Evaluation of the Welcoming Communities Initiative
The main conclusions arising from this evaluation are presented below.
1. There is a need for programming that addresses barriers to newcomer integration, including racism and discrimination. The WCI plays a role in facilitating newcomer integration; it aims to address barriers to participation and foster more welcoming and inclusive communities.
Between 2001 and 2006, the visible minority population in Canada increased five times faster than the overall population. Almost three-quarters of Canadians believe there is racism in Canada and the proportion of visible minorities who felt they experienced discrimination was twice of that among non-visible minorities.
The WCI can play a key role in newcomer integration by helping them connect with the community as well as by reaching out to the communities and educating them about diversity, multiculturalism, and the benefits of immigration. More specifically, projects supported under the WCI can help to address existing discrimination practices and racism against visible minorities and immigrants, increase the capacity of immigrant and non-immigrant service agencies to deliver culturally sensitive services and effectively respond to racism and discrimination, increase public awareness about racism and discrimination, and foster inclusive work environments.
2. The WCI is generally aligned with the priorities and objectives of the Government of Canada, CIC and CAPAR. The initiative is uniquely positioned among anti-racism programs in its focus on newcomers.
WCI is consistent with the Federal Government’s commitment towards ensuring successful integration of newcomers outlined in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which requires government to “promote the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins in the continuing evolution and shaping of all aspects of Canadian society and assist them in the elimination of any barrier to that participation”Footnote 60.
A review of CIC strategic outcomes also shows that WCI objectives and activities are relevant and well aligned with CIC strategic outcomes that focus on the development of integration and citizenship programs which promote a diverse society and social inclusion.
CAPAR also provides funding to other federal departments and agencies for the delivery of anti-racism programs, each of which have a strategic focus which differs from that of WCI. WCI is unique in that it is the only initiative that focuses specifically on newcomers and reducing barriers they face related to racism and discrimination.
3. While early evidence indicates that individual WCI projects can positively impact newcomers, receiving communities and settlement organizations, the overall success of the Initiative is not yet clear. The length of time that the WCI was in operation during the reporting period, as well as performance measurement issues, have constrained the ability of the evaluation to assess impacts at the Initiative level.
This evaluation was able to collect data on the success of individual projects. The products and activities of WCI projects aligned with the planned outputs for this initiative and most projects were highly successful in achieving their respective objectives. Overall, the users of the WCI project outputs expressed their satisfaction with the products and information, which they found up-to-date, comprehensive, engaging and accessible. Key factors that have contributed to the success of the WCI projects included effective partnerships and community involvement, media coverage, flexibility of the design, and the involvement of experts in the field.
Findings also showed that some WCI projects have helped newcomers, particularly youth, to deal with issues related to racism and discrimination and to better understand multiculturalism and integrate in their communities. Other projects have enabled receiving communities to become more aware of issues related to racism and discrimination and promoted multiculturalism in these communities. Some WCI projects have also increased the capacity of the settlement sector to address issues related to racism and discrimination by providing tools, resources and information as well as expanding existing settlement programs to include anti-racism and/or multiculturalism efforts.
In spite of evidence showing these individual successes, the evaluation was unable to assess the overall impact of the WCI. During the reporting period for the evaluation, the Initiative had only been in operation for three years – a very relatively short timeframe for measuring program outcomes involving attitudinal and behavioural changes, which generally take a longer time to appear and be measureable. In addition, the Initiative experienced a number of challenges with monitoring and performance measurement during the reporting period. Together, these issues resulted in insufficient data for the evaluation.
4. Although the flexibility of the WCI design has allowed the Initiative to be responsive to the specific needs of communities, the great diversity in projects funded has led to a wide range of outcomes and indicators that cannot be easily mapped and measured to assess program performance.
The flexibility of the WCI provides for greater responsiveness to community needs, allowing communities across the country to tailor projects to meet their specific objectives. However, the broad scope of activities and target groups supported by the Initiative has led to a diversity of projects with a wide range of outcomes and indicators that cannot be easily mapped and measured to assess the overall impact across projects.
The typology analysis found 56 different WCI projects, and showed that the scope of activities and target groups supported by the Initiative is extensive. Six broad themes were used to categorize the main objective and focus of activities for each project identified. However, many of the WCI projects categorized included activities that cut across multiple themes and target audiences.
Findings from the document review revealed that CIC has acknowledged that the WCI lacks strategic direction and a clearly defined set of objectives and performance indicators, and that there is a need among partners and stakeholders for further guidance on the intended outcomes of the WCI.
Findings from the interviews reflected a more balanced view between the benefits of flexibility and the need for more focus. Representatives of SPOs supported the overall design of the Initiative, but added that the future development of projects should be more focused and clear in terms of their strategic outcomes and how they support integration and settlement of newcomers. CIC Managers and Directors predicted that, under the modernized approach, WCI should be able to retain its flexibility, but improve its focus, expectations, outcomes and evaluability.
5. Monitoring and performance measurement have been a persistent challenge for the WCI. WCI funding and projects are not easily distinguishable from other settlement funding and projects, and the lack of comparable outcomes across projects has made it difficult to establish standard performance indicators. As a result, there is not sufficient data to assess and report on the overall success and achievements of the WCI.
Monitoring and performance measurement for WCI have been difficult due to the number of factors. Among these, the flexibility of the WCI funding approach and diversity of the projects subsequently funded has been a particular challenge (discussed above). As a result, performance measurement for WCI has been limited to the collection of information on project activities and progress for the annual reporting to CAPAR. This information has been highly narrative and inconsistent in content.
Also, the tracking of WCI funds and activities has been problematic. Financial coding for WCI, instituted in 2007, has not been consistently applied, and WCI project activities are not explicitly captured in CAMS. This has made it difficult to distinguish WCI projects from other activities supported by the settlement programs. Some WCI projects were an expansion of existing settlement programming. However, it was not always possible to isolate the WCI funding from the settlement funding, thus inhibiting the measurement of incremental impacts resulting from the additional WCI funding.
Consequently, WCI projects are difficult to identify and their performance difficult to measure. Data on the performance of WCI projects is insufficient to assess the impacts of the Initiative as a whole. Improved monitoring and a more robust performance measurement strategy would enable CIC to report on the overall success and achievements of WCI, obtain consistent data across projects to guide policy directions, distinguish best practices, and identify criteria for benchmarking of WCI projects. It would also facilitate future evaluation work to assess the overall contribution of WCI.
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