Proving ‘innovation’ in the absence of information and evidence

The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) has finally issued a Call for Concept Papers (a misnomer for sure as the requirements for the concept paper are basically what you would need for a full proposal).

A key element of the call for concept papers is innovation. I’m not sure how OLES will judge innovation given the dearth of information on what has already been funded and the results of those projects.

Thanks to OLES’ decision to cut core funding and to abandon its effort to create a Pan-Canadian network, COPIAN is no longer available online making it impossible to get access to reports from previous projects to figure out what exactly is ‘innovative’.

In my June 2014 blog post, “Transparency? Just what is the federal government funding?”, I listed OLES funded projects for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014. I decided to go back and see what had been funded over the last 18 months.

First, I checked out the OLES funding database. This is a most difficult database to navigate but don’t worry about that – the database hasn’t been updated since about 2010.

Then I went to the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) website and wended my way through the “Transparency” links until I found the list of Grants and Contributions over $25,000. This list only provides the name of the organization and amount of funding – no information on what the project is about. To date, five projects are listed as being funded during the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Below you’ll find the updated list for the past two and current fiscal years. These projects were funded under the Adult Learning Literacy and Essential Skills Program (ALLESP), administered by OLES.

The list does not include two other funding streams administered by OLES. OLES funds projects under Employment Insurance (EI) Part II and under the federal Roadmap for Canada’s Official Languages 2013-2018: Education, Immigration, Communities. The “Official-Language Minority Communities Literacy and Essential Skills Initiative” provides OLES with funds to support a number of projects led by national and provincial/territorial literacy groups working with official language minority communities. However, these projects are not reported on the ESDC website.

OLES projects are increasing in size – in 2012 – 2013, the average project was $470,338. So far this year, the average is $2,639,444. While it may be hard to prove or disprove that your project is ‘innovative’ based on evidence of previous projects, the lesson here seems to me to be “go big, or go home.”





30/05/2014 Frontier College

$       1,230,698.00

27/08/2014 Government of New Brunswick

$     8,000,000.00

23/07/2014 Quebec English Literacy Alliance

$       1,187,533.00

15/08/2014 Saint John Learning Exchange

$       1,329,305.00

12/08/2014 Skill/Competences Canada

$       1,449,684.00


$   13,197,220.00





21/06/2013 Actions Interculturelles de développement et d’éducation (AIDE)

$       1,380,948.00

20/11/2013 Alberta Workforce Essential Skills Society

$       2,270,186.00

14/09/2013 Association des collèges communautaires du Canada (ACCC)

$       2,750,000.00

05/04/2013 CBDC Restigouche Inc.

$       1,925,839.00

31/05/2013 Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning

$       1,460,097.00

19/06/2013 Douglas College

$       1,868,025.00

27/06/2013 Essential Skills Ontario

$       1,028,474.00

30/04/2013 Essential Skills Ontario

$       1,450,339.00

31/05/2013 Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium of Canada

$        673,944.00

23/08/2013 Literacy Alberta Society

$       2,018,500.00

04/07/2013 Réseau pour le développement de l’alphabétisme et des compétences (RESDAC)

$         829,599.00

24/01/2014 The Social Research and Demonstration Corporation

$       1,239,147.00

10/05/2013 Université du Québec à Montréal

$         332,833.00

30/08/2013 Workplace Education Manitoba Steering Committee

$       2,138,248.00

27/02/2014 YWCA Of Greater Toronto

$       1,848,974.00


$   23,215,153.00





30/11/2012 ABC Life Literacy Canada

$         608,365.00

26/02/2013 Canadian Apprenticeship Forum

$        579,680.00

19/03/2013 Canadian Apprenticeship Forum

$       619,438.00

30/10/2012 Community Adult Learning Service Branch

$         381,570.00

18/03/2013 Dalhousie University

$         373,109.00

30/04/2012 Douglas College

$           89,995.00

01/03/2013 Trucking Human Resource Sector Council

$       640,211.00


$     3,292,368.00


About Brigid Hayes

Brigid Hayes has developed an expertise in learning that spans over 35 years as a senior government policy advisor and program manager and partnership developer; director of labour for a national business/labour skills centre and as an independent consultant. Her knowledge of and experience in workplace literacy and learning has contributed to her recognition as an expert in this field, and she has undertaken significant activities to both help promote and enhance literacy and lifelong learning. Brigid works as an independent consultant and expert advisor on learning, literacy, and work. She has successfully developed a strategic planning and policy development practice involving workplace literacy, essential skills, partnership development, research, and evaluation.
This entry was posted in Federal Government and Literacy, Literacy and Essential Skills, Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Proving ‘innovation’ in the absence of information and evidence

  1. Lindsay says:

    In 2014 Canadian Literacy and learning Network created a searchable database for OLES funded projects going back to 2006. Anyone can search by going to From the search you can find info about the project, who was the lead agency and contact information so you can learn more. Links to the documents or files on the lead organizations website are also provided. This info will only be available to the end of March 2015.

    • Tracy says:

      With Copian now officially and totally off line (just checked, it’s gone as they said it would be), getting in touch with the people who have had projects might be the only way to know what has been done…

  2. mworfolk says:

    Reblogged this on Adult Basic Education is a Basic Right and commented:
    With all of the BC government’s recent promotion of “innovation” in education, I thought this was an interesting blog post by Brigid Hayes at her blog, As I Was Saying.

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