For the last several months, organizations around the world have been forced to re-imagine the ways that they operate and provide services to their clients. Government restrictions have severely limited many aspects of daily life and infection control has become top priority.
One of Reception House’s main purposes, managing the refugee intake process into Waterloo Region, has paused temporarily as the Canadian government has delayed the entry of any new refugees until conditions improve.
That’s not to say that the organization doesn’t have their fair share of issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation has magnified an existing list of challenges when it comes to settling refugees that have already arrived in Waterloo Region, such as finding affordable housing, supporting the newcomers’ job search, enrolling children in local schools, and more.
As Carl Cadogan, CEO of Reception House, described, the organization faced significant challenges in meeting the needs of families that had come to Waterloo Region prior to the shutdown:
“People who had newly arrived within the last 3-4 months [before the pandemic] didn’t get the full suite of programming that we do in the first months of people’s arrivals. We couldn’t do it all, we only had time to do pieces of it,” he shared. “We [also] had people here for the last year or longer who really looked to us to help them through this, they were being bombarded with lots of mixed messages. People didn’t know what was happening. We had families that we found didn’t go out to shop, especially people who were new, so they weren’t going to pick up groceries, they had empty fridges.”
With any change in circumstance comes challenges and opportunities. For Reception House, one opportunity has been their ability to shift time and resources away from the day-to-day components of refugee intake and place more thought and energy behind strategic-level projects outlined in their investee partnership with Social Venture Partners Waterloo Region (SVP).
“COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to reflect on [Reception House’s] strategic plan, a chance to step back and focus on the overall needs of the organization as well as the individual needs of their staff,” explained Allyson Kroetsch, an SVP Lead Partner for Reception House. “This is not so much a pause, rather more of a refocusing on some of the larger and more critical projects that were sitting on the backburner.”
One year into our partnership with Reception House, here are some of the projects we are working on together:
- Executive Coaching: Updating communication methods
- Board Development: Recruitment best practices and succession planning
- IT Plan: Thinking strategically about IT
- HR: Roll-out of BambooHR Human Resources Information System (HRIS)
Dave Kroetsch, an SVP Partner, has been working closely with the leadership team from Reception House over the past few months. Sharing strategies from his professional experience in the local tech sector, he has helped the team establish weekly cadence meetings, deploy the strategies outlined in Reception House’s 2021 Vision into regularly measured metrics, and is working on 1:1 mentorship and leadership training with some of the organization’s leaders.
“COVID-19 has impacted Reception House with no new arrivals for quite some time, and the team has adapted their services towards existing clientele,” said Dave. “This has been a healthy push for the organization to move to newer digital methods of communication with their clients and has highlighted gaps in the organization’s current ways of operating that relied on very manual systems. This provides another opportunity to engage the SVP membership, as the organization looks to conquer these IT pain points and move to electronic case management and communication systems.”
While work with the Reception House Board of Directors has tapered off for now due to the pandemic, the team was able to bring on a Treasurer with the help of a couple of SVP Partners.
“Some great work was done with Alex Brown, another SVP partner, on recruitment for a Treasurer, whom we finally got onboard through COVID-19,” said Barbara Hill, an SVP Lead Partner for Reception House. “It’s a good thing, they need a really good Treasurer at a time like this when the organization is going through a pandemic, there are all kinds of implications on government funding and staffing. It is something SVP did that added significant value in the nick of time.”
“We will be looking at strengthening our board – that’s really part of our plan going forward,” added Carl, who noted that the organization is looking to fill several roles on their board and committees, particularly in the areas of revenue diversification, fundraising, and advocacy.
As work on this project resumes, there will be continued sharing of best practices around Board recruitment, as well as further work around succession planning.
Much of the focus around technology at Reception House has been on how to think about IT strategically. SVP Partners have assisted organization staff in how to ask the right questions around their technology goals and challenges.
“We are trying to take a step back and look at the systems they have in place,” described Allyson. “What software they’re using, [and] is that working for each of the employees? What software collects data that needs to bubble up and go to the government? How are people accessing it? Do systems connect so they don’t have to repeat tasks?”
Next steps in developing this plan concentrate around workflow diagramming, which will help staff identify which IT systems are used at each stage of their work with a refugee family, as well as assessing the inter-connectivity of those systems.
An established priority for Reception House, significant progress has been made on implementation of a new HRIS system.
“We were working with two different systems and we still are now, which is not where we want or need it to be at this point, but it is doing a lot more that it was before,” shared Janna Dilts, Reception House’s Director of People and Culture, explaining the need to reduce inefficiencies by consolidating their HR operations.
While BambooHR is now being utilized for most HR functions, the team at Reception House is still working on integrating their payroll information into the platform. Their goal is to have the system fully rolled-out within the next couple of months.
Notably, the organization has collaborated with Carizon, another current SVP investee, around the system implementation. Both have been working through an HRIS implementation and each selected BambooHR as the system to move forward with. Having been connected by SVP, it has been a great opportunity for the two non-profits to walk alongside each other during the process and share learnings.
“Because Carizon [has] such a big team… when we learn things from them to bring back to Reception House, we know it has already been vetted and they have a team working on this instead of just one person. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel all the time,” said Janna.
Want to learn more and do more?
Consider making a donation to Reception House during this time of need.
Interested in the role of an SVP Partner and want to know how you may fit in? Contact Rose Greensides, Executive Director of SVP Waterloo Region.