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Metro Toronto's Changing Communities: Innovative Responses
Canada

Keyword: Community Participation & Urban Governance

Background

Changes in Metro Toronto's communities have led to new strategic directions and policies in the government of Metropolitan Toronto. These, in turn have resulted in news ways of planning, designing and delivering services in the Community Services Department. The "Best Practice" document submitted to the United Nations last summer describes ways the Department has approached the areas of organizational change, governance and participation, service delivery, program development, service planning and development and community supports. 

The examples provided within the Best Practices document describe partnerships between Metro Toronto and other levels of government, the community service sector, service users and political representatives. They describe the impacts of the policy and program changes, the organizational change initiatives, and governance and accountability changes that have occurred. They reflect Metropolitan Toronto's political and corporate commitment to respond to the needs of our diverse communities. 


Narrative

Metropolitan Toronto government, has for nearly 30 years, been responsible for providing key social and community services. Faced with an increasingly diverse population and structural economic change in Canada's largest metropolis, Metro Toronto has been proactive in developing new service models to respond to emerging needs. 

The Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto is Canada's major immigrant reception centre. In recent years, the immigration pattern that has shaped the Metro Toronto community has changed, with increasing numbers of residents originating from Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean. Within the last 30 years, Metro has seen its ethno-racial communities grow from 3% of its population in 1961, to more than 25% today. By the year 2001, this figure is expected to rise to 50%. The United Nations recognizes Metro Toronto as the most multicultural city in the world. 

As the diverse population of the Metro Toronto area changes, new policy, program and service initiatives are needed. An innovative and responsive service system is taking shape within Metro Toronto, based on the emergence of ethno-specific organizations, changes within traditional service institutions, new service responses within Government and collaborative efforts among these agencies and within communities. 

This submission highlights a number of Best Practices initiatives within the Metro Toronto government's Community Services Department. These Best Practices demonstrate, in different ways, how the Metro service system is becoming more accountable to clients and communities, reflecting Metro's changing population, and developing responsive and flexible organizational structures and delivery mechanisms. 
 

    Metro Toronto Government's Community Services Infrastructure:

Metro government directly provides services, purchases services from community-based organizations and institutions and funds a range of community-based agencies. The Community Services Department directly serves over 350,000 Metro residents through its seven divisions: Housing, Homes for the Aged, Social Services, Children's Services, Hostel Services, Social Development and Management Systems & Services. 

The service system is guided by a number of policies which promote access, strengthen communities and are accountable to local communities. Metro's Strategic Plan (1991), for example, defines social equity as one of its primary goals, and the Social Development Strategy (1992) defines its goals as "ensuring equitable access to all community resources" and "promoting and strengthening communities". The Policy Statement on Ethno-Racial Access to Metropolitan Services and the Access to Services policy reaffirms Metro's commitment to ethno-racial and linguistic diversity, as a source of social, cultural and economic strength. 
 

    Community-Based Service Sector:

Just as Metro Toronto has moved to respond to the changing environment, the community-based service sector that is supported by Metro through grants and purchase of services has undergone major change. These community-based organizations have demonstrated a commitment to social equity and to building community capacity by offering flexible, responsive programs in a cost-efficient manner. 

Over the years, immigrant and refugee communities advocated to establish ethno-specific organizations to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services. In addition, established institutions have recruited members of ethno-racial communities to sit on their boards and committees and to participate in program delivery as staff and volunteers, and have developed new ethno-specific programs in partnership with community residents to respond to new and emerging needs. 

Finally, partnerships and collaboration between and within different sectors, particularly between ethno-racial and non-ethno-racial organizations, are encouraged to ensure a co-ordinated, efficient and viable system. 
 

    Facing New Realities: From Policy to Practice

Changes in Metro Toronto's communities have led to new strategic directions and policies in Metro government policies. These, in turn, have resulted in new ways of planning, designing and delivering services in the Community Services Department. There are many examples of how these directions have had an impact on what services are delivered and how they are delivered. Six examples of Best Practices from the divisions of the Community Services Department describe partnerships between Metro and other levels of government, the community service sector, service users and political representatives. 
 

    Organizational Change: Housing

A review of The Housing Company's mission and strategic directions outlined the organizational changes needed to meet the new needs of the community. This resulted in tenants, front-line staff, board members and community agencies working together to develop a broad and progressive Multicultural and Race Relations Policy, a resident involvement plan and a community development approach to service delivery, all of which committed The Housing Company to a radical shift in culture. 
 

    Governance and Participation: Homes for the Aged

Metro's Homes for the Aged developed a community advisory committee in the early 1980s. This early effort at community accountability and participation in the decision-making process was successful at raising and responding to "quality of care" issues in the homes. There is now an integrated system of advisory committees in place in the homes. These committees are successful in enabling community volunteers to participate in making the service system work. 
 

    Service Delivery: Social Services

The Social Services Division has made specific operational changes to encourage customer self-reliance, and to enable people to receive service in their own neighborhoods and in their own languages, thus greatly enhancing their ability to participate in the decisions being made regarding their request for service. Customer and community advisory groups consisting of staff, community groups, advocates and customers are being set up with a mandate to identify other service barriers and to develop strategies to reduce or remove them. 

Developing clear policies, procedures and protocols that are shared among staff, customers and community partners is resulting in a genuine pooling of expertise, information and commitment to common goals. 
 

    Program Development: Children's Services

In response to growing awareness and specific concerns about the ability of childcare programs to meet the needs of all racial and cultural groups, a Race Relations Working Group on Metropolitan Toronto's Delivery of Children's Services was established. This group included politicians, staff, day care providers and families. 

This resulted in a number of changes in Metro's childcare system including: the requirement for childcare programs to have comprehensive anti-racism policies; supports to childcare programs through the development of anti-racism training for childcare staff, administrators and boards of directors; and developing curriculum that addresses issues of race and racism. To ensure that these programs have ongoing support, they are offered in partnership with existing community organizations. 
 

    Service Planning and Development: Hostels

In the early 1980s, the emergency shelter system in Metro Toronto was dominated by shelters for single men. Only a small number of shelters for youth, single women, assaulted women and families were in operation at that time, but they were not a well-supported or developed part of the system. 

In 1981, Metro Toronto established the Hostel Services Division to oversee the emergency shelter system. Staff worked with community groups and agencies to respond to service access issues, and to develop the service system that exists today. The shelter system was expanded to include services for youth, women and families and addressed historical service inequities. In addition to providing basic room and board, these shelters provide their clients with information and referrals, counseling and personal support to help them re-establish themselves. 
 

    Community Supports: Social Development

The Social Development Division supports Metro Toronto and its communities in developing and maintaining a strong, integrated social infrastructure. This is achieved by advocating for social equity in all Metro's programs and services, and by taking a proactive approach to ensuring equitable access through the grants and community development programs. 

The Division has developed a number of strategies to strengthen the capacity of its 350 funded agencies to meet the needs of all members of the community including: developing a Multicultural Access Policy for Grants programs, creating the Ethno-racial and Aboriginal Access Fund (ERACAF); and establishing a Community Grants Advisory Panel to determine allocation priorities that best address changing community needs. 
 

    Conclusion:

This report describes the diverse Metro Toronto of 1996 and the challenges and opportunities posed by the changing environment. It provides some examples of Metro Toronto's Best Practices, focusing on the Community Services Department's innovative responses, both through direct service delivery and support for community initiatives. It describes the community services infrastructure as one which is flexible and responsive to changing demographics, accountable to Metro's residents, and innovative in its efforts to promote partnerships and develop and deliver accessible services. 

Like all levels of government, Metro Toronto is struggling with fiscal constraints. Metro is responding by developing new partnerships, encouraging collaboration among service providers, and fostering innovation and cost-effectiveness. At the same time, Metro recognizes that meaningful community participation in planning and decision-making is essential to ensure responsive, sensitive services and equitable access to available resources. The ongoing challenge is to balance the sometimes competing demands for efficiency and community accountability. 


Impact

  • increased community participation in social and service planning, development and delivery
  • increased community participation in the decision-making process of government and its services
  • establishment of new and strengthening of existing community partnerships with government
  • development of culturally-sensitive services within the Community Services Department and in the community
  • increased accountability to communities both at the political and service/staff levels
  • increased staff development in the understanding of and respect for the diverse communities of Metro Toronto
  • improved communication with Metro's communities
  • development of appropriate structures and strategic/policy documents that provide the framework and directions for improving access to Metro's services

Sustainability

Changes in Metro's communities have led to new strategic directions and policies in Metropolitan government policies. These, in turn, have resulted in new ways of planning, designing and delivering services in the Community Services Department. The Best Practices from the divisions of the Community Services Department clearly provide tangible proof of the impact of these directions and approaches on what services are deliverd and how they are delivered. In particular, they have influenced organizational change, governance and participation, service planning, development and delivery, and community supports. 

By undertaking a review of its mission and strategic directions to meet the new needs of the community, The Housing Company facilitated partnerships among tenants, frontline staff, board members and community agencies to develop a number of policies and plans that sent a new message about inclusiveness and empowerment of its tenants and staff. These included the Multicultural and Race Relations Policy, a resident involvement plan and a community development approach to service delivery. This committed The Housing Company to a radical shift in organizational culture. 

The development of an integrated system of advisory committees in the Homes for the Aged provides another example of change in participation and governance . In addition to the Metropolitan-wide Community Advisory Committee which continues to provide advice related to all Homes programs, each home now has its own home advisory committee, a residents council, a family committee and a volunteer committee. The achievements of these bodies include a statement of residents rights and responsibilities, the development of an internal advocacy process, development of a series of satisfaction surveys and participation in the development of a strategic plan, goals and objectives for the homes. Clearly, the advisory committee system in the Homes for the Aged has enhanced community accountability and level of community confidence in service delivery. 

The implementation of operational changes to encourage customer self-reliance, and to enable people to receive service in their own neighbourhoods and in their own languages has significantly improved the ability of Social Services' customers to participate in the decisions being made regarding their service request. Customer and community advisory groups consisting of staff, community groups, advocates and customers are being set up with a mandate to identify other service barriers and to develop strategies to reduce or remove them. Effective service delivery, which meets individual needs and develops stronger communities, depends on solid partnerships among customers, the community and other service providers. 

A number of changes in Metro's childcare system were implemented by the Children's Services Division as a result of the work of the Race Relations Working Group on Metro Toronto's Delivery of Children's Services. Politicians, staff, day care providers and families participated in this Working Group These changes included: the requirement for childcare programs to have comprehensive anti-racism policies; supports to childcare programs through the development of anti-racism training for childcare staff, administrators and Boards of Directors; and development of curriculum which addresses issues of race and racism. These initiatives have developed new partnerships and strengthened existing ties among the Children's Services Division, community childcare operators and ethno-racial communities. 

The involvement of community groups and agencies in the service planning and development of Metro Toronto's emergency shelter system has resulted in an expansion of services that now include services for single men, youth, women and families. Both the expansion and strategic allocation of emergency services across Metro Toronto has addressed historical service inequities. 

To support the development and maintenance of a strong integrated social infrastructure for Metro Toronto and its communities, the Social Development Division continues to advocate for social equity in all Metro's programs and services and takes a proactive approach to ensuring equitable access through the grants and community development programs. This includes requiring all funded agencies to develop ethno-racial access/anti-racism policies and implementing allocation priorities as developed by the Community Grants Advisory Panel . These measures ensure Metro Toronto remains responsive to the needs of its diverse communities. 

These Best Practices clearly demonstrate the tangible impact this project has brought about in bringing about lasting changes - in the areas of social planning and policy development, organizational change, governance and partnerships, service planning and delivery and program development. 


Contact

    Caryl Arundel, Metro Community Services 
    Metro Hall, 11th Floor, 55 John Street 
    Toronto 
    Ontario 
    Canada 
    M5V 3C6 
    (416) 392-8613 
    socdev@hookup.net attn:c.arundel

Sponsor

    Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, Ontario, Canada 
    Metropolitan Toronto Community Services 
    Metro Hall, 11th Floor, 55 John St. 
    Toronto 
    Ontario 
    Canada 
    M5V 3C6 
    (416) 392-8613 
    socdev@hookup.net attn:c.arundel

Partners

    Metro Community Services' Divisions (as listed in narrative) 
    Caryl Arundel, Metro Community Services 
    Metro Hall, 11th Floor, 55 John St. 
    Toronto 
    Ontario 
    Canada 
    M5V 3C6 
    (416) 392-8613 
    socdev@hookup.net attn:c.arundel 

    Lydia Fitchko, Metro Community Services 
    Metro Hall, 11th Floor, 55 John St. 
    Toronto 
    Ontario 
    Canada 
    M5V 3C6 
    (416) 392-5397 
    socdev@hookup.net attn:l.fitchko


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