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IFSSA Client Needs Assessment: Understanding what Independence Looks Like for our Clients

Researchers: Richard Enns1, Omar Yaqub2,5, Sandra Ngo3, Zenia Sleiman-Long4, Zipporah Greenslade1, Lena Awwad5
Affiliation: University of Calgary1, University of Alberta2, Edmonton Social Planning Council3, NorQuest College4, Islamic Family and Social Services Association (IFSSA)5
Research Partner: IFSSA, Edmonton Social Planning Council
Keywords: refugees, newcomers, Edmonton, social services, intake, assessment, human-centered design, service provider organizations, supports, food security
Jump to: Methodology, Findings


Overview: This study sought to reconceptualize the intake and assessment processes of a community social services organization, IFSSA, in order to better meet clients’ needs.

Objective: to optimize IFSSA’s intake system to better predict, understand, and meet clients’ needs and to measure IFSSA’s impact in a meaningful way.

Research Justification: IFSSA is an Edmonton-based social service agency that provides a holistic approach to community wellbeing that is culturally and spiritually sensitive. Clients come to IFSSA with a multitude of complex issues. However, IFSSA recognized that their existing assessments are primarily focused on measuring deficiencies—such as the need for food hampers or financial assistance—rather than looking at the larger changes in their clients’ lives, such as skills gained, goals, and barriers.


This study uses an ‘assets based’ perspective that recognizes the skills and resources clients have. The research team conducted a literature review, interviews, and focus groups to gather data in order to better understand IFSSA’s clients’ needs and redesign IFSSA’s intake and assessment process. To implement the study findings, the research team worked with IFSSA and other non-profits (Bissell Centre, Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Jewish Family Services of Edmonton) to move their assessment process onto a digital tool called Transform.


This study uncovered several issues with traditional intake processes:


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