Low-income populations

Current and Completed Projects:

Alleviating Homelessness: Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISE) Research (Quasi-experimental design)

This project being led by the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet) in partnership with SRDC and Social Enterprise Toronto (SET) will provide a longitudinal assessment of the effectiveness of WISEs and compare them with other interventions for people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness. The first study of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area, the project will identify the impact of WISEs on both hard and soft outcomes including employment and housing stabilization, as well as the returns for government investment in these types of WISEs. Finally, it will identify effective practices to maximize impacts for several models of training under various circumstances. As evaluation partner, SRDC will be responsible for leading the measurement of the impact and effectiveness of WISEs on social and labour market outcomes for people who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness through a quasi-experimental design study. An additional objective is to build the capacity of participating WISE to measure their social outcomes using professionally designed research tools.

Start-end date: June 2017 - March 2022
Sponsor: Canadian Community Economic Development Network

Long-term Case Studies of Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISE) in British Columbia

The BC Centre for Employment Excellence (CfEE) is conducting a five-year demonstration project to evaluate the role of WISEs in supporting the labour market transitions of populations facing barriers to developing their career potential. The project is partnering with a minimum three WISEs in locations outside of Vancouver and Victoria to provide transitional employment opportunities for different groups of vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities, immigrants, and Indigenous people. The pilot involves a series of case studies to provide a better understanding of WISE capacity to serve barriered job seekers as well as the employment outcomes of participants who receive placements with the project's WISE partners. By combining research that examines both WISE capacity development and participant long-term employment outcomes, this study is designed to offer unique insights into the needs of WISEs who serve job seekers facing significant barriers to employment, as well as the benefits that accrue to participants whom they employ.

Start-end date: June 2017 - March 2022
Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada

The relationship between education savings accounts and postsecondary education aspirations

SRDC is undertaking an original analysis of its unique “Future to Discover” dataset to help answer questions on how best to maximize the impact of education savings programs such as Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) and associated government grants, such as the Canada Education Savings Grants (CESG) and the Canada Learning Bond (CLB) on access to postsecondary education (PSE) for students from low-income family backgrounds. Specifically, this new study sheds light on whether the positive educational outcomes associated with these approaches arise because (a) acquiring accounts changes families’ orientations towards PSE over time or (b) the funds in accounts help students overcome financial barriers at the point of paying for their studies.

The findings of this study will inform the search for new ways to increase the take up rate of RESPs, CESG, and CLB. The study will assess factors that lead to the opening of accounts; the role of parental involvement and level of education; the relationship of family income to educational attainment of the child; sources of personal contributions to RESPs; and the relationship of educations savings to debt and the availability of student financial assistance in relation to the determination to participate in PSE. In addition, the analysis explores the role of trusted intermediaries and sources of information regarding decision-making related to PSE. The study findings will be structured to provide concrete lessons learned from the research for optimal next steps in the development and delivery of RESPs, CESG, CLB, and related programming.

Start-end date: April 2017 - December 2017
Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada

Relationship between PSE participation and household income

The current decade has seen very little new research into the relationship between household income and PSE participation for Canada in general and Ontario in particular. The effects of recently adopted policies aimed at increasing PSE accessibility on this relationship, such as the reforms to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, are consequently poorly understood. This project uses a time series of harmonized long-form data from the Canadian Census 1996-2016 to examine the relative impact of household income and parents’ human capital on their children’s post-secondary education participation.

Start-end date: March 2017 - October 2018
Sponsor: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

Forum of Labour Market Ministers' Senior Officials – Best Practices Session

SRDC was responsible for organizing a half-day session to share innovative approaches, lessons learned, and research and evaluation on labour market programs and service delivery strategies. It featured presentations from a number of jurisdictions on recent projects and initiatives to identify best practices, improve program effectiveness, and foster innovation. SRDC staff presented on three SRDC projects in this area, teaming up with provincial Senior Officials who provided context on how the projects respond to their respective program and policy objectives. SRDC was also responsible for producing an Event Report summarizing the discussion.

Start-end date: September 2016 - September 2016
Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada

Income Support in Relation to Housing in Canada and Selected Other Countries

To support the Government of Canada in developing a national housing strategy, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation engaged SRDC to research the relationship between social assistance and housing/shelter benefits, both across Canada and internationally. SRDC conducted a literature review and environmental scan of related policy instruments in all 13 P/Ts and in six other OECD countries. The comparative analyses also include policy trends and promising practices.

Start-end date: July 2016 - September 2016
Sponsor: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

National Housing Collaborative

The National Housing Collaborative engages a broad range of pan-Canadian interests to generate and advocate for the inclusion of critical ideas and policies that will guide the renewed federal role in affordable housing. SRDC was engaged by the Collaborative to assist with the policy analysis process including: scoping out policy objectives; developing a detailed research agenda; and overseeing the development of a series of policy options papers. SRDC will also work with the Collaborative to develop the final submission to the Federal government as part of the government’s consultation phase on the National Housing Strategy. The Collaborative is administered by a Secretariat, housed within the United Way Toronto & York Region. The Secretariat is funded by a funding circle that includes United Way, the Maytree Foundation, Evergreen CityWorks, and the McConnell Foundation.

Start-end date: June 2016 - October 2016
Sponsor: United Way of Greater Toronto

Employment Support and Income Assistance (ESIA) Transformation Project

SRDC has partnered with Davis Pier Consulting to support a project to transform the Employment Support and Income Assistance system in Nova Scotia. A key component of the project is the development of a client segmentation approach to service delivery that will help the government design and implement targeted interventions to serve clients according to their labour market needs. SRDC is designing this client segmentation model, including both analysis of client and outcome data and the development of criteria/assessment tools to support the model. SRDC is also contributing to the design of targeted interventions to best serve ESIA clients according to their needs.

Start-end date: January 2016 - December 2016
Sponsor: Nova Scotia Department of Community Services

Community Employment Loan Program Evaluation

Social Capital Partners has engaged SRDC to evaluate the impact and return on investment of the Ontario Community Loans Program (OCLP). The OCLP is a joint initiative between Social Capital Partners (a non-profit organization that develops innovative social finance solutions) and the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure (MEDEI), in partnership with employment service providers and financial institutions. Through the OCLP, low-income jobseekers facing employment barriers are matched with job opportunities at small- and medium-sized employers (SMEs). SMEs who hire and retain jobseekers for at least six months pay reduced interest rates on their business loans through reimbursements provided by the Ontario government. SRDC is conducting an impact evaluation to examine the extent to which the OCLP leads to increased employer reach among employment service providers, improved employment outcomes for low-income jobseekers, and improved business outcomes for SMEs, as well as a cost-benefit analysis to assess the extent to which OCLP yields a net return for the Ontario government.

Start-end date: January 2016 - January 2017
Sponsor: Social Capital Partners

Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Local Poverty Reduction Fund Program Evaluation

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has engaged SRDC to evaluate the impact of its Local Poverty Reduction Fund initiative. The Local Poverty Reduction Fund is a six-year initiative launched by the Ontario government in 2015 to support innovative, community-driven projects that measurably improve the lives of those most affected by poverty. TDSB has been granted funding through the initiative to introduce innovative process improvements at its Next-Steps Employment Centres, including a coaching-based case management framework and Motivational Interviewing. The changes are designed to improve outcomes for clients who are not in education, employment or training, and clients who are long-term unemployed. SRDC is serving as a third-party evaluator that is designing and conducting an evaluation of the implementation and impact of these process improvements on clients’ outcomes.

Start-end date: January 2016 - January 2017
Sponsor: Toronto District School Board

On Track to Opportunities: Linking Transit Development to Community Employment and Training Project – Design and implementation plan

The goal of this project is to develop a detailed design and implementation plan for a workforce development 'pipeline' model to support the implementation of the Metrolinx Community Benefits Framework. The purpose of the 'pipeline' is to ensure Toronto residents that have been historically disadvantaged are engaged and prepared for employment in new jobs related to Metrolinx transit projects in the GTA. This project is building on previous work undertaken by SRDC in 2015, which involved designing a prototype of the 'pipeline' model.

Start-end date: December 2015 - April 2016
Sponsor: Atkinson Foundation, Metcalf Foundation, and United Way of Greater Toronto

The Employment Navigator Pilot Project

The project involves new cross-systems partnerships working collectively to improve employment opportunities for individuals in supportive housing. The proposed model is a new and untried approach that pairs two distinct evidence-based approaches in housing and employment — Housing First and Customized Employment. The approaches place an "employment navigator" in the supportive housing location to link housing with Customized Employment and other employment services for tenants who are in stable and permanent housing. This is consistent with an underlying principle behind Housing First, which is that people are better able to move forward once housing is stable. The project will operate in two residences in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. The evaluation strategy involves both implementation research and case studies. The BC Centre for Employment Excellence is partnering with the Lookout Emergency Aid Society and the Open Door Group to develop and implement this project.

Start-end date: October 2015 - September 2018
Sponsor: British Columbia Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation

Women Gaining Ground Research Study

SRDC was engaged by the United Way of Greater Toronto to inform the further development of their Career Navigator program to better meet the needs of young women facing multiple barriers to employment, by gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges and service/support needs of this group. The study includes a systematic literature and evidence review, and interviews and focus groups to identify and understand: the main barriers (environmental/external and personal) that young women facing multiple barriers are experiencing while transitioning into the labour market; evidence-informed and promising approaches for serving young women with multiple barriers; how the current Career Navigator program is addressing barriers and where there might be gaps; and how adjustments to program design/delivery can be implemented in a way that works for both jobseekers and employers.

Start-end date: September 2015 - January 2016
Sponsor: United Way of Greater Toronto

The role of subjective attitudes and beliefs in financial decision-making of Canadians

While many Canadians lack basic financial literacy, mounting evidence from behavioural economics suggests that financial decisions are also frequently undermined by psychological factors. Even with the requisite financial knowledge and literacy skills, people are prone to various kinds of cognitive biases when making financial decisions such as those related to evaluating risk and uncertainty or the time value of money. This project undertakes an analysis of the 2014 Canadian Financial Capability Survey (CFCS) with the aim of understanding the role of cognitive biases in the financial decision-making of Canadians, with a particular focus on youth, aboriginals, and those with low incomes.

Start-end date: September 2015 - March 2016
Sponsor: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Employment and Training Service Integration (ETSI) Strategy for Evaluation and Evidence Generation

The purpose of this project was to develop a framework for conducting effective monitoring and evaluation of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities' Employment and Training Service Integration (ETSI) initiative. The framework sets the standards for, and provides strategic guidance around alignment, for all evaluation activities supporting ETSI. This work is supporting the Ministry's goal of ensuring it has a comprehensive strategy for evidence generation to inform current pilots, programs and system features being introduced, as well as to guide future evaluation frameworks for programs and system features under ETSI. The project involves: conducting a review of evaluation approaches and existing frameworks from other relevant jurisdictions used to assess active labour market programs; developing a monitoring and evaluation framework of ETSI in consultation with key stakeholders and based on findings from the review of existing frameworks in other jurisdictions; and developing options for a monitoring and evaluation strategy and methodology.

Start-end date: August 2015 - January 2016
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

Research on Low Income/Poverty and Adequacy Measures

The project reviews different measures of poverty / low income and assesses their relevance to social assistance in Ontario. An environmental scan explores the use of similar measures in comparable jurisdictions. A literature review examines: the methodological and policy-related aspects of poverty measurement; recent developments related to measures of material deprivation and social inclusion; and empirical studies on entrance to, persistence in, and exit from poverty.

Start-end date: June 2015 - November 2015
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services

Social Assistance Rate Level(s) and Withdrawal Models

The project generated three products to inform the ongoing review of social assistance in Ontario. These include: a literature review on existing theoretical and empirical evidence from Canadian provinces and internationally on approaches to setting income assistance rates and withdrawal rates; an environmental scan of existing practices; and an options paper comprising a set of alternative future models for setting social assistance rates and withdrawal rates. All three consider the implications of different approaches for work incentives, fairness and adequacy.

Start-end date: June 2015 - December 2015
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services

Integrating Motivational Interviewing within Employment Services for BC Employment and Income Assistance Recipients

This project implements and tests an intervention that uses an innovative approach to engage and motivate income assistance (IA) clients using employment services in British Columbia to improve their work readiness and participation in the labour market. The project includes a rigorous evaluation of the proposed intervention randomizing both participants and case managers to the treatment, so that clear lessons for policy and practice can be learned and disseminated. This project is managed by the BC Centre for Employment Excellence, a division of SRDC.

Start-end date: April 2015 - March 2017
Sponsor: British Columbia Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation

Measuring the value of Food Banks Canada’s work

SRDC was engaged by Food Banks Canada to assist in the development of an evaluation approach and framework for measuring the social impacts of its work. The approach and framework support Food Banks Canada's effort to measure the impacts of its programs and initiatives supporting the national food bank network, including its food sharing initiatives and research and advocacy, as well as report on the effectiveness of the financial investments its donors make to the network. SRDC assisted Food Banks Canada by: developing recommendations for an evaluation approach and framework for measuring the organization’s social value; developing recommendations for evaluating funding requests; and applying the new framework to prepare a report for donors on the impact of the organization’s Capacity Grant program.

Start-end date: February 2015 - May 2015
Sponsor: Food Banks Canada

Workforce development pipeline model

This project is part of Labour Market Partnership between the United Way Toronto and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. As part of the partnership, SRDC created a workforce development ‘pipeline’ model to support the new Eglinton Crosstown Line Metrolinx Community Benefits Agreement. The objective is to ensure Toronto residents that have been historically disadvantaged in the labour market are engaged, assessed, recruited, registered, trained, and employed on new jobs related to the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown Line. The design of the pipeline is a developmental process: planning, testing, evaluating, learning, adapting, re-testing, and re-evaluating multiple iterations of the model.

Start-end date: October 2014 - September 2015
Sponsor: United Way Toronto

Review of Manitoba Employment Assistance Service Providers

SRDC conducted an evidence-based analysis of Manitoba’s Employment Assistance Service (EAS) providers to inform future funding decisions of the Manitoba government intended to promote an effective and efficient service delivery network. SRDC’s analysis provides indications of where changes in EAS programming are needed so that the program can “do more of the things that help, and less of the things that do not.” The analysis addresses five key questions: To what extent is EAS programming aligned with provincial and federal policy objectives? To what extent is current programming responsive to the needs of key population groups and communities? To what extent are programs responsive to the changing dynamics of Manitoba’s labour market? How effective is current programming in achieving results for job seekers, employers, and communities? What is the relative value for money of the existing EAS program, and are there opportunities for service improvements?

Start-end date: April 2014 - September 2015
Sponsor: Manitoba Department of Jobs and the Economy

Evaluation of Social Finance Pilots

SRDC is conducting an evaluation of two pilot projects for Essential Skills training based on performance-based funding models. One project is being managed by Alberta Workforce Essential Skills, and will provide workplace essential skills training to lower-skilled employed persons. The other is for low-skilled unemployed persons and is headed by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges. In both cases, private sector investors paying up-front for training will be reimbursed a portion of the training costs if participants achieve targeted levels of skills gain. The research includes a range of outcomes of interest including indicators of employability and performance measurement, and will analyze the return on investment in training.

Start-end date: January 2014 - December 2018
Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada

Design of a Learning Management System for the Training Group at Douglas College

The project designs a common learning management system (LMS) for the Training Group at Douglas College so that the organization can conduct business analytics and analyze program outcomes in order to inform program development and to demonstrate outcomes achieved to program stakeholders. The project involves analyzing existing data management information collected for individual programs, identifying common and unique data collection needs across programs, and analyzing funder reporting needs and trends to design a common, standardized learning management system and reporting protocol.

Start-end date: December 2013 - August 2014
Sponsor: The Training Group at Douglas College

Manitoba Works! evaluation

The purpose of the research is to test the Government of Manitoba’s Manitoba Works! employment service model in the real-world setting of Manitoba’s new and evolving employment continuum and to assess its effectiveness for improving the labour market success of individuals who are receiving EIA and/or have complex needs. The research will assess gains on outcomes of interest among participants compared to non-participants, model cost-effectiveness, model implementation, and identify key success factors.

Start date: November 2013
Sponsor: Manitoba Department of Jobs and the Economy

Measuring the Impact of the YMCA of Greater Toronto on Community Health

The project supports the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s 2010-2020 Strategic Plan and the establishment and continuous improvement of its new Centres of Community by identifying a community health monitoring strategy that cuts across life stages and the community level, the regional level, and the GTA. The project provides a set of options for a community health monitoring strategy based on an analysis of other community health monitoring initiatives in Canada and abroad, data availability and quality for selected indicators in the GTA, and the YMCA’s outcomes of interest related to its programming.

Start-end date: November 2013 - March 2014
Sponsor: YMCA of Greater Toronto

Validation of Manitoba’s Employment and Training Assessment (ETA)

The project aims to assess the predictive validity of Manitoba’s new Employment and Training Assessment tool. As well, it assesses the extent to which adding additional information improves the overall accuracy of the model in predicting long-term unemployment and the extent to which a “scoring” method could be designed that identifies “tiers” or segmentation points, that categorize jobseekers into “categories of risk” or “levels of need” using what has been referred to as a “distance to the labour market approach.” Given the results of the analyses, the project will recommend an optimal approach to needs assessment and jobseeker classification in the Manitoba context.

Start date: November 2013
Sponsor: Manitoba Department of Jobs and the Economy

Vulnerable Immigrant Populations Program Evaluation

The evaluation of settlement and integration programs over the years highlighted that a subset of the immigrant population characterized by complex and multiple barriers such as mental health issues and trauma experienced greater challenges in settling and integrating into BC communities and the labour market. In response to this realization, the BC government launched the Vulnerable Immigration Populations Program (VIPP) in the fall of 2012. The uniqueness of the VIPP amongst immigrant settlement and integration programs resides in its focus on alleviating significant challenges and barriers experienced by this subset of the immigrant population using a client-centred approach. The program relies on a comprehensive and coordinated multi-agency/multi-sector team to address each client’s unique needs. The evaluation aims to gauge how well the services delivered match the program principles and expectations, examine the strengths and challenges that have arisen to date, and assess impacts of the program on clients, the broader community, and the BC settlement system at large. Part of this evaluation involves a comparison of the program model with similar Canadian programs and with previously implemented pilot programs upon which the VIPP model is based. Evaluation findings provide accurate and useful information for future programming targeting vulnerable immigration populations.

Start-end date: November 2013 - March 2015
Sponsor: British Columbia Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation

Understanding current employment programming and services for BC youth

This project funded five research papers that explored challenges faced by BC youth who are struggling in the labour market. The project involved a call for papers inviting researchers to submit proposals to explore youth employment barriers from a variety of angles, and to identify promising solutions for such issues as supporting youth who are entering the labour market or helping them find work that is a better match for their skills. The five selected papers covered such topics as: the barriers faced by vulnerable youth and youth living with mental illness; the value of work placements for refugee and immigrant youth; the role of employers; and the potential of social enterprises for supporting transitioning youth. The papers were presented at a June 2014 symposium in Vancouver involving approximately 80 stakeholders. The research teams also presented their findings during a series of webinars hosted by the Centre in fall 2014. The final papers have been published on the Centre’s Web site. This project was managed by the BC Centre for Employment Excellence, a division of SRDC.

Start-end date: October 2013 - August 2014
Sponsor: British Columbia Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation

Pay for Success

A pilot project aiming to develop and test an innovative performance-based approach to funding Essential Skills service delivery in the provinces of Manitoba and Nova Scotia. This pilot project is the first Canadian test of a “pay for success” model for Essential Skills delivery. The model is designed to stimulate innovation in service delivery, encourage a community of practice for delivery of Essential Skills services, and improve longer-term employment outcomes for underrepresented groups in the labour force.

Start-end date: September 2013 - June 2017
Sponsor: Workplace Education Manitoba

Review of Employment and Training Programs

The purpose of this Program Review is to assist the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in developing an evidence-based framework for the potential integration and ongoing evaluation of employment and training programs. To achieve this SRDC uses a comprehensive approach including: environmental scan, review of program documents, extensive discussions with MTCU staff, analysis of existing state of knowledge reviews that SRDC has conducted, key informant interviews with other ministries, value for money techniques, stakeholder consultations, policy analysis, and program design. Based on findings from the review of in-scope programs and consultations with key stakeholders as well as an analysis of the existing research on effective and/or promising approaches to employment and training services, SRDC develops high level recommendations for a potential future state of the Ontario employment and training system.

Start-end date: December 2012 - December 2013
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

Welcome to Kindergarten Program National Evaluation, Phase II

The Welcome to Kindergarten Program aims to prepare children and families for the important transition to school. The first phase of the current Welcome to Kindergarten Program National Evaluation began in 2009, which resulted in an evaluation framework and plan, cost proposal, and literature and policy review. SRDC conducted the Phase II of the Welcome to Kindergarten Program National Evaluation, to compare 20 high implementation fidelity schools across Canada that have two years of experience participating in the program against 20 non-program schools to determine program effects. This pan-Canadian evaluation is being guided by Dr. Fraser Mustard.

Start-end date: March 2011 - July 2012
Sponsor: The Learning Partnership

Skills Upgrading for Ontario Working Age Adults: An Environmental Scan of Programs, Gaps, and Opportunities

A review of existing workforce and workplace-based skills training in Canada and selected international jurisdictions. The study provides a detailed examination of the most promising models and conducts a preliminary analysis of the feasibility of implementing them in an Ontario context.

Start-end date: April 2009 - August 2009
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

City of Vancouver Four Pillars Supported Employment Pilot Project

A project designed to provide long-term unemployed individuals with past addictions with a supported and gradual return to employment. The evaluation involves case studies of four participants and their experience with the program from start to end.

Start-end date: May 2007 - December 2007
Sponsor: City of Vancouver, Social Planning Department, Jobs Policy

Making Work Pay Symposium

The symposium was a major federal/provincial conference, which included academics and senior policymakers from the federal and provincial governments.

Start-end date: November 2005 - November 2005
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

learn$ave: Individual Development Accounts Project

A demonstration project to evaluate, using random assignment, individual development accounts (matched saving accounts and financial literacy training) offered to low-income families to encourage adult learning activities and small business start-up; the project involved a total of some 5,000 low-income families in 10 communities, as well as non-profit organizations to coordinate and carry out service delivery and financial institutions to maintain the accounts.

Start-end date: June 2000 - March 2009
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
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Self-Sufficiency Project

A randomized experiment that involved over 9,000 single-parent long-term welfare recipients from New Brunswick and British Columbia to test a “make work pay” strategy to support the transition from welfare to work.

Start-end date: February 1992 - March 2006
Sponsor: Human Resources and Social Development Canada
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