ARCHIVED - Vitality Indicators for Official Language Minority Communities 1: Francophones in Urban Settings

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Summary Presentation


  1. Research Methodology
  2. Community Study Results
  3. Future Action: Implementing Community Evaluation


Vitality Indicators 1

The Winnipeg Francophone Community

The Sudbury Francophone Community

The Halifax Francophone Community

Vitality Indicators 2



In the fall of 2006, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages initiated a research program on vitality indicators for official language communities in Canada. In the first phase, SOCIUS Research and Consulting conducted three community studies to clarify the concept of vitality. The objectives of this action-research were the following:

  • Highlight the success factors and best practices in vitality in the selected communities and sectors;

  • Identify useful and valid vitality indicators for other official language communities;

  • Offer vitality evaluation tools into which these indicators could be included;

  • Inform government institutions and communities of the relevance of working toward an ongoing, detailed and enlightening evaluation of vitality.

The community studies looked at Francophone communities in Winnipeg, Sudbury and Halifax*, three cities Statistics Canada describes as census metropolitan areas, with a minority of at least 10,000 people with French as the first official language spoken.


Population with French as the first official language spoken

% of the population










Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census

Four specific sectors of vitality were the focus of the research to limit its scope: community governance, health care, immigration and access to government services.

Following are a few general comments on the methodology used for these three community studies, followed by a brief description of the results of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. Finally, in conclusion, we propose courses of action to follow up on the research.

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1. Research Methodology

These community studies draw on the report entitled A Sharper View: Evaluating the Vitality of Official Language Communities1, which gives an overall definition of community vitality:

A community’s ability to take charge of its development based on several types of resources (demographic, political and legal, social, economic and cultural), that are transformed for the benefit of the community through dynamic leadership.

This report also revealed the importance of a community evaluation of vitality, namely an approach through which community organizations define development and vitality objectives for their community in the form of expected outcomes, and evaluate the achievement of these objectives using indicators and a systematic data collection and analysis process. This action-research aims to respond to this need in a practical way. Community evaluation is clearly a tool that helps strengthen community vitality.

However, the community studies presented for this research did not attempt to evaluate the degree of vitality achieved by the three communities in the study, but rather to develop with these communities a tool that would help them conduct a community evaluation of their own vitality.

The research was conducted from a participatory focus, using task forces comprised of individuals who are considered leaders in their communities. These groups, facilitated by SOCIUS consultants, contributed to several study components, including the definition of outcomes that reflect community vitality and measurement indicators, as well as the identification of the communities’ needs, capacities and best practices in terms of vitality.

The development of logic models was the core of the exercise. Logic models are flow charts illustrating how a community seeks to attain a given level of vitality. They are the result of a process identifying the community’s development objectives in different sectors that contribute to vitality. These objectives are expressed in the form of expected outcomes. For example, for the health care sector, a community may decide that its final outcome is that “the Francophone community is healthy.” To achieve this, it defines different areas of activity where action is needed, such as research, delivery of services in French, development of professional resources, etc. The community then specifies the series of expected outcomes linking the actions to be undertaken and the final outcome. Once the logic models have been developed, the community defines indicators to measure the achievement of each outcome, as well as the corresponding sources of information. In practice, this means that different activities of the community or its associations will contribute to a series of expected or achieved outcomes in the longer term. Some activities are mutually reinforcing, while others need to be carried out in sequence to produce given results.

The methodology used does, however, have some limitations. Developing logic models that represent the community’s development objectives in a given sector is a time-consuming synthesizing exercise that should be extended over a longer period of time in order to obtain a broader consensus on expected outcomes. It was not always easy for participants to accurately separate the features, practices, challenges or objectives of a city as a whole and those specific to the minority Francophone community, or the issues specific to the Francophone community of the selected city compared to those of the Francophone community of the province as a whole. In some cases, local development issues are the same for the majority and the minority. In others, the local community’s issues intersect with those of the regional or provincial community. Finally, the overview of the four target sectors in these studies does not provide a full picture of community vitality as a whole. To do so, an exercise covering all dimensions of community vitality (e.g., education, economy, human capital, culture, etc.) needs to be carried out.

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2. Community Study Results

The three community studies produced the following results:

  • A customized method for community evaluation;

  • A list of successes in enhancing community vitality;

  • An overview of needs in community evaluation capacity;

  • Increased interest in community evaluation;

  • Enlightening information for government institutions;

  • Practical tools for community evaluation.

2.1.  A Customized Method for Community Evaluation

The community studies helped to establish a community evaluation method using logic models and vitality indicators for official language official language communities. This method is based on the best practices identified in papers on community development evaluation in Canada and abroad, as well as the needs Canadian community organizations express in this area. The method was fine-tuned in cooperation with the task forces from the three communities studied.

The following principles guide this method2:

  • Participation: It is important to adopt a participatory, inclusive approach for all community stakeholders.

  • Process and outcomes: The evaluation must deal not only with outcomes, but also processes in order to understand how goals were achieved and what means were used to that end.

  • Indicators: They serve to measure community vitality using a certain number of key aspects (even though they can never account for the full complexity of a phenomenon such as vitality). Some criteria are used to ensure the optimal use of indicators:
    • Conciseness: Limit the number of aspects and indicators to get a clearer picture of progress;
    • Comparison: Select indicators that can be repeatedly measured;
    • Objectivity and subjectivity: Combine factual indicators and indicators of perception in data collection activities for evaluation purposes;
    • Flexibility: Be able to adapt an evaluation framework with new indicators as needed, to capture ongoing changes.

2.2.  A List of Successes in Enhancing Community Vitality

In order to identify the target strategic vitality outcomes for each community studied, it was necessary to review the successes and challenges specific to each one. The challenges are expressed as expected outcomes in the logic models in the corresponding studies. The task forces identified a wide range of successes in enhancing community vitality. These are not practices that research demonstrated to be effective, but successes that reflect the perspective of the players working in the setting where they were achieved. Nevertheless, these lists can be used as reference points for other official language communities.

2.3.  An Overview of Needs in Community Evaluation Capacity

A number of recent studies have documented the need to build the evaluation and research capacity of community organizations in Canada3. Our research team observed that the three communities share these same needs. For example, volunteer organizations often lack the internal capacity, staff, time and money to conduct evaluations. They do not always have access to technology or appropriate methods. Finally, they criticize inconsistency in the terminology funding agencies use, to the extent that some concepts mean different things to different people.

2.4.  Increased Interest in Community Evaluation

Even though community evaluation is a challenge for community organizations, concrete interest was still noted among leaders, specifically in the role community evaluation could have in strengthening their position with funding agencies or in a constructive dialogue.

2.5.  Enlightening Information for Government Institutions

The three community studies conducted can raise awareness among various levels of government on the needs and priorities of communities with regard to enhancing their vitality. These studies describe the achievements of communities and the challenges still to be met. The logic models show a series of outcomes that the communities plan to attain and that often involve government institutions. This information should allow different governments to better respond to their moral and legal responsibilities toward official language minorities in their respective areas of jurisdiction.

2.6.  Practical Tools for Community Evaluation

These community studies are tools the three communities could use to conduct a community evaluation of their vitality. At the same time, the studies serve as models that can inspire other official language communities that wish to better understand and enhance their vitality.

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3. Future Action: Implementing Community Evaluation

As a result of these community studies, it was possible to develop a method and initiate a process of community evaluation in three Francophone minority communities. This pioneering initiative also highlighted the fact that the communities currently lack the capacity and resources to fully benefit from a community evaluation. To create favourable conditions to this end, several courses of action are proposed below. First and foremost, they deal with strengthening communities, then with the government support, communities would be entitled to receive for community evaluation.

3.1.  Community Capacity

Two courses of action target capacity building for official language communities:

3.1.1. Community evaluation training

Official language communities recognize the importance of participating in community evaluations, and even conducting evaluations themselves, but need to build their research and evaluation capacity to do so. Thus, it would be useful for them to collectively undertake a training and information-sharing initiative. A group project, initiated by one or more representative organizations, would have a better chance of succeeding and reaching a greater number of communities. This project could be reflected in training initiatives, but also in the development and sharing of resources and best practices, specifically through information and communication technologies. From a community-planning standpoint, organizations could certainly benefit from building up their research capacity.

3.1.2. Community evaluation coaching resources

Official language communities would like to participate in a more active community evaluation approach, but community players have neither the time nor the resources required. Stakeholders should be able to access external resources to assist them in this process. When referring to coaching resources, we are thinking of evaluation professionals who are able to train and support community members, as well as perform or review evaluation-related tasks.

3.2.  Government Support for Community Evaluation

The various levels of government, specifically institutions working in the sectors studied, should take note of this research. The different logic models are presented as summary tables of community successes and needs to be met. These community studies should also encourage other institutions to work together with communities to develop similar tools. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages is already working with some Quebec Anglophone communities to develop a local profile of needs and vitality indicators4.

3.2.1. Support for evaluation capacity building among communities

Various levels of government in Canada are required to support the development and enhance the vitality of official language communities. Since these communities are accountable for the government financial support they receive, governments should assist them in building their evaluation capacity. This support could take different forms, such as earmarking part of the grants to organizations for evaluation; funding training and coaching initiatives; and making available the skills of their own research and evaluation professionals.

3.2.2. Shared governance of community vitality evaluation terms and conditions

As official language communities feel responsible for evaluating their vitality and as governments are required to make decisions on the terms and conditions of this evaluation, it would be appropriate for governments to implement shared governance mechanisms so that communities can participate in choosing the indicators and evaluation methods to be used.

3.2.3. Access to more information on official language communities

Since official language communities are considered under the Act as having specific development needs, and since information is required to properly understand these needs, governments should continue to support the expansion of data sources that take into account the linguistic variable in Canada, particularly within local communities. Thus, the post-census survey that Statistics Canada and the Official Languages Secretariat conducted, an excellent initiative in this direction, should be made again at regular intervals to provide longitudinal data on these communities. Other federal institutions should also do more to incorporate linguistic considerations and variables in future studies and research projects.

3.2.4 More open research policies

In terms of research, federal institutions should strive to better plan, coordinate and structure research on official languages and ensure the knowledge is shared with official language communities. The institutions should start by making their research available to the communities and endeavouring to disseminate this knowledge more widely. They should also more systematically incorporate a language or local component in government research to support public policy.

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Below are some references on community evaluation on which the research methodology is based:

Association for the Study and Development of Community. Principles for Evaluating Comprehensive Community Initiatives. Washington: National Funding Collaborative on Violence Prevention, June 2001.

Auspos, Patricia, and Anne C. Kubisch. Building Knowledge About Community Change Moving Beyond Evaluations. New York: The Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change, November 2004.

Bellagio PrinciplesExternal site. Bellagio, Italy: The Rockefeller Foundation Study and Conference Center, November 1996.

Bozzo, Sandra L. Evaluation Capacity Building in the Voluntary/Non-profit Sector, The Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation. 17: 3, 2002, p. 75-92.

Hall, Michael H., Susan D. Philipps, Claudia Meillat and Donna Pickering. Assessing Performance: Evaluation Practices & Perspectives in Canada’s Voluntary Sector. Toronto: Canadian Centre for Philanthrop / Ottawa: Centre for Voluntary Research and Development, 2003.

Hébert, Jacques, et al. Analyse des pratiques d’évaluation dans les organismes communautaires. Research Report. Montréal: Services aux collectivités de l’UQAM, December 2005.

Jackson, Andrew, et al. Canadian Council on Social Development. Social Cohesion in Canada: Possible Indicators. Highlights. Ottawa: Social Cohesion Network/Department of Canadian Heritage/Department of Justice, November 2000.

Johnson, Marc L., and Paule Doucet. A Sharper View: Evaluating the Vitality of Official Language Communities. Ottawa: Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, 2006.

Murray, Michelle, and Daniel Bourgeois. Étude des besoins en formation des bénévoles siégeant au conseil d’administration d’organismes sans but lucratif au service des communautés francophones et acadiennes en milieu minoritaire au Canada. Research Report. Ottawa: Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada / Toronto: Knowledge Development Centre, Imagine Canada, 2006.

Roche, Chris. Impact Assessment for Development Agencies. Learning to Value Change. Oxford U.K.: Oxfam Great Britain, 1999.

Tomalty, Ray, David Bruce and Lynn Morrow. Indicators of Community Well-Being. Final Report (draft) to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, January 2005.


1 Johnson, Marc L., and Paule Doucet. A Sharper View: Evaluating the Vitality of Official Language Communities. Ottawa: Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, 2006.

* The community studies produced during this action-research on vitality indicators for official language communities are Winnipeg, Sudbury and Halifax.

2 See hereinafter the short bibliography on community evaluation.

3 See Bozzo, 2002; Hall et al., 2003; Hébert et al., 2005; Murray and Bourgeois, 2006.

4 A second series of community studies, Vitality Indicators 2, was initiated for three Quebec Anglophone communities, in Quebec City, the Eastern Townships and the Lower North Shore.

Vitality Indicators 1

The Halifax Francophone Community

The Winnipeg Francophone Community

The Sudbury Francophone Community