Our Covid-19 Strategy

The Social Planning Council of Ottawa builds connections and capacity in the community using a community development approach that brings people and organizations together to take action on common issues and what is important to them.

The Social Planning Council of Ottawa is supporting community responses to the COVID-19 crisis as follows. We are:

  • Mobilizing community assets and capacity building for grassroots organizations to address challenges their members are facing and to support the efforts of other groups
  • Facilitating information exchange and collaboration at multiple levels, between government, mainstream service providers, grassroot organizations and vulnerable residents
  • Ensuring that marginalized and vulnerable groups have access to adequate information and resources, including services that have moved on-line
  • Ensuring that information by the Public Health Agency of Canada and local public health agencies is easily understood and shared with community groups and residents
  • Supporting and encouraging local initiatives to exchange knowledge and promising practices
  • Encouraging pro-active community development responses without duplicating existing services
  • Supporting processes for the voices and needs of marginalized groups and those most at risk to be included in city decision-making tables
  • Modifying our direct service programs that reduce isolation of seniors to alternate delivery methods that preserve social distancing

Our Covid-19 Response

The COVID-19 pandemic has graphically highlighted and worsened many of the issues of inequity and exclusion that have been the focus of our work. It has also highlighted the critical role of grassroots community-based groups and community leaders. With our community partners and volunteers, the SPCO has responded across all our program areas for urgent intervention in the short term and strategies to address equity in the long road to recovery.


Access to Basics

Food Deliveries for Ethno-Cultural Community Members and Others Facing Exclusion 

The SPCO, our partnering ethno-cultural grassroots groups and a host of volunteers responded immediately by purchasing and delivering food and other essentials to senior households and families who were in urgent need. The food deliveries were managed by a rapid scaling up of our Collaborative Food Pantry, which has been running since 2012 in low income neighbourhoods and was revenue-neutral (cost-recovery) since 2016. The support also includes a “warm hand-off” to connect households to other services where appropriate. We are grateful for the initial donations that supported this work, and the subsequent financial support from the City of Ottawa’s Social service Relief Fund and funding from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program. We are grateful to the wonderful volunteers making the deliveries and purchases.

Between April and September, we made 525 deliveries (groceries or food vouchers depending on need) to 320 unique households.


Addressing the Digital Divide

Flowing mainly from our neighbourhood community development/neighbourhood equity work, we have been providing phones and basic phone plans to tenant and community leaders who needed basic cell phone service in order to continue their critical role as peer leaders for others in their community as services and activities moved on-line. To support equity in the longer term, we have just launched “Digital Inclusion Ottawa” working with stakeholders to increase access by individuals and communities to critical information and communication technologies to access health, education and employment supports. The goal will be to reduce the digital divide for at-risk populations and priority neighbourhoods through four strategies:

  • Connectivity: Expand access to internet connectivity for those facing barriers;
  • Devices: Increase access to appropriate hardware and technical support to residents in need;
  • Resident Skills: Train residents in digital skills to increase access to services, virtual learning (from elementary to post-secondary), employability and social opportunities for isolated residents;
  • Non-Profit Capacity: Increase the capacity of the non-profit sector to provide services digitally including for residents with low technical capacity.


Supporting the Voluntary Sector

Neighbourhood Equity Index and COVID-19 

To assist community outreach and planning in the Covid19 crisis, the SPCO has responded to custom data requests and prepared neighbourhood level data and maps relevant to key issues and vulnerable populations, including:

  • Food Security
  • Digital Access
  • Seniors living alone
  • Seniors with disabilities
  • Population in low income
  • Youth 15 to 24 in low income

You can find this information on the Neighourhood Equity Index site.


Increasing Inclusion

Our grassroots ethno-cultural group partners have been connecting regularly with their members for friendly chats and check-ins. Virtual social activities are also continuing via the grassroots ethno-cultural groups.

Supporting the ICT capacity of the voluntary sector 

Technology, Research and Communications (TRAC) is the social enterprise wing of the Cowan Coding Club, operating through our youth economic incubators. The City of Ottawa has provided an economic development grant to TRAC to increase the capacity of the voluntary sector and small businesses to effectively and efficiently go virtual in the context of the pandemic, while also building skills and career laddering for under-employed racialized and Aboriginal youth in priority neighbourhoods. We are working with community services to identify technologies that can address their challenges and to provide deployment, integration and help-desk support. To date, these have included sourcing and piloting locally an innovative app to support door-to door delivery of groceries by volunteers, and survey support for a variety of agencies. We are grateful for the financial support of the City of Ottawa (Economic Development Grant).


Community Economic Development

SOS Enseignants Francophones

We are pleased to partner with the Cooperative Enseignant(e)s Pas-a-Pas to provide professional mental health and stress support for new Francophone teachers in Ottawa and assist them to offer volunteer tutoring for Francophone children.


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