Thoughts on the recent Calls for Proposals - Message from the ED


This is usually the time of year when the pace of the work of organizations slows down as leadership and practitioners take time to renew their energies and to regroup. It is the time when the reality of life-work balance seems not too out of reach and when dreams of lazy hours on patios, lake beaches or backyards with family and friends often become reality. For many in our sector, this is not happening this year.

Both the federal and provincial ministries that fund immigrant and refugee settlement and integration programs have chosen this time of year to issue Calls for Proposals (CFP). One would be forgiven for concluding that there’s some sort of conspiracy afoot. But inconvenient though the timing may be, both calls being issued back to back is an opportunity for organizations to review existing services, to determine what works and what doesn’t work to meet the complex and diverse needs of immigrants and refugees and their communities . It is an opportunity to discontinue initiatives that have failed and to develop, where necessary, new programs and approaches to the work.

The information contained in Making Ontario Home(MOH) - the Council’s new research study that surveyed over 2500 immigrants’ about their use and satisfaction of settlement and integration services and programs - is an excellent guide to what our clients are saying about what has made a positive difference in their settlement and integration journey. The study supports what we have been saying, settlement services matter and make a positive difference in the lives of newcomers who access them.  Use it as supporting data in your CFP applications.

The issuing of the calls brought another thought to mind. Is growth – growth of the organization, of the sector the only way forward? Have we – the sector and government and other funders created a culture where the only way to be counted, to be seen as a “player” is to continue to grow the brand? Is this focus on “capacity” driving this direction? A colleague in Toronto who works with Neigbourhood Centres and is one of Ontario’s non-profit Sector’s “deep thinkers” took me out for coffee last winter and posed exactly these questions. His thesis is that as leaders in the NFP (not for profit) and NGO (non-governmental) sector we have a decision to make, because the path some of us are on of unrestrained growth is not sustainable and may even be leading us into areas of focus that takes us away from our core mission as community based organizations working towards social and economic justice, towards the broader public good. Now as then I have no definitive answer. Nor am I certain that one exists. But I do know it is a conversation that we need to have with each other as often as we can.

As we prepare our proposals for funding for the next two to three years let’s pay some attention to this. Let’s take the time to think through how the needs of those with whom we work can be best met through a coordinated, partnership approach. Let’s identify and acknowledge the better practices that exist within our service areas and support that work going forward. Let’s not fall into the trap of believing that we all have to do everything for everyone. Moving forward over the next few years, let’s make collaboration and intentional planning our watch words.