Strengthening the Sector

OCASI Conferences

OCASI holds a policy conference every two years as the Executive Directors’ (ED) Forum, and a Professional Development (PD) Conference for frontline workers and managers in alternative years. Both are member-agency centered events, and the PD Conference is OCASI’s longest running initiative.

The 2020 ED Forum, “Transformation: Race, Recovery and Belonging” featured a keynote address by John A. Powell, the Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion at University of California, Berkeley and internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties.

The Forum also featured the opening presentation “It is not just a script: Responsibilities to Land Acknowledgements” by Ruth Koleszar-Green, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at York University. Plenaries “Dare to Dream: A post-COVID Reset”, “Two Pandemics: Race and Structural Inequalities” and “An Equitable She-Covery: Centering Women in COVID Reset” provided opportunities to hear from dynamic speakers, discuss the current state of the sector and imagine an equitable future.

For the first time, the Forum was held virtually due to public health COVID-19 restrictions.

+300 18 4
ED Forum participants workshops plenaries

Professional Education and Training

Now in its 19th year, OCASI’s popular Professional Education and Training program provides financial assistance for individual and group training, supporting sector workers and organizations in their professional development efforts. OCASI also provides free online courses in English and French, on a broad range of topics to support sector practitioners in building knowledge and skills to better meet client needs, and sector agencies to build organizational capacity.

In 2020 participants took part in training courses on addressing racism and anti-Black racism, case management, employment counselling, team building, dealing with discrimination and harassment, cyber security, online communication tools, digital skills, and community engagement. Participants were from communities across Ontario, including Windsor, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo and the Greater Toronto Area.

“The staff were able to engage in dialogue about anti-black racism and its impact in the workplace and individually. The training dates were based on the staff who identify as senior management, black staff, non-black staff and people of color. This was a great way to create a ‘brave space’ for everyone.”

“I have gained more knowledge to manage the projects given to us.”

+760 21 +60
practitioners organizations individual learners

Online Learning

Launched in 2008, the Learn At Work website provides a variety of free self-directed and facilitated online courses for immigrant and refugee service workers to enhance their skills in serving newcomers to Ontario. More than 20 courses are offered on a variety of topics such as employment, addressing gender based violence, mental health, accessibility and more.

This year we focused on making improvements to the platform and course design to meet AODA standards. A platform upgrade improved accessibility and compatibility with multiple devices, browsers and operating systems. New software allowed us to design and develop content that is more accessible, engaging and interactive and update existing courses.

We added a discussion forum housed at, the national online bilingual community of practice, to provide a more meaningful, collaborative and engaging learning experience. Other improvements include a technical support video and transcript featuring compiled answers to frequent user questions and a redesign to make the website more user-friendly.

1,660 +20
new user accounts courses offered

Community Education

This initiative includes online self-directed courses for Foundations of Settlement Work in Ontario, Serving Youth in Newcomer Communities, and Employment Services - A Training for Settlement Workers. Participation in online learning was unaffected by the pandemic. In fact we saw higher than usual enrollments, with a significant increase in the last three months of the 2020-21 fiscal year.

We are developing new content for the course Employment Services - A Training for Settlement Workers.

+1,090 20
participants – English courses participants – French courses

Settlement At Work/Secteur Etablissement

Positioned as the knowledge hub for the immigrant and refugee-serving sector in Ontario, we provide time-sensitive news and information to sector practitioners. Our resources are provided in English and French. Our websites feature Calls for Proposals from funders, research reports, operations manuals for government programs and services, current practices, guides, online training, sector events and professional opportunities.

Secteur Etablissement has been growing in recognition and popularity. Ninety-eight percent of our total users are new - evidence of an engaged and appreciative francophone sector audience.

+85,000 +680 +200 +220
unique visitors jobs posted news items events

+ 4,160 25% 15% +104,000
users increase in users increase in sessions social media impressions

Maximizing Governance

Maximizing Governance in For Public Benefit Organizations is a partnership initiative to provide governance training for board members and senior leaders of community-based non-profit agencies funded by the City of Toronto. The aim was to support agencies that were small and had limited capacity and resources.

We acted quickly to move all scheduled and future training sessions to an online format. However many of the participant organizations faced challenges in participating fully and effectively due to lack of resource capacity, technical knowledge, discomfort with online engagement and other structural barriers. The virtual format allowed us to open up participation in the training webinars to OCASI member agencies across Ontario, instead of limiting access to only certain agencies in Toronto.

“Thank you for that terrific webinar yesterday. It was very well presented and I learned many things I want to apply to our organization”

“So far the webinars I have watched have been quite educational as it pertains to understanding key pieces of Governance and how it affects a not-for-profit organization.”

444 64 10
webinar participants learning session participants webinars

Allies in Refugee Integration

Our Allies for Refugee Integration (ARI) initiative engages service providers, private refugee sponsors, formerly sponsored refugees and other stakeholders in Ontario to find ways to improve communication and connection to support refugee resettlement. ARI is an OCASI-led partnership with Refugee 613.

This year we completed the final stage of pilot-testing and evaluation across Ontario in order to make recommendations for policy makers and the sector. We piloted an Intentional Connection practice of pre and post-arrival coordinated support for privately sponsored refugees, by settlement practitioners and private sponsors. The pilot was tested in three locations with partners at YMCA of Three Rivers, Catholic Crosscultural Services, and YMCA of Southwestern Ontario; involving twenty-three sponsor groups, twenty-eight refugees, and 5 settlement workers.

We also piloted a knowledge exchange practice that brought together sponsored refugees, settlement practitioners and private sponsors to share resources on settlement topics. Our partners at Immigrant Services Kingston and Area hosted 5 virtual events for seventy participants.

We shared project findings broadly through presentations at national sector conferences, virtual roundtables for sector participants, and by disseminating information through videos and our final report. This stage of the initiative is now complete. Next year will begin the next stage for ARI.

170 150
virtual roundtable participants settlement workers trained on the role of private sponsors

National Online Bilingual Community of Practiceé is the national bilingual online community of practice for practitioners in the immigrant and refugee-serving sector across Canada. It is developed and supported by Canada’s regional sector umbrella organizations and some of the largest immigrant and refugee-serving agencies across Canada.

New user registrations this year increased by over two hundred percent. There was a significant increase in user posts and overall activity. A growing number of sector practitioners relied on to connect with each other, share updates and explore professional development opportunities.

An example - the open group “Mental Health Promotion in Immigrant and Refugee Serving Organizations” was originally developed as a client-focused community. It was quickly adapted to also address the growing need for mental health support for sector workers. Other groups came to rely on as a place to build an online repository of resources; as well as build and sustain a sense of community.

“Overall, it is a wonderful site and we use it for events, to look at some relevant news stories that might inform our clients; we use the resources, guides, tools sections to help support our work with clients.”

“…the most important thing is that we have like 10 orgs across Canada that want to try starting their own culture cafe, so mission accomplished!!”

+1,800 +800 48
new members new posts new groups
+1,780 +152,200 +34,200
new interactions page views sessions

Journeys to Active Citizenship

OCASI partnered with North York Community House (Lead Agency) and Democratic Engagement Exchange based at Ryerson University in this unique five-year project. The project is intended to develop civic engagement program models and curriculum tools for immigrant and refugee-serving agencies. Agencies can use the tools to support and enhance their efforts to foster active citizenship among future citizens.


We initiated the Organizational Standards Project in 2007 to develop voluntary standards by and for the immigrant and refugee-serving sector. Branded as OrgWise, it continues to feature a self-assessment tool for organizations to assess their own health and identify areas for growth, and provides online resources to support organizational capacity building.