:21Yeah, I one of my favorite examples was the early days when I was that, that beginner comms person going like, okay, Now’s my chance, we’re going to go big on social media, I’m going to we’re going to blow up on social media. Every organization, you got to have it. And then through collaborating with the the committee in the team on on, we were we were trying to advertise our brand new preschool, we, we figured out this is one of my favorite stories is when who were we targeting, we were in a predominantly Chinese neighborhood. And we needed to get the word out to get the age four, three, and four kids to preschool. And then through a lot of interviewing and asking previous preschool people, you know, where do they get this information from? We figured out that we needed photocopied posters at the local grocery stores where grandma were grandma’s go shopping. Because grandma is the one taking care of the grandkids. Well, Mom and Dad are at work. But we needed to talk to them in Chinese print, with the pull tabs, if this isn’t that long ago. But we had to think about context, you have to think about, you know, where people are at. And, you know, when I work with clients, sometimes I’ll give them that advice. It means I don’t get it. I don’t have a video job now. But you know, that’s just way more fascinating to me. Marco Campana 17:03It’s the right advice in the end. Yeah. And I mean, I think part of what you’re talking about there, as well as when people think of the the client or the ultimate consumer of whatever communications tool, but in particular video, it’s not necessarily the parents, right, as you’re describing here, it might be someone else in their circle, of either influence, or, or network or community, for example. And I think, you know, in immigrant and refugee organizations and communities, that’s really relevant. And particularly now with the digital spaces, there are so many online networks created for and by newcomers themselves, that you know, they’re the vehicle to people but you’ve got to work with them as well, in order to get get things front and center to the to the client you’re trying to reach. But the client you’re trying to reach might be the grandmother or the faith leader or the other community leader or the you know, that instagrammer, who’s got all the followers there, no one’s gonna come follow you. But he may repost your video or something like that, or upload it natively if you ask them nicely enough kind of thing. The the the different kinds of sponsored content, right, instead of paying them you’re working on a community base basis kind of thing. And I think that’s one of the things that for me, is I think you’re and I would love to see is one of your next projects or handbooks or toolkits is okay, you’ve got the video. It’s, it’s the right video for the right audience. Now, what do you do with it? Right? Because one of the things I find often is people create a great video, even like, not necessarily a highly polished video, but just a great video, an informational video, and they throw it up onto YouTube. And then they just leave it there. They don’t put any comments or links for more information, and they never embed the video onto their website or anything like that. And then they wonder why no one’s watching their video. Right? So, you know, as part of that whole overall communication strategy. I wonder if they’re things that that you typically would suggest for for clients, you work with it? Okay, you got the video, but now what do you do with it? David Phu 18:59Mm hmm. So when I work with people, we start with a consultation that’s similar to the three step guide I just released. But that all that information, the context and the communication problem you’re solving that will inform how how we distribute the video after how do you post it, how do you get it out there. And I include sort of a custom instructional guide for how to do it. And so an examples of that would be so everybody’s probably interested in how to do better on YouTube. So YouTube, the first thing is people need to stop thinking about YouTube as this place where you post and people will see that’s just not how it works. You have to post and train YouTube to post to put In front of the right people, so you need a very clear title, you need a very detailed description you need to go. During the upload phase, you’ll be asked a bunch of forms and questions to fill in key key keywords for people to search and stuff like that, you got to build it up in the backend, and input the right data and train YouTube. YouTube wants to put the right stuff in front of the right people, it doesn’t just know automatically what your video is even meant to do. So that’s that’s the first thing is we give instructions on YouTube. And then in terms of usage. You know, there’s there’s just so many more ways than social media, some videos never even hit the public. So for example, if you have a portal, that’s a great place for offices across the country to watch videos, if you have a newsletter for your members, you can always put a video link that goes to a private YouTube or a private Vimeo, you can you can have an FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions library on your website. But see, I don’t recommend all of these things to everybody. It just just depends on your needs. Like for example, if you know that if you’re if your web person or your comms persons happens to know your social media gets a lot of traffic from a particular age group, there’s an opportunity right there to experiment with videos perfectly suited to that age group. Or if you happen to know that you’re your membership inquiries for your nonprofit, on your website, they a lot of traffic seems to get to this one landing page about membership and then drop off and there’s no nothing happens. Well, that might be a area where you can experiment and put a video that gives them some information they might have missed and invite them to take it. You might say like, thanks for getting to this page. If you’re interested in becoming a member, here are the here’s one thing that you can do, how to do it, how long it will take, when what you can expect right after you’ll get a response within one day, and you’ll be a member with this many benefits. That might be the final step, you know, so? So yeah, I don’t know if that helps you I kind of just went and blabbed a whole bunch of different examples. Marco Campana 22:44No, it does, because I think part of it is people aren’t even sure of the possibilities of what they can do with the video once they’ve created it. And again, I think in part because if if it’s, you know, if it’s so ubiquitous that a frontline worker creates a video, and then they either upload it, or they do have a centralized approach to upload it to a YouTube channel, it’s what happens next with that video. And I think, you know, just encouraging people about the possibilities for for, you know, you’re not done once you’ve posted it. And then once you’ve posted it either, as you say during the upload process, you’re strategic about how you’re doing it so that through YouTube, it’ll get to people. But I think you mentioned earlier that that would be like the cold communications. And then the warm communications is like that newsletter or the social media where you’ve already made connections with people. And then you post it numerous times in those spaces to try to make sure to get it in front of people. And so I think it’s that notion that you’ve created something but you’re not done with it, right? You’re going to be constantly sharing it and re sharing it and giving it new life and making it you know, appropriate. And, and again, some of that goes back to strategy, like the bigger communication strategy, like your editorial calendar, okay, well, it’s employment week. So we’re going to go and look at our treasure trove of employment videos and make sure we start re sharing them in a meaningful way during that week. And the video might be a year old, but maybe it’s evergreen video about how to write a resume. So it’s not like it’s changed in any meaningful way over that time. So I think there’s also that sense that people think, Oh, it’s an old video, we can’t use it anymore. But if it’s if it’s that type of video, then you could just bring it back to life and share it with people once again. David Phu 24:18Yeah, great point. I’d like to take that and add one more tip here and that is you got to use the video. So people seem to uh, once the video is done, it was kind of this like external project. We got it done. We posted it now moving along. The might the best best best example of using the video, in my opinion, is just talking about it. Because the video can’t do anything. It’s just a bunch of pictures in a file you have to set so for example, if you have an intro video on your web sight, and you’re doing a run of proposals for corporate partnerships. And you’re networking you’re doing proposals you didn’t you got to the ways to use the video is to talk about it. You if you’re networking at a conference and you go like, I’d love for you to check out our video. Hey, that was a great coffee. Do you mind if I send you our video when I get back to the hotel? Hey, it was nice meeting you last night. Just a little bit more about organization, make sure to watch this video link. Or somebody emails your organization and goes, Hey, I was wondering if what your address is and you go, Oh, this is our address. But listen, watch this video, you can see the street corner we’re on. Just to give you an idea what it’s going to look like, you’ve got to use the damn thing. So it’s like people, people have finally gotten used to referring people to their website. Now we got to do that too, with our videos, our videos is the like, is a? I don’t know how better to say this. But you got to you got to talk about it. You got to make sure all the stuff on your team, talk about it, use it, it is a tool. It’s not just some some new shiny thing that we’re all you know, we’re over it. It’s, you know, Marco Campana 26:23absolutely no, I think I think you’ve said it perfectly. Well, I think that’s it, you’ve got to give it life, right? You’ve got to let people know what exists and lead them to it, and use it as a tool. So I think that’s it like that’s a great example of the here you can see our organization, not just the address, but where we are and what it looks like and how to get there. And I shared a really fun video like that on LinkedIn where it was cultural link, which is started, I don’t know if they still do, but it was an older video of an office they had way in the back of an apartment in mall complex. And you know that I can only imagine the written descriptions of how to get there, and how confusing it was. But what they did was created a really simple video with some narration over it to say okay, you’re standing at the Dundas swept subway station, which is how a lot of their clients will get there likely. Now, this is how you get to us. And it’s like you’re walking along with the person until they get to the office. And I can’t imagine especially nowadays where dive is a little bit more accessible here. Someone literally pausing looking up walking along with the video in order to get them through to the office space. And I thought that was a brilliant use of video. David Phu 27:27That was Marco, when you shared that video. I was my heart grew, you know, three sizes. It’s just such a such a clear and simple and practical way of communicating. And I mean, I don’t know the organization but I bet they got tired of their their clients coming showing up late showing up lost calling them and that that. You mentioned that if it’s old people won’t use it. Well, yeah, I’ve noticed some clients go well, we have all these old videos, we’re kind of embarrassing, they’re outdated, they’re grainy when your client is lost at the basement level of a subway station or a mall I promise you they don’t care but the quality of the video they want to get to their their interview job interview training on time. Marco Campana 28:26Yeah, and I think that’s that’s such an important message as well because again, it’s the content that matters right and in particular service organizations that’s that’s what they have they have so much content and information that they can transfer into a video format I mean done it’ll it’ll never be exhausted and it’ll always be useful and and I mean one of the things that I’ve heard and you let me know your thoughts on this is in particular with with YouTube is that the audio is super important the video like you said if it’s grainy that people are very forgiving as long as they can make up what they’re seeing but they need to be able to hear it quite clearly as well. So maybe we can talk just a little bit about like cuz I tell people Okay, you’ve got your smartphone you’ve got the headphones on like you’ve got on right now and even the the microphone itself on smartphones are incredibly good nowadays, but there’s no excuse to not create you might be shaky as you’re walking but the audio will come through really clearly if you’re using the little earbud for example and and really that’s all you need David Phu 29:26Marco I have all of that filmmaker and audio and music studio equipment podcasters now all have like that finding fancy microphone in their their videos but yeah, that’s right this this iPhone here but I’m using i think is pretty good. Even my setups for filming myself. They’re just really simple. But anyway to your point but audio. Audio is my sound designer and puts it this way too, if you’ve done a good job and nobody noticed, that’s the goal. Once you make somebody go make that face like I can’t hear, or that face like, wait, what did they just say? or, or, you know, scared because it was too loud. you’ve, you’ve basically, you’ve got a small uphill battle now to recapture their attention. What you need is, I can’t really tell you technically how to do it, but I couldn’t tell you quickly how to do it. But clear audio with no distractions, no unnecessary music. That if we’re talking about just straight up communication, it’s just so important. It’s so important that the better you do it, the less they notice. But actually, the more you glue the information to their brain. Marco Campana 31:03No, that’s great. I think that keeping it simple, keeping the distractions to a minimum, being in a quiet space when you’re doing the audio, and the video if possible. And I mean, again, that culturally produce a great example. They didn’t do the audio as they were walking it just the ambient noise would have probably been way too much. So they did the narration overtop. And so you’ve got the benefit of very clear audio, with, you know, that corresponds to the video that you’re watching. So I’m curious because again, the people I work with AR and you speak to this in your your toolkit, actually, and you’ve spoken to it a few times here is the the immigrant and refugee populations. And I’m curious, because I think video can help bridge a lot of linguistic and cultural challenges and barriers and even things like for example, you mentioned, here’s our, here’s our space, I’ve seen some really interesting videos of people just doing a walkthrough of their employment Resource Center for newcomers, because when I say employment Resource Center, or ERC two people who are in the field, we all know exactly what that looks like. Because they’re kind of cookie cutter services you’re going to come in, it’s going to be a front desk, there’s going to be a bank of computers, it’s going to be some workshop rooms going to be some one on one offices. But you say that to someone who’s never experienced it before, they have no idea of what that might look like. And again, you can describe it in a bunch of paragraphs. But that video walkthrough of here’s what it’s gonna look like. For you, as a newcomer, I found really simple but really powerful, because it’s okay, I know exactly what I’m going to see when I get there. And I know that I’ll have access to these resources. Within that, I’m curious, for example, if we’re looking at diverse clients with different languages, how you can build in things like either subtitles or different language narration, like you create the video once but have six different versions of it, for example, and things like that, like are those are those kinds of projects, I would assume that’s where someone like you might come in to help with the technical side of those kinds of things. So it’s, it’s more produced, but it’s still not that like ridiculous 10,000 $20,000 video, it might be the video they shot. So for example, let’s say I shot that on my, my smartphone, we created a YouTube video of that of me doing a walkthrough, but I don’t know how to take the next step to make it sort of pro accessible. Is that something where someone like you could come in? David Phu 33:17Yeah, definitely. So I can go a couple directions. One is sort of the conceptual side, which I didn’t really think about until you mentioned it, but the visual language, so so one way we go about it, when we’re trying to be to reach, be more diverse, be more inclusive, be more accessible, is maybe just avoid any language at all. And we use visual. So we’ve talked about that. This, we’ve talked about this integral thing that probably clients want to know, which is how to get there. What is this subway going to look like? What does the street corner gonna look like? Here? We don’t even have to deal with text. Except maybe? Well, yeah, we don’t we don’t have to deal with text, if you happen to know that they managed to get to your website, easily. At that point, you just need to make some indicator that this video was helpful. But now the other side, the other end of it is on the more technical side. So I always think that you could, let’s pretend you only had 5000 or $10,000 or whatever, 100 bucks, that you could spend it. If you had to spend it all on one thing. You could spend it on the best production possible. And now you kind of just have that one video or you could spend it on somehow scaling. So that might mean we have to save money and save time and save resources on the quality so you smartphones don’t we don’t need to travel to a million locations. We don’t have to hire actors. You don’t have to do all this stuff, just be real use smartphones, and then spend the rest of your money on the duplication and the scaling. So let’s, let’s put out six versions of the same video with different subtitles, let’s put out six versions of the same video with six of our staff doing a voiceover in different languages. Let’s hire somebody on a contract for one week to build out the entire back end of the video. So make sure there’s a English version and that Chinese version and a French version and whatever version on YouTube because just one video alone is going to take half an hour get somebody to do it six times. So really, it’s it’s spending, whatever scarce resource you have on on scaling a cheaper video instead of the other way around. Marco Campana 36:04Yeah, that’s great advice. And I wonder along those same lines, I look at sometimes a video is maybe 10 minutes long, maybe it’s a presentation that someone’s made. And they just decided to record it like how to do a resume and things like that. I’ve seen people like, you know, and this is someone who has tons of resources, but like a Gary Vaynerchuk or Gary Vee, who will say, take that and turn it into different smaller bits of content for use on different media. So for example, you know, he’ll take a keynote presentation, and he’ll, he’ll throw together a one minute clip, and he puts it on Instagram with some text over it here and there kind of thing. And it’s repurposing the same video and splicing it and cutting it and using it in different ways. Now that that starts to take people into a different area of technical production. Because I can make the video I can upload it to YouTube, and YouTube allows me to like cut off a bit at the front and a bit at the end, for example. But I can still have a very, very usable video interview in between there. So I wonder if that’s another area where some some extra you could use your budget for technical production, for example, with someone like you or a contractor could come in and say, Okay, let’s take this video. And let’s not just talk it up and give it life. But let’s give it 15 different versions of that life kind of thing. Yeah, David Phu 37:19I love that idea. One of one of my mottos in my LinkedIn posts is you have everything you need. So I know overnight. Every organization became zoom experts, virtual events, webinars, awards, staff meetings, actually, I was part of a staff meeting where the staff were super entertaining. And I thought, if somebody would just cut up little bits of this, what, what what rich, genuine, authentic content this would be. Because they’re all just so knowledgeable when the cameras are off. They’re so passionate, and they’re so funny. So yeah, I’m with you on that. And then the whole Gary Vee thing of, you can turn 110 minute training session into, you know, a week’s worth of content. But I will always go back to context. It’s like, Well, yeah, you should know what your audience wants. And but if you’re in a position to experiment, if you’re in a position to you don’t know what you what you what you want to do. So let’s try anything. And you’re brave enough to not need high quality fade ins and beautiful music and you’re willing to just chop chop, chop, then you you have a you have a free resource right there, you have a free well of content, just go for it. Marco Campana 38:44I think that Yeah, I love that advice. Because I think it’s so important for people to realize that even once you’ve created something, there are multiple versions of it that you can recreate and make use of even a transcript becomes an article which becomes a blog post, which becomes social media quotes. For example, it’s like, the life outside of the video itself will give you text content as well. Because some people, some people don’t script it. So if you don’t script it at the end, you’ve got to script. David Phu 39:10The transcript thing, man, like, okay, yeah. Okay, so we talked about having repurposing and having multiple bits of content of the video. But once you if you convert a transcript into a blog post, and do you know, some grammar corrections, you’ve just indexed to Google and made yourself more fundable. And it’s like, you made all that in a staff training without planning or scripting anything like it just is, this is a this is a gift, you got a free content. Marco Campana 39:40Exactly. And it’s like all of a sudden, one little thing becomes multiple things without even putting a ton of effort into it. And I find even for a short video, people will script it because they’re a little bit nervous. Yeah, and even so at the end of that you automatically have have your article and they don’t always think about that though. So many times where It’s all about the video, they forget the multiple ways they can use what they’ve created David Phu 40:04in different spaces. Well, Marco, you and I both know that there’s, there’s just too much stuff out there. It’s not it’s nobody’s fault for not knowing or forgetting. But that’s why there’s these podcasts so people can give be reminded? Marco Campana 40:21Absolutely. Absolutely. I appreciate your practical focus, and the time that you’ve given today, is there anything I wanted? Before we wrap up? Is there anything I haven’t asked you about when it comes to video and why people should use video that you want to leave with folks? Oh, David Phu 40:37no. But actually, on the topic of in your sector, Refugee and Immigrant service, serving nonprofits, I wonder if you’ve read the article, this journal article called mobile communication and read refugees. Marco Campana 40:53I’m not sure if I’ve read that specific one. There is a bunch of research that’s been done about that topic, though, for sure. Okay. But please send it to me. And I’ll include it with, with the the Episode Notes. Because in particular, over the last few years, with a major influx of, of the refugees and migrants into Europe, there was a ton of research done to try to understand how important the smartphone has been for newcomers, and we’re, and then there’s been a corresponding smaller amount that’s been done in Canada. But that’s exactly and even like there’s there’s, there’s multicultural marketing agencies and businesses and others who have looked at the technology preferences and habits of newcomers. And they are predominantly mobile first. So I think you talked about it earlier, for example, a person might come to a website, and it just doesn’t work. And there are still too many websites that don’t work well on mobile devices. And boom, you’ve turned someone off completely from that, and meeting meeting newcomers in those digital spaces like WhatsApp, which has become a very ubiquitous tool in our sector, in part because of the Syrian influx. There’s lots of communities that have used WhatsApp for many years, but it didn’t get on our radar until, you know, 50,000 Syrians came in and literally all we’re using WhatsApp, and suddenly we are using it in our sector. So I think there’s always some catch up around that. But yeah, one of the things we see a lot of is how mobile first newcomers are. David Phu 42:22Yeah, I guess, I guess the final point I want to make is, it’s not even the importance of video or the ease of using video. It’s, it’s just having to do your research about where your people are and what they need. You know, 1520 years ago, we had the nonprofits were behind the times on becoming internet friendly. Now they’re behind the times on being mobile friendly. Marco Campana 42:48Absolutely. So David Phu 42:50that’s, that’s that, I guess that’ll be my big final thing is context first and meet people where they are. Marco Campana 42:56I think that’s a that’s an essential point for all kinds of communications. But it’s good. So good to hear you reminding people of that when it comes to video as well. So thank you, David, so much for your time and imparting some of your knowledge today. I really appreciate it. David Phu 43:08Thank you for your time and imparting your knowledge to Marco. Marco Campana 43:12There’s a great chat. I’m looking forward to sharing it with folks. David Phu 43:15Thank you. Marco Campana 43:17Thanks 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 are also on my site@markopolos.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@markopolos.org Thanks again. Transcribed by https://otter.ai


2 Aug 2021

Rank #5

Podcast cover

TiHS Episode 28: Whitney Loewen – Newcomer Introduction to Classes Online (NICO)

Welcome to episode 28 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode, I’m chatting with Whitney Loewen the manager of E learning and special projects at The Immigrant Education Society (TIES) in Calgary. I reached out to Whitney after discovering their Newcomer Introduction to Classes Online project, or NICO. NICO is an online course designed to help newcomers overcome barriers to online learning. It offers a flexible, self-paced curriculum that can be accessed online at any time. Upon completion of NICO, participants will possess the digital literacy skills required to undertake online language studies. That sounds great, and is needed. But what particularly got me excited was that they created NICO to be an open digital literacy educational resource, free for other agencies to use. If you’re using Moodle as your Learning Management System, you can get the full NICO curriculum to use with your clients. I had a great discussion with Whitney, and discovered even more innovative work The Immigrant Education Society is doing. I hope you find this as interesting and useful a discussion as I did. If you’re interested in transferring the course materials to your own Moodle LMS, contact WhitneyLoewen@immigrant-education.ca. Machine-Generated Transcript What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation 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. Marco Campana 0:03Welcome to the technology and Human Services podcast. Can you start maybe by telling me a little bit about yourself and the immigrant education society? Whitney Loewen 0:31Yeah, sure. So my name is Whitney Loewen. And I’m the manager of E learning and special projects at the immigrant education society. We’re otherwise known as ties and we’re a newcomer serving agency in Calgary, Alberta. We were founded in 1988. by Mr. Swenson do and he was an immigrant from Pakistan at the time. And so he noticed, even at that time that immigrants were having a very difficult time accessing English language training, never mind getting their credentials recognized. He was an engineer himself. And so he wanted to help other people have a slightly smoother transition into Canada. And so he founded our first our first location and Forest Lawn, which is in the southeast quadrant of Calgary. And today, we have three locations, actually, throughout the northeast and southeast. So these are really vibrant communities. They’re very multicultural, most people don’t speak English at home work may not be their first language. So I don’t think it really fits the stereotype that a lot of people have, but what Calgary is from the outside, they’re beautiful communities to work in. Marco Campana 1:31That’s great. Yeah, no, I think you’re absolutely right. I mean, I think people when people think of Calgary, they don’t think of the same kind of multiculturalism that exists in Toronto, or Vancouver or Montreal, but, but it is a vibrant, thriving, multicultural community. So it’s really great to kind of place the organization in that space. Thank you for for doing that. And I find these conversations are useful, even just for that kind of, you know, awakening, like, Hey, we’re all over the country, you know, the services exist, there’s a need for them. And, and, you know, there’s tremendous amounts of newcomers Atlanta in different cities everywhere, even though we may have our preconceived notions of where those are. So the thing that attracted me to to ties in that I found was the newcomer introduction to classes online project. So I’m wondering if you can tell me a little bit about that, and why it came about and what was sort of the main problem or the main issue it was trying to address? Whitney Loewen 2:18Yeah, so it’s an interesting project, and that it’s been in the works for quite a long time, it’s not to something that we decided on, in reaction to the pandemic. We’ve been involved with elearning. For quite some time, we’ve had a number of programs developed over the years, but our sort of granddaddy program was link home study, which we still offer. That’s a really excellent program, I know that there, it’s offered right across the country at different organizations. And for context, it is 30 minutes, one on one with the teacher and the student every week, just for one day. So that’s just a half an hour every week, and the rest of the time, you would be doing homework on the learning management system. So normally, this works really well achieve as the umbrella organization that oversees it, and they do a really good job of keeping things up to date and running smoothly. But because the program is for CLB, three to CLB, eight, we noticed that the majority of our students who are dropping out of the program early for undisclosed reasons were CLB, three, MC lb four. So our earliest learners, and then we took a look at our waiting list, which at the time was very long, because it is such a popular program, and 60% of the people waiting for class were CLB, three and sealed before so we said oh my gosh, you know, because something we really want to look into a little bit further and see what’s actually happening. So we started observing the classes, and we started talking to the instructors, and they said, you know, we’re spending 20 to 25% of every class just going over how to find where their homework is on the LMS. You know, they they’re having issues with opening a Word doc or saving a PDF or doing relatively simple tasks in certain websites that we direct them to outside of the LMS as well. And you know, the eating up a lot of our class time. And so obviously, that’s not ideal. You don’t have enough time to address what you’re actually there to do, which is learn English. And so we really realized that there was a need for a baseline level of digital literacy training before you even got into the English language training. So that’s where nuco came about. So So I guess maybe to describe what it is Nico is self driven digital literacy training, and it can be offered in the class or completely independently. teacher can help you walk through it, or you can do it on your own. There’s all sorts of ways to do it. Marco Campana 4:27And yeah, I mean, I think you raised another really interesting point. This was the pre pandemic project. And in fact, online learning around ESL has been around for for longer than a decade in a lot of ways. And I think that’s an interesting point to to raise in this conversation, too, is that this is not something that’s new in our sector. You know, the the links at home study online learning because like you said, You’ve been doing elearning for some time has been around for a while. So I think that’s a really important point as well. I noticed that the that I went through the research survey because you did some research to kind of set the stage to this Figure out what would be what would work I guess for Nico and, and, and one of the things that are some of the we’ve seen this in some of the project work we’ve done around the technology task group and other other research as well, is that even though this this is this online and blended learning has existed for a while there has been amongst some providers, a predisposition against online learning, you know, a preference of face to face. And, and it came out in the research, I think one of the researchers noted that students with low benchmarks, so probably three, four and below, were discouraged from entering online programs, and encouraged to come into classrooms first before taking elearning. So it was Nico, kind of a response in some ways to say, well, maybe we can figure that out online. And for some learners, they won’t have to go physically into a classroom, but that they could do some of this online and continue online, if that’s their preference. Whitney Loewen 5:52Yeah, I certainly think so, like we did want to offer it initially is something that students could do while they’re waiting for further classes. So our intent wasn’t to disrupt elearning that was already in progress. Or it was just to, you know, at the time, our waitlist for link home study was over a year, which is a huge amount of time and, and you can really kind of get kind of despairing when you’re on a waitlist that long, you know, I’m kind of treading water here. What am I doing. And so first and foremost, we wanted to address that we wanted to give people hope that hey, we are acknowledging you there is something for you to do. And this is going to help you once you do get into learning. So I know that not all programs are fortunate or unfortunate to have a waitlist that length, but it is something that’s really good as a preface to before you get into your regular elearning class. Of course, during the pandemic, we haven’t had the luxury of of that prep time. So it’s been really cool to see the different ways that teachers have been using it, they’ve been taking pieces of, you know, certain units and bringing it into their pre existing classes, or they’re directing students to just a very specific video, a specific URL. So rather than just going through it from beginning to end independently, there’s a lot of different ways you can use it. And I think that because teachers are able to do that it helps them with scaffolding their students into elearning, a little bit better. And that has been like a huge need that we’ve seen throughout this pandemic. You know, for instance, at our school, we started off with our classes who are normally in class, starting just a one on one conversation on WhatsApp, because that’s a universal tool, it seemed to be among our students anyways, they talked to their families a lot on it, they’re comfortable with it. And then from there, we get everybody into a zoom class together. And we’re just talking and we’re getting used to having 12 people in a room looking at each other, figuring out all the audio issues and the internet issues. And from there, we add the LMS. So for a lot of students, that’s Google classrooms. In other programs, that might be something else. So you have to work people up to that final iteration of what you want your elearning program to look like. And I think because Nico can be used to help to do that, I think it can help a lot of organizations who might be hesitant, who might not be sure where to start or how to keep going with this elearning thing, because maybe they just need a little bit of helping hand to help scaffold their students into that ideal elearning program. Marco Campana 8:03That’s really a really important point, because at first glance, it looks like here’s an elearning package that a student could take and go through module one to module four, or five. And sort of but what you’re describing is, is it can be really customized based on the the learner and the organization and the teacher are the the frontline worker and how they they assess the the individual client, and how they can they get what they need, I guess so there’s pieces that maybe they just need a bit of a module to get over a certain kind of hump before they move on to the next piece. Whitney Loewen 8:35Yeah, certainly it can be used in a multiple multitude of different ways. So it’s been really rewarding to see people sort of take it apart, use it however they would like. And we encourage people even to edit it to a certain degree, there are some things that you cannot change. But if you want to optimize it, and maybe take it one step further than what the curriculum has had, we would love for people to do it. Because we want this to be sort of a living, breathing program that continues on beyond the scope of our initial research. I think there’s a lot of danger that these cool pilot projects kind of wither on the vine after the funding dries up. But we want it to keep on going. We’re not you know, we’re not continuing with developing it right this minute. But we we hope that other people will for us as well. Marco Campana 9:12Yeah, that’s that’s a thank you for bringing that up. Because that was another thing that really attracted to me when when I when I found the web page, and I saw you’re making it available to people who who also use Moodle to be able to literally, you know, copy and paste and make use of it in their learning management system. How and why did you decide to do that to make it available to other service providers? If they’re using Moodle? I think that’s again, I think that’s the future for our sector is that kind of curriculum and content sharing, but but you’re an early adopter in that space. I’m curious how that happened. Whitney Loewen 9:42Yeah, I have to give a lot of the credit to our provincial government funder honestly, because we’ve been working with them with some of our earliest elearning projects. And so we’ve done that for quite a few years. And very early on, they, we were working together and they really recommended that we make that available broadly as soon as the project was in was complete. It’d be just for that reason, because a lot of these pilot projects, they kind of lose momentum after the funding runs out. Maybe the original organization that put in so many hours and so much time into creating this beautiful curriculum now doesn’t have an independent source of funding that can keep paying instructors to keep it going. But if you’re disseminating this curriculum, and you’re giving it to other organizations, it continues to, to live, and it continues to benefit others. And I think also, just from the provincial government standpoint, they’ve always been big proponents of getting settlement services in rural areas going to the same degree that they were in urban centers, a lot of those smaller service providers can’t afford the same sort of program development, or they haven’t got the capacity to offer the same level of programming that they do in the city. So if we can give them access to this curriculum that they can use in any which way they would like, they can become a full step closer to what you know what we’re achieving the city. So there shouldn’t be that disparity of services. Marco Campana 10:53I think that’s, that’s really important, especially as we’ve discovered during the pandemic, with the digital divide, and digital inclusion, and access issues, I think, have really kind of come to the fore. So the idea of, of creating something and like you said, having all this investment in a pilot project, and then and then it just kind of just languishes Well, now you’ve put it back out to the community. And, and you mentioned even people being able to edit it and update it themselves. And I noticed like, again, I came to you, in part to get the curriculum for one of my clients. And when we’ve implemented it in our LMS, it’s obvious that there are spaces where you could make additions or edits or changes and even maybe customize something to make it more local or those kinds of things. Are you encouraging people to reshare? What they might customize back into sort of the community in some way? Because it’s something that could evolve over time? Whitney Loewen 11:39I think so yeah, I think all that we ask is that people sort of give original attribution to the shell of the program back to ties, because we are closely related to our funder who helped us through this program. It’s ircc, of course. So we want people to know that they had a really big helping hand and getting this off the program or off the off this. I’ll start, I’ll start over for that one. Marco Campana 12:03No problem. Whitney Loewen 12:04Yeah, I really would like people to disseminate this as far as they can and share their edits with other with other service providers, I think as long as they give attribution for the core content of the curriculum to ties, and just acknowledge that ircc was instrumental in getting the project off the ground in the beginning, and then maybe take their own attribution for the edits that they have made. So that it’s, it’s clear who has done what I think sky’s the limit, it’d be really cool to see what people come up with. Marco Campana 12:30Yeah, I agree. I think it’s, I think it’s the sort of the future of content creation. I mean, if if one organization has created something that’s foundationally really useful, then why should I RCC fund other organizations to do basically replicate that, but maybe they can find them to add to it, right. So if someone could take Nico and build in more specialized kind of E learning or more, if different technology tools or things like that, and just kind of keep it up to date with technology trends and things like that. So I’m, I’m curious as well, how ircc itself reacted, because I think this idea of content sharing and reuse is sort of new to them, although it sounds like it’s not new to the province. What was their reaction to this idea of your project? Whitney Loewen 13:09I wasn’t heavily involved at that point. But I think that they were quite favorable, because this STI was all about innovation and trying new things. Even before the pandemic before everyone was fully on the elearning bandwagon. I think that they saw the potential in that. I know that ircc is all funders, as you sort of alluded to, are really big on not duplicating services, because that’s just redundancy, right? Or duplicating funding. So if we can work together more closely across the sector, I think you’re going to be much stronger, and more effective and more efficient than if we were all working in our own little silos. Marco Campana 13:40I love that. I completely agree. So just to shift a little bit to the outcomes now, because of course, we want to know, what’s the impact then, of the program on newcomers, but so let’s, I’m going to also find out about what what kind of uptake you’ve had among service providers. But But in terms of newcomers, um, you created this to meet a particular need? How has it impacted their digital literacy or their ability to access online learning and online services more effectively? Whitney Loewen 14:06Yeah, sure. So we don’t have a lot of empirical data. Unfortunately, I just because the scope of the project sort of expired as soon as we released it out into the world. And we said, here’s, here’s our baby, please take good care of it. And please, we hope that it helps a lot of people. But we do have a lot of anecdotal evidence. And we do have what we’ve observed. It’s been quite popular during the pandemic, of course, there’s a lot of people who are going through the materials, and they’re coming back to repeat certain units, or they’re using it almost as a reference guide. So it’s really cool to see that it can be used as this sort of, you know, perpetual reference that someone can keep coming back to that will really support them. We’re seeing that the majority of people who are enrolling are older adults, which is sort of in line what we see with the rest of our elearning project. You know, the base age for a lot of our learners is 35. And they tend to be older than the than that. That’s not so very old, of course, but in terms of like who we’re serving, that is That is sort of towards the middle of the pack. And they tend to be women, of course, because women have a lot more barriers to accessing in class service than maybe they’re supposed to do if they’re the primary breadwinner. And it’s emphasized more that they need to get into ESL classes a little bit faster, or on a bigger timeframe. So it’s been really cool to see who’s accessing it. But it’s also kind of shown, you know, just once the pandemic has started, that you can empower anybody with a certain amount of digital literacy ourselves included, but there’s still going to be those acute issues that crop up from time to time that you cannot be having someone beside you, either on a zoom call, or in the classroom, helping walk you through it, you know, maybe your internet connection blows up, or there’s some catastrophic printer failure, there’s only so many things that we can address. So I kind of hope that we can use that research to sort of spur funding organizations to realize that there needs to be a broader level of support for eLearning departments, you know, you can empower your clients to sort of self navigate their way through the LMS and learn online effectively, but there still needs to be someone available to help, there still needs to be that support. You know, we had a lot of people spending many hours on the phone with our, with our students, when they were first moving to online learning, since the pandemic started helping them you know, get back onto their zoom class, or how to turn your camera on that sort of thing. And there isn’t a lot of funding to continue that in between classes, because everybody is funded on a project by project basis. But that also means that you can’t you haven’t got the resources to continue improving something like Nico, in between funding periods. So I hope that that sort of like the next, the future frontier, where we’re going with funding is that we look at things from a sector wide perspective. And we start funding those support services that maybe don’t seem so important initially, but they’re hugely important on the back end. Marco Campana 16:47That’s it, those are really important advocacy points. I mean, I think we saw this a lot in in during the pandemic is the the sort of evolution of the digital navigator, which is exactly what you’re describing. And in some cases, that it’s the teacher themselves, or a settlement worker who is giving that kind of extra support over and above the the the coursework or the the education, but to get them connected to the technology. In some cases, we’ve seen short term funding for, you know, a halftime position or a shift in someone’s position so that they can do that kind of onboarding and be that support, not just for, for newcomers, but also for the for the workers who for whom this might be also sort of new teaching in a in an online environment, even if they’ve done a little bit of the before in a blended way, doing it purely online is it can be quite different. So I think I think that that makes it a lot of sense and having. I mean, I think we’re moving towards a hybrid service delivery model in the future. And again, you the ESL experiences, that you’ve already had that kind of blended model. But it’s interesting that those supports have never been in place before. And now we see the need for them much more acutely. Whitney Loewen 17:49Yeah, actually, we had a sort of interesting experience last year in the middle of the pandemic. So traditionally, like I mentioned that we work with the province quite often on establishing new elearning initiatives, and they’ve been sort of a champion, but just like any funding organization, and just like many of our service providing organizations, you know, not everybody was online or drinking the elearning Kool Aid, they didn’t really see the potential or the need for it when everything was humming along just perfectly in class, right? It’s a really effective model. We’ve honed this over decades, you know, why are we messing with the good thing. And so we would propose the audio learning project, and you kind of got into the habit of asking for the bare minimum that you could get through the bare minimum in terms of instructional prep hours, the bare minimum in terms of curriculum development, or subject matter experts. And that was how your project would get approved, if you could just barely sweep by right. So we were preparing another elearning proposal last year in the middle of the pandemic, after everyone had shifted online. Again, it was for the province. And I had asked for what I’m used to asking for, which is not much for everything, you know, daydreaming about a better world where I can ask for enough for everything. And to their credit, the funder came back to us and they said, Look, we really like this idea, we would like to prove it. However, we would like you to ask us for more money so that we can do this along with you learning best practices, we want you to ask us for more prep time and more curriculum development. And I think my jaw just about hit the floor, because it’s it never happened before. But I was so pleased to be able to work with them on this. So we went back and forth a few times until we finally reached a really beautiful model where our curriculum developers are fully supported, and they’ve got enough time to develop these resources. And this was a first for me and I think for the for the for the funder, if I recall correctly. So it’s been really cool to work with them on that. Marco Campana 19:32That’s huge. I mean that. I’d love to explore that a little bit more because I think you’re right, we get we get we put ourselves into a funding box, especially if it’s project based. Where Yeah, we’re, we were low balling ourselves a lot of the time to say, Well, if they don’t see it as priority, maybe we’ll ask for something so at least we get it and then we’ll we’ll at least be able to deliver what we know is in need, for example. So it’s really heartening to hear that the funders themselves are looking at the data and looking at the reality and again I think there’s there’s a sea change that’s happened because of the pandemic, where we’re all sort of starting to realize where technology can be a tool where it can be useful, but also what the resources are required to make it work. So you know, not just digital navigation, but these curriculum and, and instructional designers, you know, they’re, they’re kind of in the back background, you don’t see them, but their work is so essential to creating something that’s seamless and usable and accessible. And that can evolve over time as well. And then obviously, the importance of good pedagogical training for people who are doing that the providing the services online, because that’s, again, different than in a classroom. So I wonder if is that a conversation that you find is happening with other colleagues in the sector as well around looking at, like, we need to ask for what we really need. We need to have this conversation that, you know, technology and online can create efficiencies, but it’s not, you know, resource agnostic, it requires investments of human resources, and even in some cases, technology itself. Whitney Loewen 20:54Yeah, I, I wish I could say that we were having that conversation with more people, I think that it’s still early days yet in terms of some organizations to start asking for money for eLearning projects outside of their usual link programming. I think that a lot of organizations haven’t even contemplated yet developing something that may be career specific, or a different skill specific or something that steps outside of link, I think a lot of people were really overwhelmed. If they weren’t doing it already, with just getting their link classes online, or their regular ESL classes online. And they’re sort of taking your breath now and then stepping back and thinking, Okay, now we’re thinking about reopening, you know, it wasn’t gonna look exactly the same as it did before or some of these, some of these tools that we’ve developed over the last year and a half going to stay, you know, for instance, our organization did a really cool hybrid pilot, where part of the class is at home, coming in through zoom, and part of the class is in the classroom with the teacher, and she’s teaching to both of them at the same time. And ircc made a tremendous investment in that setup, and I can’t see them saying, okay, you know, great, we serve everybody, good research outcomes, you know, we’re going to go back to the classroom exactly the way it was, and we’re going to let all this technology languish, I really don’t see that happening. So I think organizations should be having that conversation, as you say, like, what does it look like going forward now? Are there some standards across our sector that we should impose? How can we help each other build on what we’ve learned during the pandemic? Maybe we don’t have to just work in our little silos, maybe we can do this together and become really strong? Marco Campana 22:25Yeah, I think that’s, that’s essential. And again, a lot of the research we’ve been doing like in the task group bears that out, people want to know what’s happening. They want to share best practices, they want knowledge mobilization, but half the time it’s not even, it’s knowing what who’s doing what. So for example, the blended model that you just described, or the hybrid model of it, I’m curious what that was what that was like, because that could be incredibly challenging as a model to be you’re teaching literally two different spaces at the same time. And I mean, there’s, there’s technology challenges, there’s internet lag, there’s, you know, audio challenges, there’s different just so many different needs and and potential issues that could crop up in that what was that experience? Like, for the for the instructors? And what did it require as a baseline to get there in terms of not just skill, but also even technology and infrastructure? Whitney Loewen 23:12Sure. So I wasn’t terribly closely involved with the initial Infineon implant left. Okay. I wasn’t terribly closely involved with the initial implementation of the project, which is unfortunate, but I have had the chance to observe some of the classes and it’s pretty cool to see them in action. I know that, you know, when we’re deep into the pandemic, the programs that were really suffering were literacy classes. So where adults are learning to read and write and speak at a very basic level, and they haven’t got those study skills developed, even in their home country, because they have limited or no formal schooling. So the greatest challenge was that they couldn’t see their teacher effectively to read their lips or interact physically in the classroom, because it’s a very kinetic class, in our literacy program, you’re moving around a lot, you know, you’re, you’re interacting very heavily with the teacher, and a lot of that has been lost when you move on to zoom. And so those learners were really frustrated. And they were some of the first to really wanted to come back into the class. But of course, you know, paying attention to social distancing and protocols during the pandemic, it just wasn’t possible up to a certain point. But we want to prepare for that eventuality. We wanted them to be the first programs who could come back to the school when we weren’t able to offer that. So we started working with ircc. And we reorganize some of our funding to, to develop these hybrid programs. And it’s been really cool to see, you know, the first teachers who were involved with it are, they tend to be innovators anyways, they tend to be very excited about technology and adopting new approach. And so they’ve been really optimistic and really, you know, forward looking and innovative during this whole thing. So they were really ideal to get going first on this. We didn’t throw anyone in there who wasn’t comfortable with the idea of it. And yeah, there were some bumps that I’m aware of that happened at the beginning. You really have to kind of hold each other’s hands and like take a deep breath sometimes and think, okay, we can do this especially when maybe your learner’s at home aren’t able to connect into the class or, you know, your students in the classroom are feeling a little bit neglected, because you’ve turned your back on them to address the screen for a little bit of time, it takes a while to develop a cadence, I think for teaching in two directions at once. But from what I’ve observed, it works really well. And it allows the students who aren’t comfortable with coming to the class yet, or who don’t have access to transportation, or any of those other usual barriers, to be comfortable and learn at home. And those who are really excited to get back and socialize with their peers and see the teacher to be there in person. So we love the model, it’s working really well. And we’d love to keep doing it. Marco Campana 25:34I mean, yeah, some of those barriers and challenges would aren’t going to go away just because if we get past COVID, people who might still have transportation or childcare or timing issues, and things like that. So it makes sense on a lot of levels to increase x accessibility by offering those kinds of different options. And that one sounds really interesting and curious, when it comes to knowledge mobilization, because, again, your your organization sounds like it’s doing some real, real innovating. Are you able to, and this is another issue around resources? Are you able to find the time to share some of these learnings to even do your own case studies? Or is ircc trying to figure out some learning from this perspective as well? Because I mean, again, they’re funding something that is quite unique, but maybe happening in other places in the country? I mean, we don’t even know, you know, is there is there an idea to share this kind of learning the sector, based on your experiences? Whitney Loewen 26:24Well, I don’t know if there is a larger sort of umbrella project to take all of these different funded hybrid experiences are different innovative practices, and turn them into one large research study, that would be sort of beyond what I’m aware of. But I know that our teachers have been really, really good at sharing their practices with one another. Just here in Alberta, we have a tesl, Alberta Teachers of English as a second language. And they have a really great conference every year, where people share what they’ve been up to, for the last year best practices, innovations. And they’re always stuffed to the gills with really cool workshops. And so I think we’re going to see a lot of that in the coming HSL workshop, I think it’s going to be really interesting to see, of course, those things that Tesla Canada and different organizations across the country, four different provinces, that I think will, you’ll probably see the same, I think there’s going to be a lot of sharing and a lot of talking about it. Even just from a stress relief standpoint, you know, You’ll never believe what I’ve just been through. But there’s a lot of potential for what we’ve just done. You know, I I’m, I’m really optimistic about that. And I know that just within our own intersectoral work and conversations, people are starting to talk about it already. So I don’t know if it’s formalized. But I know that there is a lot of talk just informally. Marco Campana 27:34Now, that’s great. It’s great to know about those venues too, because I mean, increasingly, that those those conferences are happening online, so theoretically, they’ll be recordings and they’ll be there’ll be materials that can be available to a broader audience outside of Alberta, even for example, this is this is completely unrelated to why I initially contacted you. So feel free to say I can’t answer it. But I’m curious about because we’re talking about English language talking about elearning. How much of that has transferred over to some of your settlement sites, in terms of what you’ve been learning around around online services around preparing students? So for example, you could is Nico useful for someone who may not need the language side of things, but may need the digital side of the literacy in a settlement context, for example, is has that been happening that kind of crossover? Whitney Loewen 28:22That’s interesting. We haven’t done that in our own organization. I haven’t heard of that specifically happening. But I was looking at the research that you had conducted as well with some of your teammates, and you had mentioned the potential for a digital literacy benchmark. I think that’s an awesome idea. I think that that’s super if there’s a way to build that into the assessment when someone is coming to the referral center, and they’re saying, look, I need these services, what can you do to help me and then they’re assigned to either an educational referral specialist or the the benchmark referral person for language services, if we can give them a digital literacies benchmarking at the same time, maybe then we that could lead to, you know, programs like Nico being built out for the entire sector that would we can be like, okay, you have this benchmark, before you get into these programs that we’re going to recommend to you, we really recommend that you go through this avenue to sort of brush up your skills or become familiar with what you’re going to need before you start learning. Or, you know, hey, you’ve come to us for employment training. This is what’s required in a modern office, right? Because a lot of us organizations have individually, you know, say clerical training or administrative training or old computer classes, but none of them are working together. And even when students, you know, migrate between programs, I would say, even within our own organization, they’re going to be required to use a different learning management system or a different sort of online learning interface than they have even in that previous program. In the same organization. They may have to go from the link home study Canada learning management system, over to Moodle and then over to Google classroom and then maybe just to a class that only uses zoom, but they rely really heavily on like Kahoot quizzes or something. So there’s a lot of literacy that needs to be developed and a certain amount of troubleshooting that a student can conduct on their own to figure it out very quickly, even if they haven’t been formally trained in it. Marco Campana 30:14That’s great. First of all, thank you for reading the report. I appreciate that. Um, secondly, that idea actually came out of those consultations, in particular with ESL and FSL. Teachers, because I think they’re so attuned to the benchmark idea. And, and what we’ve seen is that you could have someone who’s maybe a CLB, three, but they could be, you know, digital, their digital literacy could be incredibly high. And we see a lot of that, like you mentioned, with WhatsApp, for example, a lot of folks are very digitally literate about their smartphones, because it’s been a lifeline during migration, for example, and they use it every day, in you know, to connect with friends and family as as part of their settlement journey. So this, this idea of those those, those nuances, and again, I go back to the sort of the research where people thought, Well, if you’ve got little benchmarks, you might have trouble with E learning. And it might be the opposite. For example, they might be very competent with the digital, and just, it can help them get over the hump, but but it’s their language skills that are that are that are more that are lower, but bringing the two together might actually help bring the language skills up, because they’re comfortable already in the in the digital space, for example. So I agree, I think it’s a really fun idea. And when people people brought it up, I thought who I mean, that’s something that it makes a lot of sense, especially from saving time. And, you know, from the settlement side, and just to let you know, in terms of for Nico, I’m the organization I’m looking at implementing it with, we’re looking at it for a broad dissemination of bringing through settlement clients as well, because I think that the content and the curriculum is so is broad enough that it can help prepare for all of the things that you just mentioned, for example, like it’s, you know, and again, I love that each module has a little test, do you need to take this module, for example, I love that it’s not you must go through and you mentioned it earlier, as well, the idea of, you know, as a frontline worker, I can say, Oh, you know, what, I think you should just watch this video or read through the six, the six chapters or something like that, rather than having to go through the entire elearning system, the flexibility of that, that you’ve built in that design is really useful as well. So so just to let you know, I think it’s got, it’s got applications beyond language learning already. And I can see it being used in that way in, in settlement organizations. So, so well done in the design, for sure. So speaking of organizations, what kind of uptake and response Have you been getting from organizations to reuse Nico in their own spaces, Whitney Loewen 32:28it’s been pretty popular, honestly, we’ve been really happy to see how many people have been requesting the materials. I don’t have exact numbers, but it’s been fairly consistent, especially during the pandemic, I think, now as we’re coming out of it, and people can take, take a step back and breathe and think, okay, you know, we just dealt with this very acute problem, but how do we prepare people in the future? How do we, you know, take some time to get them up to where they need to be. And Nico can really fill that that gap, I think, I know that there are some sector initiatives, or at least some interest from umbrella organizations and sector organizations in developing further elearning programs. Because of course, they’re not all going to necessarily look like Nico, because that’s, that’s for one type of learner. But there are other types that need to be supported, particularly for like literacy learners or lower, lower English levels, or for very high level learners as well. And you know, that’s a potential. So there’s a lot of different directions to go. And we’ve been really pleased with what Nico has been able to do during the pandemic. But I think there’s a lot of research that can still come out of that. Marco Campana 33:28And are there plans that ties to do to build on Nico? I mean, you, you mentioned you already doing other elearning projects, you’ve gotten some provincial funding during the pandemic? Were you looking to take what you’ve learned from Nico, in the future? Whitney Loewen 33:43Yeah, that’s a great question. We don’t have anything formalized right now. But I mean, as we were just talking about, there’s all sorts of directions that you could take it in, I think that that would be a really great option for further innovative practices. We are working on some other elearning projects in the background, those that’s never far from our minds. And I think that you raised a good point about looking into what are other sectors are doing, you know, what are our employment instructors doing? What are our peer settlement assessors doing? And and how can we sort of draw them into the fold and have one big elearning strategy for everybody so that we may be working on our own individual platforms and on slightly different things, but how do we have this common thread and this common vision that we can work towards? I think that’s probably what we’re going to be aiming for in the future. Marco Campana 34:23Yeah, that’s great. I mean, it’s good to hear that because I think that’s something we learned during the task group as well is that we brought together the what are in some way siloed parts of settlement or ircc, funding the settlement with language learning, and we found there were so many things that could be learned both ways, especially given the common experience of the last year, but in particular, because you know, the language sector is so much further ahead when it comes to E learning and blended learning and as you’re describing even this classroom, plus people at home. I haven’t heard many examples of that. So the the innovation that you’re building on would be really useful to continue to kind of learn from and capture, but across the sector. You know, a As you mentioned, there’s there’s housing workers, there’s employment workers, there’s healthcare workers, there’s settlement workers, there’s so many other organizational colleagues and you know, many silos within organizations that could benefit from this kind of learning. So I’m hoping to share that out to people and show them that this isn’t just an ESL project, this isn’t just the language project, but that the applications in particular, because of the flexibility you’ve built into Nico, this could be really useful for any of their clients, they just need to take the time to assess it. And the final question I have, I guess, is I noticed that students can can can access Nikko through your site. Is that just for people in your catchment area? Or is that from if a student is interested from anywhere in Canada? Whitney Loewen 35:40Anyone or anywhere? Yeah, anyone from anywhere would be welcome to come into our website, it’s immigrant dash education.ca. And they’re welcome to sign themselves up if they would like or their teacher can sign themselves up, or you can just shoot me an email, we can include that later, I think, and I’d be happy to send out the course materials, and you could install it on your own Moodle, whether it’s just a few pieces, or whether it’s the whole thing, sky’s the limit. And we’ve as we’ve been saying, so we’d love if other people are using it, Marco Campana 36:07for sure. But it sounds like if let’s say I’m I’m a newcomer and the organization I’m working with doesn’t have an LMS or isn’t that technologically advanced, I could still access these materials through your website as a learner. Whitney Loewen 36:17Certainly, yeah, we hope everybody does, regardless of where they are, we’d be happy to welcome anybody into the program. So they can make a request at any time. And we were happy to hook them up. Marco Campana 36:26That’s fantastic. And I think, again, that’s part of what we are learning over the last year is the accessibility of technology, so that someone in St. John’s can access this information, even though they might not have the service locally, or the local organization has an installed Niko, they can still get access to this and learn and improve their skills to be able to take something that might be local in the end. Whitney Loewen 36:45Absolutely. And I think that one of the big plus sides of everything that’s happened in the pandemic has been flexibility. And that’s when we really excelled. I know that you also mentioned that your research is one of the findings is when our funders have worked with us, and they’ve listened to what we’re saying about what the needs of our students are or where we’ve identified, okay, you know, we can still offer this program, but we just want to tweak it a little bit, because we think it’ll be even better or it’ll be more effective. When we’ve had the freedom to do that when they’ve given us a license to do that. I think that’s when you’re really seeing the gains and the really interesting new learning that’s come up during this pandemic. So I hope and and things that such as sharing the course material broadly, right, not just being restricted to permanent residence and refugees in Calgary, but to people learning in Charlottetown, or Winnipeg, or anywhere, right. We hope that everybody can access it. So when that flexibility is there, then that’s when we’re at our best, I think that it should be like the the catch word for eLearning going forward. Marco Campana 37:41I think that’s a great a great note to end on. Because I got I mean, I completely agree, I think you’ve built a model that does exactly that. And it sounds like both your provincial and federal funders are looking at this and saying, oh, there is perhaps something interesting here. So maybe we can continue this learning this this type of model of effectiveness, efficiency, but also accessibility well beyond the pandemic is something that could become foundational for the sector itself. Whitney Loewen 38:04Certainly, yeah. Yeah. I hope that’s the way that we’re going in the future. I’m optimistic. But we’ll have to see. Absolutely, no, Marco Campana 38:11I am as well. But I mean, it’s I feel like they’re listening in a way that perhaps they have an impact, because we’re all going through this together. There’s a shared experience. Now they’re working from home as well, there’s suddenly a realization of things that can be done. There are also realizations of the challenges that are there that we can build, build support for. But those all require resources. So I want to thank you. But I also want to ask you, is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you want to share about the project or about where you’re headed, or what ties is doing around innovation and technology? Whitney Loewen 38:39I don’t have anything specific. But I really, I hope that there will be a little bit more emphasis on people working together on sharing knowledge, intersect orally, and and even within the sector. I hope that we can really come together in some ways. I know that there have been efforts to do you do that. But I think that some organizations, especially smaller ones, may have been left behind from time to time. So I hope that we can figure out a way that we can all be in constant communication when we would like to be about what we’re doing. Because I do think that that’s the way forward. I think that’s the only way that we can do this effectively. I think our funders have, you know, they’ve definitely noticed the elephant in the room. There’s no ignoring elearning right now. And so I think there’s a lot of promise. But it can only really happen if we’re all sharing ideas with one another and being in constant communication. Marco Campana 39:22I completely agree. And I think that’s a wonderful note to end on. So thank you so much for sharing beyond Nico. As it turns out the the really interesting work that you’re doing at times and and for being an innovator in that what you just described in terms of sharing, and being open to providing the resources that you’ve created to a broader audience. I think I agree. I think that’s the future of the sector and a lot of ways and I think you’ve built something that will hopefully, I mean, it sounds like it’s very popular already, but will resonate with people not just because of the content, but also the model and the way that you’re sharing it. So I really appreciate you taking the time to, to kind of share this with me and my audience. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. Awesome. All right. And and recording. Thank you so much. That was Transcribed by https://otter.ai


12 Jul 2021

Rank #6

Podcast cover

TiHS Episode 27: Somerset West Community Health Centre – digital equity & virtual care

Welcome to episode 27 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode, I’m chatting with a few folks from the Somerset West Community Health Centre in Ottawa about their experiences with digital equity and virtual care. On the line with me are Sue Merrill, Manager of Quality Improvement, Planning and Evaluation, Lisa Vadeboncoeur, Digital Equity and Virtual Progamming Project Assistant, Magda Osman, Community Health Promoter. I connected with Sue late in the Fall of 2020 after I saw their request for proposals for a Digital Equity and Virtual Programming Capacity Building Project. Digital equity is something that has come to everyone’s attention during the pandemic as a huge issue and challenge in newcomer communities. It was exciting to see an organization formally tackling the issue in our sector and I wanted to learn more. Fast forward to June 2021 and we have all learned a lot. It seemed like a good time to find out Somerset West Community Health Centre’s experience with their project, and what we can all learn from them. As you’ll hear, they’re still learning, but what they have implemented with a little bit of funding is valuable for us all. I hope you enjoy the conversation. You can learn more about their project in the Settlement Sector & Technology Task Group AMSSA Lecture webinar recording. Machine-Generated Transcript What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation 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. Marco Campana 0:00Welcome to Episode 27 of the technology and Human Services podcast. In this episode, I’m chatting with a few folks from the Somerset West Community Health Center in Ottawa, about their experiences with digital equity in virtual care. on the line with me, we’re Sue Merrill, manager of quality improvement planning and evaluation, Lisa van debunker, digital equity and virtual programming project assistant, and Magda Osman community health promoter. I connected with Sue late in the fall of 2020, after I saw their request for proposals for a digital equity and virtual programming capacity building project. Digital equity is something that has come to everyone’s attention during the pandemic as a huge issue and challenge in many communities, including newcomer communities, it was exciting to see an organization formally tackling the issue in our sector. And I wanted to learn more. Fast forward to June 2021. And we have all learned a lot, it seemed like a good time to find out Somerset West Community Health Center’s experience with their project. And while we can all learn from them, as you’ll hear, they’re still learning. But what would they have implemented with a little bit of funding is valuable for us all. I hope you enjoy the conversation. Marco Campana 1:03Welcome, Sue. And Lisa to the technology and Human Services podcast, I’ll let you both introduce yourselves, the organization you’re with and the work that you’re doing, and then we’ll kind of dive in. Sue Merrill 1:13I’m Sue Merrill. I’m the manager of quality improvement planning and evaluation at Somerset West Community Health Center. Lisa Vadeboncoeur 1:22I’m Lisa Vadeboncoeur, and I’m the project assistance for the digital equity project that we are currently running. Great, thank you both for joining me. And this all sort of came about because of an RFP that I came across, I think, on charity village probably almost a year ago, where you were really looking to it and this was, you know, after we’ve all pivoted, we’re all working digitally working remotely. And you put out an RFP for a digital equity and virtual program, capacity building project, which really caught my eye because as we were doing some work, even before the the settlement sector technology task group, Marco Campana 2:01the idea of digital equity and digital inclusion and the digital divide had really started to come to the fore in our sector. And I think in a way that perhaps it hadn’t in the past, we were all kind of aware of it. But I think with with the complete pivot remotely, it was something that all of a sudden, we were all faced with both within our organizations as well as in communities. And so I’d really love to maybe you can give us kind of an overview of where that came from and how it started and, and why. Sue Merrill 2:30Sure. So when like everyone else, when COVID hit, and we had to pivot non essential in person services to something virtual, we just did what everyone else did, we tried our best and some stuff kind of picked it up really quick, Trevor had a gift for it, other people had no clue. And so we just we, we started with what I call our first phase, which was just jumping in and doing the best we could with what we had, which wasn’t a lot, no dedicated staffing, no funding, no specialists. And we just gathered the people who seem to be good at it in a kind of cross team community of practice to share tips. And we volunteered to put down in writing little cheat sheets for those staff who were struggling and trying to like, just help each other, build our capacity from whoever knew the most already and spread that out. But it was clear that there was a lot more that needed to be done, especially when it came to supporting clients. And we knew right away that there was one thing to get our our services pivoted and get the staff trained to do it virtually. But there were a whole bunch of clients who wouldn’t be able to participate because they didn’t have the device or the knowledge or whatnot. So we knew we had some donations early on of devices. And we thought, Okay, great, we’ll get these out. And that’ll solve all our problems. And we learned really quickly that having devices did not solve our problems. It just showed us how much work it would take to bring real equity around technology that it wasn’t just about a device, it wasn’t just about a how to sheet, it wasn’t just about helping a client learn to use zoom, it was a really complex piece of work. And because we are focused on removing barriers to people who are vulnerable, we do it in all kinds of other ways. This became very quickly a priority for us to figure it out how to how to build equity. With this new technology when none of us, none of us were experts, we really hadn’t thought about it before. So that led us to this idea. We had a small grant that we had we could use for whatever we wanted from TELUS and we thought this would be a great way to learn more. It wasn’t enough to buy devices at that point or not more than a few devices. So we thought we would use it instead. to hire someone to really help us get our act together and build our own internal capacity, learn more and to really map out what the barriers were around equity for for different client groups because no one was the same. Some people needed a phone some people had a phone but that was too small. If you’re a Chinese senior, you’re needs are very different than someone who’s living in a rooming house. So we use the the RFP in this project to really map out the different barriers, the different needs and the different types of pathways that would help different client groups get closer to an equitable digital participation. And at the same time, we recognize that our staff, many of our staff represent the clients we serve. They’re working from home, some of them had the same barriers, I had some of the same barriers, I didn’t know how to use a lot of the technology I, we didn’t have the best broadband at home. So we also had to work at internally, building our skills and figuring out our own technological challenges. So that was phase two. And through that whole time, we knew we needed more devices. But we also knew that we needed staff support to really work that whole complex process. So we wrote some, we wrote a series of different proposals, and we were lucky to get to funded, which allowed us to hire what I call a digital equity and virtual programming team, project manager and client support folks, three people who really have spearheaded this thing. And that’s when we saw some really big changes and really big impacts because they can support the staff, they can match and do much more detailed needs assessments, they can do the procuring and the researching and the trial and error and problem solve and monitor the use and provide support to the clients. So that’s where we’re at now. Marco Campana 6:36So I mean, it sounds like there’s, there’s there’s so much to unpack below the surface of what went into it, but but even just the investment, so a team of three people to help support both staff as well as clients. We’re hearing a lot from from other organizations that they’ve either had to repurpose staff, or get a short term amount of money, whether it’s from a foundation or even from, from a main funder to create digital navigators to create other kinds of roles. And, and so I wonder if we can step back a little bit to look at when you brought in the consultants, what that what that process was like, and what it what it did for you, because I know that a lot of organizations are even a year into this are still trying to figure out how to get it right. You know, what, what are the what’s the right way to build a foundation, we’re all just kind of doing, and we want to be able to evaluate it, we want to be able to figure out moving forward, this isn’t going away, you know, we eventually we won’t be fully digital, and some already aren’t, but will be hybrid, we’ll be using technology more and more. So I’m curious about the value of having somebody come in and work through a process with you and your staff, and what that looks like, Sue Merrill 7:36the very first step, when we hired the consultant, what the first thing that that meant was, I could oversee the direction, which was around equity and quality service, which I know about. But I didn’t have the expertise to lead a project about this, I was one of the people who needed training. So that already helped me right away, because then I could focus on what I’m good at the strategy and getting people engaged across the organization, looking for funds, looking at partnerships, that’s my role. And the consultant became a subject matter expert who could really drill down meet with the teams figure out what they needed, make suggestions that they might not have thought of come up with some responses. They also, you know, through talking to the teams realize that a lot of people were ready for a little more training on engagement that like using the tool is one thing, but using the tool effectively. So having a screen of people who don’t talk and nobody says anything. You know, we wanted to get to that place. Now. We’ve got people on But now what do we do with them? So so she did a we called them? Marco Campana 8:41I think you told me they were the digital cafes. Sue Merrill 8:43Yeah, digital cafes. So we wanted staff to have like an informal interactive approach to training not like we know, there’s a million Google like there’s a million YouTube videos where people if they were really wanting to, but it’s always the early adopters who do that stuff that we’re working with the people who aren’t going to do that I’m not going to Google a tutorial, and we’ll go through it. So we did it. So as interactive groups where we could practice stuff, and she could show us how things work, she talked about things like turning off the camera because it leads to zoom fatigue, and that that’s okay gave some good strategies for how to engage people using the like buttons and the emotional because the research has shown that if you don’t engage them quickly, they tune out or they multitask. So lots of good tips and tricks that was really one of the first cafes we did. And then through all that we also did a design lab on how to really like come up, we came up with sort of profiles of clients and the type of barriers they would face and made it real and then really talk through what would be the steps overcome those barriers to the digital divide and the inequity. And that helped us really understand the complexity more and point to solutions. So that by the time we got money for devices, we could jump to the what I call the phase three, which was building the capacity of clients to be able to access a device that worked for them to have Access the service that they wanted to access. Unknown Speaker 10:03So in many ways, you’re playing an entirely new role as an organization as a technology mediator, facilitator and supporter, which is a huge learning curve. And so it sounds like it was helpful to go through that process, but also then to get some funding to create this team. So maybe we can speak a little bit to the client side of what that experience was like, because again, you serve such a diversity of people, and some more vulnerable than others, some more digitally literate than others, etc. So what that what that role that was kind of looked like and what it’s been, what it’s been like, since you’ve been able to implement it, and in particular with the team, Magda, do you feel comfortable just even giving some examples of the kinds of supports or different things the difference it made for clients off the cuff? Well, yeah, absolutely. Hey, hi, everyone. Welcome. Thank you for joining us. Magda Osman 10:51Thank you. So I am a health promoter at Somerset West. So I work with within community development. So a lot of the Magda Osman 11:01community members that received the the devices were mainly people in need of laptops. So we didn’t distribute any cell phones, flip phones, smartphones, or, or tablets. Because they were predominantly families. And it was a lot of people in one house, usually just one device. And that device was offered through the school. And then when lockdown wasn’t happening, I’m not 100% sure if they were required to return it or not. So there was just a lot of questions about what was happening with the devices from the schools. We were hearing incidences of like mothers who were doing schooling online, virtually through their cell phones, doing all their courseworks, you know, project work everything, writing essays, everything off their cell phones using Google Docs on their smartphones. And we can imagine how challenging would be to write an essay on a smartphone. And that’s the kind of context they were living in working in and then trying to navigate. And then we also heard, families tell us that it would having this device would drastically improve their quality of life. Because it would allow them to connect to more services that were taking place, virtually, it would give them a level of autonomy, where instead of having to depend on others, or calling other people to get those supports, having that device would give them back a sense of control and autonomy throughout their day to day life. And then also, it would kind of mitigate some of the risks that they were being exposed to without a device. So their services were that are offered completely virtually. And in order to sometimes access it, they’d have to come into the office to connect with a staff or things like that, but if they’re able to do things virtually, they’re not having to take public transportation or things like that, they can have that virtual connection. So we did see a lot of positive impacts there. And I do know there were some other people who needed cell phones from my team. I I’m not connected to the, to those individuals, but I do know, it was distributed. And it was a really big issue that people didn’t even have cell phones to connect with people and they they couldn’t connect with neighbors they weren’t able to access Food Bank because everything you have to call in advance now. They getting access to the most basic needs was a huge barrier without that device. And the way we even found out that that was a barrier was when the income tax clinic happened. And to I see you nodding so I heard this secondhand Sue, if you have more context, please jump in. But people were like sharing their neighbor’s phones or friend’s phones. And they we book an appointment with them to try and call them back. But if they weren’t with their friend at that exact time, we couldn’t get ahold of that person anymore. So like Marco Campana 14:19old school party lines, one phone line for the entire building done a thing, right? Sue Merrill 14:24Wow. Yeah, we had it. Sorry. Go ahead. Sorry. No, please jump in. I was gonna say we’ve heard a lot of that like I don’t think we realized how many people relied on neighbors for phone communication. But back before I think it was still a barrier like you said, but it was hidden because people would just do things in person. But once you remove the option to do it in person, they are suddenly completely cut off. And so we were amazed at how many like we have we have primary healthcare as well as social services and all the all the docs are making their appointments by phone now, and so couldn’t even reach people to make their appointment. So there was a For the Ottawa, new comer Health Center, and that’s what she said she was totally relying on her neighbors to make her doctor’s appointments and to find her. And so with the lockdown, she couldn’t access any of those. So the phone was like this enormous freedom. And then she, like you said mega, then she tapped into all kinds of other things. She could join other groups. She could call her, her neighbors, she could have social things, she started learning sup to you some apps, so she wasn’t so isolated. But it started off as like, how do you how does she even reach her doctor, we also had an example of someone who, again, they were getting specialized COVID testing through us, but they didn’t have access to a phone. So we didn’t know how we would reach them. And so we gave them a phone while lent them a phone. And sure enough, they tested positive. So we were able to reach them, get them into voluntary isolation, connect them to all the wraparound supports, but like just letting people know they tested positive would have been impossible. It’s amazing. And I mean, it’s, I think it would be, it’s probably shocking to a lot of people to hear that the phone, having a phone, forget the internet, but having just a phone, and a phone line was a barrier, Marco Campana 16:07I think we have a sense that everyone at least has a phone. So you can at least make calls and things like that. But even the cost of a phone, whether it’s a landline, or a cell phone, even a basic cell phone is out of some people’s reach. So that I mean, that’s not something we heard a lot of because in the task group, for example, we heard a lot of stories of they don’t have internet, but they have a phone. So at least we’re talking to them on the phone for hours at a time to help them feel less isolated to give them that kind of service. But and Maggie, I see you shaking your head. So in this case, it was actually people who didn’t even have the device. You know, forget the device, they didn’t have a phone line, not even a landline, for example, to be able to do this so that the vote the incredible vulnerability in those situations, and your ability to identify that is it when we think about technology, we’re all kind of thinking high up. But this is like basic, basic foundational stuff that people don’t even have in the community. That’s, that’s amazing. That’s fascinating. That’s why I’m sorry, No, go ahead. Magda Osman 17:02I was gonna say even before the lockdown, a lot of community members would come into the community hosts, or community spaces and request to use their cell phone. And it was always an issue for us to get in contact with a lot of our clients, because their phones would be disconnected on and off numbers would constantly be changing, things like that. And like we would have several other relatives listed things. So there were work around, or you could just knock on their door. But then when the lockdown happened, I remember we all went into panic mode because we’re like, how are we going to get a hold of people knew their situation, kids. Already, we’re having trouble with completing homework, if it was being sent through Google Docs, with their schools, and this is before lockdown. Because they would have to come into the community house to do that, or print off their homework or access internet. So we already knew it was going to be an issue. And we went into like crisis mode advocacy right away. Because we knew people were going to fall through the cracks because this equity, digital equity was an ongoing issue. Marco Campana 18:12It was already an issue Preet predating COVID, obvious I’m wondering Magda as well, you talked about giving devices to people. But what about connectivity? So for example, in some cases, just the phone is enough, and they have the phone, but then internet an internet connection? Was that something that you were also able to offer them or, or help facilitate in some way? Magda Osman 18:32So do you want to answer that a bit more? Sue Merrill 18:35Yeah, part of what made this project so complex was trying to figure all that out. And it turns out, it’s actually really hard to get internet for people because there’s to connect them to a provider, there’s contracts, they have to have a modem or router, they don’t know how long they’re gonna have that deal. Even if you can get a good deal, they’re nervous that they’ll go over. So even though it doesn’t feel like the best long term strategy, what we ended up doing was using a variety of either data plans or and this is where at least I might be able to answer this I can’t there’s like firestick, there’s a mobile hotspot, I don’t know, we came up with different ways of getting people so that they could use the device without having to install something in their in their apartment or their home, Marco Campana 19:16right or have a long term contract that they have a year from now, there may not be able to sustain for example, right. Sue Merrill 19:22And I think this is where, you know, I’ll be taking part and hopefully our center and other people will be trying to take part in some of these more collective impact and advocacy initiatives. Because really, really, you know, we know that from an equity point of view. Free quality broadband should be a fundamental human right now, like we cannot function without it. So we’re it’s like we’re taking buckets of water to people instead of giving them plumbing. You know, it’s I feel like that’s what we’re doing. And we’re doing it because that’s the only option we have in the short term, but it’s not a sustainable practice to be buying data plans and devices for every single person like You know, that’s that’s not the way to solve this problem. Well, no one I mean, we can respond in the in the crisis. Marco Campana 20:07And that works for people who you’re serving, but there’s plenty of people who don’t take good services anywhere necessarily. So how do they access? So if it’s not fundamental, if it’s not a human, right, and and everyone has access, then it’s still, it’s still an inclusion issue, right? Because if I’m getting services from an organization that has digitally become literate, and has a program that lends you the devices and bandwidth, and I mean, the learning curve is so steep for the organization itself, and it takes away from your, in theory, from your basic kind of reason for the services that you’re offering. And even though you’ve been able to kind of deal with it, and in fact, thrive in this, it’s a it’s a massive shift in the way that you you do your work. Whereas if it was something more fundamental and baseline for everyone, then you could work with people around digital literacy, but not necessarily on digital access, for example, right. Sue Merrill 20:55actly Exactly. Which would be more our wheelhouse, I think, you know, because we do that kind of work. And it’s, uh, you know, I, as someone who writes a lot of our funding proposals and tries to find resources for all our gaps and services of the emerging needs. This is a this is a challenge for me, because every time you go, there’s a limit to how much we can ask for we just went through it with a big ask for the City of Ottawa. And do I asked for digital navigator? Or do I ask for a mental health counselor, what a choice to have to make the choice I have to make, and I can only ask for this amount of money. So in the end, you know, I didn’t actually include much around digital equity. And because I do see, it’s important, but I do feel like it’s going to be maybe one of the long games where we’re going to have to keep building our internal we’re gonna have to, I think staff will probably often have to piggyback it on their rules, or we’ll do like we did in this situation where we say we hired a digital equity team. But basically, Lisa is really great at this stuff. She was already working part time for us, we we just switched her role we redeployed her, but it’s still part time, and it’s not ongoing. So that’s not a great thing. We had someone else who works four days a week running a program for Chinese seniors who’s very tech savvy. So they spend one day a week now doing digital navigation for those clients. But that’s only because they were part time, Marco Campana 22:16when also because they had the previous technology. It’s the serendipity week, again, we hear this a lot in settlement organizations, there was an admin person who happened to be techno literate, and like teaching other people technology. So we shifted her role. And then there are organizations where they didn’t have that capacity. And so they’re still struggling with clients and with staff to deal with all of this. So that whole inconsistency across it’s based on Well, you happen to have someone who can do it on the side of their desk. And now we can formally recognize that, but that’s not sustainable at all isn’t. And then the competition for dollars if like, if you’re going to a core funder, well, eventually everyone is going to have a digital component to their job. But that requires itself baselining and training and getting people comfortable. Because not everyone certainly is comfortable with technology. But in the interim di D, what choice do you ask for a mental health professional or a digital professional and like that, that’s a terrible choice to have to be forced to make? Yeah, for sure. I Sue Merrill 23:09think if we all had, you know, in the olden days, when there was a bit more admin staff, there was a bit more infrastructure support, we could probably absorb that a lot better. But we’ve all been cut down to the bone, right? So there’s very little non direct service budget, right. So that’s like why I even took this on, because I’m one of the few managers who doesn’t have a whole huge amount of program and response. So I can look at the cross team responses. But it’s, it wasn’t part of this job prior to COVID. But I think it will be an ongoing part of this job now is to kind of keep digital equity on the on the map. And luckily Somerset West is unique in a lot of ways, and that we have a cross team equity committee. So what I’ve been doing is bringing this work to the equity committee just because we look at all kinds of other things, we work from an anti oppression framework. And this is one of many systemic barriers that that impact our clients. And so just like we do in all kinds of ways, we might give a bus tickets for a transportation barrier or hire a cultural interpreter or people with lived experience for other access. Now, we need to build in digital equity. So we need to find ways as a center to address it. But we also need to be supporting a different approach as a society so that we could do less of that and more of just the drink service, which is what we’re here for. Marco Campana 24:32Right? I wonder if you could speak a little bit though, to the internal capacity, because you did spend a bunch of time with the consultant in getting staff up to date. And I know that in some of our previous interactions, you sent me some schedules even of like, you know, with some of the Chinese seniors on zoom or on WeChat and different technologies, and what some of the successes have been around being able to pivot with those clients who you were either IE you were either either able to get up to digital literacy or they already had it and then perhaps even with just with the device or In the process of shifting your programming, how you’ve been able to continue to serve your populations? Sue Merrill 25:06Yeah, so one of the things we did in the phase one, the jumping in is, you know, we sent out a Google form to all the staff and just said, Can you fill this out? If you’re doing something virtual, because we didn’t even know how many people were doing it, we had no idea. And back then that was within the first couple of months of COVID, we found that there were 45 different activities being offered across the organization, which just blew my mind, I had no idea. They were like, you know, from Chinese line dancing on zoom to, you know, circle time, playgroups to like the Children’s Services had started a YouTube channel where they just put stories and music that people could access parents could access anytime, a real variety of neat things happening. So then we use that Google form to say, Well, what else would you need from the organization, and that’s the place to train us show us how to do this. And devices for clients. And so that’s when we did the RFP. And then through the RFP, I think we started to build this kind of community of practice, which I think has been one of the real silver linings of COVID. As an organization, we’re quite big, we’ve grown a lot. And it’s harder to keep being integrated across. We’re a one stop shop, a hub, which is a strength. But when you get too big, sometimes it becomes almost like every program can become its own little silo. Right? So I think what’s happened is this work crosses everybody. Everybody’s got a way they have to deliver whatever they did before even the docks, right. So I think what this did is it one, the consultant was able to bring us together and give real training and one on one coaching, recognizing that there was a digital divide even on our staff. And so for some, some staff, they just needed to have someone asked questions and point them in troubleshoot. I think that helped a lot that they had somebody they could go to, because before that nobody knew who would you go to. And then we had these regular meetings of people who were you could share tips and kind of identify issues and whatnot. So I think that just helped build our conversation and our knowledge base around it. We’ve been collecting a lot of tools that other groups have done, and Lisa and the consultant are, are putting this in a sort of iterative Handbook, which will have everything that staff will need. So we’re hoping that that will be the go to resource when the project’s over. If we don’t, if we’re not able to sustain hiring a specialist, whether it’s a consultant or staff that they’ll at least be a an online toolbox that really has all this. So I think in that way, we really have built our capacity. And I feel like I’ve learned a lot more to so I can kind of start building some structures. What I am worried about is the idea of the client support, I think that’s going to be an ongoing need this digital navigation as the term, I think we will need that it is a different skill set than frontline service delivery. And I don’t think it makes sense to have trained all our staff constantly to show people how to get on zoom, I think it’s almost like a, like you have an IT help desk. It’s almost like we need a client digital navigate hell. So that’s what I see is the ongoing need that I’m still not quite sure how we’re going to Marco Campana 28:11sustain. Yeah, no. And I think that’s a long term issue that I think all funders are kind of trying to deal with as well. So Lisa, you want to jump in Go ahead. Lisa Volkow 28:18I just just to add to that, I think, from what we’ve seen from clients is their family will often step in to help them which one of the, one of the teams, I was supposed to support the clients. There was 10 tablets. And we’ve, after they were delivered, that the tablets, the families were will help, will help they were mainly seniors, so we will help them. So in the end, they didn’t really need as much support as we had anticipated. So but these again, are it’s a learning experience of Oh, okay, well go within try and find the resource if you can, but if not, yes, then there might there would be a need. Marco Campana 29:04Yeah, and I mean, it sounds like you have to kind of plan for there to be a need and hope for the best. But if you don’t plan for that, and there is a need, if all of those 10 all needed your support, then you would have had to provide it in this case, it was useful because you had community members who could help or family members, but but you still have to at least anticipate, you know, the lowest level of of literacy in some ways, or else you won’t be able to serve them. Right. Sue Merrill 29:26And I think there is a role for volunteer engagement and this is just that again, in a crisis situation to it. There’s resources and time and, and work that go into finding recruiting, screening, onboarding of volunteers. And so that doesn’t happen. Like it isn’t a replacement. You know, it’s it’s a it’s a longer term strategy as well, but it, it has its own work associated with it. And I did find that challenging during the the COVID, especially during lock downs, you know, to try to find and sustain that kind of support. So that was why in the end by phase three, I was like, I need a team, I need that to be a job. This is a job. This isn’t like a nice to have this extra complement. You know, and I think there’ll be roles for volunteers. But again, I think if you’re Reliant for a service delivery, that’s not the role of a volunteer to be Unknown Speaker 30:18well, uniquely service provider. Well, you Marco Campana 30:20also need to you need consistency in that service. And you can’t, I mean, again, you either all of a sudden, you’ve got two volunteer coordinators, because you’re trying to turn people through because there’s always turnover, or you just have that money as as to hire a digital navigator or to for example, in it and sell priorities. You know, Sue Merrill 30:37there’s a lot of risk management around that too, because you’re helping, like, even if you get volunteers to set up the devices, well, like, what if there’s some kind of, you know, there’s all kinds of privacy and security issues that have to be managed? And I we don’t have the expertise to even manage? You know, it’s like, I joke about like, people would ask me, if I put controls on my teenagers, computers, it’s like my teen. And I would have to ask my teenager how to put the control on the computer, right? So we’re not even in a position to monitor a volunteer. So So again, we still need to leave, you still need subject matter experts, you still need people with technological know how and then maybe you could build your team to include some some key volunteers. So I do see that as a longer term strategy, erase. Marco Campana 31:20It does raise a really important question, though, that comes up a lot, which is in particularly because you’re in the health sector around privacy, security and confidentiality. I mean, in your case, in some cases, you’re managing personal health information. And there’s legislation about the privacy, the paida and fippa, for example, in settlement, people are still trying to figure that out. They just so many different kinds of devices, so many different kinds of technologies and channels and modalities, how have you been able to deal with that in in training staff and interacting with clients and ensuring that the tools and I remember in your RFP way back when there wasn’t a couple of technologies that we you were you were either already using or wanted to look into, which are specific to the health sector and have encryption and security baked baked into them? Is that something you’ve continued to explore? Sue Merrill 32:04Yeah, this is where another like when I think about the phases, the first phase, we did cheat sheets, we kind of asked what other people were doing. And basically what we decided was most of the platforms. For Non clinical, we cannot use zoom or any of these things for anything clinical or where private health information will be discussed, you have to use the OT n, which was very buggy at that time and not user friendly. But that was like a hard line we had to draw because of the privacy. But eventually, we migrated over to a new EMR that was electronic medical record, pa suites, which has a virtual component that’s much more user friendly. So once we had done that, which had nothing to do with COVID, we were just on track, then people that got a lot easier for the medical and clinical there were still there’s still a desire for a zoom version that is HIPAA compliant. And we’ve been in talks with zoom through some of our partners and networks. And it’s been very complicated to find out whether or not it really is football or not, is it USB? Like it’s very hard, and it’s very expensive. And we have not landed there yet. So where we have very limited tools for clinical work for non clinical work for group we’re doing what a lot. The first phase, a lot of what people did is we basically read a waiver, we said, virtual is not as secure as in person, we cannot guarantee that this will be jumping, we cannot guarantee you that, you know we can just give you and then people have to make informed consent to stay on. Marco Campana 33:34But that’s important. And being able to have that conversation and have the literacy internally to be able to talk to clients about that is that is essential, right, Sue Merrill 33:41very early on, we came up with a script that we would all share different people tweaked it. And then over time, we came up with a basic guideline for staff that said, This is what you have to do you have to read the statement out you have to and we we did subscribe to zoom Pro. And we we gave recommendations around using waiting rooms, and we had a couple of zoom bombings. And then we had like debriefs on what people could do. But still pretty much letting the staff other than the following the script not being able to do whatever. Now we’ve just heard from our sort of sector, that more stringent guidelines have come out around virtual and there will be expectations that we are now meeting a higher. So that’s actually the phase we’re in now, even even for the non clinical pieces. Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s mostly built for the clinical. It’s just that, again, we’re a health center. And you know, if we’re doing a wellness group with seniors, I think we’re getting to the place where we’re saying we really should be using. We have to balance the privacy for those groups with accessibility. So we’re Marco Campana 34:42huge, right? Yeah, Sue Merrill 34:44we have to we don’t want to create we know we can make it the most secure thing possible and no one would get on it and then that would be going against our equity lens. So we have to do this. So right now I would say there’s, we have somebody internally who’s working on our some of our policies. So we’re going Back to those policies and making sure there’s a section about virtual because we already have policies about privacy and security and informed consent. Now we have to make sure we add and then it maps to what the requirements are. So now we’re having to get a little more technical and a little more tight. And, and then we’ll have to do training with staff about that and make sure people know, okay, it was the Wild West at first, and this was good enough. And now this is the new normal and moving forward, we’re gonna have to do it like this. And so I think that’s really the phase. That’s one of the phases we’re in now and having to make some decisions organizationally about where’s the where’s the line between access and privacy? Yeah, I mean, that we feel comfortable. It’s all risk assessment, risk management, Marco Campana 35:45right. And again, I think a lot of organizations, it’s useful to hear that you’re going through that process, and that you’re, in fact, still kind of, and I think this is cyclical, too, because new technologies will present themselves new clients and the technologies they’re using will come into into our agencies, and we’ll be re reassessing risk constantly and changing it over time. So it’s like, it’s a new skill that is becoming part of your institutional kind of approach. Sue Merrill 36:07Exactly. And and that’s why I also think that there why you need somebody on your staff who can be really like be the advisor to this stuff. That’s been it’s been hard for us, we don’t have a go to we have a privacy officer, but they’re not. They don’t know about zoom. And so we so the the digital equity team has been playing that role for us, we we bring issues to them and say, Can you guys look into this, and then they talk to people, and they do some research? And they kind of, you know, come back with some recommendations. So and yeah, like you’re saying, like, the zoom came up with a new platform. So we’ve already ruled it out for clinical when they came back and said, Now we have something and we’re like, okay, let’s take a look. And then yeah, so I think it’s gonna be ongoing, you know? Yeah, I think it’ll be an ongoing. Marco Campana 36:47No, absolutely. And I mean, I think it’s great that you have the team and the subject matter experts, who have the time and space to kind of do that investigation as well. And I’m curious if you’re having conversations with other organizations, you mentioned, you’re getting some guidance from your regulatory or your, your association framework, is this something that you’re also having a conversation, you know, across with other organizations that sort of share your learning build a bigger community, for example? Sue Merrill 37:12Yeah, we’d like to be able to do that, especially because we did get funded to to really ramp some stuff up, whereas we know, some smaller organizations did not. So it’s partly why, you know, we take part in this podcast or an interviews and try to, you know, share, we were on the live call things to you. And I think, you know, at some point, we’ll probably put it out there a bit more like for the coalition of community health and resource centers and share some of the tools, especially when we get the handbook done, because the handbook we were working on, we saw a wealth, a community health center, and golf had had done one, and we really liked it. But we wanted to make it more custom to what we’re doing and what we’re learning. So I think we’ll do the same thing, try to share it out. As opportunities arise, we don’t have a sort of concrete plan at this point. But that’s kind of like I guess, phase four, is once we come up with our policies and the handbook, and we’ve really like nailed, I think we want to do a little, you know, knowledge transfer an exchange with some of the partners in the sector. And see, I think the other thing that I’m just starting to do is the Social Planning Council of Ottawa has a sort of new kind of collective impact approach in partnership with the National Capital Freenet Association, and they’re really looking at how to build, like, as a sort of planning. So I’m gonna sit on their Advisory Committee for that. So I see a lot of that kind of work sitting there. You know, we’re like one example, we’re but we’re a service provider. We’re one one group, we’re not like taking this on for everybody. But I think that that table, hopefully, I’m hoping that they’ll be having, they’ll be bringing people together convening, and giving opportunities for this type of sharing and strategy development. I know the Alliance for healthy communities, like our sort of Association of Community Health Centers, they’re developing a digital equity strategy and what they call a playbook. That will include kind of like community based response, but also advocacy and system based response. And they’re looking at also like targeted advocacy at different levels of government for different types of the strategy. So that more big picture systems piece, they’re kind of steering. So I, you know, I see us as kind of feeding into each of those. Well, sure, with your practical experience pushing it up to, you know, to help them make policy around. Yeah. And then we can try out some of the tools that other groups have and see if it works for us, you know, and because that’s always what’s frustrating with this work, we know that everyone’s struggling with the same thing, and that probably something exists somewhere that we don’t invent, but then you have to find it, you have to compile it, you have to figure it out. So sometimes Marco Campana 39:44you have to take all of that time and it may not be the right tool and the answer you’ve spent I know Yeah. It’s it’s, it’s a huge issue for sure. Because there are so many tools, right. I know that an employment or youth employment project, I think they compiled a database of 300 interesting technology tools that People were using in the sector. And it’s impossible for someone who’s just getting started to look at that and say, Well, I don’t even know, like, how do you even assess them? You know, like unique pages and interviews and documentation before you can even decide that this is the right tool. And before you dive in and spend money and time and resources, and you know, very few organizations have that capacity in terms of not just competency, but the capacity in the space and time to be able to do that, right. It’s a huge undertaking. And then of course, it all changes, right, like zoom is a great example, how much it has changed from the beginning of last year when it was the thing, and then No, it’s not secure, and now it’s encrypted. And now it’s, you know, more secure. And I mean, it’s, it’s hard, you know, even within one tool, how much it can change over a small period of time. So it’s hard to keep track of right. Sue Merrill 40:44Yeah, and maybe you might be able to speak more about this too. But the other thing we had to learn is that there are tools that communities are comfortable with. So sometimes we have to learn those tools, like WeChat is a very commonly used tool and a lot of, say different cultural groups. I don’t know, I don’t want the Chinese community. I don’t know exactly who uses what, but I know that when we got our like our community of practice together, it’s really, really interesting. Because there was some people, they’re like, Oh, yeah, no, my committee wouldn’t use zoom, we use WeChat. And I was like, Oh, I don’t even know how WeChat works. So, so a lot of it was like, What is the staff know, what is comfortable with? And let’s go out or what’s the community know, uncomfortable with? And then you know, so trying to make people you fit to yours. So that was why we opted not to be like, top down at the beginning, people were saying, Well, what are we allowed to use? What are we supposed to use, and our group met, and we’re like, well, we can’t find any significant differences, actually, between any of these, but like, they’re all they all have their, their potential risks. So we decided to go with what you’re comfortable with what your clients are comfortable with just the script and you know, do do what you can do. And again, I don’t know if you know, once we do this next level of looking at things, if we’re going to need to say, Oh, geez, some of them really have dropped down, and we can’t condone that. But I think for a lot of our groups, we can still do that. Like there’s social groups there. They’re connecting groups, they’re not highly personal. And I also thought that when we move to a hybrid model, where we can start doing some things in person that will free us up also to maybe do anything that’s a bit touchy we can do in person, and anything that’s a bit more like the extra and social connection and less risky we can do. Virtually. So Marco Campana 42:24yeah, and I think you make a really important point, there’s, there’s a lot of struggle with getting new clients and the technology they’re using, or do we make them use something we’re using, right? where a lot of organizations, for example, you know, teaching clients how to use email, because they weren’t given permission to use WhatsApp, and WeChat and Facebook and things like that. So they spent a lot of time teaching them a technology that inevitably will be useful for them down the line when they’re seeking employment, and you know, all those kinds of things, you know, an email address is different in North America than it is in some other countries in terms of importance, but in the moment, what would what would they prefer these perhaps would have been the solution to meet the clients where they’re comfortable instead of taking them out of their comfort zone in particular during a pandemic? So so that, yeah, that that that pressure? I hear a lot of that from other organizations as well. Sue Merrill 43:10Well, the other thing we learned, especially with some of the seniors, you know, when we first got this money, we thought we would, you know, we’ll we’ll get we’ll get devices into the hands of clients. And we’ll just get a zoom plan for two or three months just to see if it if they get it and they’re using it. And some of the seniors just said, Well, I’m not going to learn this new thing for two months. Like it’s not worth it. Marco Campana 43:30Right? Yeah. Fair enough. Sue Merrill 43:31First things that came back, like, expect me to do all that you might like, cut my plan or take this before like, Oh, Okay, nevermind, let’s, so the first thing that team came back to me and said, Okay, can we can we budget to get data until the summer? Like, let’s give them four days? And I was like, oh, okay, so that’s what we did. And then we bought fewer devices, but we tried to give more time for adoption. And so yeah, so I think we’re learning so many things as we go. Constantly. Yeah. So we had, we had, you know, seniors who weren’t using their device. And we finally were asking them what was happening and they were afraid of breaking it. And because it was a loaner program, they were, they were terrified that so they didn’t use it. They. So then we now we’ve ordered cases. And in fact, I just got one delivered lease, I gotta bring it in for Karen to test out. So we’re trying to like, like, meet all these different things that come up and say, that’s probably anticipate, Marco Campana 44:30how could you have anticipated something like that as a barrier until it became a barrier? And so it’s just so much in flux constantly. That’s, wow, what a great story is there? I’m aware of the time and you guys, you’ve all provided so much incredible feedback. Is there anything I haven’t asked about that? You want to make sure other people understand about the work that you’re doing to share some of what you’re learning and moving forward with that would be that you think would be useful that we haven’t touched on? Lisa Volkow 44:56I think one piece was about the trust. We build with the clients. I know, having a someone that’s helping technical technologically, often they want to work either directly with the program coordinators or the people. They’re close to that. I mean, that’s been my experience anyway, they, they feel. So really building the trust is very important, even when it comes to helping people with their devices, and that they still want to talk to someone they’re comfortable with. Marco Campana 45:29That’s it. That is a really good point. Yeah, trust and building rapport. Again, we’ve heard during the pandemic, in particular, with new clients, it’s really hard to build that initial kind of rapport and trust with someone who your own that you’ve never met, you know, face to face in person, just only virtually. So. Yeah, that raises a really important point Magda any any final thoughts or suggestions? Magda Osman 45:50Yeah, Lisa triggered my memory with the trust piece. Absolutely. So we were having clients that we couldn’t connect with. And it was really hard to connect with. And even when we would door knock, they wouldn’t open the door or answer or things like that. And then we would come around with the device, and then their whole mood changed, the whole relationship changed their trust change, because so many times like, clients have certain needs that we can’t fill or support. So we just listened. So they’re like, I’m not going to retell the same story again, or retail my needs to you, because you can’t support me effectively. So for us to actually meet that gap was was huge, even though it took a while if it really made a really big difference in that trust in that relationship building for sure. Marco Campana 46:39So being able to provide a device was kind of like the sandwich and that, that opened it up to to then being able to have those conversations to build more, more more like client supports and services with them. Magda Osman 46:51Absolutely. And I think it’s not only about that it built trust, but I think it took away a sense of hopelessness from people, that they were kind of just going to be left on their own, alienated and isolated during the pandemic, like this connection was provided to them, which lifted their spirits. And then they were more willing to engage with us in conversations, even when we would do our weekly check ins, or when we would go to drop off food or have other outreach or past talk about vaccination or other things. That door was really opened because of this device. That was really, really crucial for the quality of life. Marco Campana 47:30Thank you for sharing that. That’s that’s incredible, that the impact of a small a small piece of technology that can have on their lives, but then also on your ability to continue to provide services to them, and to help them in so many different ways. Well, thank you, all three of you, I really appreciate you taking the time, this has been an incredibly illuminating. So every time we talk, there’s something new, and I’m learning more and more. And I think I think this is a great conversation for folks in the sector to hear. So I appreciate you sharing it. And and yeah, once your your your, your your guidebook, and and other other materials are done, it would be great to sort of help push that out more broadly, even outside of the health sector. Because I think again, there’s there’s huge pieces like 80% of what you’re doing is common to any kind of social service organization. And maybe 20% is specific to the to the health but even that 20% around privacy and encryption and things like that. I think we all need to hear it. Because I speak to our organizations, I say let’s aspire to the highest levels of that, which is really in the health sector in particular and social work as well, that that speaks to those kind of regulatory frameworks. And I think what you’re doing is is very useful for everyone in the settlement sector in particular to hear about as well. So thank you all, I very much appreciate the time. It was great to chat with you. 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 are also on my site@markopolos.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@markopolos.org Thanks again. Transcribed by https://otter.ai


8 Jun 2021

Rank #7

Podcast cover

TiHS Episode 26: Omar Yaqub – building a better intake system

Welcome to episode 26 of the Technology in Human Services podcast. In this episode, I’m chatting with Omar Yaqub of the Islamic Family & Social Services Association in Edmonton. Omar and his team are re-envisioning a modern intake system for the social services sector that leverages technology, including machine learning and predictive analysis. You know, the promise of tech – prompting you with questions or suggestions as you use technology. On the surface it looks like a tech project, but it is much more than that. As you’ll near Omar explain, it’s also about change. Not just organizational, but also systems change. Looking at why we do social services work, honouring the people we serve, centering them in our work and, as a result, making the work done by social service workers more meaningful and impactful. The system he’s working on is a work in progress. It’s one I think you should definitely know about, as we all search for technology solutions that will complement and humanize our work, rather than bowing to the tech bros and their pre-conceived machines… Read more about their plans and current status: “Our new intake system needs to… Move from interrogation → conversation.Prioritize mental health and holistic assessment. We need to recognize the assets clients come with, not just deficiencies and demographics. We need to identify tailored referrals based on the client’s specific circumstances. eg. skills, primary language, neighbourhood, number of kids, socialization, etc. Use a peer-reviewed approach; a systematic line of questioning to identify the goals that will have the highest impact. The LifeWorks Self-Sufficiency Matrix is something we want to build upon. Facilitate more disciplined practice of ongoing conversations with clients, including follow-ups on goals, referrals, etc. ​eg. Every visit to the food bank should be an opportunity to discuss progress, work on roadblocks, and move towards accomplishing goals. Goals may be as small as increasing positive socialization, a simple budget, getting employment ready, or finding affordable housing. Automate referrals to clients, and push new opportunities to clients when appropriate. ​eg. Pre-register a client for when a new language skills class is starting for women who speak Arabic and English at level ≤ 5 with 3+ dependents, and no prior EI claims. ​eg. Automatically inform clients when an application for HeadStart opensBuild solutions based on the proliferation of smartphones — the new system should allow an intake to happen anywhere someone can use their smartphone. Securely transmit client data between organizations and reduce the need for clients to repeat their story again and again.Incrementally improve, and adapt to changing circumstances nimbly.” Machine-Generated Transcript What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation 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. Marco Campana 0:00Welcome to Episode 26 of the technology and Human Services podcast. In this episode, I’m chatting with Omar Yaqoob of the Islamic family and Social Services Association in Edmonton. Well, marnus team are re envisioning a modern intake system for the social services sector that leverages technology, including machine learning and predictive analysis. You know, the promise of tech prompting you with questions or suggestions as you use the tech. On the surface, it looks just like a tech project. But it is much more than that, as you’ll hear Omar explain, it’s also about change, not just organizational change, but also systems change. Looking at why we do social services work the way we do it, honoring the people we serve, centering them in our work, and as a result, making the work done by social service workers more meaningful and impactful. The system he’s working on is a work in progress. It’s one I think you should definitely know about, as we all search for technology solutions that will compliment and humanize our work rather than bowing to the tech bros and their preconceived machines. I hope you enjoy our conversation. Omar Yaqub 0:58My name is Omar Yaqub, I get to serve the the team at EFSA Islamic family and Social Services Association Islamic family that’s super short. We’re an imagine Canada accredited charity, the gold standard for charities in Canada. And the past few months, we’ve been recognized fewer different ways. We’ve been recognized by the government of Alberta with the inspiration award for combating domestic violence. And the Canadian Mental Health Association professional care awards. Were also profiled in dim, edify magazine is one of the inaugural modifiers for the city of Edmonton, and so been really, really exciting to see the organization grow in a relatively short period of time, we now serve more people in one month than we didn’t all of 2015 it’s about 5000 individuals come to us monthly for a range of supports around safety, security and growth. So includes basic food support, with domestic violence, navigating government, refugee related issues, and preventative youth programming. And it’s a it’s been wonderful seeing the organization grow my background is I did my my MBA and computing degree way, way, way back when I did some global development work in Tanzania and Nigeria came back help start the social enterprise fund was employee number two, their help start sustainable worked because the Eco retrofit Co Op did a stint with quality government organization and an Economic Development Corporation. And did did corporate consulting for a number of years where I focused on engagement based research and values based communication for a range of clients. And, you know, through a long period, more than a decade, I was on the board of EFSA, and was really passionate about the organization, the the driver bits, volunteers, the work you did, and got to see that organization scale. That’s great. I mean, what a background you bring to the to the work, it’s really it must be really interesting, having so many different perspectives. As you approach the tasks that you have like that diversity of experience sounds like it’d be really valuable. It really helps. You know, one of the things I’m really fortunate is because I’ve sat at different seats, I can empathize, right? I remember working at a social enterprise fund, and trying to get money out, right. And most people don’t think about like the struggle for grantors to get money out and how how sometimes can be very, very difficult. Sometimes you might spoon feed someone like, hey, I need you to see this, can you do like, just do things so that can get you the money? And sometimes people just don’t do it, why not? And so, you know, I learned I learned a great deal. And that experience is like how do we empathize with the needs of different parties, right? I think when you’re doing marketing, communication work, it’s all about empathy, right? Like, how do you speak to people about their needs? And then how do you know what your needs in mind, but with the needs of the user? I think that’s one of the things I really appreciate about good design is it’s not made for the designer, it’s made for the person who’s going to be using the product. And what I find often the social services sectors, we don’t spend that time designing for the end user, or even designing for frontline workers. Oftentimes, we’re designing for a funder, and we’re like, oh, let’s get like, let’s get as much information from this person as possible, even though we don’t need it. Right? Or, let’s measure these things which sound impressive, even if in our heart, we know they aren’t the right thing to measure, even if we know they’re not meaningful, you know, let’s measure outputs, rather than our outcomes, you know, The classic example we talked about with social enterprise funders. So really common to hear organizations talk about we had 300 people come through our door. Right? I just did it two minutes ago. Right. But you know, that doesn’t tell you what changes happen their life, you know, how many of those people were? Were there previously? Right? How many of those people have you helped alleviate, from poverty, that would be meaningful right? Now, instead of saying 300 people came to our doors, it’d be really powerful to say 30% of the people who come to one of our workshops, improve their income by 10% or more. Now, that tells you something, but the impact right now, you know, the challenge with that is everyone will agree with it. But implementing it is challenging, implementing it is super, super difficult. Omar Yaqub 5:54But that’s kind of what led us to what we’re here to talk about right transform, which is our approach to thinking about intake and assessment. And if we take one more step back, where it really started was, you know, when I came into this staff role with the organization after having been away for a year, one of the things we did was we we looked at our mission statement, and you know, most organizations have mission statements, and they’re not memorable, right? Like, you know, it’s questionable whether the executive director or board can recite it from memory, right, if they can’t remember what to expect. And so what we did was we went from a mission statement to a mission question. And, you know, the nice thing about a question is, as soon as, as you asked me a question, I’m thinking about how do I respond to? Right? Or I’m internalize it, because it’s like, it’s provoking. Right? And so our mission question is, you know, how do we support the whole person flourish in our community? Right, really simple question doesn’t matter if you’re a bookkeeper, or working on the front line, you’re, we’re all thinking about how to support the whole person flourish in our community, it could be our co workers could be clients could be community members, we really want to see them change in a dramatic way for the better. And so if we think about programs like the food bank, can we measure it against our mission question? Well, then we’re falling short. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, we should say, this isn’t doing what we set up to do, and we have to really rethink it. So that comes back to how do we measure? How do we measure what matters? And yeah, that can be very difficult and very challenging when we think about it. Because if you have people who are coming to you for a food hamper program, or domestic violence, or what have you, what’s a meaningful metric for all of them? And what’s a way to scale that up, so that, you know, you’re not bogging your frontline workers down with, you know, doing a 30 minute survey with every client, and then having to compute all of those results? And know at the end of the day, did you actually measure something that was really important to the client, what they cared about. And so, you know, normally when we kind of get into the nuances of measurement, there’s a period where we succumb to the complexity, and go back to like, hey, let’s just measure with ease. But what was really, really wonderful is, as we were doing our research, and we were looking at what other organizations we’re doing, we we stumbled upon Bissell, which is another social service organization doing some incredible work. And they were using the lifeworks self sufficiency matrix. And for me, that was mind blowing. It was just like, wow, this is it. This is like, this is the promised land is like a wonderful systematic approach, where you’re shifting the focus to being what are the goals clients are coming with? And what’s the right way to calibrate goals? Right? So if we think about housing security, for instance, right, now, let’s put it on a spectrum of one to five, and, you know, ask some basic questions and figure out where people are in terms of housing security, right, 31 out of five, how do we move them to a two to five? Right, you can start to think about Oh, yeah, I can see how you can develop a systematic approach based on that, you know, if they’re at a one, I need to think about asking them these questions and figuring out if these are the right goals. And that’s what’s going to move them to to and now I have something that I can measure and track quantify, and something that’s driven by the person I’m serving, right? Because I’m asking them questions about, Hey, how are you doing? How’s it what’s important to you right now? Is this a goal you care about? Once you’ve identified that goal, then you can start to identify the referrals and the support team offer. And then instead of like, you know, treating, you know, like the adage, like, when you have a hammer, every problem is a nail, right? So instead of saying, Our solution to every problem the client comes to us with is a food hamper. Now we can start to say, hey, maybe what they need is actually some time from our workers, right to help them navigate a system and help them navigate a roadblock any mental health supports. And that’s what’s going to move them from a one to a two, or a two to a three, in whatever domain that they choose to focus on. So if it’s housing security, if it’s safety in the home, if it’s employment, there’s a methodology now, and they’re the ones who get to drive it. Right. And, you know, it starts to shift what we care about then, right? Because now, you know, it’s interesting when we think about some of the Omar Yaqub 10:54some of the things we inadvertently do. You know, when we think about the way we’re measuring things, so for, like, oh, we’re going to get hampers and I’m going to measure income eligibility, so that people aren’t taking advantage of this. Well, what you’re inadvertently doing is you’re telling your stuff they’re bouncers, right? Again, person? Yeah. Do we want bouncers? Or do we want guides? Right? Is this like this, like some cheesy club? Or is it a space where we’re actually trying to help people? You know, I don’t think anyone directly does this. I think there’s really good intention, right? And we want to verify income and ensure eligibility. But that isn’t our first response. It shouldn’t be right, our first response should be Hey, what can I help you with? Right? Maybe it’s, maybe it’s something else? Yeah. Maybe it’s like identifying, oh, you’re, you’re stuck at this language level. And the reason you’re stuck at this language level is because you haven’t had the support. And so you have these challenges with childcare? I mean, you know, let’s, let’s work on that. Let’s work on identifying those novel solutions, so that we can start to talk about the number of goals and we help people achieve. So that tool from Bissell was transformational and changing just even, I guess, the culture of how you were approaching clients. And you spoke earlier about the idea of outcomes versus outputs, like, it’s not about statistics, it’s about a client defined outcome of what is it they want to get to? what’s important to them in this interaction? And how did how did that start to meander its way towards technology? So as a tool to help achieve some of that in your, in your intake in particular? Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. You know, I think one of the challenges we often see in the sector is, you know, we end up generally paying top dollar for technology, right? We don’t admit it. But I’d say like, you know, when we’re paying for stuff where, you know, we might be getting some corporate discounts. But when we start to factor in staff time, and utilization, were actually fairly expensive when it comes to our technologies. And what we’re getting for our dollar is pretty subpar. Right? I look at how technology is using and generally technology is the foil to most support workers, right? Like technologies, this thing they have to like, navigate painfully after they’ve done all of their stressful work, it’s like, okay, now go and enter it. And, you know, remember to press button a while holding left mouse button and standing on one foot, otherwise the work. And you need to do that. Because if you don’t, we won’t get funding. Yeah, no, I mean, I hear that a lot. I bet the pain but also the legacy systems that are kind of, it’s like a square peg into a hole to fit in the nonprofit setting. Someone has helped choose or create the technology, or say, an off the shelf, it’s got what you need, but you just kind of have to change the way you think about what you’re doing in order to serve the technology. Right? Which is a huge challenge as well. Yeah, yeah. Precisely. You Hit it. Hit it perfectly. Like when we think about let’s use corporate CRM, right, like client relationship management. And in client relationship management, you talked about prospects and leads and customers and let’s just like change the language a little bit so that we can say, No, it doesn’t work that way. Right. It’s a totally different paradigm. You know, I think that the bigger challenge is like, Who are we designing our systems for? Right? You know, when we think about record keeping, why are we doing it? Right? Are we doing it for a funder? Probably, right? We’re doing it because we need to report to a funder or community which is totally justified. Makes sense, right? They’re the ones putting in the investment. So they should get data back. But I think that’s, that’s, that’s also our Achilles heel that’s like why we mess up with our systems, because we’re not designing one round the right thing. If we say, let’s design a round our frontline worker, let’s design a round our client. And as we do that, let’s make sure we’re getting really great data that we can report to our funder and tell them what our impact is. That’s where innovation will happen, right? Because they’re like, Oh, now I see like, I don’t really need to know, Omar Yaqub 15:36the person’s the name of every kid, if they’re just coming in for the first visit, sometimes I might just need to give them a label and help provide them some referrals. And that’s probably enough just to start, right. And, you know, if I have further engagement with them, you know, maybe I’ll ask them more questions. And I can slowly build a profile with them, and build trust, right? Even some of the ways that we we think about that design and interaction. Matter, right? Because if we have a cumbersome data requirement gathering piece, now the interaction that might lead to is, you know, my staff member is sitting behind the big monitor, typing a bunch of questions out, and the client is sitting on the other end of the big desk, going back and forth, your stuff. And I’m asking them to share a bunch of like, their personal stories, which they might have had to do for the fifth time. They’re being trumped by that. And, you know, I think what’s likely to happen in that scenario is like, people just give up. Why do I tell my story? Again, this is the fifth time we’ve had to tell it to someone, maybe even in the same organization, right? Right. Where we say, hey, let’s get the minimum amount of information, we need to start helping someone gather more information, you know, that that worker who’s collecting the data, obviously, you’ve taken a huge burden off their shoulders. And you’ve started to build trust, you know, if you start to think about how technology can change that, well, what if you take that big, clunky computer and you say, Hey, your smartphone is enough. So now, instead of like us being two people across the table, in this combative relationship, right? Because like, if you think about gameplay, you’re you’re setting people up as opponents. But if you mentioned like the bouncer the gatekeeper, for example, right? Like you can’t, you have to get past me to get help. Right? Yeah. cisely, right, which is not at all our intention, right. But like, you know, think about putting a phone and we’re sitting, sending out a phone or a tablet looking at together and we’re going through a bunch of like questions that are about your goals. It’s like, hey, let’s, let’s do this assessment. Let’s figure out what’s right for you right now. You know, we answered a few questions about housing. And now it’s asking me if, you know, if we should look at getting on the affordable housing Wait, let’s do you think that’s a good goal? Oh, hey, that’s interesting changes the changes the nature of interaction. So now we’re collaborators, both working together, trying to play this game, right? We’re on a team. And the phone is the tool that we’re, we’re using, like a simple interaction, or one of the ones that I talked about is, you know, what assessment might look like at our organization right now as you come in. And now it’s like how much income is coming to your house? Okay. Duly noted. How many kids are living in your home? Okay. Duly noted. What are the supports are getting k noted? On and on and on? Yeah. And you know, what, if you change it up a little bit, right, so it’s like, how much income is coming your home? How much are you spending on rent? Oh, Unknown Speaker 18:57boom, there’s Omar Yaqub 18:58a prompt right there. It’s like, you know, the tool is telling me you’re spending more than 30% of your income on rent. Let’s shift our conversation to focus on that. Is that something we should talk more about? Right, like now, that data collection for that frontline worker? Now, you’ve actually empowered them, right? You’ve empowered them that as they do data collection, they’re getting insights. Right? And then the tool itself is prompting them with, with those kinds of things. Yeah, which is stuff that makes total sense, right? It’s like, Oh, yeah. When you’re asking the question is when it should lead to insights. And then like, if you think about both of us asking questions, having a conversation if we’re getting insights in real time. Wow, we’re, we’re motivated now to do data collection. Right? The data is helping us write the data isn’t something that helps someone far down the line because you think about how, how we do data now. It’s like someone’s internalizing or taking a bunch of Questions. And then who knows where it goes? Right? Yeah, go system goes to a thunder. Who cares? minimum analysis? Right? No mining of the depth of the data most times? Yeah. If there is analysis, it’s retroactive. So like, right. Big whoop, right? Like, who cares? Like, why isn’t the data we’re collecting? Helping the client? right then and there and helping the social worker right then and there, right? Like, it’s like, yeah, data, moving from data collection as a chore? To data drives insights. Yeah, what you’re saying makes so much sense. But it seems to fly in the face of how most organizations are doing intake and even assessment. I mean, we hear even with technology mediated program projects, it’s sometimes an hour long interview to get every single piece of information and data about, about that client that can then go into a system that might help tease out some of that stuff. But it’s still a very huge kind of undertaking. And very administrative for the for the worker, it doesn’t have the kind of prompts empower, empowering, like hold on pause, there’s a there’s an income to rent issue here, for example, it’s just like, let’s get everything into the system, and then the system will turn. And then we might figure some stuff out. So what you’re describing is very different. Yeah. And generally, the system doesn’t turn. The system just says now habit. Right, great. Right. And I think that’s, that’s something we really need to think about, right? I think those are the conversations that we want to be having with funders and others, as we know, we’re all in it. For the same reason, we all care about clients getting out of poverty or setting goals and attaining education. Let’s measure that, right? Because everyone agrees, right? Think about some of the other stuff you kind of alluded to, right? Sometimes you might go to one organization, and they’re asking you, okay, how old are you? And you give them an answer, and another organization might ask you a date of birth. And those two systems will talk to each other. Right? If it’s like, substantively the same information, but the way the questions are asked, Are interoperable. And if you have just a bit of intelligence, not even intelligence, right, like just modicum of like good database design, then you’re like, Oh, hey, I’ve collected that information in one place. And now I can spit it out to all these places. So if I’m doing a referral for someone to another organization, and I know they’re asking age rather than date of birth, okay, I’ll spit out the right format for them. And I can send that referral, or I can have that client, unlock that referral at that other agency, and not have to go through the same same rigmarole. Marco Campana 22:48So one of the things so you’ve you’ve so getting to Bissell was a huge first step and and kind of changing the way you even just approach this, this notion of how your your your empowering clients are asking clients for information, to move towards outcomes to move towards something that that they’re setting the goals and driving the process. And, and then just looking at your website. And as part of that process, then once you’ve kind of, I mean, I would say a huge culture and change management shift within the organization, then you started looking at technology, perhaps at the same time to create a different intake system that leverages technology. So can you walk me through a little bit about what was that? Was that a parallel process? Or was it sort of, we had our mind blown by Bissell, we started doing a different thing. And then we started thinking, well, how can technology actually support this in a more meaningful way? Or was it sort of parallel at th e same time? Omar Yaqub 23:40Yeah, a bunch of parallel conversations. And we co developed our solution with Bissell because they were, they were the leaders, right? And they’ve done amazing work and gone through, you know, a ton of the heavy lifting. So Maria, from Bissell, who’s invested countless number of hours and helping us develop our solution. But it’s been interesting, because you touched on change management, right? And it’s really, really exciting. To to see that shift happen in people, right? Because you start to hear them saying, Well, if we ask that, then how will we know if they’re eligible? Or if we don’t ask them? How do we know if they’re eligible? So we don’t, but we don’t need to know that. Right? Like, what if we’re not measuring whether they need a food hamper? What if we’re measuring? What is it that they need? And if it comes, comes down to them needing a food hamper, then we ask them about, you know what the eligibility is for that, but we don’t start out with that. Right? We don’t start out with the balancer. We start out with that Kate guide is asking you what you need, right? Like think about a concierge. They might just tell you, Hey, this is what the shop has to sort of can help you with. If you need that thing, go over here, but I can make a recommendation or referral for you so that when you get It’ll be easier. You know that that’s like a different service modality. And it’s, it’s interesting just to see like, as you start to frame those questions, people’s perspectives shift about their job and how they work and how they think about what they do. And the way they frame their conversations with people. And so, so tell me a little bit about then, as that change management was happening, how you started to build a system to to, to make that easier, I guess for for both sides to make it less intimidating to to have those kinds of prompts to have the client and the worker sitting side by side. So in designing our system, we we took a co design approach, working through so bringing our frontline staff bringing in the people who had to do some of the data, we’re bringing them all together, right? bringing in people from, from academia, so people who are doing their PhD in related areas. leadership from Bissell, Maria, and we started to say, hey, let’s let’s look at this prompt together. Prior to that, even we spent a year doing Dr. Steve Petty’s predict impact, which was really fantastic learning, because it let us think about the indicators of change we want us to do. Dr. Steve Patty is behind dialogues in action. And that was a great, great curriculum and team activity for us because it let us think about what what do we want to achieve together as a team. And that led us to the inevitable step of like, hey, let’s think about how technology might help us do that. And so we developed a challenge statement, which was like the first efficient website kept incrementing. We took that challenge statement to developers. And we’re really, really fortunate, really lucky that metal add, who are like the Tom Hanks of software development, jumped on board and said they’d be willing to work with us and invested over $150,000 us in helping us develop the UX. And that was over a course of two months, we did design sprints every week where we we worked with the frontline researchers and everyone to think about what could the system look like? Now even thinking about like little simple things like motivating a frontline worker, right? Like just reminding them why they come to work. You think that that’s such a trivial and easy thing to do, but like what system does that what system reminds your support worker that you’ve helped someone achieve this many goals. So we were able to, I think, identify some some really wonderful interaction models with them. And now we’re in the process of just having hired a product manager, the product manager mentor, to help us kind of take this, the next step is start to get it in people’s hands for the summer. To start to just start to pilot or to actually start to implement, pilot, like so. They’re integrated for us, right? Because we’ll be doing real, real pilot seeing what this looks like. It’s interesting, because as we’ve like, been doing the software development, we’ve we’ve thought about our physical presence and our physical presence is changing to align wi th the software. Marco Campana 28:40And what does that look like now? Omar Yaqub 28:42So you know, presently, we have like three locations, two of which are like warehouse depot’s and have 70% of them is warehouse. 30% is for offices. So we’re totally reorienting that right. So now in a new location. It’s 30% warehouse and 70% staff, staff space and the staff spaces is about a community space where we want people to take their shoes, have tea, sit down and talk with someone and feel comfortable doing that, like feel dignified, like oh, yeah, I’m, I’m at a friend’s living room and I’m talking with someone about what’s important to me. I don’t care if it takes like 30 minutes or 40 minutes or an hour because it’s a I’m learning stuff as I do. As I do that, right? Even in the waiting, there is learning, right? Think about Costco, right? You go to Costco, wanting to buy a block of cheese and come up with a couch. Right, right. Yeah. So really, that’s intentional. That’s like that’s fantastic aside even though it can be frustrating and perplexing from a business retail perspective, they’re brilliant. When we think about the social services sector, this is sometimes where we have this like ridiculous idea that Where we want to get people in and out? And why isn’t? Do you want to get people in and out fast? Like, are they cogs? No, right? Like you actually want people coming into your organization to linger, meander, and learn about new things while they’re with you. And that should be an intentional part of your physical environment, right? So if they’re walking in, they’re sitting at a table and they’re practicing English, or they’re watching a video while they’re waiting for something. And you’ve made that a comfortable experience. Well, now you’re waiting as part of your, your theory of change. Marco Campana 30:32Part of your service. Yeah, yeah. I mean, I guess I wonder is that partially built on the idea that so many people come to a place because someone said, Oh, that’s the place, you need to go for your food hamper. But they’re not really sure what all of their needs might be. So they come and say, I need a food hamper, they get a food hamper. versus if they come and they just start having a conversation, all of a sudden, maybe there’s a housing issue, maybe there’s a violence issue or other types of things. And so you’ve changed the dynamic to again, making it about them. And then you have this tool that instead of, Okay, come over to my desk. And as you said, here’s the monitor that you’ll sit across and barely see my face. Oh, here’s a phone, let’s sit down and sort of go through some of these questions together, this is going to help guide our conversation. But it’s just sort of here as a tool. what it was, what this is about, is us having this conversation more than anything? Omar Yaqub 31:20Yeah, precisely. Right. And, you know, I was talking with Jerry, who’s the executive director of K Mental Health Association, and written really, and he’s come on board recently as a partner. And one of the things he talks about is, you know, as a sector, does our service delivery? Would it live up to the expectations of someone who’s middle class? Would they put up with it? Right? with someone put up with having like to wait the way they have to be treated the way it has to and getting the service they get? I think he’s spot on, he said something very, very challenging for the sector to admit. But I think it’s like something where we really have to think of like, you know, is our service delivery model? One where we’re expecting them to be grateful for whatever we do for them, or one where we’re thinking like, Oh, this is a person who’s coming to me for service, and I want them to feel like they’re at the apple Genius Bar, right, where they’re like, their prize for having chosen our organization. And we want to do whatever we can help them. I think everybody who works in the sector comes with that aspiration. And is working towards that goal. But we’ve we’ve set traps for ourselves. Marco Campana 32:46Yeah, and we fall into the same pits of just this is how we’ve always done things, right. So if someone’s listening on the podcast, and I’m going to share the website, where you’ve got a lot more information about the process, and where you’ve gotten to and things like that, and they’re getting excited, right? They’re not in an organization that that that is that is moving in this direction that you’ve described, they’re in a very kind of typical, hierarchical, big intake kind of what’s what’s, and they’re inspired now. But what advice do you have for folks like that to sort of start this journey? Because this is a journey that takes some years and some transformation? for your organization? Right? Omar Yaqub 33:27Yeah, that’s, that’s a fantastic question. I think the the answer to that is asking a better question. Right. And by that, I mean, like, you know, ask questions, but what are we measuring? And why are we measuring them? Do we need this? Omar Yaqub 33:41Right? And do we need this now? Or do we need this later? Right, some of those questions, but also ask the bigger questions. Like, what do we want to see happen when people come to us? How do we want people to know, what do we want people to know? But also, what do we want people to feel when they come to us? And when we start to ask some of those questions, I think the inevitable result is thinking about what we measure, and changing what we measured radical ways. Marco Campana 34:16And when it comes to the technology, you’ve mentioned, interoperability, and ease of use, and the user experience before and so another question that someone I can imagine would have is, okay, well, we’ve got some systems, they’re not that great, but we have some systems, you know, and we’re not that technologically savvy, necessarily, how can we look at the system that you’re building, and figure out how to how to operationalize it where we are eventually and make it interoperable with either existing systems we have, or, you know, how does it feed into a CRM or some sort of data collection process that we can also not just use for our own data, but also obviously report to funders, you know, the typical sort of approach? What can that look like in terms of any I imagine? You’re thinking of This in a more future? Omar Yaqub 35:01Yeah. So there’s a few answers to that. Our hope is that we make our system broadly available to organizations. It it isn’t that great if it’s just us using it. Right? Our intentionality was, this has to be something that the sector uses. That’s why we ask this to co design with us. So right at the foundational level, we’re looking at two very different organizations, thinking about data and thinking about measurement, right, this all serves a very transient homeless population, we serve, you know, newcomer oriented population, if we can make it work for both of our organizations, it’s probably going to work for others. And so we’re also very open at this stage to bring on additional partners and taking you through some of our some of our assumptions and making sure that they’re validated by other users. I think for organizations for going about this journey, if thinking about their data is important, like, what do they want to get out of it? And what did their funders need? Like having that conversation with their funder? Now? It’s like, Hey, I know you’re asking this. But what if they can use this instead? Wouldn’t that be more meaningful? If thinking through some of the ways that we can clean up datasets? So for instance, like, date of birth versus age, those are the same question. Can we ask those questions in standard ways, and have them move from place to place? So if I’m helping someone with housing referral and helping someone with an Alberta works, thing, like, Okay, I know I can like, just ask this question once and then have the system kind of put in both places in the right format. Marco Campana 36:57And that that would require them both places using the same system in order to have that. Okay, so because that’s another question that comes up, right, because you mentioned earlier, like, the fifth time someone’s being asked the same questions, even within the same organization, but certainly, between organizations. So how can how were you working to sort of, I guess, work on that warm referral? Or the data sharing, obviously, with lots of privacy and confidentiality built in? Omar Yaqub 37:21Yeah, you know, I think you touched on privacy, and I think we ask them use privacy as, as a barrier in the sector, it’s like, okay, we can’t share data. Hence, we can’t talk Hence, we can’t do things. Right? big, giant, 10 foot bear. I think, you know, maybe if we start conceptualizing data slightly differently, and so we’re not thinking about it as a barrier to organizations talking to each other, but we start thinking about who does the data belong to? The data belongs to the individual, right? data belongs to the community member has come to us. And we want them to be able to take that data, as many places as possible. That’s insensitive, it doesn’t sound like I’m saying anything different. But conceptually, Omar Yaqub 38:11sounds fundamentally different. To be honest, you know, I think it is very different. Right? So like, if you if you’re the possessor of the data, and then you go from, you know, if sort of Bissell and Bissell says, Hey, have you done an intake anywhere? No. Again, I did want to, oh, and maybe the person that this whole says, Hey, do you mind unlocking your profile? For me? No, you use your voice to do it, or something like that. Now, the person that Bissell has, has your data, right, to whatever degree you’ve given them ability, right, so you can say, you can see my, my basic details, and you can see my income details, but you can’t see any of the mental health stuff, you give them that level of permission. Now they have something that they can import into their system, right. And maybe they’re using a dynamic system, and you’re using a Salesforce system. But at the end of the day, it’s like just a rudimentary skeleton of data that you can unlock and export from place to place. But you’re the one who owns and authorizes different organizations to access what you deem relevant, right? And so now the data can move from place to place with you, by you just unlocking it for different people. Marco Campana 39:25So that for as I hear you speaking, I love the idea. And I feel like there’s a ton that needs to be that would need to be unpacked. So there’s two relationships between the organizations who have made some level of agreement that will will allow each other to have access to this client data. And then there’s the client literacy as well, to understand I mean, it’s such a shift in their ownership. And we exist in a world where people don’t own their data, right? It’s a huge issue with the big tech companies and with social media and all this kind of stuff is like, you don’t get to travel with your data. You don’t tend to own it. So it’s a very different perception to say, Okay, you’ve got it. It’s on your phone now and you control levels of access you control who gets what? It’s, it’s, you know, it’s portable, it goes with you in different places. So I yeah, it just sounds like it’s um, it’s, it’s, it’s where a lot of people have been talking about trying to move in terms of with social data as well. And so I love the direction, I just feel like there’s, there’s a lot to and below the surface that still needs around coordination. And but it’s a different coordination. That’s why I said it sounds fundamentally different. It’s not that we own the data anymore. We now work in a system where the client owns the data, we still need to coordinate, we still need to work together, we still need to figure out that our systems have to be interoperable with this in some meaningful way. But it’s the client who defines what gets shared. Omar Yaqub 40:44Yeah, and, you know, we’re spending less time thinking about interagency agreements for data. And we’re spending more time saying this is a client’s data, they’re taking the data from place to place. This is a format that is a common export standard, right? You think about getting a little bit geeky, but you think about CSV files or address book, right, you can take your address book from your Mac to a PC. And because the data is in this kind of commonly understood format, it’s easy to move it from place to place. So giving the client that ability saying someone’s collected the data, right, it doesn’t matter if it’s date of birth or year, not age. It’s kind of understood, it’s in this common standard. And it goes from place to place. I think that’s, that’s really exciting. Marco Campana 41:39Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it, but it still requires coordination around that common standard for organizations, you still having some sort of, of eating unnecessarily formal agreements, but this idea that we’re all going to buy into this standard or some form of it, in order to to to have the system work in that way. And to just like, the power, dynamic shifting of the client owning the data, I imagine that’s for some organizations, that’s going to be a massive shift in mentality as well. Yeah, Omar Yaqub 42:08I agree. You know, there’s been some great examples of organizations that have done it. Mind match work is one that I think has been really forward thinking and how they’ve thought about it. They’re looking at kind of the career space. And what they’ve done, which is really amazing, is put the client in charge of their data. And so I can take my employment related data with me from agency to agency. Right. And so we we’ve tried to emulate what they’re doing with our intake. Marco Campana 42:41Nice. Yeah. I mean, that’s useful to know that there’s other models that that people are we’re working on this and other sectors, even in the nonprofit field? Because it just sounds like it makes a lot of sense. It’s great. I’ve taken a ton of your time. But is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you think would be useful for people to know about the what you’re working on and where you’re where you’re heading with it? And how, you know, you’re in Alberta? But But obviously, this is something that is, is geography agnostic. And it’s, in the end? You know, if people were interested to get involved, or find out more about how they could play with something like this, what would that look like? Omar Yaqub 43:19Oh, we we’d love to build a coalition. We really open your start with an email conversation, let’s figure out how we can know how we can build common standards and approaches and how can we build the best possible and take an assessment system, right one that’s focused on, you know, focus on clients focus on frontline users. So really, really excited to to build those conversations, really open to conversations with service agencies, but also developers, right? We have some like, UX UI work that’s been done by Metalab. But also really interesting thinking about what does the back end development look like? We have some eight AI partners, machine learning partners. But a really interesting thinking through what might be some of the great ways that we can think about using technology in innovative ways, right? Whether that’s using voiceprints to unmark data for people from service agency, the service agency, you know, what might be other approaches and other novel uses of technology that makes sense here? Marco Campana 44:24Yeah, that sounds great. Actually, you raise a quote, I forgot to ask the question, what is your back end? So for example, you mentioned you might go from, you know, Salesforce to to dynamics or something like that, when the front end, as I’ll show people on your website is a really amazing looking app, and websites and looks really user friendly. What’s happening in the backend? Is that something that you guys have had to create from scratch, are you able to plug into an existing system, we’re still in the process of evaluating that back end piece we’re looking at. Omar Yaqub 44:55We want to build that as a common standard. So Microsoft Dynamics has Common Data Standards for the nonprofit sector that’s really, really promising. ISS has built out of BC has built on our dynamics platform. And so our general rule of thumb is let’s reinvent things. Let’s see what replicate and build on top of. And so that’s still still a kind of a big question, right? Like, how do we find the right, the right back end? That will put us in the right space for the future, right? Because we want to be thinking about machine learning and predictive analysis. And designing and choosing the right back end now. makes those things possible. Marco Campana 45:45Yeah, no, I think that that makes so much sense. Like building again, the game goes back to what you discussed about interoperability, working with systems that are either already exists or are emerging. And I’m familiar with the ISS of BC One. And that’s, that’s becoming something I mean, they’ve built a really comprehensive system. And this would like sit so nicely on top of it, in terms of the the more user friendly sort of aspect of it. So I love I love hearing that you’re having these conversations throughout the sector. It’s so meaningful, and important. I think, Well, listen, thank you so much for this, I really appreciate you walking me through. And I’m really looking forward to following up maybe after your pilot projects. And as you sort of build your coalition, and seeing who also, you know, is interested in this one, stay here about what you’re working on. So please do keep us in the loop. And thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it. No, thank you. I really appreciate this interview. Really appreciate the work you’re doing. Awesome. Thank you Omar Yaqub 46:44If people want to get in contact with me. There’s the website, there’s also my email address, please feel free to share those. Marco Campana 46:49Absolutely, yeah, I’ll put it in that in that in the show notes and the posts that I that I share with folks. So thank you again. And you know, best of luck. I’m looking forward to hearing how this continues to evolve. Omar Yaqub 47:00Thank you so much. Marco Campana 47:01Thanks 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 are also on my site@markopolos.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@markopolos.org Thanks again. Transcribed by https://otter.ai


10 May 2021

Rank #8

Podcast cover

TiHS Episode 25: Anesh Daya – innovation in ESL

Welcome to Episode 25 of the Technology in Human Services Podcast. In this episode I’m chatting with Anesh Daya, Edupreneur, ESL Disruptor, and Chief Innovation Officer of On the Spot Language, an Experiential Language Learning Program that guides and coaches English as a Second language learners to become independent language learners. Anesh is a language lover who has not only taught, managed, and developed ESL programs around the world, he also spent time in Taiwan learning Mandarin and brings that experience to his approach at On the Spot language. On the Spot language has been around since 2009 and like every organization and business, pivoted to virtual over the past year during the pandemic. Anesh and I chat about innovation in newcomer services, language and beyond, from time to time, and I think you’ll really enjoy this deeper dive into one of those conversations. I hope you find our chat useful and interesting. Have a look at how it works: Machine-Generated Transcript What follows is an AI-generated transcript of our conversation 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. Marco Campana 0:00Welcome to Episode 25 of the technology and Human Services podcast. In this episode, I’m chatting with anish de edupreneurs ESL disrupter and Chief Innovation Officer of on spot language. an experiential language learning program that guides and coaches ESL is second language learners to become independent language learners, and is a language lover who has not only taught managed and developed ESL programs around the world, he also spent time in Taiwan learning Mandarin and brings that experience to his approach at on the spot language on the spot language has been around since 2009. And like every organization in business pivoted to virtual over the past year during the pandemic anishinabe chat about innovation and newcomer services language and beyond from time to time. And I think you’ll really enjoy this deeper dive into one of those conversations. I hope you find our chat useful and interesting. Welcome to the technology in Human Services podcast. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, give us an overview of your work at on the spot language and how you got there. Anesh Daya 0:56Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Margo, for having me on. And it’s a truly an honor to have gotten to know you some of your work. And in regards to myself, my name is anish dia, founder and chief innovation officer of on the spot language, which started in 2009. But it really came out of a necessity of need, like what do language learners need on a daily basis to survive and I it kind of to give you an overview and just quickly started out with a mini little story. I remember I was burnt out as a multimedia specialist working downtown Toronto, at the airport with my parents 21 years old, saying I’m going I’m going to Taiwan right and I get on the airplane wearing this I am Canadian jersey. I am Canadian commercials and when this jersey, right? I’m on the airplane feeling super confident ready to go. And suddenly panic sets in and say I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know the anything about the language, the country the food turn the guy next to me. I said Can you teach me the numbers one to 10 in Mandarin. So you just took off and went no sensitive. That’s amazing, wasn’t it? Well, I was burnt out from my job in multimedia. Right. And I’m, I’m in my I took a two year multimedia, you know, program. I love computers, my whole life been around technology. All my friends were in their second year of university, I got burnt out literally took a T cell program, which you could do like really quickly back then, you know? Yeah, I remember. Right is everyone was going you went to Taiwan, but everyone was going to South Korea, right? That was the that was the thing. Exactly. So literally, you can teach English anywhere. So I literally put my literally put my finger on the globe. No joke, close my eyes and spun it. Anesh Daya 2:52And guess where it landed Marco Campana 2:54in Taiwan, the ocean? Even better. Anesh Daya 2:58But the actual closest land to it was Taiwan. So, you know, send a bunch of resumes to least later I’m also on the airplane turns us guys I keep between numbers one to 10. It’s like Yeah, sure. He or sound Sue who will do ci by Joe shirt. I’m like, okay, could you see that again? I’m practicing with people line up in the washroom talking to the flight attendants and coach in first class. I land that I’m like, Alright, I got this. I know my numbers one to 10 I get to my baggage claim. And someone turns seems, Nisha, now the lie that I’m like, huh? Sit Nisha, now the lie that I’m like her. I’m just saying the number two I don’t know, what do the guys say? Oh, yeah, Marco Campana 3:37we’re hoping. Anesh Daya 3:39Right? And literally, he’s asking me, where are you from? And I’m wearing this huge I am Canadian jersey, right? I couldn’t even answer that. And I said, Oh, he said you From where? And I said, Oh, I it’s all Canada, Nisha Canada. And I go chana Darren, right. And that was literally at that point where I’m like, realize, okay, I need to learn language just actually functional and useful for me that I need to survive. Right and, you know, thrive in this new country. In literally every day after that, and we’ll get into it. I learned two sentences that I needed on a daily basis to new sentences. And then, you know, fast forward. You know, a year and a half later, come back to Toronto can’t get a job in multimedia the.com boom, burst, bubbles burst, right? And I’m like, Well, I know how to teach English kind of, so I applied to a school. got through two rounds of interviews. Now I’m suddenly I went from junior teacher to head teacher worked there for five years. finally done all the international students but once they stepped outside the classroom, they were still deer in headlights. Right? They couldn’t functionally use language outside the classroom. And here I thought I’m doing this amazing job in class and I was one of the the favorite teachers, students. And I’m like, Oh, my goodness. And then as head teacher, I got laid off. You know, like, what? If you’re one of the favorite teachers, and you know, and you’re hiring and firing teachers, why are you getting laid off? Right? I didn’t have a university degree. And at that time, languages Canada made it a set rule that you have to have a university degree. To be qualified as a teacher, I’m like the one of the most qualified teachers to be, you know, teaching English in the school. Long story short, I was laid off 2009, I’m like, What am I going to do? I go, Well, I kind of have a pretty good idea of how language should be learned and taught. So I started on the spot language in 2009. And ever since then, you know, I’ve been adapting and changing and innovating the program, basically, with one core principle of let’s just teach what’s useful for these learners. And that was it. And let’s just get them comfortable. Not with me, the native English speaker who can speak very clearly with, you know, no idioms or slang or, you know, let’s get them comfortable talking with people the every, you know, Tom, Dick, and Harry on the street, kind of the, you know, Marco Campana 6:20yeah, the people who aren’t going to take the time and have the patience necessarily just going on about their lives. Right, Anesh Daya 6:24right. And so, you know, now fast forward, 12 years later, our students have had over 100,000 conversations with strangers on the streets of Toronto, you know, we’ve won several awards for Best language school, and I hate the word school, right. But I’d say program, and I’m really happy to announce, right, literally today, after this meeting, I have a meeting with an awards committee from GE for the global forum for education and learning. And we’ve been voted into the to receive an award for top 50 organizations in education. Marco Campana 7:01Amazing, congratulations. Anesh Daya 7:03So you know, it’s come a long way. And I know we’re gonna get into you know, how the pandemic is, we can’t go outside anymore is that what do you do? But we Marco Campana 7:13talk a little bit about the model, though. So the model is interactions with everyday people. So So what does that actually look like? And how is that different in so many ways from being in a classroom? Anesh Daya 7:24Well, what the way I like to look at it is number one, we’re not teaching, we’re coaching. And we don’t have teachers, we have language coaches. So there’s a sense of like, you know, let’s talk about accountability. Let’s talk about Listen, we want you to become an autonomous learner. And we want you to be become responsible for your own learning. So let’s just, let’s show you the methodology. Let’s lead by example, let’s guide you through the process of how to learn a language. And we spend, actually, half of our time unlearning how they’ve traditionally learned in terms of let’s take all the education that you’ve gotten your whole life that you’ve been taught to learn English. And let’s just put a pause to that and put it aside. Imagine like, you’re in your kid again. And that, then the tricky part is like, well, we’re not children anymore. We’re adults. And so how do you work with an adult mind? So there’s a little bit of neuroscience into it in terms of how do you work with an adult? And how do you really, you know, we don’t learn things as fast or as easy as children do. And so how do we take all of the senses that we have, and use those? So for example, we may say, I’ll say may, I might say to my student, meet me in front of the read me in front of the robot’s library. You know, on day two, for example, just to give you an idea of how a day might work, we’ve already taught them the sentences excuse me, where would I find robot’s library? Is it around here? And then the follow up to that is, is this building named after anyone or anything, you know, and again, they may not understand everything you ask 100 people this, you know, you’re gonna hear several similar answers, you know, right. So the next day, they can’t use Google Maps, nothing. They can only use the language they’ve learned. Marco Campana 9:27Nice. Anesh Daya 9:28So we meet them in front of robots library. They’re like, Oh, Anna, she was 17th, Premier of Ontario. The anish, but what exactly does premier mean? And then we jumped into and that literally dives into the next part of the classes. Well, actually, we have three levels of government. We have federal now wait a minute, you know what? next task, ask people around here. I’m just curious what are the three levels of government and Jago rescues me. I’m just curious, what are in the federal prevent? How do you spell that? Could you please write that down? You know, and they’re asking university students in some of the students can’t even answer. Marco Campana 10:10Yeah. It’s fascinating. Anesh Daya 10:13And I’m like, it’s fast. Yeah. It’s fascinating. Exactly. And then the next question is, well, who’s the current leader of the party? You know, and they’re starting to learn with a leader. So they’re not they’re connecting this library that has a second largest, you know, collection of books in North America. Now, they’re learning about government, but it’s all in real time in real life. And they’re connecting all the senses and these human interactions, right. And so as an adult, we can take in all these things. And whenever they think the word library, they jump your robots jump your robots, oh, you know, and they’re connecting all these things, right. And they’re, they’re listening to cp 24. And they hear the word premier. I know that, are they here, Doug Ford, I know him, you know. So as an adult, you know, there are certain ways to to get and then to further that. We go through the same process in a different location, learning different language and different skills. So Tony Robbins said routine is the mother of skill, you know, you do something enough times, you get really good at it. Right? So our students get good at being curious. They didn’t Marco Campana 11:25ever say a confidence thing to like, being able to go up to strangers and chat with them. I mean, that’s, that’s got to be so intimidating. At first, Anesh Daya 11:33we have, I’ll tell you, almost 50% of our students cry in the first week of our program, just because they’re shaking. Marco Campana 11:44Yeah, they’re so nervous. Anesh Daya 11:46They’re like, I don’t do this in my own language. Why am I gonna do this, and this is why you’re paying me the big bucks to help you get over that hump. To say, you know, what, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. And I could share literally hundreds of stories of our students getting jobs, our students meeting their their future husbands or wives, to students getting box seats at a Raptors game. Marco Campana 12:13You know, that’s awesome. Anesh Daya 12:15You name it. I have had some Yeah, crazy stories. But so when we talk about, you know, what a language coach is, we’re here to to motivate you to guide you through the process of language learning. And then once we teach you these, these, I will say it’s like a tool belt of language skills, you know, now that you have these, it’s like, it’s just rinse and repeat. Now, you know, so all you have to do now is just keep doing what we’ve just taught you to do. It’s like, you go to a driving range, right? You just got to keep hitting balls, you know, right. And then you got to go get on the course. And just play many rounds. And that’s, I mean, there’s a lot more complexity and complexity to the actual program and how we dive into it from we have action sheets, where students are actually keeping track of how many people they talk to every day, the kinds of conversations they have, every day, they have checklists of, did I have this kind of conversation or this kind of conversation. And then the last point I’ll say to this is, when we’re talking about teaching, and coaching is everything is customizable. It’s all tailored learning, right? What Marco wants to learn and what anish wants to learn. We’re very different people, our needs are very different. Our goals are very different. And so when we have a one language coach, two, three learner ratio, we really make like a, an independent study plan, if you can say, you know, for the learner, based on their interests, their hobbies, their goals, their dreams or aspirations. I have had someone said, No, I just want to find a Canadian boyfriend. I go No. More. And it’s like, Okay, you know what? Let’s start with building your sense of humor. You know, it’s always like, okay, let’s let’s just like Yeah, I like jokes. Okay, good. Good. So I taught her three basic jokes. Then her homework then is to go ask people would you be able to teach me one simple joke in English? And sensei humor in another language or culture is one of the most difficult things right? Marco Campana 14:36Oh, yeah. Yeah. Anesh Daya 14:38And so you know, and so one of the first few jokes we teach them is in the program and it’s built into the program is why did the boy climb the tree with a hockey stick to play with the Maple Leafs? So number one, it shows culture you’re and you’re, you know, familiar with the culture sports, you know, And you’re able to deliver it with the intonation. And in a way that’s like, why did the boy climb a tree with hockey stick to play with the Maple Leafs, you know, in a way, which sounds different in different languages, you know, and how you produce anyway. So that’s just one example of, you know, a way that we encourage and motivate students in again, with that tailored, customized approach. Marco Campana 15:22That’s fascinating. So I mean, immersion, but customized immersion is kind of the big thing. The The, the the repetition within evaluation, like they’re, they’re doing the evaluation, right, they’re writing down, it’s not someone who’s testing them, which is also very different. I would want to know a little more about the coaching, though. So your role is you’re there with them out there on the street, most of the time or in an environment? Like, what’s the ratio? How many people? Are you? Are you coaching at a given time? And, and kind of what does that look like? Are you standing kind of in the background as they, as they go forth? And you’re just there’s like, if you follow, I’ll catch you, or how does it kind of play out? Anesh Daya 15:57Yeah, and again, I always encourage is, you know, what, see some of our videos and you’ll, you’ll probably be able to visually see that. But over over audio like that, let me try and paint a picture here. So we meet our, our classes maximum only two hours long, the human mind can only actually take in so much information at that point. It’s just you got to use it and use it and use it. Right, right, right. And so we spend when we meet students at the location, every day at a different location. Number one, they should have already known or gotten information about where we are from the strangers we’ve met, then we get into, okay, let’s talk about this and talk about the new learning point. Then we get into the new new skill or topic, let’s just say, you know, we’re learning about famous Canadians today, as an example, and one of those we’re on, we’re on King Street at Canada’s Walk of Fame. And now you see Terry Fox, you see Wayne Gretzky, see, you know, a whole sleazy, you know, Donald Sutherland, Russell Peters, everyone that right now, and now part of your homework is to ask people, who would you say is the most famous Canadian, past or present? And what we do as a language coach? Is we model it, we have to show them how does this work? You know, right. And so I may not be an international student, sometimes I do act as one, I put on a no spell policy. So I can eat I can put on either a French Excuse me, I don’t know. But But I’m an international student. And I’m not going to I’m not going to bastardize it. But you know, I’m an international student. I study English in Toronto, and part of my homework is to ask people blank, in this case, who would you say is the most famous Canadian past or present? their students like, oh, and they can see, you know, how my body language, my intonation, and now I’m like, okay, it’s your turn. And they Okay, first practice with me. Let’s practice with each other. Literally five minutes, we’ll do a little bit of practice, then like, I’m like, Okay. And sometimes like, No, I can’t do the introduction. But I can only remember, who would you say is the most famous Canadian, past or present? Okay, I’ll introduce it. Excuse me, my friends here. They’re international students that English and Toronto and actually, we’re in our class right now. And this is part of their homework. Would you mind answering their quick question? And most Canadians, you know, will give, you know, two to five minutes of their time. Yeah. And one of the great things about Toronto, right? Not not 20 minutes or half an hour, we all got a two to five minutes. That’s all we need. Yeah. Then the student jumps in is, who would you say, is the most famous? Canadian, past? Or president? That’s amazing. Good job. And of course, everyone’s empathetic, they get it, and they see if they can see this person is making them like, I’d say, Pierre Trudeau. They’re like, and they already know that the next student jumps in Marco is like, what’s he best known for? that’s just that’s that question. Marco Campana 19:05So you’ve got like a little routine, basically. Marco Campana 19:08No, I’m not trying to make Anesh Daya 19:10money, Python. You know, Marco Campana 19:12everybody knows what they’re gonna say next. And they continue to start a conversation, essentially. Anesh Daya 19:17That’s exactly yeah. And so they all have follow up questions. It’s not just one question. It’s like, how do we continue the conversation, which is a skill in it of itself, right. And so the person Yeah, what’s he best known for? And they’ve already also further learned, because we know most of the people are gonna say, Wayne Gretzky, Celine Dion, Pierre Trudeau know certain people in different categories. And so we’ve actually taught the sentence. When was he in office? Marco Campana 19:47Okay, so you’ve already built in some knowledge, Anesh Daya 19:50knowledge sentences Marco Campana 19:51they have to go through in their brain who they just said and what’s the correct follow up question, which is also a whole skill, right? Absolutely. And they really, Anesh Daya 20:00they’re not going to get more than 10 different. Some people say Drake, right? They say, oh, I’ve heard of him. What would you say is his most famous song? They remember that from music day? You know? Yeah. And so you know, it’s quite amazing. Because they’ll get things out of left field. You know, they’ll hear, they’ll hear something like, well, there’s, there’s no question that it should and will always be ever Levine. I’m like, that’s awesome. That’s great. And, you know, not that nothing wrong with her. I think she’s an amazing musician. But they’ll get names that maybe we wouldn’t necessarily, you know, hear but right. But it’s through all these interactions with different people. That literally, they’re gaining so much knowledge and information every day. But one of the key things and I’ll get a little bit more into the methodology is, you’ve learned 100 new things today. You choose one that you really want to learn out of all of those things. And it’s something I do with my daughter mark is, of all the things you’ve learned today and six hours of school. Let’s choose one thing that you want to choose to remember. And that’s powerful. Because people go throughout the day thinking, I don’t know, they learned. Yeah, actually don’t know. And that’s actually part of my daughter’s daily journaling is like, what’s one thing that I learned that I want to learn today. And then at the end of the week, and classes Monday to Friday, that’s five new things you’ve learned over a course of a month, a year, Marco Campana 21:49and so on. Anesh Daya 21:51And then on top of that, we humble ourselves as language coaching, we don’t know everything. Hmm. And listen, we’re on an equal playing field. As you guys, you know, we’re just guiding you on language acquisition. So actually part of the class every day, his students have to come in teach us something new. It could be from their culture, their language, it could be something they read in the newspaper, something going on in their country. But Ganesh Did you know, I know that, you know, Japan has five islands. But did you know Japan has 6852 Islands all together? And I didn’t know that. That’s good to know. And then I have three students. That’s three things I got to learn today. At the end of the week, that’s 15 things. And this is the day they test me the following Monday. All right, is Dean things. Yeah. And I do Marco Campana 22:47remember from what you learned, that’s great. It’s total exchange. So yeah, I get so that, that that notion of of being together in this, and you’re all learning something, obviously takes away that power dynamic, right? Yeah. You were just you’re doing the hands, the top down exactly exactly where you’re heading. Anesh Daya 23:06In this thing, where a teacher is always standing, and the students are sitting, whereas, you know, I have had students who are taller than me, know, they’re looking down on me. It’s, it’s this thing, we’re all in this together, I’m learning as an appoint. Last point I’ll say about this is in terms of both learning. I’ve learned more about Canada, in the city of Toronto, from all the strangers I’ve met than any textbooks or history books I’ve ever read. Marco Campana 23:35That makes so much sense. Yeah. Because you’re talking directly to people. Yeah, it’s a different experience. I love it. I mean, that’s, I’m gonna definitely check out the videos, and I’ll share some of them. So people can get a real visual sense of what that looks like. It’s fascinating. But you know, the question is coming out. So this is incredibly interpersonal, incredibly immersive. And we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and you know, the settlement sector and everyone, we’re all pivoting online. So how do you transition something like this into a digital model? And how’s that been for you? Anesh Daya 24:05And again, this is me being vulnerable. I, I won’t lie and say I didn’t have a few breakdowns when this all happened when like core value offering, let’s go talk to strangers outside. And let’s meet at different locations and what we’re being told to stay at home. Okay. You know, I really had to take a deep dive into just where we’re at what does the future look like for the business and the methodology and all the things that we’ve built up and I said, You know what? Here I am, at that time, 11 years into this business, how many students have I had, what are they doing now? Surely I can reach out to all of them and say, Do you have an hour a week to do online language coaching with me just to add Maintain your English language level or take it to the next level. Sure. And they’re like, Yeah, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And they’re like, We’re so happy that you reached out to us, because we kind of could feel it kind of going down. But now we’re excited and motivated to further learning because now they’re being required to get comfortable online. And, you know, and and talk to strangers. And how do we do this online? I’ll make this as easy. All right. And so and it’s tough, because we’re sitting down. And one of the reasons why I have this experiencial language learning program outside and this is from my, when I was a tennis pro for two years, you know, when you’re learning a rush fact, man, right? I know. Sorry, just said that in. But when you’re learning in motion, right? Hmm, blood is flowing, oxygen is going to the brain. And when you’re sitting down, traditionally, your brain is like, is it sleep time? You know? There’s no, there’s not that adrenaline is not going, you know, right. And there’s also this sense of security and safety that you have sitting behind a camera and a screen. And so, something hit me within the first month, one of my students, her name is Miho. She was a nurse, and she got sick. And it’s at the peak of COVID. And she hadn’t gotten tested yet. And the doctor said, you need to stay in the hospital in quarantine, live in the doctors residents. And then she’s like, she reached out to me said, anish, I can’t go out. I’m eating hospital food every day. I’m stuck in this room. Can you help me? I go, what do you need help with the English? She goes, I just don’t know what to do. I’m I’m having these serious thoughts of, you know, a lot of bad thoughts. And I don’t, I’m not feeling really good. And I came back to her the next day online. And I said, You know what, she really needs his mental health support. Marco Campana 27:00Right? Anesh Daya 27:01Know what how can I? What are what are things that I do on a daily basis? So I’m like, maybe she can we can start the day with gratitude. You know, let’s say what are you grateful for every day in English? Let’s do this in English. What do you you should do this in your own language? But what are you grateful for? In this, like, Oh, I’m I’m grateful to have a job to still get be getting paid while I’m in quarantine. And you know, then I’m like, like, what was the best part of your day? I know you are inside and in your room level is the best part of your day, what was the most challenging part of your day? And what are you going to do better for tomorrow. And I just developed this. And through this student, I started developing this whole new curricula that started talking about self improvement, self love, gratitude, having an attitude of gratitude, which is going to help them in their relationships, their jobs, their just their family, life, everything. But imagine if we can start implementing these daily habits in English, right? At the start of your day, at the end of your day, if you’re asking yourself and answering to yourself these questions in English, and here I am now. And again, I’m not a psychologist or therapist or anything I do not call up I’m but I’m someone who can hold you accountable for doing this. And I have students now giving themselves a score out of five every day, saying, How did I do today? Unknown Speaker 28:40Huh? Anesh Daya 28:41I was a two and that’s okay, if you felt that too. What was it that made it a two. But again, I’m having all these conversations in English and doing a cell in English. In literally all of my students after that. I have students now Marco, they’re doing daily affirmations. I’m strong enough and I’m good enough in every day, my English is getting better and better like that Tony Robbins kind of Unknown Speaker 29:07feel. Yeah, Anesh Daya 29:09but they’re doing this all Marco Campana 29:12in English. And I’ve been doing it with you. Are they recording themselves? Or is that like a boat? Anesh Daya 29:17So how do I pronounce this sentence and I have a list of like 200 affirmations and then like, choose 10 that you want to that resonate with you? Right? I record it for them. I practice it with them. And so even their pronunciation is improving through this constant daily reputation of these affirmations. And they’re feeling them to Right, Marco Campana 29:44right. It’s real. It’s not just English, right? Anesh Daya 29:47But emotions in another language more than they’re even feeling it in their own Marco Campana 29:54mind. That’s fascinating. I love that. So you’ve created a whole new model. Anesh Daya 30:00Truly has I truly have. And it’s been, I’ve been further motivated to help all of these students who aren’t currently hearing. And in the at the same time when we talk about the language and language settlement sector, as I like to call it, I thought, you know what, maybe this is the real angle that a lot of these newcomers are refugees in. And I know I understand there lots of supports out there for them. But imagine if this connectivity with English language learning and mental health and affirmations and daily gret, like what if there was this holistic program that could be offered? Not just like, this is a pen, and then everyone in this now is like, ooh, how can we use technology to to innovate and pivot and I go, what you were doing before and now using technology to continue to do what you were doing before is not going to change a thing? Marco Campana 30:58Yeah, I mean, I wanted to ask you about that, right? Because that we see a lot like, people are pivoting and you know, there’s, that’s an iteration, right? You’re doing what you did in the classroom, online, in the learning management system, or using Moodle or something like that. So you know, what could there be? So your example is one of what could happen? Are you seeing other interesting innovations, new ways of doing things because of this shift shift? Anesh Daya 31:20Well, that the closest thing I’ve seen, that has recently come to light, and something that I initially looked at about three years ago was the virtual environment. You know, how can we have the local cafe doctor’s office supermarket? virtually? Hmm. But even within that, and there are some, there’s some software and VR software out there, that you can do this. But again, that comes down to well, who’s providing this service? Who’s training people? Are they just traditional language teachers now trying to say, oh, now I’m a language coach, I can do this. Right? Are the right people guiding people on the the the psychology of actual language acquisition? Like, how do we take the on the spot methodology, that’s which is a lot there. And then combine that in the VR space as as realistically as possible, right. And that’s what I what I’m trying to navigate now. Because a lot of newcomers, they don’t have access to VR technology. And you know, there’s only so much you can really do. And again, my whole thing is, when I think about the holistic view is, I want that in person connection, that human interaction. And I know we’re going to get back to there in some way, or format, or however that looks, but this human interaction is going to come back at some point, right? And I almost want to let everyone know, hey, we were doing this before, and I get all this tech is here. But let’s also start thinking post this but still used. And we’ve always used technology as a tool, we use things like, you know, we use Quizlet. And we use YouTube videos. And we have a whole handful of tools that we use online, to further enhance whatever what what we already doing well, that students can do at home. Right, right. But to say that, tech is going to completely replace it? I don’t think so. I think there has to be a hybrid almost of both. Marco Campana 33:32Yeah, it’s complementing it, right? Like what you’ve just described, I can imagine, for example, someone that you’ve like you, you essentially are already hybrid, these are people that you did the one on one in person, and maybe now they’re back in another country, and you’re doing the virtual with them. So I want to imagine what that could look like in in Toronto, for example, which does have vast geographies where maybe, you know, the person comes to a classroom or a coaching experience, right? And then when they’re out of that coaching experience, what could they do on technology, the gratitudes, the practice, the things like that, those are things that they could continue to do, even though they’re still in the same city, because they’re at home, maybe they need that to start their day, you know, whatever works for them kind of thing. Anesh Daya 34:12So, absolutely, and, and this is why I’ve been I recently, you know, not reasonable six months ago, approached you and said, and asked for a letter of support for our language settlement program and created this center, where we could have these real life, my hands are in quotes, situations, but in a safe, welcoming environment that could be COVID friendly. And so some kind of center like that, with these different stations with with a language coach, a trained language coach, provide them and it’s also a safe place for them to go and feel comfortable. And then maybe once or twice a week, we can go outside, you know, for sure. And this is one of the reasons why I love embedding ourselves within CSI, this Center for Social Innovation is we made that our home for the last five, six years. And that was a safe place where students could come meet people talk to community join salad club, you know, and connect with other, you know, people. And so having kind of a base or Language Center that people could go to to feel safe as a home and then also get language instruction with these different stations. Yeah, I see it. I see it. Marco Campana 35:31I see the possibility. Yeah, my last question, I guess. And it’ll come up with folks when I speak to them is about to scale. Because this isn’t really resource intensive. I mean, the outcomes theory sound better, but the outcomes sound more, you know, daily life, these people are functioning literally in English much more quickly. But you know, it’s a it’s a small classroom, it’s a small space environment, how can you envision this being scaled, like for newcomers across the country in a meaningful way? Anesh Daya 35:57Well, this is why I come up with the idea of this language settlement center, if you call or English language learning ecosystem, we call it l if you want, you know, if just like you have Lions Club, or the rotary or something like in every city across the world, why couldn’t we have one of these language centers in an already Kosti or other organizations that are you know, their existing space? Right, right. But if we have the thing is because right now, we’re a for profit organization. All the people, a lot of people in the settlement industry know who we are, they’re like, Well, have you applied for grants? And that’s not an answer. There’s so much red tape. And only the organizations who have been around forever get the grants. And I don’t know about grant writing. I’m like, so if if we could connect with the right people who understand what we do and say, Hey, we want to bring you on board. Let’s Let’s co apply for a grant, you know, right. And, but I can imagine the scalability of this being like a language center that could be copy and pasted in every city across Canada. Marco Campana 37:05Nice, replicable, easily replicated? Absolutely. Anesh Daya 37:09And this is literally the first place they go when they come into the city is this language learning center where they’re, they’re given this orientation of what is language learning mean? What does it mean to be in a new country like? And I don’t think they’re really given the proper orientation of like, let’s, let’s use language as a tool to break barriers and build bridges. Marco Campana 37:32Right. Building inclusion, not just settlements. Absolutely. Yeah, that makes so much sense. And that’s that fits with the values of the sector, at least in rhetoric anyway. Yeah. Awesome. Well, listen, is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you want people to know about the work that you’re doing and how the innovation in the language settlement sector could could kickstart given what we’re learning and what we’re experiencing during COVID? Anesh Daya 38:00i, huh. Hmm. I think in terms of technology, and innovation, really get back to say, Well, how is language successfully, like just people that really think about how is language really learned for someone settling in a new country and, you know, almost getting back to the roots of thinking? human connection, human connection, and, and I would say, getting the right training in place. I have people hiring that dentists, they’re hiring volunteers left, right and center have no idea about. Some of them are traditional teachers, and they’re doing online tutoring. But again, they’re tutoring from a textbook or trying to teach conversational English, but they have no idea of the process of like language coaching, so maybe bringing the world of language coaching more into the forefront of saying no, and if and I think the government, if you look at in years later, they’re gonna save millions and millions of dollars, if they can get language settlement down, in the course of six months to a year, learn more than he would have many newcomers have been here for 15 years. Marco Campana 39:19Yeah, that would make a huge difference. You’re absolutely right. Anesh Daya 39:22So you know, kind of rethinking the approach and what it means to get effective training. And this is hopefully something I’m going to be able to offer his effective language coaching, training. A no and if on the spot language is at the forefront of this language settlement sector. You know, and I don’t want to work alone. I want to work with all of these other sectors, their their counselors, the doctor’s office, you know, because if the doctors know the language we’re using with them, you know, and knowing if we’re, if we’re the hub of all these other sectors and languages in the middle They’re gonna be able to learn English in every situation, you know? And so yeah, that’s, that’s good. Yeah, Marco Campana 40:08I love it. That’s a great dream. And I’m hoping that we can move towards it, then thank you for this. I love the work that you’re doing. It’s interesting, and congratulations on the global award. That’s always nice. And hopefully, it’ll come to something more, you know, more more real in Canada for you, as you push forward your model with with some of these sort of mainstream providers. Anesh Daya 40:30And yeah, that credibility, I hopefully will, like you said, you know, lend a hand to reaching some people or getting some more recognition. And again, you know, you’ve been a huge supporter from our initial conversation and connecting us with some amazing people. And just like, you know, my buddy, Craig Edwards, you know, you guys are great connectors, and really passionate about finding the right services for the right people. And when it comes to, you know, how can we use technology, not to take over but as a tool to help other people, you’re on a store front of that, and I appreciate all the great conversations you’ve had around that, to make people just aware of the what’s out there. Marco Campana 41:13Yeah, I appreciate that. And I mean, it’s an insatiable curiosity. So I really appreciate you taking the time to help people understand better what you’ve been able to do, not just for, you know, 11 years, but in the last year as well. So I think we’re all still trying to figure this out. So this is a great example of another approach that people need to be thinking about. Thank you for your time. I appreciate it. Anesh Daya 41:33Awesome. Thank you. Marco Campana 41:35Thanks 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 are also on my site@markopolos.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@markopolos.org Thanks again.


25 Apr 2021

Rank #9

Podcast cover

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. 0:00Welcome 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. 1:34loves 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. 1:55Jason 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, 2:32very sharing of 2:34information 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. 3:34Outside 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 5:00Dude, 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? 5:24Thank 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 5:36we’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 7:34a 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. 8:45Does 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, 9:00not 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. 9:31And then the pandemic really pushed us into using 9:37some 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 9:55for access, we have the capacity, but we hadn’t sort of enabled those features. We still answered 10:00Got 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. 10:23teleconferencing 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, 10:51you 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. 11:42Okay, 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 12:47our 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. 13:02So 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 13:42some 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 14:02a time that you can set aside each day or each week to do. So. 14:09In 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 14:24video conferencing platforms to zoom as well, the week before, we all went fully remote. So all these things converge in in March 2020. And 14:40one thing that has been very helpful is that over the years, we have 14:46had 14:48full time 14:51technical positions within pathways, recognizing that I am an integral part of service delivery as well as meaning you 15:00Making 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 15:11to 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 15:31a 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, 15:55if you want something to use, you don’t have to worry about licensing, like, here’s something that you can run with. 16:02And 16:04we 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 16:22have, that has really 16:25informed 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, 16:41with 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, 16:57one, one thing that we’re able to do was that we were able to build 17:03a bulk 17:05text 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 17:24incurred there. 17:27And 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, 17:46you 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, 18:14we were able to do these things, because of 18:18pretty 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, 18:32and 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 18:54it’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, 19:30in 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. 19:45I’m hopping on a quick zoom call to do that. 19:49And I think also just making sure those feedback loops are there. So again, going back to process that, you know, if 19:56if folks are can identify ways to make 20:00ways 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 20:07experiencing 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 20:34do something different, and you’re continuing iterating on those feedback loops. 20:40So 20:42the 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 21:03the 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 22:04create 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. 23:32And 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. 24:07The other, it should get into more specificity is having standing meetings, for feedback sessions. So one thing that in our development of 24:20some of the tools that we’re building is having a standing weekly meeting with staff members, and as well as students across the country. 24:29to 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 24:47is very direct. Sometimes it’s a little bit more 24:51ambiguous, but underlying it, there’s always a little seed in there that, you know, has resulted in some really cool insights. 25:00Is 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, 26:31blameless 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, 26:46when, 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 27:15drawn 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? 27:44So 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? 28:06Those 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 29:31data. 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. 30:00counselor 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. 30:15So 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 30:58metrics 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. 31:13And 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 32:02have 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 32:28and 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. 33:03I 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 34:15I 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. 35:00for them not to. Anyway. 35:03So 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. 35:21Oh, 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 35:40I 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. 36:30People who are at risk populations who are at more risk, you know, how do we deal with that? And what do we do? And, 36:38yeah, 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, 37:04yeah, 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. 37:35So, 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. 38:25And 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. 39:43Absolutely. And so you’ve mentioned there’s some checklists 39:47what 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 40:00To 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, 40:23at 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, 40:32so 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. 41:31And 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? 41:50I’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? 43:20Thank 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? 43:48Yeah, I think, you know, I mentioned earlier was moving to things like a daily check in which you know, more familiar like, 43:57kind of scrum team type approach. I would say that, the, 44:03what, 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 44:23organizations or more in the kind of marketing or tech side is we have made increased use of 44:33video, but asynchronous video, so using tools like video to like pre recorded messages, to kind of convey like, you know, those like, Hey, 44:45this 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. 44:58Those are the immediate 45:00Things that, 45:02that 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 45:25even 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 45:40or 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. 47:48And 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. 48:23People 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 50:00affirmations 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, 50:10I 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. 51:09That’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. 51:37So just to just to take a step back from that, I just wanted to mention that 51:43a 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. 52:23One 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 55:00mapping 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, 55:47sort 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. 56:38Or 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. 56:52Excellent. 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. 58:22It 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, 59:24the youth shall lead us. 59:27And 59:28any 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, 59:58it will just take way too much. 1:00:00Time 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? 1:00:18Jason no pressure, but the final thought and kernel of inspiration comes from you, 1:00:23in 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, 1:00:45it’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 1:00:56fundamentally about, you know, the, the the relationship and focusing on that, I think will, will serve everyone well. 1:01:06That’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. 1:01:35We appreciate you being here and sharing your experiences and knowledge with everybody. 1:01:40Yeah, 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. 1:01:56Thank 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. 1:02:23Thanks 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

1hr 2mins

1 Mar 2021

Rank #10