How communications are organized in public organizations providing legal services in communities? how to build communications in strategic perspective, and what are performance indicators of such communications; what are the approaches to building relationships with partner legal service providers – these issues were studied by experts of the LA system within the framework of a study mission to Canada, on July 11 – 15, with the support of the project Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine. This study visit is another event supported by the project, aimed at strengthening the communication direction of work, as well as the development of strategic planning in the system of legal aid in Ukraine.
As a part of the mission, Ukrainian delegates visited the Canadian capital, Ottawa, as well as Canada’s largest city, Toronto (Ontario), where they held a series of working meetings with representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations providing legal and social services and funded from the federal and provincial budgets. The participants of the working visit had an opportunity to communicate with experts of consulting organizations providing services in the field of strategic communications to the governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Ukrainian delegation comprised the Head of the Department of Communications and Access to Public Information of the Coordination Centre Nadiia Kyzytska, Deputy Head of the Department for Legal Aid System Coordination of the Coordination Centre Oleksandr Hryb, Deputy Head of the Department of Organizational Work, Legal Support of Activities and Information of the Regional Centre for SLA in the Zhytomyr region Tetiana Bieloborodova, Head of the Department of Interaction with the Subjects of Primary Legal Aid of the Sumy Regional Centre Nataliia Shesternina. Together with the colleagues from the centres, Project Director of Quality and Accessible Legal Aid in Ukraine Larisa Bizo, its manager in Ukraine Oksana Kikot, Project Manager in Canada Tetiana Voitan and Communications Project Advisor Mishel Amar attended the meetings.
Thus, on July 11 and 12, in Ottawa, the representatives of the LA system had meetings at the Ministry of Human Resources and Labour of Canada, they had an opportunity to learn more about the work of the Privy Council Office, an agency that actually performs functions of the office of the government and Prime Minister of Canada, participated in the Strategic Communication Planning Training delivered by the Institute of Governance, talked to the expert from One World Inc. on integrating stakeholder efforts in the implementation of the mission and tasks of the organization.
On July 13 and 14, they had a number of working meetings in Toronto. On July 13, Ukrainian delegates visited the office of Legal Aid Ontario, LAO, which is one of the largest organizations in the province’s justice system, providing legal services to more than a million people annually. Its clients are people with low income or without any, people in a difficult situation.
Representatives of the Ukrainian LA team met with the President and Director of LAO David Field and Vice-President for Policy, Research and External Relations David McKillopp. With the Head of the Department for Special Projects, Innovation and Program Support Rodney Smith, Ukrainian delegates had an opportunity to talk about planning LAO’s activities and the range of services that LAO provides to Ontario residents both through regional offices and through relations with partner organizations that receive financial support from LAO, in particular, with legal clinics. Director of the Client and Lawyer Support Centre Sarah Powell-Smith told more about client service standards, in particular, through the example of work of the LAO’s own free contact centre, the CLSC (Client and Lawyer Support Centre), which provides clients with legal advice on family and criminal law by telephone, and also receives calls from lawyers. This centre receives calls from more than 2,100 callers daily by 130 operators (both not lawyers and people with higher legal education) who work in either CLSC office or at home through specially installed equipment (the latter group is in the majority – 80%). Ukrainian delegates could to learn more about the training programs for LAO specialists, in particular, possibilities for distance learning, from Manager Learning and Organizational Development Tricia Banfild. LAO Director for Communications and Stakeholder Relations Lee Kou talked about the strategies of the organization with partners, the planning of LAO communications at the head office and regional offices, the use of appropriate communication tools, in particular social media and blogs, media work.
LAO’s activities include the support of a network of independent non-governmental organizations, legal aid clinics. There are 76 clinics in Ontario, which are quite specialized. All of them provide counselling/services to clients on housing, employment, labour safety, immigration, social security, etc., but some of the clinics specialize in specific areas of law and the provision of services to specific categories of people, such as those living with HIV/AIDS, homeless persons, children and youth under the age of 25, representative of the Canadian indigenous people. In greater details, Ukrainian delegates spoke with Cynthia Harper, Director General of Toronto Central, one of the regional offices of LAO, and office representative Claudia Cerreino. They described in detail the specialization of clinics and the range of services, as well as how LAO and, in particular, its regional offices, organize partnerships with clinics and the experience of building such partnerships in an efficient way. Afterwards, representatives of the Ukrainian legal aid system visited one of such specialized clinics in Toronto. It provides services to indigenous people. Clinic lawyer Emily Hill told about the very organization of this process and how information about the clinic is found by potential clients.
On July 14, Ukrainian experts attended a meeting at the national office of YMCA Canada, an association of 48 independent information offices that provide the most diverse information services to the newcomers in Canada. “Building healthy communities” is the official slogan of the organization reflecting its mission – treating immigrants with an understanding of their living conditions, create conditions for their normal life and self-fulfilment.
Each year, YMCA network, funded through federal and provincial budgets, serves over 2 million clients, providing them with individual free information and guidance on key official documents and types of social security, immigration and citizenship, employment, English and French language courses, medical care, housing, legal services, etc. Executive Vice-President of YMCA Canada Laura Palmer Korn told about it in more detail. She shared YMCA Canada’s experience in communication planning at the national, regional and community levels. She also told Ukrainian colleagues about the brand management experience of such an organization as YMCA Canada.
The delegates also visited one of such information offices in Toronto, YMCA of Greater Toronto. More than 100 employees in this office speak 30 different languages and have been providing information for newcomers to Toronto already for 15 years. This office, which in fact is an “information hub,” has partnerships with 800 service organizations and 400 city programs in Toronto, where they refer their clients to receive the necessary services. A person can come to the office directly, as well as obtain the necessary information online, namely, through a website and webinars, which is especially relevant for people planning to come to Canada in the near future. After all, information support for those who are only planning to move to Canada is one of the directions of work of YMCA Canada. Each client of YMCA of Greater Toronto, as well as other YMCA Canada associations, has an opportunity to use a computer, telephone, fax, and other office equipment for free; there is also a library at the clients’ service. With regard to communication with partners and informing about the activities of YMCA of Greater Toronto, the most efficient strategy, according to their representatives, is not so much information campaigns as the establishment of partnerships with providers of different services to citizens, “human communication”. “For people to know about you and to trust you – you need to reach the communities. The value of personal meetings is enormous. Be outside because you will not be able to carry out your mission from your desktop”, Head of the Adaptation Programs for the Newcomers of YMCA of Greater Toronto, Veronica Hercules shared her view on the strategy of communications.
On the same day, representatives of the LA team visited the office of 211 Canada & 211 Ontario and met Executive Officer of 211 Ontario Karen Milligan and Human Resources Development Manager Feyd Hendry.
211 is a source of information on a variety of services (first of all, medical and social) to address different life problems of the inhabitants of Canada, whose slogan is “211 – when you do not know where to go and what to do”. The telephone helpline (2-1-1) and the website provide access to services and help navigate across the network quickly and easily 24/7 in over 100 languages.
The delegates had an opportunity to watch the work of the Central Contact Centre of 211. It was interesting for Ukrainian specialists to learn about the experience of raising the awareness of the inhabitants of Canada about the services of 211. In addition to conducting an information campaign, 211 Ontario uses such an initiative tool as 211 Ambassadors. 211 Ambassadors are proactive and reputable representatives of local communities of the province – police chiefs, doctors, public figures, etc. 211 Ontario has engaged them to a broad information strategy on the services of 211. Thus, Ambassadors, in their communication with different categories of the population and in various informational formats tell about the services of 211 and how to use them. There is a special website for 211 Ambassadors from which they can at any time receive/download information necessary for informing about 211 Ontario and use it.
Last but not least, useful and interesting experience of Ukrainian delegates in Toronto was the visit to the Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) of the Ryerson University. “The first legal incubator in Canada, for the sake of building the best legal solutions” this is how authors of the idea and representatives of this, in essence, creative space, position themselves.
The creative space provides the opportunity for lawyers, both graduates of universities and students, as well as other people and organizations to use their space, information technology, expert support and a network of contacts to implement ideas that can improve the legal field and justice in Canada through the development and implementation of innovative solutions and products. «Clients of legal service need a better, more comfortable access to the law, and legal service providers – smarter and less expensive solutions. People, companies, law firms, and governments – all of them can come to Legal Innovation Zone and by working and collaborating try to find these solutions here”, this is how they see their mission at LIZ, offering their space, training programs and expert support. Currently, 19 such programs are being developed as part of the creative space.