Literacy On Site

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Literacy On Site

Langley, CanadaLangley, Canada
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Literacy On-Site makes literacy easy: it brings tutoring into social programs where low-literacy adults adults already are, and build their tools for success.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Langley is divided between farming, suburban and industrial neighbourhoods. The population of 130,000 hosts fast growing property crime rates and drug problems. There is a substantial gap in Langley between marginalized individuals and the LLN's Community One on One Learning volunteer tutoring program, Langley's only literacy outreach program. COOL successfully engages learners who are highly engaged, but has not reached the much larger group of adults who struggle with prohibitive barriers including substance abuse, the justice system, domestic violence, or status as refugees. Community partners see this struggle, and have asked LLN how they can build the literacy capacity of their estimated annual 315 low-literacy clients to move successfully through their support programs.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our community partners identified that many clients' largest barriers to healthy and prosperous lives are their lack of literacy skills. Low literacy still has a social stigma, and addressing it is a massive personal and social undertaking that prevents many from entering literacy coaching. COOL's On-Site project will train front-line social service workers on how to coach marginalized low-literacy adults through communications materials embedded in programs already being undertaken by their clients. Probations staff, domestic violence and substance abuse counsellors, and refugee support workers will be trained to coach clients with basic literacy skills and strategies for use with training documents, impacts statements, forms and written materials they encounter in their family and work environments. This solution builds access via existing trusted relationships, introduces literacy coaching in a safe and familiar environment, and builds a bridge to dedicated literacy tutoring.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

On-Site will make literacy training accessible and higher quality by going to where the people who need it, already are. The process: A. Advisory Group of liaisons from partner agencies direct curriculum scope, working with the project manager, to identify the basic skills needed by their clients. Training modules are developed and agency staff are trained on site. B. Client Mary, for example, left school in grade 10 when she started using hard drugs. Now 23, she is in a substance abuse recovery program at Langley Community Services Society. Her counselor coaches her how to scan and fill an application for a pre-employment program. With coaching on language development and forming ideas into phrases, she begins a journal of her experiences and aspirations. Mary would like to become a caterer. C. Agency staff track coaching incidences and content to evaluate the most needed skills and client responses. D. Advisory Group meet to evaluate first three months of project; direction for adaptation and new modules guides next staff training sessions. E. Second staff training at month 4. Agency staff have a wider range of literacy tools and skills they can coach their clients with, and can handle a wider range of client needs in the second phase. F. Mary is accepted into the pre-vocational training program that starts in 6 months. Referred to COOL she is working with a volunteer literacy tutor, reading manuals and volunteering at LCSS' community kitchen. E. At 9 months, the Advisory Group meets for final evaluation and training modules are adapted for next year's cycle.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

No other literacy outreach programs exist in Langley to engage marginalized adults. COOL's success has not been able to reach this client group. Kwantlen Polytechnic University offers advanced adult basic education in Surrey, but Langley community agencies, such as our partners Langley Community Services Society, Ishtar Transition Housing Society, Community Corrections Langley (Probations), are otherwise without tools or expertise in how to coach low-literacy clients effectively through their programs. Literacy skills are most effectively developed through in-context coaching. On-Site is a uniquely integrated model in which literacy tools will be embedded inside programs that marginalized adults are already taking, so that they become confident with literacy skill development.

Founding Story

Reaching highly marginalized low-literacy clients is a challenge, as low-literacy is a deeply personal, often hidden barrier loaded with shame. Admitting to it is very difficult. As the new LLN Literacy Outreach Coordinator meeting front-line agencies active in Langley, a recurring question arose - how can we help clients better succeed who are already low-literacy? The spark came: ‘un-mountain’ the mountain of low-literacy shame. Enable front-line social service workers to integrate literacy coaching as a normal part of personal development programs. Bring literacy support to environments where clients are already comfortable, and introduce coaching into trusted relationships. By coaching social service clients how to read and write for in-program communication materials that address their other barriers such as substance abuse or domestic violence, we can enable them to build the confidence, familiarity and capacity to say 'yes' to dedicated literacy tutoring.
About You
Langley Literacy Network (LLN)
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Langley Literacy Network (LLN)

Organization Country

, BC, Langley

Country where this solution is creating social impact

, BC, Langley

Region in BC where your solution creates social impact


How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your solution addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Quality.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

On-Site aims to equip highly marginalized low-literacy adults with the confidence to take on full literacy instruction, by providing them with basic literacy tools to navigate the social, health, judicial, and educational systems they often become caught in. Empowering the low-literacy social service client is our ultimate goal. This requires a wide spectrum of partners and community support. So our secondary goal is to provide front-line social service workers at a variety of agencies with the skills and tools to coach their low-literacy clients in a way that is effective, normalizing, accessible, integrated, and seamless.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

LLN's COOL tutoring program has trained over 45 volunteer tutors and graduated over 65 adult learners in 2 years. In developing the On-Site pilot, three large community agencies have turned staff inquiries about the prevalence of low-literacy into new mandates for counselors, social workers and EDs. These partners now recognize how low-literacy manifests, and the wide social impacts it can have - clients being perpetually caught in judicial, substance abuse, violence and poverty systems. Partners now see that literacy is an easily-dissolved barrier if approached in a collaborative, systemic and progressive way. With the model developed, additional agencies are approaching us for training - awareness of literacy coaching as a solution is spreading in Langley. Our base COOL funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education is only enough to train staff in one partner agency. BC Ideas support will enable us to fulfill the pilot goal to train staff in 3 community agencies.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

In year one, we project coaching over 315 low-literacy clients at our three partner agencies, out of total client bases of 700. We estimate that 40 of these 315 clients will bridge to dedicated literacy tutoring. For some clients, On-Site coaching, a 'brush-up', will be enough to activate their literacy skills.
Maintaining staff practice is key to integration and being effective with clients, so we will focus on ongoing support of in-house expertise. In subsequent years, our goals are to continue supporting our pilot partner agencies and expand training to 2-3 more agencies each year, to a total of 9 agencies over 5 years.
Over 5 years we project to reach over 1500 low-literacy adults with On-Site literacy coaching, and see 140+ adults bridge to dedicated COOL tutoring.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

1. High staff turnover due to burnout is common in the social service sector. On-Site will train staff leaders to ensure that literacy knowledge capital has continuity in each agency. Training and support will be modular and ongoing, to build integration and ownership within each agency, and cultivate assimilation of literacy coaching into the organizational culture and strategy.

2. Changes in in-house programming is possible due to external funding changes, so On-Site coaching will focus on fundamental and cross-situation reading, writing, and numeracy tools and skills and not how to navigate documents that are specific to a program or place. Staff coaches will be trained how to apply these skills to typical communication materials.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Our 6 month milestone will be to have coached 170 low-literacy clients with literacy skills and tools.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Develop training modules, adapt best practices and train front-line and management staff at 3 partner agencies.

Task 2

Develop and implement coaching incidence tracking to measure number and qualities of literacy coaching incidences.

Task 3

Provide bi-weekly check-ins to ensure agency staff are coaching clients with confidence and good standards.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Our 12 month milestone will be that our partner agencies make literacy coaching a permanent part of their program services.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Support the partner liaisons in the Advisory Group to ensure they have ownership of the pilot contents and outcomes.

Task 2

Evaluate incidence tracking and Advisory Group feedback to ensure staff see the success of their new activities.

Task 3

Solicit and gather client feedback stories as measurement of their success, and how they value integrated coaching.

Tell us about your partnerships

On-Site is a joint-partnership Train the Trainer pilot. Community Corrections Langley (Probations), Langley Community Services Society, and Ishtar Transition Housing Society all asked the LLN how their staff could support their clients' literacy challenges. Literacy coaching is now included in staff mandates and program scopes; each agency is committing staff for training and staff liaisons to form the project Advisory Group to direct curriculum and evaluation. Kwantlen Polytechnic University staff are offering curriculum support. The LLN provides the training expertise and project management.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your solution? If so, where and why?

Once the On-Site pilot is operational, it will be evaluated, adapted and offered to all Langley NGO and community agencies who work with low-literacy adults. Due to the high need for this resource, LLN is already being approached by more agencies requesting staff training. The model may also be replicated via Decoda Literacy Solutions’ BC-wide networks, where low-cost, concrete and easily deployable models are highly sought after to address the need for community-based, adaptable adult low-literacy education.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

The operating environment of this project is one of collaboration, joint ownership, continual feedback, inclusion, adaptability, transparency and progressive development. The Advisory Group's full participation is essential to ensuring that the right curriculum is developed, is applicable, efficient and relevant, and manageable inside already-heavy case loads. Participation in the project requires agreeing to these principles. These principles ensure the development of honest, robust relationships amongst partners that are resilient to inevitable challenges. It also helps ensure that partner staff and the Advisory Group provide robust feedback on the impact of the pilot on their clients, and that the pilot stay focused on the outcomes for clients.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

On-Site is a low-cost solution based in capacity development of both social service workers and social service clients. Most of the resources required are in-kind staff time. Still, basic fees for program facilitators and training support are needed for the model to successfully integrate into agency cultures and mandates.