Formative Evaluation of Industry Canada's Action Plan 2004–2008 (Section 41) and the Economic Development of Official Language Minority Communities (EDOLMC)
6.0 Conclusions and Recommendations
This section presents the conclusions of the study and evaluators' recommendations.
The EDOLMC and Action Plan 2004–2008 program components are generally compatible with the priorities of the federal Action Plan for Official Languages and with IC's priorities for fostering OLMC economic development and ensuring access to the knowledge-based economy for English and French communities. These activities correspond to IC's sustainable communities strategic objective. The relevance of these activities is likely to be enhanced by the coming into effect of S-3, which makes federal institutions more accountable for their obligations under Part VII of the Official Languages Act.
With the exception of Francommunautés virtuelles and the EDOLMC initiatives, no IC program is designed specifically for OLMCs. These communities have specific needs associated with the fact that they consist more of non-profit organizations and small enterprises (many with a social focus) than of medium-sized and large enterprises. OLMC clients need more flexible funding mechanisms, a concept of economic development that focusses on the notion of a social economy, and programs aimed at small enterprises. However, social economy enterprises are specifically identified by IC in its strategic objectives as an excellent means to promote industry competition and sustainable communities.50
In addition, the Francophone populations of Eastern, Central and Southern Ontario are poorly served by current program and service delivery structures: there is no RDA for this region (FedNor serves only Northern Ontario and rural areas in the south of the province included in the community development program).
The EDOLMC program components, Broadband Services, Community Access Program and Canada Business Service Centres (in Quebec) were found to be still relevant when it comes to meeting some OLMC needs with respect to tele-learning, succession planning, connectivity and economic development.
The work of the national co-ordination team was found to be effective and relevant.
Regional advisors/co-ordinators expressed the need for additional information on existing IC programs and services and promotional tools to support their information-sharing role. The team recently responded to this request by developing a joint work plan to be put into effect this year.
The regional advisors put in place under EDOLMC play an outreach and information-sharing role that is vital to laying the groundwork for the development of a network serving OLMCs. Given the limited number of IC programs focussing specifically on OLMCs, regional advisors need to be better equipped to fulfill their outreach role, which is defined as a process whereby clients receive assistance in finding the information or funding they need to start a business or economic development initiative.
Recommendation 1: That IC consider special projects, including communications products, to support regional co-ordinators and advisors.
The role of RDAs in implementing some EDOLMC components (the Youth Internship Program and Pilot Projects) is felt to be satisfactory. Owing to their range of programs, presence in the regions and history of partnerships with enterprises, RDAs are in some ways better equipped than IC to promote the economic development of the OLMCs. This shows the importance of close co-operation between IC and RDAs, and not only when it comes to EDOLMC components.
IC does not currently have a strategy for the continuous measurement of initiative performance. Current data gathering and reports are limited to lists of activities and incomplete data from programs about the clientele they serve. This data cannot be used to draw conclusions about whether initiatives are achieving the expected results in terms of benefits for their clientele. Although the implementation of EDOLMC components is still too recent to measure their impact, evaluation theory and practice have shown the importance of establishing, as early as possible in the life of a program, data gathering mechanisms aimed at monitoring its evolution and gauging its performance. It is also important to document the current situation and define targets to achieve in the short, medium and long term with respect to IC's official languages obligations.
Recommendation 2: That IC develop precise indicators to measure the impact of activities on OLMCs, as well as a data collection strategy to help regional advisors and RDAs (for the EDOLMC components) estimate how the demand for services is changing and measure the impact of their services on the target clientele. IC should identify precise targets for each new Section 41 Action Plan, as well as medium- and long-term targets in connection with its official languages obligations.
Recommendation 3: That the managers of the 15 priority programs and services identified in the Action Plan 2004–2008 on Section 41 of OLA, be responsible for providing data on communities of interest and the official language of clienteles served in these programs and services.
The data collected during this evaluation indicate that IC has made genuine progress in achieving the expected results, but that some shortcomings remain.
The creation of full-time regional advisor positions is a distinct improvement, as it ensures greater IC presence in the regions and has helped IC improve its understanding of OLMC needs.
OLMC representatives still lack awareness of IC programs and services and often fail to distinguish between the Department's role and that of the RDAs.
In spite of the efforts made, discussion group participants generally do not seem to perceive any real difference in IC's contribution to the development of their community over the past two years. An anecdotal study examining 16 IC projects has established a causal link between these investments and the strengthening of economic development in the communities.
While we recognize that much work remains to be done with respect to awareness among IC managers, we have observed some improvement in the response of program managers to the information provided in recent years. The awareness efforts of the co-ordination team and other IC stakeholders (regional advisors/co-ordinators and designated co-ordinators) fall into four categories: presentations, the designation of a co-ordinator in every program to support the national co-ordination team, the "Section 41 Lens" document, and research projects. These four types of exercises are relevant, although they require even more sustained effort. Moreover, we feel that the 15 programs and services targeted by IC for Section 41 implementation are a good start, but are insufficient to meet OLMC economic development needs.
Recommendation 4: That the coordinators designated in each program to support the national coordination team hold meetings more frequently.
Recommendation 5: That IC continue its internal awareness and external communications activities and explore the possibility of broadening the range of IC programs and services that are being promoted.
The Youth Internship Program has had a positive impact on the young people who took part in it: they gained work experience in their language, developed skills and built networks in the minority language community. It has also benefited the host organizations through capacity building.
For the most part, the Tele-Learning and Tele-Training Pilot Projects are in the process of achieving the expected results, most often through sustainable partnerships with other educational institutions and financial backers. Their intended contribution is to address shortcomings in the tele-learning and tele-training services offered in the various provinces.
The Francommunautés virtuelles Program is generally valued and well known by OLMC representatives. To date, it has benefited the Department and the communities, particularly in its capacity as an effective social and economic lever for generating investments from other financial backers. It has also contributed to capacity building among OLMC organizations. However, it is too soon to evaluate the effects of the program's recently announced move toward projects with a more economic focus that is closer to IC's mandate. Some IC representatives have questioned the program's relevance, while others feel it should be maintained and continue to evolve in response to community needs.
Lastly, the Canadian Heritage representatives responsible for reviewing action plans and IC achievement reports have testified to the Department's determined efforts to regularly attend meetings of the various intergovernmental official languages committees, consult OLMCs and tailor projects and services to the needs of the communities. In the context of the constraints and challenges faced by federal agencies affected by Section 41 of the Official Languages Act, and in spite of some shortcomings, IC is proving to be an exemplary student.
The service delivery and co-ordination structures of both EDOLMC activities and the Action Plan 2004–2008 appear to be effective and do not require measures to enhance their cost-effectiveness. A single area for improvement has been identified: greater communication among the various stakeholders, particularly the regional advisors/coordinators and the RDAs, to ensure improved information management in each region with respect to projects under study or under way for similar clienteles.
A number of alternative service delivery models have been suggested, such as a single-window arrangement in conjunction with other federal departments, and the delegation of IC program delivery to the RDAs, RDÉE, CEDEC or CFDCs. However, none of those options is unanimously preferred by the various categories of stakeholders consulted.
6.5 Progress Made Since the Previous Evaluation
As indicated at the start of this report, an initial evaluation of IC's implementation of Section 41 of the Official Languages Act was submitted in 2001. The data collected under the current evaluation show that while some shortcomings remain, IC has made progress in achieving the expected results of Section 41 implementation.
Most notably, respondents reported that IC managers seem to be demonstrating increased awareness of OLMC needs and the Department's official languages commitments.
Through the EDOLMC components, IC has been able to invest additional resources in the regions. These investments facilitated the forging of closer relations with community organizations and the implementation, in conjunction with the RDAs, of two programs targeting OLMCs. Another effect was an increase in resources for the Francommunautés virtuelles Program. These measures, added to the yearly consultations conducted by the national co-ordination team, allow IC to be more aware of OLMC needs, foster a better understanding of IC services among OLMC members, and better incorporate Section 41 into regional operations.
That being said, it is still too early to evaluate the concrete effects of the implementation of these measures. To date, OLMC representatives say they are not familiar with all IC services, which they feel could be better tailored to their particular needs.
The Department's official languages vision has still not been translated into concrete results, and the list of 15 programs and services targeted for Section 41 implementation seems inadequate for the achievement of its objectives.
The Department has undertaken the development of external communication tools, an internal communication plan, and a system to measure the performance of its official languages activities. Specific targets need to be set to specify the progress IC intends to make before the next evaluation, as well as the progress anticipated in the medium and long terms.
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