The Saskatchewan First Nation Family & Community Institute (SFNFCI) proposed a project on the engagement of the Income Assistance Program (IAP) stakeholders to better understand the needs of the beneficiaries, identify strengths of the program, ways to improve the program to better address the needs of clients and dependents, and inform IAP reform. 


The Income Assistance program started in 1964 and has had few changes. With the additional investment of $117.6 million over the last two years and another $8.6 million over the next two years, there is an opportunity for reform. Given there are many reforms happening at the same time, the engagement of stakeholders in the program can provide valuable direction for reform. SFNFCI has had the opportunity to work with our First Nations on multiple research projects including supporting the understanding of the lived experience in child welfare and disabilities, ways to improve programs, and opportunities for a community-based voice approach to identifying key areas for reforming programs and systems. 

Project Summary

SFNFCI established a project advisory committee, including an Elder, to guide the work of the project research team. Typically, these include people from the sector, this could include income assistance caseworkers and administrators. SFNFCI works toward ensuring all engagement activities are culturally appropriate, ethical and regionally appropriate. This is achieved through local contacts and conversations with the project advisory committee. 

The project team will engage identified target groups including Elders, First Nations Leadership, Income Assistance Caseworkers, and Income Assistance Clients, as well as Youth. These individuals and groups will be from the Pre-employment Supports (PES) and Income Assistance recipient list provided by Indigenous Services Canada. Additional relevant themes will be explored as the advisory committee is developed and creates an understanding of the feasibility of accessing information, the use of technology, and ways to support info gathering during scheduled activities. 


SFNFCI approaches all projects with the intent of partnerships. Having those directly involved in implementing the program and affected by a program are the subject matter experts. These partnerships are critical to engagement activities, development of relevant questions, vetting project information and ongoing guidance for the project. The advisory committee will be made up of self-selected staff from PES and IA Programs, as well as others identified by the group as subject matter experts. The advisory committee will develop a terms of reference outlining their responsibilities for the project. The partnership will provide ownership and motivation to be involved and contribute to the overall project goal of what is working and exploring, determining improvements to the program. 

The advisory committee will be financially supported to attend five meetings throughout the project. Support includes travel, accommodations, and meals. SFNFCI will coordinate all meetings and set agendas based on discussions with the advisory committee. SFNFCI will make every effort to plan activities at a time when gatherings for PES and IA programs are happening to reduce budget costs. 

Project Management

The project will be managed for activates and financials on a bi-weekly basis following the activates and time chart. SFNFCI will coordinate bi-weekly meetings with the project staff to identify and meet on achieved deliverables, and discussions on support and risks to achieving deliverables. The project team will be meetings with the project advisory committee at least once a month to discuss progress on the project and ways to supports upcoming activities.

Identifying and assessing risks throughout the project and finding potential solutions is important to the success of the project. The considerations/risks would include engagement fatigue, mistrust with former research processes, lack of communication, lack of readiness to participate, locations, regional/local activities.


Support the capacity of organizations working with First Nations people to participate in research in a respectful way.

Create an advisory committee that reflects the stakeholders, to guide the project and support transparency.

Create communication products that will encourage stakeholders to participate in the gatherings.

Coordinate gatherings that support the sharing of information in a safe environment that is reflective of the region's cultural protocols and expectations.

Create an understanding and follow respectful research practices with all stakeholders throughout the project. This will include a review of ethics and confidentiality in research and continual project development aligned to Ownership, Control, Assess, Possession (OCAP) research principles.

Collectively develop data collection tools that are relevant and help understand the information and outcomes of the project. This includes developing questions aligned to the discussion topics in the discussion guide. 

Create data collection methods that support honesty and capacity on program experiences, information, and ideas for improvement by listening to participants and communities hosting the gatherings in planning the sessions.  This could include focus groups, interviews, survey, on-line surveys, and the use of technology. Support the participation of stakeholders in the communities. This can be determined through conversations with the advisory committee and community reps, this may involve incentives including childcare, promo items, and gas money.  Engage diverse stakeholders including but not limited to First Nations leadership, Income Assistance caseworkers, and Income Assistance clients.

Build capacity and ownership of a research project by utilizing local Elders and resources when applicable to plan, facilitate and note take gatherings.

Roll up data and provide analysis outlining the current situation, ideas for improvements that can translate to recommendations on making the program more responsive to the needs of individuals and families living on-reserve. Complete a draft final report for vetting with the advisory committee and stakeholders.

Continual planned review of budget, activities, and timeline.

Create a final report for ISC and share all project info with participants and post on our website. 

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