Paper prepared for Citizenship and Immigration Canada July 2010 Dr. Neil Bradford

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Local Immigration Partnership Councils:

A Promising Canadian Innovation

Paper prepared for Citizenship and Immigration Canada

July 2010

Dr. Neil Bradford (Huron University College)


Dr. Caroline Andrew (University of Ottawa)1

Context and Drivers: The Diversity Advantage

Throughout its history Canada has depended on immigrants to meet crucial national goals related to economic development and social well-being. However, the current context is dramatically different from the past given the heightened international competition for attracting and retaining immigrants. Effective settlement and integration of newcomers is now an urgent policy priority for all levels of government.

Of course, it has long been recognized in scholarly literature and through practitioner experience that diversity offers tremendous benefits to local communities and national societies alike. Nearly 50 years ago, Jane Jacobs demonstrated the creative possibilities flowing from urban design and planning that encouraged diversity and the mix of people and activities in local settings (Jacobs, 1961). More recently, Sir Peter Hall, in his massive study of urban innovation over centuries and across countries, consistently found the most cosmopolitan places, rich in their diversity of talent, on the leading edge of progressive social change (Hall, 1998). And today, urban policy gurus such as Richard Florida and Charles Landry have connected national competitiveness in the knowledge-driven economy to cities and regions that celebrate diversity and fully leverage its assets (Florida, 2002; Wood and Landry, 2008).
Yet, this same body of research also shows that the “diversity advantage” does not happen automatically (Wood and Landry, 2008). Capturing the benefits requires strategic action on the part of multiple stakeholders supported in their efforts by appropriate public policies. Canadian social scientists Richard Stren and Mario Polese have captured the central ideas in their vision of 21st century places that practice social sustainability (Stren and Polese, 2000). As they write, such countries and communities feature “policies and institutions that have the overall effect of integrating diverse groups and cultural practices in a just and equitable fashion”. Importantly, they go on to note that these polices and institutions necessarily cross levels of government and boundaries of public, private and community sectors. Social sustainability “is affected not only by nationwide aspatial policies (social legislation, fiscal policy, immigration, laws, and the like) but also, if not chiefly, by policy decisions and implementation at the local level”.
In fact, Canada has a proud history in crucial aspects of the social sustainability agenda, with its multiculturalism long recognized internationally as an exemplary national-level framework for diversity (Biles et al., 2008). However, there is mounting evidence today that the challenges of immigrant settlement and integration require new approaches and further innovations that reinforce and expand Canada’s integration and settlement policy foundations. Indeed, profiles of immigrant experiences from cities and communities across the country reveal worrying trends of exclusion and discrimination despite the efforts of numerous practitioners and policy makers (Alboim, 2008; Wong and Poisson, 2008).
It is in this evolving context of immigration policy challenges and opportunities that the Local Immigration Partnership Councils (LIPs) introduced through the 2005 Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement (COIA) represent an important and timely Canadian innovation. The rest of this paper elaborates this point, analyzing the emergence and early work of the LIPs as a promising form of multi-level collaborative governance well-suited to the challenges and opportunities of 21st century immigration. It begins by briefly situating the LIPs in a wider set of recent immigration policy debates from both Canada and around the world. Of particular interest here are new ideas about what has come to be known as “interculturalism”, and the concomitant rising importance of local policy spaces. Next we focus on the signed LIP agreements in Ontario to understand the particular structures and processes emerging across cities and communities, highlighting key similarities and differences in design and implementation. Drawing on insights gathered through interviews with several policy makers and community leaders, we summarize the lessons from the LIP start-up period and offer suggestions for moving forward. Our conclusion is that the LIPs provide the foundation for a new round of policy innovation that will provide better outcomes for newcomers and receiving communities while also positioning Canadian governments for continued international leadership in approaches to diversity and social sustainability.
New Challenges and Opportunities: Toward Intercultural Cities and Communities
Recent research on immigration settlement identifies both complex obstacles in key areas such as employment and political participation, as well as emerging opportunities for inclusion based richer understanding of the integration process. Specifically, four learnings about effective integration are crucial. First, successful immigrant integration is a dynamic two-way process wherein newcomers and the receiving society work together to build communities that balance diversity and cohesion. Second, such two-way processes are rooted in the particular needs and capacities of individuals and community-based organizations, thereby playing-out in locally-specific ways. Third, to be responsive and sustainable, integration activities must directly engage these local actors in decision-making processes, exploiting synergies across non-governmental organizations, business representatives, and municipal officials. Fourth, upper-level governments must also do their part, providing direction and support to local planning and service delivery partnerships.
These four lessons, emerging against a growing awareness of settlement and integration obstacles, have led several renowned diversity scholars including Will Kymlicka, Leonie Sandercock, Robert Putnam, and Charles Landry to explore new models or strategies of integration. Most compelling is the concept of interculturalism that pays close attention to the everyday interactions, cultural exchanges, and modes of formal and informal social learning that bring together immigrants and their host communities. Where multicultural frameworks tended to emerge in rather top-down ways and encourage somewhat formalistic expressions of cultural difference, interculturalism finds its inspiration elsewhere. It is about local “zones of encounter” that build inter-cultural understanding and a sense of togetherness, providing the civic context for diversity policy and integration planning based on “deep” or more fine-grained local knowledge (Wood and Landry, 2008).
It follows that the intercultural approach speaks to the current immigration policy challenges in two ways. On the one hand, practitioners and participants consistently seek policy direction ‘from below’, calling for a new form of inter-governmental collaboration responsive to community rhythms and service priorities. On the other hand, it enables – indeed celebrates -- boundary-crossing and bridging forms of social capital that generate hybrid relationships opening new pathways for inclusion. Leonie Sandercock, in a widely cited 2004 address to the Parliamentary Breakfast on the Hill Seminar Series, drew together the various intercultural themes. Acknowledging the record of Canadian achievement, she envisioned a future “rich multicultural society … based more on intercultural exchange and collaboration” (Sandercock, 2004). She explained:
The approach to programming is intercultural; the services are seen as not merely meeting a need, but providing places where people come together and connect through jointly engaging in activities. Residents are engaged as researchers in the investigation of their own community, which further helps in establishing contacts across cultural divides, and building relationships, as well as empowering locals to become involved in decision making and programming.
In advancing this vision, Sandercock went on to observe that “a rich multiculturalism requires multi-tiered political and policy support systems, from federal through provincial levels to municipal levels, and extending to the work of non-governmental organizations”.
Making Immigration Policy in the 21st Century: Multi-level Collaborative Governance
Consistent with Sandercock’s call, a number of OECD countries, including Canada, have recently been experimenting with novel structures and processes to coordinate vertical relationships across levels of government and horizontal relationships among government departments and agencies (Bradford, 2009). Further, these initiatives bridge across public, private, and third sectors to include a range of community representatives and resident voices. Multi-level collaborative governance thus constitutes a collective decision making process that is formal, consensus-oriented, and deliberative. Its intent is to make policy more relevant, and services more accessible and timely, by coordinating the actions of different stakeholders, each independent within their own sphere, but dependent on one another to realize not only their core organizational objectives but also good community outcomes.
For national or federal governments these dynamics frame a novel set of challenges. Their policies must increasingly work from the ground up for solutions rooted in the specific concerns of local communities, attuned to particular needs and capacities of residents and organizations. Governments need a spatially-sensitive policy lens. Traditional approaches – typically centralized or top-down – that ignore local voices and devalue community knowledge and municipal assets will not build the high quality places that research now reports are the foundations for sustainable and inclusive national economies in the global age.
Multi-level collaborative governance leverages diverse ideas, coordinates shared resources, and uses new tools and techniques to animate and steer decision-making.

Rather than acting alone or resorting to jurisdictional claims, governments work with one another and through civil society partnerships to provide integrated services and accessible pathways for citizens. In practice, such services and pathways involve a “double devolution” of resources and responsibility to local actors closest to the problems and best positioned to identify solutions (External Advisory Committee, 2006). Devolution’s two tracks can usefully be understood as municipal engagement and community development. Simply put, high performing public policy producing better outcomes for individuals and families comes from governments working with and through local networks to strengthen the fabric of communities. Context-sensitive strategies will integrate rather than trade-off priorities and will join-up resources rather than diffuse effort.

Across the OECD over the last decade or so, numerous countries have applied multi-level collaborative governance to a range of policy challenges, including immigration. There are several notable examples from Canada and elsewhere.
In Europe, multi-level collaborative governance has taken different forms across countries, sometimes driven by national governments and in other cases seeded by initiatives from the European Union (EU). In the former category, the United Kingdom has been a leader, with more than 5,500 local governance networks created through various national policy frameworks that include supports and incentives for community action. For example, the Blair government supported local implementation of a national community cohesion agenda in Leicester, a city struggling with its own diversity and experimenting with various educational strategies. The central government empowered the local authority as one of 15 national “Beacon Pathfinders” to develop innovations in arts and theatre focused on inter-cultural youth engagement. In another example, a smaller rural community used the nationally-funded Local Strategic Partnerships to develop a “Charter of Belonging” as a springboard for innovations in children’s services that balance diversity and cohesion goals. Complementing such national approaches, the EU has enabled local integration efforts, especially in the labour market, by covening and funding Territorial Employment Pacts in cities, and various grass-roots inclusion projects through the European Social Fund.
Similar forms of multi-level collaborative governance have taken root in federal states such as Australia and the United States. In Australia, a federal “Living in Harmony” program was established in 1998 to manage rapid population change by supporting community-based educational initiatives to promote inclusion and practice “a sense of belonging” for everyone. Funding for collaborative partnerships to address local priorities resulted in nearly 350 community projects delivering inter-cultural activities that translate national aspirations into concrete action. In the United States, multi-level collaboration has frequently emerged through philanthropic foundations that become organizational catalysts and hubs bringing together different levels of government and grass-roots coalitions. The “Building the New American Community” is a public-private partnership forging a network of service providers, immigrant advocates, business associations, faith-based organizations, and action-researchers to stimulate focused activities at the local level, and facilitate inter-local knowledge exchange.
Of course, Canada is not without its own history in such multi-level collaborative governance across various policy fields (Bradford, 2005). Notable experiments include the tri-level urban development agreements in Western Canada that have mobilized government and community resources to tackle neighbourhood poverty. Under the rubric of the federal New Deal for Cities and Communities, substantial investments in municipal physical infrastructure have been made through multi-level Integrated Community Sustainability Plans that balance national sustainability objectives with local development priorities. In homelessness, the federal government since 1999 has worked with the provinces and larger municipalities for community-driven plans that address specific gaps in localized settings.
Canada has also featured good examples that relate more specifically to the area of immigration (Andrew, 2010). The Ontario Region of Citizenship and Immigration Canada helped create francophone networks, comprised of settlement sector organizations, service deliverers and advocacy groups, working on a regional basis to promote and strengthen francophone immigration to Ontario. Another example is the federal Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) program that began in Ottawa schools as part of a local multicultural liaison initiative. Demonstrating success, the collaboration between the settlement sector and the schools was leveraged nationally, and further set the stage for federal support for inclusion of settlement workers in public librairies. A similar dynamic of federally enabled multi-sectoral collaboration, this time focused on research networks and knowledge mobilization, comes from the Metropolis Project and its pathbreaking studies of immigrant settlement and integration.
More broadly, these Canadian innovations in immigration policy speak to Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s new focus on integration in its settlement services for newcomers. The aim here is to develop stronger governance mechanisms, policy connections, and outcome measures to inform all settlement programming. Consistent with the principles of multi-level collaborative governance, local service providers can “mix and match” a variety of settlement supports to meet the varying and intersecting needs of their clients.

Emphasis is placed on building the community connections and social and civic networks that are crucial for successful longer term integration into Canada.

While these innovations in immigration policy are welcome, close observers of the Canadian governance scene conclude that our approach to collaboration has been ad hoc and short-term, taking the form of time-limited support for numerous demonstration and pilot projects (External Advisory Committee, 2006; Public Policy Forum, 2008). As such, the typical form of Canadian social policy making, at both the federal and provincial levels, does not substantively engage local actors – either community organizations or municipal representatives – as policy partners. Indeed, the top-down, centralizing impulse continues even as a growing chorus of voices ‘from the field’ seek a place at the policy table.
Fortunately, the pockets of cross-national policy experimentation has not gone unnoticed and a body of practical knowledge now exists to inform innovation. In a 2006 stock taking report titled From Immigration to Integration: Local Solutions to a Global Challenge the OECD identified a “double governance problem” in moving toward robust forms of community-driven intercultural policies and practices. The first is a “clear mismatch between immigration and integration policies” resulting from the disconnect between national decision makers and local communities. The second arises from the “multifaceted nature of integration” and the need to coordinate planning across sectoral departments and engage the public in strategic action. A third issue, not mentioned by the OECD, but arising clearly in the Canadian setting, involves the need to develop learning mechanisms that will capture good practices from all the pilot projects, both to share knowledge across different locales and to take to scale those innovations that merit institutionalization.
It is the strength of multi-level collaborative governance that it can help close these various policy gaps and deliver on the promise of interculturalism. Such joined-up arrangements enable governments and communities to address shared, complex problems in more flexible, responsive, and participatory ways. But their formation involves concerted effort and careful thought. Existing research and practice reveals a variety of enabling conditions, design features, process dynamics, and facilitative leaders that allow productive multi-level collaborative governance (Ansell and Gash, 2007). These can be encapsulated as follows:
Enabling Conditions: Multi-level collaborative governance begins with systematic and collective reflection on the ‘state of the community’ by residents themselves. The stock taking involves two forms of social learning : analytical through preparation of trendline data or community profiles that enable comparisons over time on key indicators as well as across space in relation to other communities; anecdotal through dialogue about previous cooperative projects or conversely failed efforts, and discussion of how such practices and legacies can most constructively inform new initiatives. Sometimes described as the ‘cards on the table’ stage of collaboration, this initial dialogue and analysis allows a community to understand its own assets and priorities while also supplying a roadmap for multi-level engagement, offering to extra-local authorities an plan to guide resource allocation (Morse, 2004).
Institutional Design: Multi-level collaborative governance requires a formal structure with certain design features addressed. These include: specifying the purposes and specific objectives of the collaboration; identifying the players (or partners) and their respective roles and responsibilities; determining funding sources and expenditure protocols; clarifying reporting relationships and accountability frameworks; and addressing capacity building needs. Contractual arrangements among the different parties will guide interaction and encourage an outcomes-based mentality. The sponsoring upper-level government will identify a broad policy priority, allocate resources, and designates a lead partner – for example a foundation, community organization, or other level of government -- to whom responsibility for project management is devolved requiring that a collaborative structure for identifying shared priorities and coordinating interventions will follow (Public Policy Forum, 2008).
Collaborative Dynamics : In moving the collaborative to action, five dynamics are seen as crucial to success : common aims, shared power, mutual trust, membership relations, and facilitative leadership. In each instance, there are principles to guide behaviour (such as transparency, respect, openness and so forth) but also effective practices that come to play. For instance, working towards common goals is centrally important but often this involves a process of shared discovery about what constitutes valuable common ground. Similarly, membership relations and representational structures are often ambiguous – an individual may be simultaneously a member of an organizational network with its own accountability protocols, and a participant in the governance collaborative involving another set of obligations and expectations. These tensions are endemic to multi-level collaborative governance – and interculturalism more broadly – and they cannot be resolved in the abstract but only through reflexive practice (Huxham, 2003).
Inspired Leadership: In sustaining collaborative momentum, the role of inspired and creative leadership is crucial. This is because these governance processes involve prudent balancing of different, arguably divergent, organizational principles – ‘blurring and clarity’. On the one hand, multi-level collaborations require blurring of jurisdictions, mandates, and accountabilities. The point is to find a pragmatic division of labour in which different actors contribute to solutions based on their ‘comparative resource’ advantage whether it be money, knowledge, contacts, authority and so forth. On the other hand, public governance demands a certain baseline clarity in roles and responsibilities. Contractual agreements, whether in the form of memoranda of understanding or contribution agreements (or creative mixes of both), will specify the groundrules – terms of reference, membership composition, decision-making protocols, and reporting relationships. Inspired leaders are those individuals skilled in crossing boundaries, comfortable in working in different organizational cultures, and possessing the intercultural ‘fluency’ to bring diverse peoples to common ground. Such leaders – at all levels of government and in communities -- are crucial to the enterprise of multi-level collaborative governance. The requisite skill set comes through ‘learning by doing’ as individuals experience collaboration and refine their practice. With and through inspired leaders, local collaborations build trust, leverage diversity, and deliver community-building results (Morse, 2004).
In sum, it is clear that the policy field of immigration settlement and inclusion is presently in an exciting period of challenge and change. Established paradigms and governance models are being questioned. New ideas about interculturalism are seeding different approaches and practices. Institutional arrangements that blend national resources and objectives with community-driven strategies are emerging in many jurisdictions.
In reflecting on such moments of creativity and innovation, it is important to recall that for many decades Canada has been justifiably recognized as a world leader in multiculturalism. On the strength of this track record, there is no doubt that Canada is now well-positioned for leadership in meeting 21st century immigrant settlement and integration challenges. As a national policy project, Canadian multiculturalism has always been premised on values and practices conducive to multi-level collaborative governance. As Professor David Ley summarizes:
It is notable that Canada, the nation that has most fully institutionalized multiculturalism, is also the nation with the most positive public responses to immigration. Multiculturalism has become a defining Canadian value, socialized as a norm through school curricula and public expectations. From this multicultural platform has emerged an institutionally welcoming face to immigrants that includes significant (if inadequate) settlement services. Bringing mainstream civil society closer to immigrant everyday life, these programs are delivered not by bureaucrats but by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with co-ethnic staff, and provide not only services but also jobs and volunteer positions to recent arrivals. The intent here is to create bridging social capital with immigrant groups through their NGOs and thereby aid the integration process (Ley, 2008).
As it did in the earlier period, Canada can lead the new round of immigration policy innovation. The foundation is in place: multicultural public values, federal policy leadership, engagement of non-governmental organizations, and a strong municipal interest in creating welcoming communities. But as Ley also notes, there remain gaps and limitations in Canadian settlement and integration services, coming at high cost for newcomers and their host communities. In this context, the Local Immigration Partnership Councils now taking shape in localities across Ontario represent the leading edge of governance innovation in immigrant settlement and integration policy. They advance the principles and practices of integration now central to all of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s policy work, expressing flexibility in responding to both new challenges as well ongoing problems in the sector. They are an important vehicle for taking Canadian diversity to the next level

Ontario’s LIPs: Making a Community Difference

The 2005 Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement (COIA) set the stage for creation of the LIPs. Recognizing that the policy challenges crossed federal and provincial jurisdictions, the COIA also acknowledged the crucial role for community organizations and municipalities in immigrant settlement and inter-cultural understanding. Indeed, the COIA involved major increases in funding in the settlement sector, leading to the entry of many new players. Moreover, the funding increases came amidst growing evidence of inadequate performance in immigrant settlement and integration. The result was quite widespread questioning of the mix of services being delivered – potential gaps, duplications, or even programs working at cross-purposes – that made it difficult for newcomers to either access or connect supports. At the same time, municipal governments were demonstrating new and active interest in immigration matters, viewing the attraction and retention of newcomers as one solution to community economic problems and/or population decline. In this dynamic setting, the implementation of the COIA creates the collaborative policy space and federal funding for much better coordination between levels of government, and municipalities and local settlement sectors.

To this end, the LIPs were established to encourage a community-driven strategic planning process. The animating vision was one that combined national objectives and financial support for settlement and integration with considerable scope for local discretion in service integration and community pathways. Several common elements are integral to the design of the LIPs. Federal funding is available for formation of a partnership council with broad representation, a community strategic planning process to develop an action plan, and development of a process for project implementation. Consistent with the principle of bottom-up planning and action, LIP applications were left relatively open in regards to who might come forward, recognizing that local leadership in immigration varies across places. In some cities it might be the municipal governments taking the initiative, while in others, community agencies could be the catalysts for collaboration. In either case, COIA required that LIPs had buy-in from municipal governments and the settlement sector, and encouraged broad-based coalitions.
For the LIPs to be robust and durable innovations, they will have to work creatively through the four collaborative dynamics necessary for good policy and governance we discussed above (enabling conditions, institutional design, collaborative processes, and inspired leadership). To gain insight on the crucial start-up work, we have analysed all of the LIP agreements across Ontario capturing patterns of similarity and difference across localities, and drawing lessons about good practices in establishing the foundation for multi-level collaborative governance. Critical issues to consider include the size and structure of partnership councils, the relationship between the sectors represented, the planning processes and the results in terms of action plans and implementation vehicles. More broadly, differences arise between LIPs in the cosmopolitan Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and those in the rest of the province where greater attraction of newcomers is a major challenge. The Table below summarizes trends in the GTA and the rest of the province (further detailed breakdown of the data informing these tables is included in spread sheets attached as Appendices)

Comparing Ontario LIPs : Key Structures and Processes

Muncipalities/Counties outside Greater Toronto Area

Greater Toronto Area

Decision Making


  • Municipal government (or subcommittee)administration

of LIP

  • Promote agreement by consensus between council members

  • Municipal government has final say

  • Local service provider/ community organization administration of LIP

  • Promote agreement by consensus between council members

  • 50%/66% majority voting structure


  • Low population density

  • Desire to increase diversity

  • High population density

  • Manage better high levels of diversity

Geographic Scale

  • Municipality/County

  • Neighbourhood/Community



  • Specifically identified sectors where “skilled labour” is needed

  • “Attract and retain” newcomers to fill vacant positions

  • Generally work towards “better labour market outcomes” (e.g. partnering with local business council or increased labour market preparation)



  • City wide initiatives

  • Focused broadly on immigrants/newcomers

  • Neighbourhood level initiatives

  • Focused on specific ethno-cultural groups

The LIPs So Far: Good Practices

  • Client-Focused: holistic and flexible strategies that recognize the specific needs of different newcomer populations (eg. isolation among seniors, family reunification, lack of familiarity with Canadian business practices).

  • Cultural Competence: identify and honour cultural differences and work with communities in ways that coincide with their cultural perceptions, practices, and institutions.

  • Empowerment: foster an atmosphere that engages and enables communities to advocate for the needed services and resources that they self-identify.

  • Transparency: ensure openness in participation, communication, collaboration, and decision making processes, and tap new community assets as the process evolves..

  • Broad-based Leadership/Membership : ensure a wide range of perspectives and sources of knowledge (eg. police services, children’s services, local ethnic associations, housing services, and local business owners)

  • Communication: make certain that consultations, materials, and findings are available in multiple languages for equitable participation and feedback.

  • Self-Reflection/Evaluation: regular review of practices and policies to ensure alignment with objectives, to assess strengths/weaknesses in partnerships, and make appropriate adaptations based on new inputs and understanding.

  • Social Learning : mechanism for pooling information and knowledge exchange across the LIPs and borrowing of strategies/practices from elsewhere when appropriate.

  • Creativity: encourage grass-roots creativity in the design of governance structures enabling some LIPs to be led by the municipality, some by a community or neighbourhood organization, and others with co-leads.

  • Resilience: finding solutions to overcome obstacles and move the process forward, reflecting a strength of the bottom-up approach (eg. the process under way in Toronto to create an umbrella partnership council in cooperation with both neighbourhood and city-wide players).

  • Leverage: constructively liasing and leveraging existing community networks to advance priorities, for example with the business community in relation to labour market integration and employment opportunity.

  • Patience: acknowledging that community strategic planning take time as new relationships need to be forged, trust developed across sectors/groups, and new leadership styles adopted.

Moving Forward: A Promising Canadian Social Innovation

In this paper, we have argued that the LIPs represent a timely and promising innovation in Canadian immigration policy. Further, our comparative analysis of the initial planning processes has revealed interesting local variation in how different communities are bringing together multiple stakeholders to jointly tackle new challenges and ongoing problems. By way of summary, we can step back and identify a number of broader dynamics associated with the LIPs that appear to constitute significant ‘value adds’ to the immigrant settlement and integration process.

  • combining national objectives with local experimentation in a process that acknowledges different pathways and priorities, thereby giving ‘lived expression and everyday meaning’ to the values of cultural diversity and community cohesion.

  • working at the intersection of economic development , social inclusion, and cultural vitality priorities (eg. planning for labour market integration of skilled immigrants and responding to refugees with particular health care needs).

  • building the two-way street of successful settlement and integration that brings together newcomers and host community residents/representatives for ongoing dialogue, planning, and action.

  • aligning services across different levels of government to supply better access for individuals to a continuum of relevant supports and better understanding of the characteristics of accessible and equitable services.

  • renewing community and public policy leadership both by nurturing intercultural fluency and reaching out to previously disengaged or marginalized newcomers of the host society.

  • providing an avenue for political socialization and local civic engagement at a time when municipal political participation through established voting and representational channels is far from robust.

  • embedding a diversity and cohesion lens in the thinking, networking, and decisions of governmental and community organizations.

  • recognizing that for immigration settlement and integration, both the process (participation/empowerment) and the outcomes (enhanced well-being for newcomers) matter and are likely mutually reinforcing.

At the same time, our comparative analysis has revealed certain key issues where more and better knowledge – almost certainly to come from further action-research -- is needed to support full implementation of the LIPs. These include:

  • appropriate, relevant, and shared indicators of progress toward successful settlement and integration that can be applied to government, civil society organizations, and businesses.

  • robust accountability frameworks for multi-level collaborative governance that will balance funder needs with local action.

  • establishment of strong channels and mechanisms for ‘cross-LIP knowledge exchange’, drawing on existing examples of policy learning networks in Canada and elsewhere (eg. the European Union inter-city networks).

  • further capacity building support and tools for community-driven strategic planning.

  • better understanding of how to build connections between programs and services targeted to newcomers and those in the mainstream, thereby encouraging inter-cultural relationships and service pathways.

  • better understanding of how community representatives on governance bodies can balance their dual accountabilities to constituencies and to policy makers.

  • better understanding of the role of municipalities in community partnerships and planning processes, including how best to facilitate strategic decision making at different levels of engagement such as neighbourhood and city-wide.

  • better understanding of how best to transition from strategic planning to project work in collaborative governance settings, requiring careful thought about sequencing priorities, integrating activities, and measuring progress.

  • better understanding of the of francophone immigration networks as their place and representation in the LIPs continues to evolve.

  • better understanding of the challenges in multi-level collaborative governance including:

- finding the workable balance between the community flexibility necessary for a genuinely bottom-up approach and the need for consistent and clear guidelines, timelines, expectations from upper-level governments to deliver good outcomes.

- concerns from municipalities that the process not involve “downloading or offloading” of responsiblities.
- building cohesive relationships between federal and provincial governments in supporting community planning. 

On all of each of these questions, the LIP experiment brings into focus questions of high relevance to policy makers, community practitioners, and governance researchers. Further action-research as the LIPs evolve promises to generate important insights into the structures and processes best suited to ‘governing through complexity’.

In closing, it is our view that the LIPs are an emerging Canadian example of what a growing body of international policy and governance literature terms social innovation (Andrew and Klein, 2008). Social innovations have several defining characteristics including application of new ideas to unmet social needs and generation of solutions through multi-sectoral partnerships that blend values, knowledge, and practices to produce high-performing hybrid organizations or networks. A recent survey of social innovation reported that while Canada was once viewed as an international leader that more recently “our nation seems to have fallen behind while others are progressing” (Goldenberg et al. 2009). The report concluded that closing the social innovation gap required a stronger national support system for local experimentation, including recognition of the need for longer time frames, systematic learning, and scaling-up of successful community-based projects.
The LIPs meet the criteria as promising social innovations in an urgently important public policy field. As they now transition beyond the start-up phase, it is time to plan their future on the Canadian governance landscape as value-adding local institutions in a wider multi-level immigration policy system.


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1 The authors would like to acknowledge the excellent research assistance of Amy Ratcliffe, Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Geography, University of Western Ontario, and the constructive comments on an earlier draft of the paper from Dr. Vicki Esses, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, and Director of the Welcoming Communities Initiative.

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