How UTSC is teaming up with community groups to bring better services to Scarborough’s newcomers

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U of T Scarborough has partnered with a community initiative to collect data that will help identify newcomer needs and trends. (Photo by Alexa Battler)

Tina Adamopoulos and Cellie Agunbiade

U of T Scarborough is teaming up with a community-based partnership to strengthen and improve newcomer services in the east-end.

According to a Scarborough census profile, newcomers made 57 per cent of Scarborough’s population in 2016. As this community continues to grow in Scarborough, the need to ensure Scarborough newcomers have support systems also continues to grow.

But a major obstacle in ensuring these services best address the changing needs of newcomer residents comes down to managing data in a timely, efficient manner.  

“By the time census data reaches us, it’s already two years old,” says Irmtraud Hutfless, manager of Toronto East Quadrant - Local Immigration Partnership (TEQ LIP), a group dedicated to the planning and development of settlement services for newcomers in Scarborough.

“Service data that organizations collect provide a much clearer picture of what services are provided in the community and who is accessing it.”           

TEQ LIP was formed in 2012 through a partnership between Catholic Crosscultural Services, Agincourt Community Services, ACCES Employment and Warden Woods Community Centre. Their goal is to support community agencies in working together to address the needs of newcomers in Scarborough. This includes assisting organizations to have data available that helps them identify newcomer service trends and needs including health, employment, housing and mental health services.

In December 2017, U of T Scarborough’s Community Development and Engagement Department was approached to develop a partnership with TEQ LIP to help manage and analyze newcomer data in a cohesive way. The campus’ role in the three-year partnership is to co-create a digital platform to pool and analyze data for semi-annual reports that will identify service trends and needs of newcomers.

TEQ LIP has worked with newcomer settlement services to identify how they are currently processing data and what they need to provide better services.

“There is a need for service providers to have better information but limited capacity and expertise to get that,” Hutfless says.

U of T Scarborough’s partnership with TEQ LIP is an example of work-integrated learning opportunities for students that come through The BRIDGE. These partnerships give students an opportunity to make a difference in their community, says Christine Arsenault, managing director for the department of management.

"In management, we have made a commitment that 100 per cent of our students will have a work-integrated learning opportunity by the time they graduate in 2022," Arsenault says.

Alongside faculty and staff, 12 co-op students from the Management and Computer and Mathematical Sciences Departments will work on the developing the digital platform. It is also anticipated that over 700 student work-integrated-learning opportunities will be generated through this partnership over a three-year period.

Under faculty leadership, management students will meet with community agencies to identify what data is being collected and how to best illustrate that data for future use. A report will then be given to computer science students to create the database, who will also work with agencies to include historical and current data.

Data trends and patterns will be analyzed under the supervision of Andre Cire, assistant professor in the Department of Management. This information will be useful to recognize specific community needs that will help inform newcomer service and program planning, and also be used to help advocate for funds to support these various services.

“There is the aspect of social responsibility that makes this very exciting,” Cire says. “We’re developing something that can have a direct impact on the community.”