Helping financial empowerment champions deliver critical services to low-income Canadians
How might we help financial empowerment champions (FECs) remotely deliver tax-filing and benefits application support during the pandemic without leaving the most financially insecure Canadians unaided?
A co-created solutions guide mapped to a range of scenarios that equips FECs to meet diverse client needs with alternative service delivery options
A path forward for Canadians to achieve financial security during the COVID-19 crisis
Supporting financially insecure Canadians in a shifting economic landscape
Government bodies are offering support to Canadians whose finances are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but these benefits are typically accessible only to individuals who have filed tax returns—something many financially insecure Canadians have not yet done. To address the immediate needs of this vulnerable group, financial empowerment champion (FEC) organizations have shifted priorities to focus on assisting low-income and at-risk Canadians with filing taxes and accessing benefits.
But the physical distancing measures necessitated by COVID-19 have made it harder for FECs to deliver their services, which traditionally rely at least partially on in-person interactions. Delivering services remotely is challenging because technology and privacy regulations can be difficult to navigate and because many clients lack access to technology.
Recognizing the complexity of navigating this shifting landscape, Prosper Canada wanted to support FECs in delivering tax-filing and benefits application services during the COVID-19 crisis so that Canadians might become more financially secure.
Working together to solve a complex new set of problems
To identify immediate solutions that could provide hope and a path forward, Prosper Canada partnered with Bridgeable in April 2020 to take a design sprint approach to working with FECs.
Over the course of four consecutive days, Bridgeable worked with eighteen FEC partners to generate solutions. Through remote research and live online group discussion, we learned that COVID-19 was creating huge challenges for FECs in delivering four key aspects of tax-filing and benefits access service delivery:
- Communicating with clients
- Verifying client ID
- Obtaining consent or signatures
- Obtaining or accessing client information
Equipping FECs to meet diverse client needs
Even as CRA guidelines around acceptable software, consent protocols, and verifications are evolving during the pandemic, FECs note that many of their clients do not have access to any technology. As we approached our project, this meant that our solutions would have to address a wide spectrum of clients and organizational infrastructures.
“With the work that you’ve done and the recent CRA news, it feels like there is a path forward.”
- FEC partner
Recognizing that there can be no “one-size-fits-all” solution, Bridgeable worked with FECs to build, test, and validate a set of ready-to-use solutions with options for them to mix and match based on specific scenarios.
The solutions guide is structured around the four key challenges FECs are experiencing in delivering tax-filing and benefits application services. It includes a solutions “menu” as well as detailed guidelines and tips for helping clients who have Internet access and/or phones, who require in-person support, or who live far away or are unable to leave their homes.
ideation remote sessions
remote validation sessions
solutions generated across 5 scenarios
A path forward for Canadians to achieve financial security
Participating FECs welcomed the opportunity to engage in a nationwide conversation about how to collectively solve these challenges and reflected on how addressing these challenges in isolation would have been both duplicative in effort and less effective.
Near the beginning of the project, many FECs indicated that they felt anxious and helpless. Through the design process, they were able to learn and engage with other FECs and create better ways to serve their clients during COVID-19.
"Thank you for listening to so many different sources and making sense of it."
- FEC partner