Evaluation of the Welcoming Communities Initiative

Executive Summary

A strategic goal of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is the successful integration of newcomers to Canada in order to maximize the economic, social and cultural benefits of immigration. In view of this objective, the Department has expressed a commitment to develop programs and initiatives that encourage Canadians’ support for and participation in integration, including contributions to anti-racism strategies.

One of the programs that contribute to this goal is the Welcoming Communities Initiative (WCI). WCI is CIC’s contribution to Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism (CAPAR), a horizontal effort that includes a series of initiatives and strategies across 20 federal departments and agencies, including nine funded initiatives under the Action Plan. The total funding allocation for CAPAR is $53.6 million over five years (2005/06 to 2009/10), and $11.3 million in ongoing funding. CIC was allocated $17.6 million for the 2005/06 to 2009/10 period, and $4.4 million in ongoing funding, for the WCI.

WCI is a three-pronged approach that focuses on creating connections between newcomers and Canadians, eliminating barriers to integration by creating welcoming communities, and educating against racism. The Initiative supports on-going anti-racism activities, including awareness-raising, outreach, tools and resource development and direct services aimed at newcomers, youth and communities in CIC regions. It also supports anti-racism strategies and projects in provinces with Alternative Funding Agreements (British Columbia and Manitoba) and at the national level.

The objective of the evaluation was to provide an evidence-based assessment of the relevance, performance and design and delivery of the WCI, as well as the early impacts of the Initiative. The evaluation used multiple lines of evidence (including interviews, surveys, and document and literature reviews), and focused on the period from April 2006 to March 2009.

Key findings

Relevance

There is a need for programming that addresses barriers to newcomer integration, including racism and discrimination. Through supporting a range of anti-racism and multiculturalism efforts that foster more welcoming and inclusive communities, the Initiative plays a role in addressing existing needs. The document review indicated that the WCI is aligned with CAPAR and consistent with Government of Canada and CIC objectives and priorities, as well as unique among anti-racism programs funded under CAPAR in its focus on newcomers.

  • There is a need for programming to address issues of racism and discrimination in Canada, given the increasing diversity of the population; the continued existence of racism and discrimination against newcomers and visible minorities; and the distribution of immigrants to rural areas and small cities, which have traditionally been comprised of fairly homogenous populations. In addition, there are social, economic, and political factors that can contribute to incidences of racism and discrimination and serve to delay the social and economic integration of newcomers.
  • Programming that addresses barriers to participation, such as racism and discrimination, is needed to help support newcomer integration. The WCI aims to create connections between newcomers and communities; educate communities on racism, discrimination and multiculturalism; and increase awareness of the benefits of immigration.
  • A review of various documents on government policies and priorities indicated that the WCI is consistent with Government of Canada priorities and federal commitments and aligned with CAPAR and CIC objectives.

Performance

While it is evident that the individual WCI projects reached a broad range of groups and organizations and delivered a broad range of activities, there is insufficient evidence to properly assess the overall performance of the WCI as a program, due to a lack of comparable data on program performance. Individual projects are, however, perceived as successful in developing and delivering their intended products and outputs. Some of the factors that contribute to this success are effective partnerships and community involvement, media coverage, flexibility of the design, and involvement of experts in the field.

  • The projects were able to reach a variety of stakeholder groups including newcomers, SPOs, other organizations and Canadians. In particular, many WCI projects were designed to reach youth and school children through enhancements to Host and SWIS or through other activities that focused on engaging youth in discussions on anti-racism and diversity.
  • WCI projects have been successful at delivering activities that align with the planned activities and services for this Initiative. WCI projects also produced outputs outlined in the Logic Model.
  • Stakeholders generally perceived individual WCI projects as successful in development and delivery of planned activities and products, and achieving their intended objectives. One indication of success is the formal awards and recognition that some projects have received.
  • Key factors contributing to the success of the individual WCI projects include effective partnerships and community involvement, media coverage, flexibility of the design, and involvement of experts in the field. 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.
  • Although different WCI projects face unique challenges, some common factors that may constrain the success of WCI projects include the lack of ongoing and multiple-year funding, limited marketing and promotional activities, and difficulty attracting volunteers and community organizations.

Achievement of outcomes

The findings indicate that individual WCI projects can have positive impacts on both the understanding and the capacity of newcomers, communities, and settlement organizations to better deal with issues related to racism and discrimination. However, it is still premature to relate these findings to the targeted outcomes of the Initiative as a whole and draw conclusions, due to the nature of the evidence and limitations of the study.

  • WCI projects have had a positive impact on the capacity of newcomers, particularly youth, to deal with issues related to racism and discrimination and better understand multiculturalism. In addition, WCI projects increased the capacity of newcomers to better integrate in their communities.
  • WCI projects have had a positive impact on receiving communities, enabling them to become more aware of issues related to racism and discrimination. The findings also suggest that WCI projects have contributed to the capacity of receiving communities to be welcoming to newcomers.
  • WCI projects have had a positive impact on the capacity of the settlement sector to address issues related to racism and discrimination through the development of resources and tools, training and research to support program and policy development.
  • WCI projects have supported the expansion or enhancement of settlement and other community services.

Design and delivery

Flexibility in design has allowed the WCI to respond to the needs of a wide variety of communities across the country. This flexibility, however, has resulted in a diversity of projects, with a broad array of activities, target groups and outcomes, making it difficult to measure and report on outcomes for the Initiative as a whole. A more focused and strategic approach to the Initiative would help to address these issues, and is timely given the move to the modernized approach to settlement programming.

  • The flexibility of the WCI design provides for greater responsiveness to community needs, allowing communities across the country to tailor projects to meet their specific objectives. However, the great diversity in projects has led to a wide range of outcomes and indicators that cannot be easily mapped and measured to assess program performance.
  • The focus of WCI has evolved over the reporting period. A total of 56 projects were reviewed as part of the evaluation, with multiple target groups and activities spanning six broad themes. In light of this expansive scope, the overall focus and expected outcomes of WCI need to be revisited to be more strategic and aligned with the modernized settlement approach.
  • Performance measurement and reporting has been a consistent challenge for WCI. The diverse nature of the projects, particularly in terms of expected outcomes, and the absence of standardized performance indicators and accompanying data make it difficult to assemble an accurate, aggregate picture of WCI performance and impacts.

Conclusions

  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
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