Where We’re At: 5 Lessons from the OPICCO Survey

Earlier this summer, OPICCO invited clinic staff to complete a survey about the structures that support and don’t support community organizing and community development (CO/CD) in the clinic system. We want to thank all who participated and share the results. Below are the top five things we learned:

1. People are Interested

We’re thrilled with the enthusiastic response to our survey – we heard the clear message that there is province-wide interest in OPICCO’s work. We heard from staff at over 34 different clinics across Ontario. Lawyers, caseworkers, and CLWs made up two-thirds of respondents, with a potpourri of directors, support staff, and various other positions making up the remaining third.

2. Value vs. Action

Nearly all of respondents (88%) indicated that CO/CD had at least some value in the hiring process, yet most of us spend 20% or less work time on CO/CD, and almost half spend less than 10%. When asked about barriers to CO/CD, 40% of respondents pointed to lack of resources (time, staff, money). To our chagrin, 1 in 6 respondents felt that CO/CD simply wasn’t valued at their clinic, and the same number of respondents indicated CO/CD isn’t measured or evaluated in any way at their clinic. Overall, we heard that people value CO/CD, but that there are challenges to making it happen.

3. Casework Rules

Predictably, the top reported barrier to CO/CD was casework. While almost all respondents said their clinic plans and budgets for CO/CD, about half of respondents (48%) reported that casework is a real barrier to participating in CO/CD. Caseworkers are finding it difficult to explore, plan, and execute stellar CO/CD initiatives.

4. New Blood

The justice warriors that founded the clinic system are slowly but surely trotting off to much-deserved retirement. This means the face of the clinic system is changing – 46% of respondents have been in the clinic system for five years or less, and 41% of respondents had no CO/CD experience at all prior to working in the system. Respondents expressed (and we agree) that training is crucial to help the next generation of clinic staff become CO/CD leaders in their communities.

5. The Great Divide

Two narratives emerged from our survey. We heard from many that CO/CD has all but disappeared from clinic work (especially for caseworkers), and yet others described an increase in CO/CD work, including project funding and dedicated positions. We hope to hear about these funding successes and those that are dedicated to ensuring CO/CD does not disappear from clinic work.

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