A new Indigenous Connectivity Institute is launching — here’s how it will drive funding towards equitable internet access

Just under a quarter of Indigenous communities have access to high-speed internet. This year’s Indigenous Connectivity Summit emphasized the urgent need for high-speed internet in Indigenous communities, as well as more community involvement in how internet infrastructure is funded and developed.

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Experts now say digital access can determine a person’s health — here’s why that matters to social purpose organizations

From health services to social assistance, government and community organizations are investing in online service provision. For the 19 per cent of Canadians that identified as non-users or basic users of the internet even post-Covid, this cuts them off from critical services, leaving them even more exposed to health and wellbeing risks.

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Community services can now replace medical prescriptions — but this will require organizations to share data.

Linking a person’s health data with information about their housing circumstances, employment status or fitness levels can help health providers better understand the underlying challenges that impact their health and wellbeing. But it requires community organizations to gather and share data – which many aren’t yet set up to do.

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“Digital is here – embrace it, or survive it”: Four key takeaways from the 2022 Dismantling Digital Barriers Summit

There is still a significant proportion of the Canadian population that expresses “digital hesitancy”, which the Canadian social impact sector needs to keep in mind when developing programs. But data and digital tools are increasingly becoming important mechanisms for organizations to increase the reach of their services, and be transparent about where funding is needed most.

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“Food is not a patient thing, it’s urgent”: how data collection and sharing can help people in Calgary access emergency food

As the affordability crisis deepens in Calgary, more people are turning to emergency food providers. Collating real-time data on the inventory that food providers hold can help the sector coordinate to reach those in need. However, a system of this sort requires both employees and volunteers to move past “mental barriers” and engage with data processes.

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Are homelessness prevention schemes actually working? To find out, we need more person-specific data, experts say

Data can give shelters greater transparency on who is using their services, but there is still a severe lack of information about some of the reasons that people become homeless in the first instance. That means that at present, data is mainly helping the sector ‘react’ to those experiencing homelessness, rather than actively moving to prevent it.

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How are social purpose organizations preparing for a post-Twitter world?

For many social purpose organizations, Twitter has long been a tool to advocate for, and organize movements around, particular issues. Under Elon Musk’s ownership, the sector’s ability to communicate with citizens, journalists and policymakers is now at risk.

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“Maps can be seen as truth”: Why Indigenous communities are using digital mapping to defend their land

GIS mapping superimposes layers of data about a location over a digital map to reveal trends and gaps in an area. For social purpose organizations working at local or regional levels, this information can be critical in driving awareness and funding towards specific communities’ challenges.

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Explainer: How are humanitarian aid organizations using blockchain and Web3?

Blockchain promises utopian ideals of decentralization and transparency, which are particularly appealing to the aid sector. However, as aid organizations and technology vendors build more public-private partnerships, it’s vital for the former to develop technical capacity and risk awareness among staff.

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Inspired by mutual aid, this crowdsourced digital map of Halifax shows which vacant properties could be turned into housing. How useful is that data?

Crowdsourcing data from the community can take the onus away from local social purpose organizations to gather their own data. However, it also raises concerns about the quality and reliability of the data, and members of the community may not understand ethical issues that surround data collection, such as privacy, ownership and sensitivity.

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Newfoundland and Labrador will run a digital identification pilot in 2023 – what will this mean for community organizations and the people they serve?

Digital identification could alleviate certain accessibility issues, but at the same time, exacerbate inequities when it comes to digital literacy and device accessibility. It’s also unclear how exactly digital identification will benefit or intersect with the work of community-serving social purpose organizations.

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Is AI your new non-profit coworker? Here are the ways that social purpose organizations are adopting ChatGPT.

It only took five days for ChatGPT to reach a million users. While there are clear benefits to using an AI-enabled tool when it comes to reducing time and resources spent on tasks, there are also some open questions for the social impact world in particular: what are the ethics of using artificial intelligence when working directly with communities?

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“Benevity fails for me and my fundraisers” – why non-profits are calling on the platform to provide more timely donation data

Without timely and accurate information about donors and their donations, non-profits may not be able to secure repeat and frequent donations. This is especially critical in the current economic climate, where donations have dropped as the cost of living increases.

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A “huge number” of non-profits have been victims of cyberattacks, risking the data of vulnerable groups, according to a new working group.

41% of Canadian small businesses that were victims of a cyber attack said it cost them at least $100,000 to recover from. The same is likely true of community organizations and small non-profits, although this is an area that has been severely under-researched. Without adequate security measures, community organizations could be exposing their clients to risks associated with cyber and data breaches, such as identity theft.

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Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience to receive $1.2 million in funding, to enable sector-wide digital transformation over three years

Dedicating funding to digital transformation means that non-profits are able to reach clients that are situated more remotely, or home-bound. It also allows them to invest in tools and technology that increases the organization’s efficiency, which has a knock-on effect on the impact it is able to have.

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In June 2022, British Columbia passed a law that would allow it to measure systemic racism using data. What progress has been made since?

This legislation is the first of its kind in Canada. Collecting longitudinal data – data collected over a long period of time – could lead to policy changes that centre equitable access, in sectors such as policing, housing and education. However, legislation that is rooted in data must also centre transparency and ownership.

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Can geospatial data help communities prepare for natural disasters? Here are the lessons from Türkiye and Syria.

Location-based, openly available data – which is crowdsourced across a community, or from around the world – can help those working in aid contexts ascertain where the need for resources is most urgent following a disaster. However, constant and preemptive data collection activities – both before and after a disaster – could help aid workers and government agencies proactively plan for such disasters.

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Data story: Only 10 per cent of Canada’s Universal Broadband Fund for high-speed internet was awarded to non-profits and cooperatives. Where did the rest go?

Funding cooperatively-owned or non-profit telecommunications providers not only brings more competition into the Canadian telecoms industry, but also contributes to community resilience, by allowing communities themselves to make decisions about critical infrastructure that they own.

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“We can’t refuse to look at artificial intelligence until it passes us by”: a new survey finds that most charities don’t understand how they could use artificial intelligence

As artificial intelligence becomes more ubiquitous, the charitable sector is at risk of being left behind if they don’t feel they have the adequate knowledge and resources to learn about AI-based tools and applications.

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“Be comfortable with the messiness”: how one charity built a cybersecurity policy alongside its frontline workers

Frontline staff are increasingly using social media and smartphones in their work with communities — particularly while on the move. Co-creating a cybersecurity policy with communities can reduce or remove the need for technical experts, as well as making cybersecurity everybody’s responsibility in an organization.

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Online misinformation is adding to the administrative burden of community organizations – what can they do about it?

Misinformation and disinformation that originates online can not only cause confusion and distrust among communities, but can also be directly tied to racism, misogyny and queerphobia, putting certain people at risk. For staff in community organizations, having to speak to the community about the origins of false information, or reporting the information appropriately such that it doesn’t spread, can add to their already heavy workload.

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Nearly 50 data-collection volunteers came together to gather insights on food insecurity in Toronto: here’s how it will transform one non-profit’s policy advocacy work

Gathering information on the ground helps non-profit organizations understand issues communities grapple with in real-time, while avoiding the delays associated with government data. Training volunteers to collect this data also frees-up existing staff, giving organizations the ability to be in many places at once.

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Non-profits are increasingly gathering equity data on the communities they serve – but what about their own staff?

Internal data collection is one way for social purpose organizations to become more inclusive and accommodating — something that can improve their overall impact in the communities they serve. But the process isn’t without pitfalls. Responsible data collection requires careful planning and a trauma-informed approach.

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Standardizing data collection could help non-profits fill gaps in critical community services. What’s holding them back?

Non-profits often create ad hoc policies for managing, storing and sharing data, but they don’t always fulfill legal obligations or allow for the full utilization of important information. Standardizing how data is handled helps ensure vulnerable people don’t fall through the cracks and creates new opportunities for collaboration.

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Digital first responders play a growing role in disaster response. Are there lessons Canada should learn?

Humanitarian responses need reliable communications infrastructure. Equipping municipal staff with the technical skills to repair damaged infrastructure could be crucial as climate change continues to increase the frequency of natural disasters.

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Social media is helping newcomers and refugees settle into life in Canada. Why isn’t the settlement sector using it?

Settlement organizations should know what kinds of information newcomers are searching for on social media, and aim to plug those knowledge gaps by directing people to tailored information. Settlement organizations must also be cognizant of the increasing risks of misinformation and fraud on social media that is particularly targeting newcomers.

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The last national survey of Canadian non-profits and voluntary organizations was 20 years ago. Why has this information been missing?

Despite the current government encouraging evidence-based policymaking, non-profit and voluntary organizations were last surveyed nationally in 2003. Without robust, up-to-date information on the state of the sector, funding outcomes, staffing and community impact, non-profits can’t gather the evidence or data required to advocate for policy change.

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Neighbourhood association launches technology lending library in east Toronto.

Technology lending libraries – where community members can borrow hardware and access the internet – are helping to overcome the digital divide. But they are a relatively new type of organization. How can their impact be measured in the short and long term, and how can they continue to advocate for funding?

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Could a tech start-up helping refugees resettle in the U.S. and Europe help Canada?

The federal government plans to welcome half a million immigrants into Canada by 2025. This could dramatically increase the workload of settlement service providers and agencies. According to the founders of Pairity, this technology can be adapted to specific provincial jurisdictions and encourage a less biased approach to matching refugees to sponsors and community services.

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LONG READ: What is #DataBack? Indigenous-owned software company makes data exciting

Missing, obscured and incomplete data can have tangible consequences for Indigenous communities and their wellbeing. It’s vital to discuss practical steps organizations can take to embed Indigenous data sovereignty into their processes.

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Federal department in charge of regulating AI should consider “privacy as a fundamental human right,” say experts

AIDA will likely not be coming into force until 2025, but various organizations – including the non-profit sector – have begun implementing AI-based tools and technologies into their work. The sector must be aware of its obligations to the public regarding applications of AI and data privacy legislation.

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The City of Montreal is establishing data partnerships with community organizations - are they ready?

Data sharing and interoperability can provide a more robust view of a community and specific wellness / prosperity indicators. However, it also risks breaching the privacy and trust of community members who have not consented to having their data used this way. Data governance frameworks ensure that all organizations collecting and sharing data between them are doing so with the common good in mind.

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Lack of smartphone functionality for digital immigration services puts refugee claimants at risk: advocates

For some subgroups of newcomers, such as refugee claimants and asylum seekers, their primary device is likely to be a smartphone. However, many critical services still are not developed on mobile-friendly interfaces.

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LONG READ: Why data-based measures of poverty are not capturing the vulnerability of older adults

Depending on the data points included in specific poverty measures, the outcomes and analysis can be drastically different, which has a tangible impact on policy development. Relying solely on data-based methodologies also risks ignoring the effect of non-quantifiable factors, such as demographics.

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Cybersecurity insurance growing in popularity after high-profile digital attacks. Does your organization need it?

Cybersecurity attacks can be costly, prompting some to purchase add-on insurance. However, some experts say preventing a breach is more important than buying a new policy.

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Non-profit AI data tool helping cities predict urban heating effects

Applying predictive models and machine learning to a dataset can help municipal governments understand where to direct funding for urban cooling infrastructure. However, developing and maintaining the appropriate digital tools can be challenging.

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211 Ontario’s newest director to focus on bringing databases and staff together

While many organizations might now be collecting data and understanding the importance of evidence-based advocacy, they might still not have the internal capacity to analyze and strategize using that data.

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What does 2024 hold for technology and data in the non-profit sector?

In a time of fast-moving technological changes and increased policymaking driven by data, non-profits need to know where to invest their resources – whether in new technology or professional development.

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'Navigating a societal shift without any of the scaffolding': Remote frontline work, trauma and wellbeing

We’ve explored the impact of digital services on community members, but there has been little investigation on the other side of the coin. Working in digital-first teams can provide flexibility and work-life balance, but in community services, it can also lead to feelings of isolation among staff.

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Funding needed to keep toxic drug supply data dashboard going: St John Ambulance

Crowdsourcing data points and information can help organizations in similar sectors access a single truth source. However, developing and sustaining databases requires financial sustainability.

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Proposed tax form question could ask charities to report board member demographics

Collecting more data does not equate to high-quality information, nor does it guarantee that the information will be appropriately acted upon, say leaders in the sector.

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More than half of small non-profits relying on ‘accidental techies’: CanadaHelps survey

Since CanadaHelps launched its inaugural Digital Skills Survey in 2021, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence have become critical issues for the non-profit sector. However, charities still struggle with inadequate technological skills and a lack of dedicated funding.

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Toronto hopes new project can help non-profits map, collect data on root causes of crime

Restorative justice – which looks to address the root causes of crime and violence – requires a multi-sector approach. Sharing data can enable this and uncover systemic barriers that marginalize communities.

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Imagine Canada takes over non-profit digital collective two years after launch

Since its launch, CCNDR has taken on several projects, including researching cybersecurity and digital skills in Canada’s non-profit sector. Leaders say moving the collective under Imagine Canada’s stewardship will allow them to reach more non-profit organizations and expand projects.

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Grant program looking to pay companies to hire tech people from Palestine

A job offer and proof of income can be somebody’s ticket out of a war zone. Investing in jobs also helps to rebuild local economies and wealth, allowing those caught in conflict to return to some sense of “normalcy,” said Sanam Kubra Siddiqui, grants director at Pledges.

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App designers hope to help Canada's arts sector gig workers better understand taxes and finances

The majority of workers in the arts are self-employed and likely have incomes that fluctuate month to month. The designers of the new app Sai hope to help artists navigate Canada’s weird and wonderful tax system more easily.

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From spam bots to doxxing, cyberbullying is bringing non-profits to their knees. What can be done?

There is little criminal and legal protection for staff members who are targeted personally by cyberbullies - many of whom also identify as being part of the same marginalized communities they work with.

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Human and civil rights groups call for withdrawal of Canada’s AI legislation

In Budget 2024, the federal government announced $5.1 million to enforce the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act. Most consultations have been with industry, while human rights groups and non-profits have had little involvement in crafting the legislation to date.

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